Charity Logo

Charity Logo

Charity of the Month


In December I am riding for Heifer International. Founded in 1944, Heifer International works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.

Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

A donation to Heifer International also can make a wonderful alternative holiday gift. Instead of yet another sweater for Grandma that she really doesn’t need, why not donate a Heifer animal or a share of an animal in her honor? Does your child really need so many new toys? Instead of five new toys, give him/her three new toys and a Heifer flock of chicks. Heifer has honor cards to let your loved ones know of your gift on their behalf.

I have set up a Team Heifer page to support Heifer International through A Year of Centuries. My goal is to raise $500. Please make your donation through If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit Whether you give to honor a loved one or make a regular donation, thank you for taking steps to transform the world for the better.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

Reading on the square on a sunny afternoon:

What better way to spend time with an old friend?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Memorable Books from the Past 12 - Make That 13 - Years

As we approach the end of this month that has highlighted the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, I’d like to focus on some books for adults.  After all, the goal is to promote literacy and a love of reading in childhood that carries throughout life.

Since 2000, I have kept a list of every book that I have read.  Back then I set a goal of reading at least a book a month, which would be 12 per year.  However, this morphed into a Rainman-like quirk: if I read more than 12 books, it has to be a multiple of 6.  (Don’t ask me why; it’s just something that I do.)  So, every year from 2000 through 2011, I read 12, 18, or 24 books.  Last year was different because of my commute, which has become prime reading time.  I’m actually reading a lot more now thanks to audio books.  Last year I read 54 books (still a multiple of 6!), and this year I’ve read 32 books so far.

At the beginning of 2012, I had been adhering to my unusual reading plan for 12 years.  I noted this milestone by compiling a list of the most memorable book from each year.  Here is that list along with my most notable book (plus honorable mentions) from 2012:

2000  Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. This is the fascinating story of John Harrison, who in the 1700s invented the chronometer, the first instrument that allowed sailors to determine longitude accurately.  The longitude problem had been particularly vexing to Great Britain, the maritime world power of the day, because lives and cargo were lost when ships miscalculated longitude and crashed into the shore.  (Latitude did not pose such a problem because it can be determined from the position of celestial objects.)  Parliament offered a huge monetary prize to whoever could find a way to calculate longitude.  With competing scientists using different methodologies (notably astronomy), this true story also contains a great deal of human intrigue.  Interesting side note: Longitude is also an excellent movie starring Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies) as John Harrison.

Honorable Mention: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.  Though not light reading, this certainly is an interesting book.  What makes it memorable for me, however, is that it represents a kept promise.  I took a very enjoyable philosophy class at Georgia Tech.  The professor assigned Zen to us.  He told us that we wouldn’t be tested on it in any way, but we should read it for our own education.  We could choose whether or not to do so.  Although I didn’t read it that quarter, I promised myself that someday I would.  Ten years later, I did, and I’m glad.

2001  Dogs, Geese & Grizzly Bears by Charlie Elliott.  A delightful collection of short stories set in the natural world, this book was written by Charlie Elliott, a notable outdoorsman who was the first Director of Georgia State Parks and the first Director of the Game and Fish Commission (now the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division).  He also wrote for magazines and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in north Jasper County is named for him.  Additionally, the comic strip character Mark Trail reportedly is based on Charlie Elliott. 

2002 – (tie) Glimpses of Grace by Madeleine L’Engle.  Madeleine L’Engle is my favorite author.  She was the first person to show me the connections between science and faith, two realms that most certainly are not mutually exclusive.  I discovered her books as a preteen and was delighted to discover in later years that she also wrote numerous books for adults, both fiction and nonfiction.  Glimpses of Grace is a collection of excerpts from the spectrum of her writings, compiled as a daily devotional book.  I, however, was not disciplined enough to read just one excerpt per day, instead devouring this book in only a few sittings.

