28 May 2010

300 x 2 = 600 posts...arghhhh!

X 2

You may not have known this, but I am a huge 300 fan. Probably my all-time favorite movie. So, any time I land on a milestone on Hoosier Happenings, I go back to my faithful 300 collection of pics and try to cleverly work in the milestone.

This marks my 600th post. Unbelievable....especially since my blog-breakdown earlier this year held up 600 for a good couple of months. Blogging for me has endured for almost 3 years now. Many in the cyber world of latest and greatest say that blogging is dead. That may well be. But I like to keep spilling out dribble......and since my doctor recommended starting the blog.....well, I guess it's therapeutic too.

So, in 600 posts we have covered about every topic under the sun. And some topics I should have left well enough alone. We've seen some major changes, including the most significant one, a base-camp move to Sycamore Hill. I have a long list of additional posts I keep working through and I'll continue my musing until Blogger pulls the plug.

But, while we're on the 300 theme....I thought it all too appropriate last week as I traveled Indiana Highway 350 to pass through the burg of Sparta. So without further adieu (and obviously you won't get this if you haven't seen the movie)
THIS IS SPARTA (Indiana) !

Seriously folks, this is pretty much it!

27 May 2010

BP McD's & SB

I find that I'm driving a lot these days. Even to the post office. I suggested to my wife that I ride the bike in to meet my buddies for coffee this morning at Marbucks (our country Starbuckses are located in Martins Grocery Stores). That idea was short-lived. I think I realized on my way back from Aurora that I have a problem. Which admitting it is the first step.

I have to stop at Starbucks. I've pretty much memorized every Starbucks location along most major highways in Indiana. I know that when you drive through Kokomo in either direction you can stop at Starbucks without crossing over to the other side. The sad thing is that recently I've been skipping meals, if you can call anything from McDonalds a meal, and going right to the caffeine. There is something comforting about stopping at Starbucks...not sure why that is, but that's where I'm at in life so I'm going with the flow and embracing it.

After my Kokomo northbound stop last week I realized that I probably should have eaten something, my stomach was telling me loud and clear....so I pulled off at the new BP/Subway at Grissom AFB. The funny thing is that I was just thinking to myself...well, I should probably boycott BP now. So, as I left, I said goodbye to the big BP sign and figured that was my last BP stop. You know, it is remarkable to me that BP didn't have a plan in place for just such a disaster. But then I think why am I blaming them, shouldn't the feds have required some kind of disaster plan with a fool-proof fix for a gushing oil well? Seriously, what are we, some kind of third world fly by the seat of our pants country?

I don't think my little boycott/BP protest is going to do much. In fact I wonder if we should instead all start fueling up at BP just so they have the cash on hand to clean up the giant mess. We want our cheap fuel and honestly, here in the Midwest, we aren't faced with the reality of what that means. To deregulate to the extent of our own harm or excuse business blunders of catastrophic proportions (and I'm talking bailouts as much as I am oil spills) is just the way we do things now. It's kind of like the argument that we Hoosiers like to make concerning the folks we don't think are hard-working enough, you know, that they'll never help themselves because Uncle Sam will always be there to bail them out. So, do you think AIG, GM or BP for that matter have learned anything? Nope, in fact, I've heard a lot of Hoosiers making excuses for BP.

25 May 2010

Aura of Aurora

Last week I attended the Indiana State Byway Conference in Aurora nestled on the Ohio River. I stayed over Wednesday night to hear one of the premier speakers on rediscovering the heritage of our national roads, as a precursor to the conference on Thursday. The evening lecture was held at Hillforest-Aurora's most recognizable landmark.

Leive House B&B

I woke up once during the night at my stay at the Herman Leive House B&B to the sound of barge horns on the Ohio. That was pretty calming once I realized it wasn't Gabriel's trumpet. In the morning I thought I would set out to do a little photography around town. One problem: fog. And the way the fog clung to the hillsides and descended into town was kinda cool. Aurora calls itself the "city of spires", and rightly so. But even the famed spires struggled into view through the dense fog.


