Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Blogger Editor

My husband uses WordPress for his blog, but I use Blogger.  Because it's so much easier.  He is his own host and mine is Blogger - cheaper (as in free) and easier.

Anyway - I have a few questions that, if anyone knows the answer to them, I'd appreciate it - about Blogger.  I've been visiting some Blogger blogs lately that have a new kind of background and layout - one which I can find no mention of anywhere.  Here are a few examples:

Notice the clever edges of the writing area and the background?  I love these and I've been seeing variations of this new style all over the blogosphere and I'm coveting them.  I've done Google searches for "Blogger styles" and "Blogger backgrounds" and other searches along those lines, but I haven't found any reference for how this new style is accomplished.

In addition, there is evidently a new Blogger Editor, which I have now subscribed to - and some people have lost entire portions of their blog because of it:

I sure hope that doesn't happen to me.  I didn't even know there WAS a new Blogger editor until I searched for it under "Layout" and noticed an area where I could choose "old editor" or "new editor".  I held my breath and clicked, "new editor" to see what would happen - and my blog looked the same.

Of course, this is the first post where I'm actually USING the new editor - it just looks like it gives you more formatting options is all, but we shall see how it affects things once I publish this post.

I know when people who use Wordpress switch to the latest version, there is often much gnashing of teeth.  It seems like such a waste of time to constantly be working on the same thing, tweaking it, because a new version has killed some things and enabled unknown other features.

That's it for today - if anyone knows now to acquire those neat new contrasting background, decorating thingies for Blogger, let me know.  Thanks!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Joe Meiner

I mentioned in my last post that when I was in Nez Perce, Id, I met a D Day Vet named Joe Meiner. He was participating in the age old "talk around the wood stove at the local store", except it was at the local hotel/restaurant and no wood stove was needed (thank God). This is what the old timers did back in the old days - made their way to the general store and sat around the wood stove talking about weather, crops, local families and their difficulties or successes, national and world events such as were known back then (news was often heard a day or so or more after it occurred). I don't know much about Joe's personal life except he knows all the locals and can tell you the history of any plot of property in the Nez Perce area and who has owned it. I don't know if his wife was still alive, but from the way he talked I didn't think so. Joe is 86 years old and this past summer he went with his grown great grandson to Washington, DC to visit the WWII memorial. The memorial featured black and white reels of war footage and Joe pointed out the truck he was driving in the D Day footage - yes, he was actually, momentarily, in the footage. As Joe told his great grandson about the war, about D Day and what it was like, others visiting the memorial would overhear and gather around to hear it all "first hand". He attracted crowds everywhere he went, and not on purpose. Joe speaks softly and deliberately, he is very modest and never embellishes anything. In fact, he probably undertells it and his voice is very matter of fact. He told us, in the Nez Perce Hotel dining/meeting room how he was a mechanic for the vehicles, mostly trucks and jeeps, and how he had to drive a truck onto the beach (I forgot to ask which one - I was too riveted by his story and I didn't want to be rude and interrupt) and get as far as he could directly under the guns of the Germans. He managed to do this, obviously, or we would not have been speaking to him. He was so far onto the beach, the Germans could not train their guns on him. As he drove, he saw men dying left and right of him, and when he got to his designated spot, he says he saw no bullet holes in his truck - he was amazed. He seemed so proud of his great grandson, and he was happy that a WWII memorial had finally been completed. He was quite pleased with his sudden fame while in Washington, DC and his face glowed as he spoke of how "one or two people would hear me talking to my great grandson, and before you know it, there might be a crowd of upwards of 25 or so people wantin' to hear about the War." Joe did mention that he had never been able to watch, "Saving Private Ryan", because it would be too intense for him, it would bring it all back - but he did say that others that he knew that had been in D Day and seen the movie, vouched for it's authenticity.

Before we left the Nez Perce restaurant, my husband, my brother in law and I thanked Joe for what he had done all those years ago, and I could feel the chills run up my spine. I felt as if I was talking to a real piece of History in Human Form, so to speak. I have so much respect for the "average American" of the first half of the 20th Century. These people - and Joe was the epitome of this - were full of integrity, honesty, unpretentious, unselfish, brave and matter of fact about it all - all the qualities that made America and Americans great. Joe only uses a cane, so he gets around pretty good. His granddaughter works at the local grocery - we stopped there to pick up some fresh coffee to go (there is NO place in the Northwest that is inhabited by more than 2 people that does not have EXCELLENT coffee, including offerings of mocha, lattes, and espressos. We stopped at one place in a small town that was a hardware/liquor/gift/feed and ANY kind of coffee such as Starbucks would offer). We said hello to his granddaughter and mentioned how we had met Joe and how wonderful he was. She grinned and nodded in pride.

As we were all leaving the restaurant/hotel to go our various ways, Joe had decided to move on also, so we stayed together a bit longer as we walked out together. I suddenly got the urge to have my picture taken with this WWII vet - to me, more exciting than having my picture taken with any dumb celebrity (celebrities are usually the last people I'd want to have my picture taken with). I tapped his arm and asked if he would mind if my husband took my picture with him and he smiled and said, "Sure". We posed with our arms around each other and smiled. I told him I was absolutely in awe of what he had done in the war and I was so proud to meet him. I told him I would never forget him and what he had done - and I won't. For some reason, amidst all the wonderful scenery and fabulous hotels and great food, this is the high point of my trip. Below are a couple of pictures of Joe - one in the hotel/restaurant where he was sitting and talking with us, and two of him and I.