(tie) The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion by Barbara Brown Taylor.  (Obviously, this book is in the same vein as my attraction to Madeleine L’Engle.)  My church hosted a Wednesday night study over several weeks in which we read and discussed The Luminous Web.  It was the most stimulating and thought-provoking experience I have had at church.  It was like receiving rich, hearty food of substance, full of vitamins and other nutrients.  What a blessing!

2003  The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands.  Scientist, inventor, statesman, and bon vivant (isn’t that a great word!), Benjamin Franklin truly was a Renaissance man, probably America’s first.  If I got to host a dinner party of famous people, Benjamin Franklin definitely would be on the guest list.

2004  Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis.  Reporter Stefan Fatsis begins to cover the world of competitive Scrabble, discovering along the way that he himself is a pretty good player.  The book contains fascinating accounts of the game itself (e.g., the importance of knowing all of the two- and three-letter Scrabble words) and the sometimes unconventional people who play it (e.g., foreigners who can barely speak English but dominate on the competition circuit).

Honorable Mention: Persuasion by Jane Austen.  I love all of the Jane Austen books, but this somewhat lesser-known novel tells the inspiring, heartening tale of Anne Elliot’s second chance at love with Captain Frederick Wentworth.

Honorable Mention: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I knew the basic story, of course, but I had never actually read the book.  When I did, I thought, “No wonder this is a classic!”

2005  Dixie Lullaby by Mark Kemp.  The subtitle is a good synopsis of the content: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South.  Definitely a must-read for fans of Southern rock.  As I made this list and revisited the various titles on my library shelves, I realized that I had left a bookmark in one of the pages of this book.  (The author and his father are visiting Richard Young of the Kentucky Headhunters.  As the three drive around rural Wisdom, Kentucky, they pass a number of scary JESUS IS COMING signs, put up by a colorful local character named Dewey Cooper.)  I was delighted to discover this passage that pretty well sums up my religious outlook:

“Look yonder,” Young drawled as we passed one of Cooper’s warnings.  “He makes it sound like Godzilla’s coming or something.”  Young slapped his knee and exploded in laughter that infected my dad and me, too.  “Those signs like to have scared the hell out of me when I was a little boy.”  He got serious again: “You know, personally, I think it’s a damn great thing if Jesus is coming.  Why you wanna warn me about it? I thought it was supposed to be good.”

2006  Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire.  This is an imaginative tale of Elphaba (who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West) as she grows up in Oz pre-Dorothy.  It often portrays her in a rather sympathetic light and the “good” Glinda (Good Witch of the North) in a sometimes not-so-flattering light.  A reminder that none of us is all good or all bad?  My only criticism of this book is a borderline pornographic scene toward the beginning that serves no purpose.

2007  The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  Of all of the books that I have read in the last 13 years, this one has stuck with me the most.  The author traces four meals from their origins to the table:

1) A conventional meal that is a product of the U.S. industrial-agricultural complex (e.g., McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets).  Before I read this book, I really had no clue about U.S. agriculture policy.  In a nutshell, it’s insane.  We pay farmers to grow more and more corn, which lowers its price, which spurs them to grown more and more corn.  What to do with this glut of corn?  Why, put corn syrup in everything, and convince people to supersize their fast food meal for only 79 cents!  Also, feed corn to cows crammed into concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs); since cows are designed to eat grass, not corn, pump them full of antibiotics so that they can “handle” the corn.  This results in super-resistant strains of bacteria down the food chain, including in humans.  Not to mention all of the petroleum-based fertilizer necessary to grow all of this corn.  Literally tons of fertilizer wash down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, creating a huge dead zone where nothing can live.  I happened to read this book before riding RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa).  Seeing all of the corn in Iowa, which literally covers the state, I realized that Iowa is one of the most industrial states in the U.S.

2) A USDA-certified organic meal.  Such certification is not nearly as eco-friendly as you might expect.

