Ted and I have been to 47 states.  We are missing Hawai’i, New Mexico, and North Dakota.  We seriously considered extending our recent visit to Ted’s sister in Nebraska by continuing north to North Dakota and checking that state off our Missing States List.  Ted researched places of interest but couldn’t really find anything that sounded worth the extra time and travel.  In fact, when we were on our 2015 European cruise, we met a lady from North Dakota.  When we asked her for ideas of things to do and/or places to visit in North Dakota, she thought about it for a few seconds and then responded by saying, “I actually think South Dakota is more interesting.”  We decided that we might have to settle for visiting 49 states, offering the excuse that we just couldn’t find a reason to visit North Dakota.

While we were discussing our travels during Dave and Cheryl’s visit, we mentioned our North Dakota dilemma.  Dave and Cheryl are making a circuit from New Mexico through Missouri, into Wisconsin, then west through Minnesota, etc.  On Saturday, I received a postcard from Dave from North Dakota.  Today, I got two more postcards in the mail.  Dave is tempting me.  Ted and I might have to go to North Dakota after all.

Yes, it says "legendary" North Dakota.

Yes, it says “legendary” North Dakota.

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Not only is it Hallowe’en today, but it is also National Knock Knock Joke Day.  What a joyous cause to celebrate!  Here’s a un-knock knock joke:

Knock, knock.

Come on in; the door’s open.

And another one, just to make the celebration last longer.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Ya who?

I’m excited to see you too.

Happy Knock Knock Joke Day to all.

A number of years ago, Ted and I bought a power washer.  It’s been a sturdy little machine and we’ve spent many hours using it.  In fact, its initial run involved 8-10 hour days seven days a week for about three weeks while we used it to strip a bad seal from our 2,000+ square feet of concrete.  (Long story.)  Not once did the power washer falter.  Our current project is washing the vinyl siding on our house and, unfortunately, our trusty power washer just couldn’t finish the job.  It died with the back side of the house still dirty.

We liked the model we had, so we went to Sears on Friday night and bought the new version of the same model.  Saturday’s forecast promised sunny skies with temperatures in the low 80s–a good day to finish washing the siding.  Ted started up the engine and water gushed out from the soap connection.  After trying everything we could think of to solve the problem, we went to Sears to ask for help.

Oh goody!  The salesman went online to look up the user’s manual for a solution.  I’d already told him that the user’s manual says “connect soap dispenser” and that’s it.  Now he believes me.  Because we’d put gasoline into the tank, we could not return the unit to Sears; instead, we were directed to take it to their nearby authorized repair shop.  We did, and we had to leave the power washer there for evaluation, etc.  Result:  the back of the house is still dirty.

Today, the service person informed us that the pump is defective.  It is missing a regulator, so the water doesn’t enter and leave the unit properly.  Simply replacing the pump would be much too easy.  First, the service shop has to report the problem to Sears.  Then Sears has to approve the repair as a warranty issue.  After the approval, the repair shop can order the part and, when it arrives, they can install it.  I guess we’re going to miss the window of beautiful weather this week for finishing up the house washing.

They just don’t make them like they used to, do they?

You were a good little machine and you worked hard. R.I.P.

You were a good little machine and you worked hard.  R.I.P.

Today, an American Airlines jet blew out a tire and had an engine malfunction at O’Hare Airport.  A fire broke out and all passengers were evacuated, with only a few sustaining injuries.  Ms. Ditz, the perky, young TV news reporter on the scene, told us an expert source had assured the media that events like this “seldomly” occur.

Adverbs tell us when, where, and how (e.g., later, inside, almost).  English grammar rules allow us to form some adverbs by adding –ly to adjectives (e.g., beautifully, softly, quickly), but who knew we had to do that to words that are already adverbs (e.g., seldom)?

Fortunately for her, Ms. Ditz appeared to be untroubled about sharing her ignorance with her viewers.  Perhaps, if she knew anything at all about English grammar, she might even be proud of inventing a ninth part of speech:  the redundant adverb.