After attending the byway conference, Aurora wasn't the only thing left a little foggy. Folks, southern Indiana has its act together when it comes to capitalizing on its heritage. And less you think that cheapens it....I believe they know how to capitalize because they honor it. Grassroots organizations are making substantial headway in bringing about heritage tourism all through the hills of the south. They aren't being held suspect by their elected officials and are being welcomed with arms open wide by tourism and economic development folks.

We in the north are a different breed all-together. I get the sense we think these differences make us better people-somehow maybe more advanced because we can trade heritage for a CVS and think it is economic development. I have to believe it leaves us poorer for not being able to value, much less profit from, our heritage. Whatever it is, likely stemming from ignorance and control issues, I just don't get it. I just hope that with all our conceited belief that we are somehow more advanced because it's easier to say no than yes, we don't wake up and find that we've become the armpit of the Midwest.

21 May 2010

epic-center for Hoosier-hysteria-Milan

I'm not a raving sports fan. But the one game I can sit and watch and actually draw some enthusiasm from is basketball. Could be because I'm a Hoosier. And could the NCAA play-offs have been any more "Hoosier" than to have the small-school Butler Bulldogs taking on Duke? And if that last second shot had gone in.....THAT is Indiana basketball at its finest.

Before the "class" system (say class as you roll your eyes) Indiana high school basketball pointed to one significant moment in our state's history to prove no matter where you came from you could still topple the giants. Other schools did what Milan did. But none have been as storied.....and none but Milan have had a movie made about it, ala "Hoosiers".

While in southern Indiana this week I found myself on Highway 350 heading into Aurora. If I had looked at the map more closely I wouldn't have been so surprised when I saw "Milan" on a sign on the outskirts of town. On my way back on 350 I decided I had to take a detour into the giant-slayer's downtown.

Milan had some really wonderful buildings, but like so many small Hoosier downtowns, Milan appears to be struggling. The most tangible monument to the town's claim to fame is what is painted on their water tower-which caught my eye as though it pulled me back into time when the brave teenage boys probably climbed it and painted it back in '54 (assuming this isn't a repaint job!).

I enjoyed this quick jaunt off of 350-if for no other reason than to say..."hey, I've been to Milan". My own river city boasts a David vs. Goliath moment pre-class-basketball. I remember it well....the day the giant fell. Maybe it wasn't anything like the day Muncie Central fell to the Milan Indians in a buzzer-beater shot.....well, then again, maybe it was. Milan was the smallest school ever to win the state championship (enrollment 161), after Milan was Plymouth in 1982.

The day after Milan won 40,000 people descended on the town of 1,150. I can't imagine....but I really wanted to ask the old walls what it was like there on Main Street the day the world came to Milan.

19 May 2010

Birds of a Feather

I'm heading out for a conference for a few days and have been hen-pecked to get this post out. So I'll let it fly.

There isn't much color around the farm. We were hoping for a number of flowers and plants to spring up in, uh, spring. But the color has been pretty limited. The fact of the matter is most color is coming from the bird life. Wingman and I typically do a spring bird count for-geesh, I don't even know who the organization is. But we had to miss that weekend, so he came out this past Saturday to "bird" here at Sycamore Hill.

I saw his car pull up. I heard the car door shut. But as I typed up an early Saturday morning response to a certain bureaucrat I kept waiting for a knock on the door. Finally I asked my son if Mr. Wingman was here. Yep. So I stuck my head out the screen door and he was staring up into a tree, binoculars in hand. And he waved me out.