3) A locally grown organic meal.  The author focuses on Joel Salatin, an unconventional yet brilliant farmer in Virginia.  Salatin’s farm is called Polyface Farm, an indication of the many crops and animals he raises in an intricate, holistic system.  Salatin shows that farming can and should be a challenging (physically and intellectually) yet intensely gratifying endeavor.  The more food that we grow and eat locally, the better off we will be economically and health-wise.  If you read about Salatin, you’ll want to be a farmer yourself.  Robert and I were so inspired by his approach that we named our own little place Polyhound Farm.

4) A meal that the author hunted and gathered himself.  Michael Pollan gathers mushrooms to include with this meal.  I particularly remember his description of a mushroom’s mycelium, the unseen portion of the fungus that can extend hundreds or even thousands of feet underground.  It’s almost like reading about an alien organism.

Honorable Mention: Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn by Gary Pomerantz.  The Allen family in white Atlanta and the Dobbs family in black Atlanta were pretty much the most influential in their respective worlds.  They gave Atlanta two of its most noted mayors, Ivan Allen, Jr. and Maynard Jackson.  I grew up in Atlanta (DeKalb County) but knew little of the important contributions both families made to government and civil rights.  I highly recommend this book, particularly to other native Atlantans.

Honorable Mention: Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by John Lewis. I was born just after the Civil Rights Movement, and we never got that far in my history classes.  This memoir really opened my eyes to some of the injustices that African Americans faced during the Jim Crow era and to the incredible courage that people like John Lewis showed.  It’s hard to believe that such things happened so recently, right here in America.  If, like me, you need to learn more, this is a great place to start.

Honorable Mention:  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.  In this novel, autistic teenager Christopher is falsely accused of killing his neighbor’s poodle.  He sets out to prove his innocence.  What makes this book unique is that the story is told in first person, giving the reader a glimpse into how the mind of an autistic person works.  In that way, it promotes understanding of those who are “different.”

2007 was quite the year for good books!

2008  The End of Oil by Paul Roberts.  This book explains how the industrialized world became dependent on fossil fuels and how, barring a scientific breakthrough, our near-term energy policy likely will be a patchwork of fossil fuels and various alternative fuels.

2009  Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  Anything by Malcolm Gladwell is well worth reading, but this is the first book of his that I read.  He provides convincing arguments that the most talented among us (e.g., Bill Gates, The Beatles, Asian math students) aren’t super brilliant or extremely lucky.  Instead, certain cultural, familial, and other perfectly explainable influences can converge in just the right way to produce such superstars.

Honorable Mention: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith.  Score one for the public domain.  In this delightfully outlandish adaption of Jane Austen’s most beloved novel, Seth Grahame-Smith overlays the tale of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy against a backdrop of zombies that have invaded nineteenth- century England.  A fun read regardless, this is particularly enjoyable if you are familiar with the details of the original Pride and Prejudice.  Also, I loved the half dozen or so illustrations, which reminded me of the ones in the old Nancy Drew books that I loved.

2010  The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies by Richard Hamblyn.  Luke Howard is one of the most interesting and influential scientists that you’ve never heard of.  A nineteenth century amateur meteorologist, he spent his life studying, analyzing, and drawing clouds.  He came up with the simple yet concise system of the three basic cloud types that we still use: cumulus, cirrus, and stratus.  Having studied Latin in high school, I especially enjoyed learning that Luke Howard selected Latin cloud names partially to be consistent with the Latin binomial nomenclature of biology that had just become accepted in the scientific world.

2011  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  Intriguing title, isn’t it?  So is the story.  The entire book is written as a series of letters between the sundry characters.  Set on the British island of Guernsey in 1946, the book focuses on the lives of the island inhabitants as they emerge from Nazi occupation during World War II.  The islanders devise the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society to avoid punishment from the Nazis regarding a contraband pig.  Many of the Society members have never read much before, and – lo and behold – they discover a new passion.  Despite the very real and sometimes heart-wrenching realities of the war, the warmth of the connections between the characters shines through as they rely on each other and reading to get them through their dark hours.