Two weeks ago, our New Mexico friends, Cheryl and Dave, made a second stop at our house.  In August, they stopped here on the way from their home in New Mexico to their daughter’s home in North Carolina.  (Their other daughter lives in Hawai’i.  How’s that for being spread out?)  This time they were on their way to Cheryl’s college class reunion in Chicago.  We started having fun by having lunch, soon after their arrival.

D and C lunch

It was a rainy day, but we capitalized on a break in the showers to visit the Historic Main Street district of St. Charles.  Dave likes to geocache and had identified four caches in the heart of the area, so we looked for them as we walked along the street.  Clues for the first geocache indicated that the first map of St. Charles was a part of it.  I remembered seeing something about the first map when we were visiting Main Street with Julian last summer.  We were right in front of the First State Capitol/Missouri Historical Society building, so I went in to ask one of the workers about the map, only to discover all of the employees gathered around a table in the back room celebrating a birthday.  (They offered me a piece of cake.)

When I inquired about the map, one of the men asked, “Are you geocaching?”  I said no, I was helping a friend.  The man pointed to the map behind the party table and said, “There it is.  And the next one is the Peck Brothers sign next door.”  Wow!  Am I good or what?!  I’ve never geocached before and I found two before Dave did!  I shared the information with Dave and he duly recorded the finds.  We continued our walking tour of the district and then meandered down to the riverfront path where Dave identified another geocache location.  He found it without too much trouble and we continued walking.  We arrived at the final geocache location a little later but, even with all four of us looking, we couldn’t find it.

Geocache find: the Peck Bros. sign

Geocache find:  the Peck Bros. sign

Our dry weather window was closing and it was starting to sprinkle a little, so we decided to reverse our direction and circle back toward the car.  On the way, Cheryl and I went into the Little Hills Winery shop where we each bought a bottle of wine, making it a good day of shopping.

In the evening, Ted and I planned to take Dave and Cheryl to The Hill in St. Louis for an Italian dinner.  It’s well known that there is no bad food on The Hill, but when we left, there was a strong thunderstorm passing over.  We decided to eat closer to home and headed for one of our favorite local Italian restaurants, Fratelli’s.  The food and wine were delicious and the conversation was even better.  The scotcheroos at home were pretty good too.  Cheryl asked for the recipe.

We started the following cool morning with a warm beverage from Starbuck’s, then headed for the Arch.  Ted and I have lived in this area for 43 years and have never gone to the Arch in October.  It’s unlike any previous experience we’ve had.  Our skip-the-line tickets were for 11:00 a.m. and we arrived at 10:40, ready to ride but prepared to spend the usual recommended hour getting up, looking around, and coming down.  We were down by 11:05.  With no lines, we presented our tickets, walked directly to the tram cars, waited for the tram to arrive, got on, and took the six-minute ride up.  Unbelievable!  We spent some time in the tram car taking pictures.  Cheryl and I took turns so we’d all get into a picture.

Cheryl's turn with the camera

Cheryl’s turn with the camera

My turn with the camera

My turn with the camera

Of course, there was the obligatory photo at the top to be taken, so we asked a nearby person to take our picture.  He said he’d be glad to and asked where we’re from.  Ted and I said “St. Louis” and Cheryl and Dave said “New Mexico.”  “Where in New Mexico?” asked the man.  “Las Cruces,” replied Cheryl and Dave.  What are the odds that this man’s son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters had just moved to St. Louis from Las Cruces and were standing right there?  It is definitely a very small world.

D and C all arch

Photo by the father of the Las Cruces family

After we were back at ground level, it was time for Cheryl and Dave to head for Chicago.  We slowly worked our way back to the parking garage, took a few pictures of the Arch from the ground, exchanged hugs and good wishes, and went in different directions.

Today’s mail brought me a postcard from Dave, sent from North Dakota on their way home.  He knows Ted and I are looking for a reason to go to North Dakota because it’s one of only three states we haven’t visited.  He noted on the postcard that he wishes I were there and he thinks I probably wish the same.  New Mexico is another of the three states we haven’t visited.  Ted and I are looking forward to our Southwest U.S. vacation in October 2017 when we plan to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and to visit Cheryl and Dave in Las Cruces.

