Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fires in Southern California

It looks like the first day of school is going to be a "smoke day" for many Southern California schools.

I'm beginning to become concerned that the fire is nearing Mt. Wilson (see previous post on Mt. Wilson historic telescopes). The fire burned across the road we drove up on and is heading (who knows where) depending on the wind. Twenty-two broadcast stations have communications towers on the top.

And then there are those who are losing their homes. How devastating for those people, yet they seem calm and say that their families are safe and that is the most important.

Our home is in front of the mountains on the flatlands. So all is well. But our church is up in the foothills, and inside, one could see a haze of smoke floating along the high ceiling.

Pray that they will get the fires under control. Our firefighters have their hands full as we have had four different fires raging in the last few days.

Above photo-courtesy of Los Angeles Times

Photo-courtesy of KTLA Sky 5

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Great-Grandfather's Notes

Today I pulled my great-grandfather's Bible off the shelf to show it to my youngest son. My GG studied the Bible intensely.

This quote is taped to the inside of the front cover.

It shall greatly help ye to understand scripture if thou mark not only what is spoken or wrytten, but of whom—and to whom, with what words—at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances considering what goeth before and what followeth. Words of Miles Coverdale.

Take a look at Genesis. That's his tiny—and I mean TINY—quill pen handwriting on the top and all around the word "Genesis".

Here is Romans. His notes appear on the top and in the margins, and if you click on the picture, you can see them in the text.

His notes and diagram of Revelation. You can click on any of these pictures to make larger
(...and see where he stood on pre-trib/post-trib)

Taped into his Bible are 2 pages of notes on Evolution.

From the top it says...

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray.

He lists verses that guide one in the knowledge of how to be saved.

I notice from his notes that he often referenced the early languages of the Bible (Hebrew and Greek) One family member told me he was a friend of James Vernon McGee.

I never knew this Bible existed until one day many years ago, I called my grandmother's sister's husband, Dick West. (My father's mother's side of the family) He lived alone, as my great-aunt had passed away. I had never spoken with him before, because they lived on the east coast. We had a great conversation...we just clicked. He had long career as a newspaper journalist. He said, "I have something you might like. It's your great-grandfather's Bible." He mailed it to me. (Dick and Aunt Rene did not have any children.) Dick passed away shortly after that. How I wish I had known him better!

While I'm on this topic, it's a good idea to connect with your older relatives. They may not be around much longer, and they might be able to tell you some interesting family history.

My grandfather had a Bible full of notes—and I have journals full of notes. I've written since the age of 12. (but not every day!) I've been looking for a new journal, but many of them have two few pages or an odd looking cover. Finally, when I was least expecting it, I saw it. In the clearance bin of Ross.

Here it is on my bed.

On the cover it says, "Walk by Faith" and on the inside it says "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing." from Romans 15:13. This is printed at the bottom of every page.

It's the perfect journal because I've been asking God for a stronger faith. Remember the man who said to Jesus, "I believe! Help my unbelief!" That's me. And now I have a place to record what happens to me on this quest.

Have a nice day!
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope...." Romans 15:13

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Bucket List

You remember the movie, "The Bucket List" with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. They made a list of things to do before they "kicked the bucket".

Playing the violin has always been on my bucket list. How can I go through life without experiencing what it feels like to be a violinist? So I borrowed a violin from a school this summer.

Whenever I play, I hear doors slamming. Sometimes I have to change rooms. But it's a small price to pay for getting to pretend you're Itzhak Perlman.

Yesterday I worked on the "Happy Birthday" tune. C, my oldest son, is 22 today!

He helped me cook dinner. As his father later put it..."I think C has discovered garlic."

We had garlic mash potatoes, garlic shrimp and garlic steaks.

I'm thankful for a good day with him.

Above is a California Poppy adding a bit of beauty to my weed covered yard.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stepping Into the Universe

"...and don't turn on your flashlights. Any questions before we go in?" asked the young female scientist.

The twelve of us stared back.

She flung open the door we faced a long set of metal steps which ascended into a retangular dark whole in the ceiling.