Honorable Mention: The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  This captivating story from the early years of the Civil Rights Movement sheds light on the relationships between privileged white families and their black maids in Jackson, Mississippi.  Most aspects of these relationships are horrendous.  However, an unusual bond forms across racial lines as white Skeeter compiles an anonymous book of true stories from Aibilene, Minny, and other black maids.  From chapter to chapter, Skeeter, Aibilene, and Minny alternate telling the story from their varied perspectives.  I listened to the audio version of the book, which added even more to it for me as different actresses read for the different characters.

2012Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose – Doing Business by Respecting the Earth by Ray C. Anderson.  This book made as big an impression on me as The Omnivore’s Dilemma did.  I wish Confessions of a Radical Industrialist were as well known because every business should follow the principles championed by Mr. Anderson.  His company, Interface, Inc. manufactures carpet tiles, used primarily in commercial applications.  Carpet tiles can be very cost effective because only a few tiles – rather than a whole room of carpet – can be replaced if a small section has high-traffic wear or staining.  Interface was already a very profitable company when Anderson had an epiphany.  He realized that he should operate his company in a sustainable, environmentally responsible way.  He did this not only to help the planet but to be even more profitable.  These two ideas do not have to be at odds with each other!  Interface, Inc. has developed processes for recycling old carpet, utilizing labor of indigenous people, switching to solar and other alternative fuels, reducing water use and contamination, and achieving negative greenhouse gas emissions (i.e., less than 0).  One part of the book that I particularly enjoyed was the description of Interface employees spending time outdoors, researching how things they observed in nature might be incorporated into the manufacturing process.  They came up with carpet tiles that look like leaves on the forest floor.  The naturally pleasing and random pattern eliminated concerns about congruity between adjoining tiles or even matching dye lots.  This pattern became one of Interface’s all-time best sellers.

Honorable Mention: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.  This classic, first published in 1895, popularized the concept of time travel.  It also set the stage for my fascination with steampunk, which I discovered soon after I read this fantastic book.

Honorable Mention: Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne.  This is another forerunner to today’s steampunk.  Phileas Fogg sets out on a seemingly foolhardy journey, full of excitement and clever twists.  It has one of the best story endings that I’ve ever read – but you’ll just have to read it for yourself.  I highly recommend doing so!

When I compiled this list, I was rather shocked that the majority of my most memorable reads have been nonfiction.  However, when I consider that I enjoy learning about the world around me and how all of the pieces work together (or not), maybe my list shouldn’t be such a surprise.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weekly Children’s Book Review: The Boxcar Children

My maternal grandparents lived in Dallas, Texas.  Often I visited them during the summer.  Grannie took me to the public library, where she let me check out books with her library card.  I checked out The Boxcar Children every time!  As I considered which children’s books to review this month, I thought it would be fun to revisit this old favorite of mine.  When I looked it up, I made quite a discovery.  It has been beloved by numerous children – so beloved that it’s only the first in a series!  I wish I had known this back in the day.

The Boxcar Children must have been one of the first chapter books I read.  Actually, I didn’t even know the term “chapter book” until just a few years ago when my nieces got old enough to read them.  I have bought them a number of books since they were babies.  I think I just happened to get them a chapter book that I thought they would enjoy, and my sister gave the parental seal of approval, saying that they had recently reached this reading milestone.  I don’t remember making the exact transition myself from storybooks to chapter books, buts it’s exciting when children become more advanced readers.

The Boxcar Children tells the story of four young siblings named Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny.  They are orphaned and come to live on their own in an abandoned boxcar.  Resourceful and kind, they do an impressive job of taking care of themselves.  I still remember their visit to the dump, where they find such items as cracked yet still serviceable dishes.  Eventually, the four children are taken in by their grandfather, whom they previously – and erroneously – believed to be a cruel man.  Their grandfather even moves the boxcar to their new home together so the children can use it as a playhouse.