Parting shot of the Arch

Parting shot of the Arch. Today is the 50th anniversary of setting the keystone piece into the Arch.

It’s time for Dillard’s to empty the trash can.  One helpful person attached a plastic bag to a straw in the trash can opening to accommodate additional trash.  Yuck!


Last summer, Jeff found a misspelling in one of my blog posts–compliment should have been complement.  I think spell check incorrectly corrected my spelling, but I failed to catch the error in proofreading, so I conceded the point to Jeff.  He immediately sent an email message to the other kids and copied it to me to announce that he had caught Mom in a rare writing error.  Now, it’s my turn to score a point on Jeff.

I have a piece of technology that Jeff hadn’t heard of.  I recently bought a new laptop computer and I wanted to copy the iTunes music from my PC to the laptop.  I have about 3,400 songs in iTunes, and when I back up my music files, it takes well over an hour to do it.  I have a home network among my computers, but that takes awhile too.  I went to Best Buy and asked a salesman what would be faster.  He gave me a box.  What I could see through the window in the box resembled a USB flash drive and, I’m embarrassed to admit, I didn’t pay much attention to it; I paid for it and took it home.

Sort of looks like a flash drive. I wondered about the cord, but oh well, . . .

This is what I could see through the window in the box.  It is definitely a USB connection, but the cord should have been a giveaway.

When I plugged the cable in, windows appeared, indicating that an installation was necessary.  Looking more closely at the box, I saw that I had purchased a wormhole switch transfer cable–ideal for working between two computers.  I had trouble getting it properly installed, so I (of course!) asked Jeff for help.  His email response was, “Believe it or not, I’ve never heard of one of those.”

Without my personal IT guru (Jeff), I had to resort to the helpline which was, surprisingly, pretty good as well as helpful.  My installation problem turned out to be a missing or outdated driver.  The help technician emailed it to me and walked me through the installation.

I have to say, a wormhole switch is awesome!  It transferred the 3,400+ songs from my PC to my laptop in 12 minutes!!!  In the hour I played with my new toy, I discovered other neat features it provides.  I can use one mouse and one keyboard on two computers simultaneously–the mouse moves from screen to screen and the keyboard follows the mouse.  I can easily work with files from either computer and I can just as easily move them to or from either computer.  I assume I’ll be able to transfer my PC picture files to my new laptop as quickly as I did the music files, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Two computers, one wormhole cable, and one mouse.  Awesome!

Two computers, one wormhole cable, and one mouse.  Awesome!

I have a lot of training materials that I’ve developed over the years and saved to my PC, but when I go to India to facilitate teacher trainings in December, I’ll be taking my laptop with me.  It simplifies things greatly to have easy access to the PC files while working at my desk and putting my training materials together on the laptop.

Jeff said he really doesn’t have a need to work with two computers simultaneously, but I’m grabbing this moment.  It’s not easy to introduce Jeff to a technology he hasn’t heard of, and it’s not likely to happen again.  I score the point this time!

Jeff’s blog today touts the trivial fact that one buttload = 126 gallons.  He challenged readers to look it up, so I did.  The first thing I discovered was the amazing number of unusual units of measurement that can be found on the same Google search page as “buttload definition.”  As Jeff wrote, “It’s true. Look it up.”

To expand on Jeff’s newfound knowledge, I learned that the size of a buttload varies by country, and that two hogshead make one butt (or pipe), and two butts make one tun of wine or alcohol/beer.

Now we know.

Today was Ted’s and my annual Applesauce Day.  We started with a bushel of golden delicious apples and made this.

Cooked applesauce cooling

Cooked applesauce cooling

While the applesauce cooled, I made our annual Applesauce Day reward:  an apple pie.  By the time it came out of the oven, we had the applesauce packed in freezer containers and the countertop looked like this.

Applesauce headed for the freezer and a pie for later today

Applesauce headed for the freezer and a pie for later today

The only things left to do are to have a piece of pie in a little while and to enjoy homemade chunky-style applesauce for another year.