He had been watching a Scarlet Tanager. And I think he was going to keep that experience all to himself until I poked my head out the door. While these birds are red, they tend to be a little hard to spot because they typically hang out in the tree tops....which is where our friend was. Both Wingman and I commented that this was only the second time we had ever seen one in our lives. The rest of the day was a little less eventful, maybe because my son went along and did as much chatting as the birds. But Wingman said the tanager made his whole day.
A few days later he asked when I was going to blog on the bird, sending along a "how to make your property ripe for tanagers" link. I responded and said he was still basking in the siting to which he responded by saying he's one of a few people he knows who can actually "see" things around him. I think I'm one of those on his list.
The next day I saw an Indigo Bunting and a pair of Yellow-Rumped Warblers. Told you it's getting colorful.

12 May 2010

did Solomon say ignorance is bliss?

I've started reading through Proverbs with my "mentee". No doubt King Solomon was a smart guy. God granted him wisdom above anything else because Solomon earnestly prayed for it. But I can't help thinking as I have read Solomon's Ecclesiastes in the past if maybe the wise king didn't quoin the term "ignorance is bliss".

Solomon comes to grip in his writings that all is vanity and nothing is worthwhile under the sun. Some people (like my friends) probably would have called him a cynic at that point. I asked one of my friends a few weeks ago if he thought that Solomon ever regretted praying for wisdom. He didn't think so. But I'm not so sure.

There are few things that stop me in my shoes and cause me to wonder about their "meaninglessness". One is politics. I really don't see any good from it, nor do I have any hope in our ability to correct the democratic process. Maybe you've come to the same conclusion some time ago-for me it was certainly a supernatural epiphany leading me to this conclusion. I think I know why God wanted me to understand this-the question for me becomes what do I do with it now?

The other is the church. The church universal, and local. I simply don't have faith in our ability to be the church as Christ commanded. A few times I've been jazzed about what I thought would become a movement to reach the hurting, only to see our humanness get in the way as we revert to a polished, acceptable waspy sort of Christianity. I'm guilty of it too....I just want to believe that we have the ability to change our course. I don't. This was wisdom gleaned from persecution. Believing that God has a purpose in things such as this....then I have to believe that it was God-given wisdom as well.

Honestly I go back and forth between wishing I did and didn't know the things I do. Frankly my life would be so much easier politically if I either didn't care, or didn't know. If I could just be a part of the mindless mob.....I'm pretty sure I know how to make comments that incite anger even if they weren't true. And I wish I could settle comfortably into the pew and go with the flow-instead of being tormented by what feels like an abdication of our responsibility because we get caught up in the four walls of the church. I wish I couldn't see that.

I googled "ignorance is bliss" just to test my hypothesis. I was wrong. Poet Thomas Gray penned the words in his poem "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College". These are the last two lines of his 100 line poem: No more; where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise.


Meanwhile, I'm thinking about getting this t-shirt.

08 May 2010

where am I?

Go ahead and guess......where am I and what am I standing next to (or in?????)?

06 May 2010

Election Holiday?

I had some business to take care of with county government this week, so as I was creating my "to do" list on Sunday I knew to not schedule completing that task on Tuesday-primary election day-because county offices are closed for the election.

But what I didn't know, as I sent emails to state offices on Tuesday and out of office notifications came back to me, the State of Indiana observes election day as "Election Holiday". I guess I don't care, but here's one of those things that rub me wrong from my political office days.

Municipal elections do not follow state and county election years; they are in the off-years (2011 is a city election year). River city's policy with regard to primary and general election days is that employees do not get that day off. I believe that attempts to make it a holiday had been made in the past prior to it coming before us prior to the 2007 elections. We entertained the idea of giving municipal employees those days off for 2007, and of course it made the newspaper. That's when a very angry, big-time Republican constituent called me and chewed me out for even remotely considering giving employees that day off. Imagine the lost revenue! he exclaimed as he told me I wasn't being a good conservative.

So I asked him, in our very Republican Republicania County, if he ever ONCE called up our Republican county commissioners to complain about giving county employees election days off every other year (unlike once every 4 years in the city), or if he ever estimated the lost revenue by county employees. No was his response. So I asked why. Well, we're talking about city business here. OK, but it seems like far more revenue (which is a bogus claim anyway) is lost by county employees in our staunchly conservative county. He didn't like that. Ultimately I voted against the measure.