Maybe The Boxcar Children inspired my own childhood play.  I often pretended that I had to live on my own (or just with my playmates) in the woods or on an island.  It gave me a healthy desire to be independent and self sufficient, something that ought to be encouraged in every child.  Fortunately, I always had a safe and loving home to come back to when playtime was over.  If only every child could say the same thing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


In March of last year, I began a job that requires about a 35-mile commute each way.  My job is great, but my home schedule is different now that I’m not in town as much.  In particular, much of my reading is now via audio books, which I listen to while I’m driving.  (Audio books also help keep me motivated for such household tasks as ironing and mopping.)  I’m constantly checking out audio books from my local public library.  Then, I found another great resource: an iPhone app called Free Audiobooks, published by Digital Press Publishing.  You do have to spend a whopping $2.99 for the app, but once you purchase that, you have over 4,728 classic book titles, ready and waiting to be downloaded.  I was already trying to read a classic every few books anyway, and so Free Audiobooks fit the bill perfectly.

These audio books are available thanks to a volunteer organization called LibriVox.  The mission of LibriVox is to create audio versions of all books in the public domain.  Books in the public domain, generally written before 1920, are no longer subject to copyright laws.  Lots of excellent books are 100 or more years old.  A few of my favorites include Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, Silas Marner by George Eliot, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  They don’t call them classics for nothing.

LibriVox volunteers read the books.  Overall, it’s a good system, but some readings are better than others.  The first audio book I listened to, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, had a particularly good reader who read all of the chapters.  Having a single reader for an entire book is not typical, however.  Usually, there is one reader for a few chapters and then a different reader.  Also, sometimes a reader has a fairly thick accent, but how interesting it is to have volunteers from different countries.  Furthermore, it’s kind of funny to note the occasional background noise, like traffic!

At the beginning of each chapter, the volunteer reader states, “This is a LibriVox recording,” and goes on to give the web address for more information or to volunteer,  Maybe it’s simply the power of suggestion after hearing this so many times, but I finally decided that it would be a good thing to volunteer myself.  This is another hands-on way that I can promote literacy through A Year of Centuries, and it’s a way to give something back after deriving so much enjoyment from audio books.

Originally, I thought I would do some reading myself, going as far as investigating what kind of recording equipment might be needed.  However, after I signed up with LibriVox, I learned that volunteers are needed for a number of tasks.  I think I might do some proof-listening instead of reading.  With the combined efforts of readers, proof-listeners, and the coordinator, hopefully we can add another audio book to the public domain in the near future.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Blue Goose

This weekend Robert and I made an overnight bicycle trip to The Blue Goose, a coffee shop and bike hostel in Irwinton, Georgia.  What a great destination!  The Blue Goose just opened in February of this year.  Anyone would enjoy visiting the coffee shop or antique/gift shop, but the hostel was designed specifically with cyclists in mind.  The accommodations are inexpensive yet fun and comfortable.

It’s about 53 miles from Monticello to Irwinton, a nice ride length.  Robert suggested that we travel almost the whole way on state highways, which worked great.  The state highways between here and there have a very reasonable amount of traffic from a cycling standpoint.

Irwinton is in Wilkinson County, which is the heart of kaolin country.  Kaolin is a clay mineral that is mined extensively in a band running across Middle Georgia.  The kaolin deposits generally lie about 10 to 20 miles south of the fall line, which separates the piedmont to the north from the coastal plain to the south.  The vast majority of mined kaolin is used to make the glossy paper coating for magazine pages and other publications.  Kaolin is used in a number of other products, too, including ceramics, paint, and toothpaste.  Until fairly recently, it has also been used in upset stomach remedies like Kaopectate. Some people even eat kaolin (geophagia).