We heard loud screeching noises as we stepped onto the metal floor of a dark round room. The sound was coming from the ceiling which was moving to expose a large patch of darkened sky. The silhouette of a large telescope stood in the center of the room.

"All Clear!" said the young scientist.

Suddenly the telescope started moving slowly and tipping toward the west.

"Thanks, Arby!" she called. Arby, who was controlling the moving ceiling and telescope, sat behind a desk at the side of the room.

We were at Mt. Wilson Observatory standing beside a telescope built in the early 1900's (completed in 1908) and brought up to the summit piece by piece on the back of donkeys.

In the early 1900's this 60-inch telescope (the mirror is 60 inches) and it's counterpart, a 120-inch telescope, were the largest telescopes in the world. Brilliant scientists graced this mountain and their discoveries have gone down in history as revolutionizing astronomy. To read about the discoveries click here

One can see Los Angeles from the top of this mountain.

Okay, back to the scene inside the dome. While the scientists were preparing the telescope for viewing, we sang happy birthday to our friend and cut the cake in the dark.

Our friend is a fantastic trumpet player, but has also worked at JPL, the leading center for robotic space exploration.

We began by viewing M3 and M13, globular star clusters. From there we went to the "cat's eye" a nebula, and also "double-double" beautiful double stars. We viewed Neptune, and the highlight of the night was Jupiter. We could see the orange striped weather patterns. Three of Jupiter's moons were visible.

We asked if we could view the moon.

"Not's almost will be too bright."

Then they changed their minds and gave us a special lens to put over the main lens so our eyes would be comfortable. They also turned up some of the "house" lights at that point. We were almost done...and this enabled us to take some pictures.

The moon is near the top of the pictures.

At times the telescope was tilted and we had to climb a ladder to look through the lens. We were told to put one foot on the telescope to brace ourselves as we looked.

The session ended at 1:00 a.m. Even with all the excitement, I was pretty sleepy...especially since we were sitting in the dark most of the time!

Mozart was wide awake and navigated the car safely down the long winding, pitch black mountain road.

This is certainly an experience I will never forget!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Date with Jupiter

Tonight I have a date with Jupiter.

Mozart and I will be on the top of Mount Wilson viewing the stars and planets.

Photo of Mt. Wilson Observatory

It's part of a birthday surprise. Our friend, who is turning 42, is an astronomy enthusiast.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

An Unexpected Phone Call

This is Clarence, my grandfather.

It was about 9:00 p.m. when I pressed the button to my answering machine to check the calls for the day and heard a message from a man who said he was related to me. He lives in New Jersey and while researching his family history, he had found my father's name. He called my dad and my dad referred him to me. Since it was about midnight in New Jersey, I decided it was best to call him back the next day.

New Jersey? All the family members I know, are from California. It was then I remembered my grandfather Clarence's old family papers stuck in a file folder in my desk. I knew Grandpa was originally from New Jersey, but for some reason I didn't think there was any family left back there...or any that I could find.

After all, the move to California happened so long ago...before 1920. The story is told that my grandfather's mother and father---my great-grandfather Frederick and great-grandmother Matilda--had a falling out. Apparently Frederick had an affinity for alcohol. So Matilda left him, and brought my grandfather and his little brother, Merrill, to California.

I returned the phone call the next day, and Tom and I have been emailing almost every day since...trying to put together the pieces of our family history. Our great-grandfathers were brothers. (Frederick and Edward) They both struggled with alcohol, and they both experienced tragedy.

On the bright side, it is fascinating to have a new cousin spring into my life, and to see pictures of his family, children...and to notice resemblances. Not to mention exploring our common ancestry. Our family helped found Elizabethtown, New Jersey in the 1600's--and played roles in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

My cousin is also an accomplished journalist, has won awards for his writing, and is a professor of Journalism. He is one of six people in the nation to win the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship.


Son update: My oldest son returned home this evening. He has been gone for about 3 weeks. We knew he was okay, because he called a couple of times. I'm not sure how I feel about him being home. A little anxious. Things are challenging when he is here. But this is how things are. He's here. And I love him.