So now I'm wondering if my concerned former constituent (I'm figuring he voted against me for questioning his double-standard) has picked up the phone and called Mitch to complain about the HUGE loss of revenue created by state employees taking the day off. I'm guessing not.
How 'bout it.....should government offices be CLOSED for elections?

04 May 2010

election day


held my nose,
poked blindly at the machine
hoping to pick the candidate
that was the least bought-out by special interest


Did you?

thank God for the democratic process-still the best system on earth

02 May 2010

when to curse the fig tree?

Remember when Jesus was strolling along the road with his disciples, saw a fig tree in the distance and went to inspect it for something to eat? Upon closer examination he noticed that the tree would be without fruit that year. So he cursed it "and immediately it withered".

Most of the interpretations I have seen on this passage attribute this to a lesson Christ was teaching regarding the nation of Israel, or the religious leaders of that day. While they may look healthy and vibrant-it's just a show, there's no fruit to the gospel they professed.

But I have to admit my own ponderings on this passage, on what trees out there should be bearing fruit and are not. Should we apply the passage to those who are young in their faith-or those who are lukewarm in their faith-we may have a lot of withered Christians out there. Maybe we already do.

I think I like the parable about the master and the fig tree better. In this parable Christ tells of a master who looks upon a fig tree and realizes that it is not bearing fruit and instructs the gardener to remove it. The gardener steps in and says, wait, let me fertilize it and give it another chance lord. I mean, who wouldn't want a second chance to produce fruit when the other option is the burn pile?

There are those who we have hoped would one day "bear fruit" and it just never seems to come. Whether its our kids or friends-the last thing we want to do is give up on them. But how long do we wait? I wonder if there isn't an untold story in the stand-off between Christ and the fig tree. Do you suppose he passed that way year after year, maybe over his lifetime, and never saw any fruit on the tree and this time he wanted to get a point across to the disciples?

I don't believe it is our place to judge when it is time to give up on someone.

About 17 years ago I did some landscaping at my folks' home. I built an arbor with a porch swing and planted a number of different shrubs and vines. But the one that was to be the show-stopper was a small start of a wisteria vine I bought at Country Gardens south of South Bend. The fellow I bought it from said that he had nurtured a handful of starts from his mother's vine that was at that time over 100 years old. I paid $20 for a 4" twig with a few leaves and planted it near one post that had an attached trellis.

And then we waited. And it grew and in a few years it began to grow like crazy. Soon the vine had covered the entire arbor-over 100 square feet of vine shaded the ground and swing beneath the arbor. Year after year went by and we kept anxiously waiting for the blooms to appear but they never did. The main trunk of the vine got thicker and twisted around itself and ultimately snapped the trellis it was growing up. Finally, tired of the ever increasing height and cover, last fall my dad went ballistic on the vine and gave it a severe pruning.

Two weekends ago we were at my folks and as I was grilling brats I looked over at the vine and at first thought that it had leafed out and the fragile leaves took a beating by the frost and had withered. But upon closer inspection, I realized that the vine, for the first time in its life, was covered with strands of buds. And it was loaded! So, this weekend we were there again and I snapped this picture of the wisteria finally blooming after 17 years.

Which got me thinking about this fig tree thing. Glad I didn't curse the thing in those 17 years and throw it on the burn pile. There are a few parallels here, but in order to acknowledge my own shortcomings I'll make it personal. There have been some times in my life, maybe even right now, when I feel like I've gotten pruned within an inch of my life and I wonder what for. There have been plenty of times in my life, too, when I went unpruned and, consequently, produced nothing. I'm glad the gardener has asked the master to give me a second chance. Can't say that I like the idea of being covered in fertilizer, but I trust He knows what He's doing.

Gafill Oil Company in Argos

My great-grandfather (above) may have started our family in the fuel business with his employment as the agent for an oil company in ...