For many years the Georgia kaolin belt was the leading producer of this mineral in the world.  As time has gone by, mining companies have had to dig deeper and deeper to access productive veins.  Brazil has now surpassed Georgia in production because Brazil’s deposits are closer to the earth’s surface, making mining less expensive there.  There’s still plenty of mining going on in Georgia, though.  This is a typical tailings pond used in the kaolin mining process:

Here’s a kaolin processing plant outside of McIntyre:

McIntyre is a small town (population 650 as of the 2010 census) in Wilkinson County.  Besides kaolin, McIntyre’s biggest claim to fame is Honey Boo Boo.  Pop culture is a strange thing.  I’ve never even seen her show, yet I know who Honey Boo Boo is.  Last January one of our Peach Peloton rides (i.e., Saturday group rides) went through McIntyre, and I took a selfie in front of Honey Boo Boo’s house.  Even though I already had that picture, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play paparazzo again for this ride report.  The front of the house has police caution tape all across it; therefore, the back of the house, right next to the railroad track, makes for a nicer picture:

It was only about three more miles from McIntyre to Irwinton.  Irwinton is actually slightly smaller (population 583 as of the 2010 census), but Irwinton has a more happening restaurant scene.  Specifically, Irwinton has Maebob’s:

Maebob’s is a classic meat-and-two Southern diner.  It’s pretty good.  I had eaten there a few months ago with my boss when we were in the area visiting a job site.  Yesterday Maebob’s was only open until 2:00 P.M., and so Robert and I made sure to leave our house in time to eat there for lunch.

Since my crash, I have really developed a taste for unsweet tea.  Sweet tea is ubiquitous and iconic in the Deep South, but so far no one has asked me to turn in my Southern membership card because of my preference for unsweet tea.  Our waitress at Maebob’s obligingly brought me unsweet tea in a huge glass with a Coca-Cola logo on it (perfect) and plenty of lemon wedges.  That was some good tea!  It was freshly brewed and so flavorful.

I don’t fry chicken at home because a) it’s not the healthiest thing to eat on a regular basis and b) I can’t get it to taste as good as it does at places like Maebob’s.  So, I decided to treat myself to their fried chicken.  (I was happy to see a bottle of Texas Pete hot sauce on the table - makes fried chicken even better.)  Maebob’s serves fried chicken most days of the week, but it’s also the Saturday lunch special.  Yesterday it was served with Rotation 1, meaning you could choose two of four listed vegetables.  Rotation 2, presumably served on alternating Saturdays, had four other vegetable choices.  I chose green beans and rice with gravy from Rotation 1 and a roll instead of cornbread.  I rarely order cornbread when I’m out because I’m always afraid that they put sugar in it, which is sacrilege.  It was a right tasty meal:

Then it was time to head over to The Blue Goose.  I was so excited that I had goose bumps!

Actually, Maebob’s had the AC cranked up.  I’m often cold inside, even during – or maybe particularly during – the summertime.

The Blue Goose!

Donna, one of the gracious owners, showed Robert and me around.  There are two rooms with a couple of sets of bunk beds each and an upstairs room with a queen-sized bed.  Robert and I had one of the bunk-bed rooms to ourselves.  Much of the décor has a cycling theme, which I loved.  Here’s one example:

I particularly liked this sign, which gives one of the main reasons I ride my bicycle:

The Blue Goose also has route maps and directions available for good rides in the area.  Robert and I didn’t need this one since we had already done our own Honey Boo Boo ride:

Robert and I both made good use of the cozy indoor reading area during our stay.  Robert tried it first, enjoying the company of Murray, a golden retriever who belongs to the other people who stayed at the Blue Goose last night:

I went outside to read – and nap – in an Adirondack chair.  After a while, a few raindrops fell on me.  I found Robert and suggested that we skedaddle to the local grocery store to get our evening provisions before the rain started in earnest.  We strolled the few blocks to the store.  I like planning and efficiency, and so I make a week’s worth of menus and shop just once a week.  Therefore, it was a novel concept to me to go to the grocery store and just pick out whatever looked good.  I felt like I was on Dinner Impossible.  Thanks to some good input from Robert, though, we soon made some nice selections.