Huck’s has the best deal I’ve ever seen for a beverage.  Do they not know that you use either the dollar sign and a decimal or the cents sign?  Apparently not.  I think that, legally, the beverage has to be sold for the advertised price.  In reality, probably no one else will notice this error.  Maybe I could make money in an editing job like I had when we lived in D.C.  There’s definitely a market for good editors.

Yep, less than a penny for up to 32 ounces.

Yep, less than a penny for up to 32 ounces.

From which state that is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean can you call a state that is bordered by the Pacific Ocean at the same clock time during the change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time?  (Limit yourself to the lower 48 states.)

Fact:  There are actually some “calling parties” between these two states to celebrate the one hour each year that it is possible to do this.

Fact:  This is not a trick done with mirrors.

Do you need some help?  Here’s an example:  Daylight Time ends at 2:00 am, when it becomes 1:00 am Standard Time.  Pretend you want to make the call at 1:15 am.  In which two states, bounded by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as described above, can you make the call at 1:15 am in both states?

The answer is below the picture.  Cover the rest of this page if you don’t want to see the answer until you figure it out.

This is me relaxing in Paris while I wait for you to get the right answer.

This is me relaxing in Paris while I wait for you to get the right answer.

Answer:  You can make a call from western Florida (e.g., Pensacola, Panama City) where Central Daylight Time has changed to Central Standard Time, to eastern Oregon (e.g., Ontario), which is still on Mountain Daylight Time, at the same clock time for one hour during the change from Daylight to Standard Time.

As part of his birthday gift, we gave Sky his choice of an outing with us that included lunch.  He chose miniature golf.  This is a five-day school holiday for the boys, and I want to know why we didn’t get five-day October school holidays when we were in school!  With all that available time and the beautiful weather, today was a perfect day to go golfing.

Sky had the power to choose the lunch venue and he chose–where else?–Steak ‘n’ Shake.  Surprise!  The boys (Sky and Dylan) ordered chicken fingers and large shakes.  Just to give him a hard time, I asked Sky if he was confident that he could finish a large shake.  His response was, “It’s been done.”  Sure enough, it was done again.

From there, it was on to the 18-hole miniature golf course.  Is there any skill required to play miniature golf?  I’m pretty sure the answer is “no.”  The course is simple and easy, yet rigged with hills, ridges, traps, and grades.  Any kid who can hit a ball with a golf club can play, and any real golfer enters an alternate universe compared to a real golf course.  It was fun.

I needed seven strokes on an early par 2 hole, so we made seven the maximum score any of us would get.  There were a few 7s on our score card that were at least representative of the actual number of swings required.  Ted (who was a high school jock) scored 46, the lowest score by almost 20 points.  Sky, Dylan, and I are considering limiting him to scorekeeping next time because he’s too much better than we are.  The three of us scored above 60 on the par 36 course.  The good news is that the more strokes it took us, the longer we got to play!  How’s that for putting a positive spin on a high golf score?

At the end of the game, we all agreed that on another beautiful day we’d like to do this again.  Score for Grandma and Grandpa!

Sky reaching to retrieve his ball from the hole.

Sky reaching to retrieve his ball from the hole.

Ted going after his ball in the same hole.

Ted going after his ball in the same hole.Dylan making a putt.

Dylan making a putt.Me--the only one who shot a hole-in-one. It wasn't enough to get close to Ted's score.

Me–the only one who shot a hole-in-one.  It wasn’t enough to get close to Ted’s score.

Hurricane Matthew is affecting many parts of the country in a variety of ways.  I learned from tonight’s evening news report that there was a possibility of moving some F-18 jets from South Carolina to Scott AFB near St. Louis.  Why?  According to Ms. Dimwit, the reporter, the move would “help protect those pricey jets from Hurricane Matthew.”  Yes, she described F-18s as “pricey” in her professional (?) report.