After the picture was taken, Joe went off alone, leaning a bit on his cane, crossing the street in the little Northwest Camas Prairie town, toward where he lives. Watching that old man, alone, going carefully and slowly down the street, holding inside himself a lifetime of memories of America when it was a better place, and a war halfway across the world and planets away from tiny Nez Perce, Id., I got choked up. I felt I was watching as the America I knew was moving farther and farther away, and with the passing of the Greatest Generation, passes the time of America's greatness.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Idaho/Oregon Adventure

Below are some photos I took on my whirlwind tour from Boise up 95 to Riggins (where Mountain time becomes Pacific time and we're magically moved back one hour in a second), through the mountains to the Camas Prairie. From there to Orofino, where my husband and I stayed in the most beautiful hotel room I've ever been in (and I've been in some very fancy ones thanks to conferences he's gone on and taken me) - courtesy of his wonderful brother and sister in law. From Orofino west to Union and Baker City, Oregon. Finally, from Baker City back to Boise, where after much laundry and re-packing, we flew home. My head is still filled with the beautiful images from all those miles (about 1200 total, my brother in law said - yikes!!)

My brother in law and his wife have purchased property on the Camas prairie near Nez Perce, Idaho. The following is a picture of part of their land. There is grazing land and crop land - and there is a deep cut or ravine with a large cave at the bottom. This was Nez Perce Indian land until the 1950's, when the first white owner bought it - and now it is in our family. No one can get down to the bottom of the ravine - it is a very steep death fall in some places - and one must walk in at a slant from the flattest point down into it. There is water at the bottom, so no one can get too far. How frustrating!! There could be bear, cougar and coyote down there, although I would think some of the cattle would be killed if a cougar were in the ravine. You want a place out in the boonies? This is it. I've never been in a more remote, yet settled area. The people are the salt of the earth and would help their neighbor out in a heartbeat.

Below are a few pictures taken on the Camas Prairie property.

This was on the way through the mountains from Riggins to the Prairie.

Below are the Blue Mountains outside of Union, Oregon.

An abandoned old home site outside Union, Oregon.

A working farm outside Union, Oregon.

Don't know where this was, but there are tons of abandoned, dilapidated old cabins and barns, some from homesteading and some from mining.

Below is Payette Lake.

More scenery outside of Baker City, Oregon

Below is a train somewhere on the way to Baker City, Oregon

We saw quite a few Red Tailed Hawks in their winter plumage. This one, below, was dining on top of a stack of hay.

Train tracks outside of Union, Oregon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I'm In Boise, Idaho!!

My husband's brother lives in Boise, Idaho and so here we are visiting them. After a 5 hour flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Las Vegas (where they have slots in the airport), and another 2 hour flight from Las Vegas to Boise, we are here! It's in the 30's at night - delicious sleeping weather. We had our bedroom window open all night last night and my sister in law put flannel sheets on the bed. The only word I can think of is......Delicious!! She could have her own bed and breakfast. Our room in their home included a basket of Boise related goodies arranged with bows and resting on the bed. In addition, on the bed were two sets of folded towels for our bathroom - it looked lovely. And last, but not least, two soft fleecy robes were hanging on hooks ready for us to use. Better than a hotel, I think, and certainly more welcoming.

I'm up extra early since my body thinks it's two hours later than it really is - so I'll be getting dressed soon and it's off to breakfast.

And the beginning of our Idaho adventure.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Adventures in Photography

I've been learning more about my camera - about photography in general. F stops and ISO's and apertures - the big 3. I put my camera on Manual today and experimented - and I have to say that I like the pictures better when I set the parameters myself than when the camera decides - on the auto settings.

First up, some flowers. Remember to click on the picture to "embiggen" it - they look much better that way!!

Above is a Chenille flower - I don't know the proper name for this plant

Technically, these are not flowers (the flowers are tiny light purple ones), but berries. This is one of my favorite plants because it's native to Florida, the birds like to eat the fruit, it's easy as pie to grow and it's berries are the most beautiful shade of purple. I wonder if they are poisonous - if not, can they be baked in a pie? Hmmmmm. I'll have to look that up.

Jatropha, another butterfly plant - not a larval plant, I don't think, but a food plant.

This is light colored lantana. I also have the bright orange and yellow version which I like better. This plant is definitely a butterfly food favorite.

This is the luscious purple flower of the Glory Bush - another butterfly bush, although I don't often see them on it. Who cares anyway - it's purple!!

Now for some polydamas caterpillars. I'd like to show you the butterfly, which is a swallowtail and is mostly dark brown/black with yellow edging on it's wings, but I was only able to photograph the caterpillars, and we have a LOT of them. They like Dutchman's pipe, a vine. I haven't seen any of the distinctive flowers on our Dutchman's Pipe vines, yet, but the Polydamas butterflies seem to recognize the plant without the help of it's flowers.

You can see a big fat one, probably not long before it spins it's cocoon and one a little smaller. Every time they get too big for their skin, they shed it and each size up is called an Instar. The First Instar is tiny tiny, and I think the Fifth Instar might be the last before cocooning, but I'm not sure.

"Hey!! Got any peanuts?" Mr. Squirrel seems to be saying as he peeks over the back fence at me below.

Once he realizes I'm not coming any closer, he gets comfortable and looks like he wants to gossip awhile.

Here are a few butterflies I WAS able to capture. First is a Gulf Fritillary on Lantana. You can just about see it's Proboscis stuck into the innards of the tiny flower.

Next is a Julia - I'm not sure if this is a Female or a Male.

As I have written in past posts, we have a feral honey bee hive in our backyard. Here are some photos that show both some capped areas of the comb (babies inside or honey locked away?) and some areas that clarly have shiny liquid honey in them. The capped area is small and is on the bottom of the picture toward the left. The honey is at the top of the picture in about the middle.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quick Pictures from Morning Garden

Before I go off to work, here are a few critters I saw in my garden this morning.