Digging through Virginia

Esta breaks what was for me a five-year-old cone of silence and gives a peek inside her year as a professional contract archaeologist. Her job had her contracting to the state of Virginia, digging (per state law) at sites where the state planned to construct new public works to make sure that nothing of historical significance would be disturbed. A really cool job, right?

The constant traveling wore thin quickly, but the honeymoon would have lasted longer if not for the minimum wage, lack of decent benefits, creepy bosses and that thing about telling people their houses were going to be bulldozed.

Still, it taught her to swing a shovel. And gave her fantastic grist for the writing mill:

Rolling out of bed at 5 a.m. to get to the site on time and make the most of the sunlight. Living in longjohns, ripped jeans, flannel shirts, wool socks and beat-up boots. Staying covered in a poison ivy rash for nine months straight. Scraping deer ticks from my jeans with a trowel. The infamous black widow bite that didn’t kill me but made me wish it would. Eating lunch wherever we could, with preference given to rural gas stations that serve fried frogs legs and potato wedges, all-you-can-eat Mexican buffets that didn’t mind mud on their carpets, and diners with good pie.

Get well soon, Dad

A quick shout out to my father. As Esta reported, he went in for carpal tunnel surgery today. The preliminary news is that he came through the surgery well and is okay to travel. This is actually the second time he’s had surgery for the same condition, which gives me lots of confidence in the procedure… Carpal tunnel syndrome appears to be another one of those conditions that runs in the family. I have at various times felt stirrings of the distinctive pain, and Lisa has had fairly severe bouts with it at various times. Here’s best wishes that Dad’s surgery is a complete success and that he’ll be back to painless wrenching on the MG’s twin carburetors soon.

Presentses, my precious

Almost forgot. I gave Lisa a few presents this year to make up for a couple B-school Christmases without: an All-Clad 8 quart pot, a Cuisinart mini-prep, and a couple books on dogs to make up for the fact that we didn’t manage to get any puppies under the tree. We’re still working on finding a breeder for the Bichon Frise puppies she wants to get.

Emptier house

I just got back from taking my parents and sister to the airport. It feels weird not having a totally full house. Lisa’s folks will be here for another week, so we’ll be able to taper off slowly.

Now that our five-guest experiment is back to two, I can report it was mostly a success. One thing we figured out a few days in is that it’s a lot harder to get seven people moving in the morning than two or four. We had a long list of activities, but each morning by the time everyone ate breakfast and showered it was almost time for lunch.

We’re off to do a bit of after-Christmas shopping. Should be fun, he said grimly.

Esta gets better comments

I will say nothing more about how the conversations between me and the anti-Win Without War folks are going save to note that the fine art of the ad hominem attack is alive and well.

Esta seems to be luckier. Her post about same-sex marriages attracted a thoughtful and responsibly articulated opposing view, in her comments rather than in email so it could be easily publicly shared. And so she started a real dialogue. This just goes to show that her language skills are more advanced than mine, I suppose…

BTW, happy belated BlogBirthday® to Estaminet. When I lost a guest blogger over a year ago I gained a keiretsu. Not a bad tradeoff.

Payback will be hell

Good morning! Thirty years is far too short a time with all of you. As Bilbo Baggins once said, I feel I know less than half of you as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as I should.

And thanks to Esta for the technicolor reminder of my mortality. Never fear, dear, I’ve got September 20 circled in my calendar for a few years hence…

Found: history

Family history, to be exact. The unpacking has progressed to the point that I’ve found the box that had the pictures from my office and—more importantly—of my family. Pictures of the University, of the barn up the hill from my Grandmother Jarrett’s house, of the ancestral Brackbill farmhouse, of my Pop-pop and Grandma, my parents and my Aunt Marie. Plus some other odds and ends: a framed Glee Club poster that I designed, a signed Edward Gorey print, a framed photo of the Rotunda taken from the vicinity of my Lawn room door, an antique mirror. Plus some Legos, for some reason.

All this stuff has been in storage, not just since we moved from Boston, but from our move from Cambridge in the early spring of 2001. I’ve particularly missed having familiar images to hang in my office; not any more.

Esta: No red ears for our grandfather

Esta was in Lancaster County this weekend visiting our relatives and found my grandfather in great shape:

Pop Pop was more like himself than I’ve seen him since the accident. On Friday night we somehow got started talking about old farming methods, and he told stories for nearly 2 hours about planting and harvesting corn and pumpkins, and the shucking parties they’d have in the fall. If you found a red ear, you got to kiss your girlfriend! Even at 85, Pop Pop’s chagrin that he never found a red ear was quite evident…

Fifty-four year old blog

Yesterday Esta started one of the cooler genealogical blog projects I’ve seen recently: Great-Aunt Eva’s blog. She’s transcribing our maternal relative’s 1949-1951 farm journal one page at a time. It’s astonishing how much it reads like the happenings of a far distant past even though it’s only fifty-four years old. The entries aren’t floridly written; most are only a single sentence. But her voice still comes through.

Esta Minute

There’s a blog I’ve wanted to point to for a while, but because it wasn’t yet a fully public project I’ve refrained. Today I’m proud to point to the new location of Esta’s blog, now named “Estaminet” (which is not to be pronounced Esta minute, as tempting though it is). To make up for my not linking to her before, today is officially Link to Esta Day. Mark your calendars.

My Dad, local TV celebrity

One of the family’s newer traditions, now that everyone is back on the farm in Buncombe County, is to spend a day after the apple harvest making apple butter by hand the old fashioned way — in a cast iron pot over an open fire outdoors with lots of people on hand to stir. My uncle Forrest has a trout pond down the hill from his house, in a little dammed-up river valley he calls “Quail Hollow” (random aside: the second word is generally pronounced holler), and they meet up to do the work there.

This year local TV got wind of the event and did a spot on it in last night’s news. The transcript will linkrot tonight, but I’ve transcribed the text in its entirety (lowercased for everyone’s sanity).

Dad (Olin), as always, hits the tone just right:

I’m a retired aerospace engineer.
Is this rocket science?
I think it’s harder.

Also, trust my uncle to claim that he had to go back to the family farm to be important–this is a guy, after all, who’s had pictures taken with presidents over legislation that he got lobbied through Congress.

One note: my mom was a little miffed they didn’t interview her–she was the only woman participating. Mom, if you have anything you want to add to the story, shoot it over and I’ll publish it…

Congratulations, Tim and Lisa

While Tim is (hopefully) at home sleeping off his jetlag, I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing him and Lisa the very best on their 5th wedding anniversary. It’s times like this that being on opposite coasts really bites; a card and phone call hardly seem adequate. Fortunately, they’re both sensible people who know a good thing when they see it, so while I can’t help them celebrate in person on the 5th, hopefully I’ll catch them on the 10th through 50th and beyond.

Happy birthday to Lisa…

Happy birthday today to my wife Lisa. She has put up with me and has made some very stressful years of school and moving not just bearable but enjoyable because of her continual wit, humor, and energy. Plus she makes sure that I keep on my toes!