A few minutes later, Ms. Dimwit told us that, in honor of a local policeman who was shot and killed when he responded to a call, the local football team in his neighborhood would begin tonight’s game with “a fifteen-second moment of silence.”  Who knew that a moment could last for a specified period of seconds?

This kind of reporting drives me crazy!  Whatever generation these twenty-somethings are (Gen X?  Y?  Z?), they are certainly not learning much about English grammar in school.

Ted and I took a five-day road trip last weekend and spent some time with his sister, Mutzie, and with Kathy and Annette.  We went to Grand Island, NE first and had a very enjoyable time with Mutzie.  The weather was beautiful, so we went to the Eagle Scout Park and walked around Eagle Scout Lake.

Ted and Mutzie at the lake

Ted and Mutzie at the lake

Then we went to Kearney to visit the MONA–Museum of Nebraska Art.  The displays were very good.  One room featured heroes.  John Falter, a native Nebraskan, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943 and was commissioned to create recruiting pamphlets and posters, as well as a series of twelve portraits of war heroes.  The war hero portraits and their accompanying stories were published in Esquire magazine in 1943-44.  The portraits and stories were very interesting, but probably not found in any history books.  Each story described an “ordinary” soldier (if there is such a thing) who did an extraordinary thing simply because that’s what needed to be done.

There were some playful exhibits as well.  I especially enjoyed these two.

This is titled "Dilemma Wheel." On a dilemma wheel, all choices are unfavorable.

This is titled “Dilemma Wheel.”  On a dilemma wheel, all choices are unfavorable.

This one is titled "Pencil Box." (Duh!)

This one is titled “Pencil Box.”   (A creative “duh”!)

It was Lisa’s birthday, so Mutzie took Lisa, Doug, Ted, and me out to dinner for a celebration.  After dinner, we went to Lisa and Doug’s new home for a tour and for more conversation.  Their house is beautiful and they have plans to make it even better.  As usual, the time to leave came too soon.

It took us seven hours to get from Grand Island, NE to Kirksville, MO and it seemed like a very long drive.  We are used to driving only three hours to Kirksville.  Before leaving the state, we had to take a picture of a “Nebraska skyscraper” in Nebraska City.

Nebraska Skyscraper

Nebraska skyscraper

We had a good time with the girls too and never ran out of things to talk about.  Annette made one of her specialties and one of Ted’s and my favorites–potato soup.  It’s a winter comfort food, but it was cool and rainy and the soup was a perfect choice.  We ended the visit in our traditional way with dinner at Pizza Hut.  It was a happy ending to a short road trip.

Pizza Hut for dinner

Pizza Hut for dinner

In January, I did some tutoring in a classroom that was formerly used for industrial arts.  I commented on the variety of things that were stored in that room, including a washer and a dryer.  When I returned to the school in September for the 2016-17 school year, I wrote about the changes made in the room so that it can be used as a meeting room.  I mentioned that the room is now more attractive, and that the washer and dryer are still there.

Former "storage" decor

Former storage-style decor

New and improved classroom-style decor

New and improved classroom-style decor

Today I was working with two students in the re-decorated meeting room when a teacher came in to launder a football practice uniform.  I asked her if this was a typical thing to do and she said “yes.”  I remembered that she had given one student some Cheerios and another some saltines this morning, so I asked if she provides food as well as laundry services for the students.  She said “yes.”  I asked if there were a lot of kids in need of both and she said “too many.”

I’ve worked with many people who are poor and in need of services, and they’ve told me about their struggles.  For example, they sometimes use an extension cord to get electricity from their neighbors when their own is shut off for lack of payment.  When I wrote grants to fund the Adult Education and Literacy program that I supervised, I always had to include data on the number of students who received free hot lunch in the school districts we served.

Neither working with low-income students nor including low-income statistics in my grants came as close to reality as seeing this teacher providing direct and immediate help for some low-income students.  Today, in her classroom, two students were fed and another went home with a clean football uniform.  If they don’t already do it, maybe more schools should include an on-site washer and dryer.  Little things really do make a difference.

The washer and dryer that help meet students' needs

The washer and dryer that help meet students’ needs.