Another great amenity at The Blue Goose is beer and wine.  A donation can is available, which helps them keep the refrigerator stocked.  Robert and I had some wine while I cooked dinner:

A little while later, we sat down to a yummy meal of ribeye steak, baked sweet potatoes, and assorted sautéed vegetables:

Robert thought I was nuts for carrying home the leftover, uncooked mushrooms in my backpack.  Hey, waste not, want not.

This morning after eating breakfast and saying goodbye to Lynne, who is the other friendly Blue Goose owner, and the other hostel visitors, Robert and I headed for home:

On the return trip I made sure to stop at the Hawthorne Family Cemetery near Gordon:

Although it’s not really my thing, my mother is very interested in genealogy.  I’ve absorbed some of what she’s learned.  My great grandmother was a Hawthorne, and so I’m related to most of the people in this cemetery.  Being a dutiful daughter paid off because I had a nice surprise at the cemetery.  I met my third cousin once removed, who was doing a little grounds maintenance:

We figured out that his great grandfather and my great great grandfather were brothers.  By the way, people often erroneously refer to relatives as second cousins, third cousins, etc. when they should use the term “removed” to be accurate and, ultimately, less confusing.  The naming of cousins really is an elegant system.  Take this example:

First cousins are easy to understand; they are how the children of siblings are related.  In this example, Charles and Debbie are first cousins with Edward and Francine.  They are all in the same generation (two levels below) the common ancestors, who are Mom and Dad.

The children of Charles, Debbie, Edward, and Francine are all of the same generation, three levels below the common ancestors Mom and Dad.  That makes George, Helen, and Isabel second cousins with James.

Any children of George, Helen, and Isabel would be third cousins with any children of James.  These third cousins all would be four levels below the common ancestors of Mom and Dad.

So where does “removed” come in?  Removed should be used any time there is a difference in level, or generation, between two people.  For example, Debbie and James are cousins but not of the same generation.  They are first cousins once removed.  “First” indicates the higher cousin level (Debbie’s), and “once removed” indicates that there is one level of difference between generations.  Suppose James had a child named Fred.  Debbie and Fred would be first cousins twice removed, indicating Debbie’s higher cousin level and the two levels of difference between their generations.  Similarly, George and Fred would be second cousins once removed, indicating George’s higher cousin level (second) and one level of difference between generations.

Robert and I continued on our journey home.  stopped for one more photo, which was a good summary of the weekend:

I missed church today, but fortunately, God is not confined to the four walls of a building.

One last tidbit: because this month’s charity in A Year of Centuries is The Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, I rewrote some nursery rhymes with a cycling twist.  Therefore, instead of Mother Goose rhymes, they are Blue Goose rhymes:

Blue Goose Rhymes

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe
She had so many bikes, she didn’t know what to do;
She could sell eight or ten, and they wouldn’t be missed.
She soon sold them all, thanks to Craig’s List.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack make that breakaway stick

Little Miss Maddle
Sat on her saddle
Eating her Gu and whey*;
With this new burst of power
She could last one more hour,
And ride on her merry way.

*whey protein

One, two,
Velcro my shoe;
Three, four,
Legs are sore;
Five, six,
They feel like bricks;
Seven, eight,
Massage feels great;
Nine, ten,
Let’s ride again.

Jack passed Jill going up the hill
To fetch a KOM.
Jack fell down and broke his crown
So Jill was QOM.

Little Chris Horner
Rounded the corner,
Leading the crit passing by.
He stuck out his neck,
Avoided the wreck,
And said, “What a fast boy am I!”

Rice-a-cake, rice-a-cake,
Lim’s the man,
Make me a cake
As fast as you can;
Egg it and soy it,
And put in some bacon,
And wrap it in foil
For handy ride takin’.