Overview: Ohio Historical Society

I am a unashamed history nut. Nearly all of my nonfiction books cover history or historical topics. For some reason it took a father’s day gift to get me to join the most prominent history based organization in the state of Ohio. I am very glad for the gift.

Yet, I still haven’t taken full advantage of all the Ohio Historical Society has to offer. They have holdings and museums all over the state. From Adena Manson and Gardens to Zoar Village, from Serpent Mound to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, the society covers all areas of the state, and all eras of history. I have only visited the Adena Manson and Gardens, and that was to participate in a fund raising activity, not to simply enjoy history.

I guess I just need to make a list of places I want to see, plans some trips, and get busy enjoying history.

I hope to have more to write about in the future as I actually get out and visit all of the historical places around Ohio. Until then I will just keep reading their fantastic publications. Timeline is a wonderful journal. I have to admit that I look forward to its arrival as much as my science fiction magazines. Echoes is the newsletter and also contains fun information, but also updates on all of what is happening across the state. The OHS website is always up to date, and is very easy to navigate.

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Overview: North Country Trail Association

I have mentioned here that I have been hiking and building hiking trails. Three major long distance trails cross southern Ohio. The most nationally visible of these is the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST). Just like its older sibling the Appalachian Trail, it is an official trail of the United States National Park Service.

As far as trails go, it is a relatively new one. It is ten years old. It was intelligently conceived and connects many major state and local trails as it travels between the New York-Vermont border and west central North Dakota. Here in southern Ohio the North Country National Scenic Trail utilizes the pre-existing Buckeye Trail. When you hike footpath of the Buckeye Trail in my area you are hiking three different trails at the same time. One of these trails is the NCNST.

Even though the trail is part of the National Park Service, a non-profit association has come into being to support the mission of the trail. The North Country Trail Association (NCTA) develops, maintains, preserves and promotes the NCNST through a trail-wide coalition of volunteers and partners. Because of the length of the trail there are 34 regional chapters of the NCTA. The Buckeye Trail Association is an affiliate partner here in Ohio. This means that all of my volunteer hours building and maintaining trail near my home counts twice. Once for the state of Ohio for funding of the Buckeye Trail, and again for the federal government for funding of the NCNST. I have joined both associations to show my support of both efforts.

The North Country Trail Association has a by-monthly magazine that it provides to its members. For a non-glossy magazine, I have to say that the North Star is of very high quality. It contains the normal overview of events and news that fill most publications of this sort. The North Star also seems to be able to carry at least one article per month that focuses in on an aspect of the trail, its volunteers or nearby communities.

Because of the federal rules for certification of National Park Service trails, parts of the Buckeye Trail can not be used as part of the official NCNST. The main sticking point are the parts of the Buckeye Trail that utilize roads open for vehicular traffic. While this may seem to be an unnecessary rule, there are good reasons for it. The main one is safety. When the Buckeye Trail first laid out its route, remote and lightly used roads were chosen to be part of the trail because they would not need to be maintained. As the decades have rolled by many of these sleepy back roads have become major thoroughfares. The Buckeye Trail Association (BTA) is looking to move much of its on road trail to off road foot paths. It is in the best interest of the BTA to cooperate with the NCTA, and as a major affiliate partner they are doing just that.

This partnership benefits both organizations. The NCTA gets the use of the BTA trail building crew, and its myriad of trail maintainers. The benefit to the BTA is a little more subtle. The BTA can use the national status of the NCNST to their benefit. The most visible example of this is the trail tunnel that runs underneath the new section of US35 east of Chillicothe, near Richmondale, OH. When this new highway was being constucted, the National Park Service was able to get the tunnel inserted as part of the planned construction. This is a huge benefit. Not only can hikers cross a major highway in safety, but it happened at zero cost to the BTA and the state of Ohio. There is no way the BTA could have had this tunnel built on their own. Similar nationally funded projects can also be leveraged to the benefit of the trails. It just so happens that the section of trail that I maintain starts at this tunnel and runs west to the eastern edge of Scioto Trail State Forest.

I have not participated in any NCTA activities other than those co-sponsored by the BTA. The nearest NCTA chapter to me is the Adams County Chapter. I plan on attending one of their meetings in the near future. I hope to be able to hike part of the NCNST in the upper peninsula of Michigan in the near future. My parents will be vacationing up there later this summer and Doris and I have been invited to join them for a few days to hike and explore a series of waterfalls that dominate one area. I am fairly sure that the NCNST uses the same trail. I need to do some investigating to be sure.

While I have not participated with the NCTA much, I am still proud to be part of it. Any organization that has the vision to attempt such a long hiking trail, and has the intelligence to understand that this federal trail needs the help of state and local governments and organizations, deserves my support.

Barn Razing

We called it the garage, but it really was more of a prototype for the modern machine building. You know the place on today’s farms where all the tractors and equipment are stored. This building was about 50 years old, and instead of being made out of steel, it was constructed out of red oak. But neglect of the roof over the last 15 years caused structural damage, and the building was starting to sag. It needed to come down.

Thursday, my brother-in-law Ernie drove up from Tennessee and he, my father and I spent the afternoon emptying the building of its 30+ years accumulation of stuff. The man who is buying the property has also been helping. At one point when Dad and Ernie when to eat lunch, (I’d already eaten) the soon to be land owner, his friend, a young relative of his and I were loading a heavy half built farm wagon onto the scrap trailer. These men are all bigger than me and I was the old man; fifteen years older than the oldest of them. At one point two of them were trying to lift up the wagon in order for a portion of it would clear the floor of the trailer. They didn’t have much success. I was leaning on a long steel bar, panting. When they gave up, I took the bar wedged it into place and popped the wagon up to where it needed to be. The two big guys looked at me as if they had never seen a lever in action before. “Give me a lever and a place to stand.” We finished up the afternoon totally exhausted.

Friday we finished emptying the building, wrapped a cable around the upper joists on one side and pulled the building over with a minimal tug from Dad’s tractor. Ernie and I scrambled up on the now much lower roof peak and began stripping off the rusted tin roof. I took a hunk of skin out of one finger on a piece of tin that broke free unexpectedly, and I also fell three feet to the ground when a rotted roofing slat gave away. I fully expected to get a few more nicks, cuts and bruises than I did. We ended the day with all of the roofing material removed and carted away. We were again exhausted.

On Saturday we started taking down the roofing joists. Ernie and I worked on getting key structure points loose, and before long the entire roofing structure was lying flat on the ground. We spent the rest of the day dismantling the rest of the joists, and one side wall. Ernie and I worked very well together, anticipating eachothers working style and actions. We pounded loose the last part of that side wall in one last burst of energy. I had not been that exhausted in a very, very long time. It was just what my arthritis doctor ordered. My back muscles are tired, but I have no joint pain in my spine.

Ernie is heading back to Tennessee, and Dad and I will finish up what is left on the ground in the days to come.

The best part of this entire thing is that I got to spend time with family, working outside and drinking lemonade. So what if it was hard work.

Planned Obsolescence

So… the passenger window on my car decided it wasn’t going to work anymore. Fixing it has been on my to do list for over a month. Yesterday morning I finally got around to attacking the problem. One of the things I learned as a kid is how to be mechanical. My Dad hated working on anything himself, and there were times when something just had to be fixed. I have torn down, fixed and re-assembled a lot of 3.5 through 9 horsepower engines, including replacing bearings and piston parts. Breaking down a car door seemed easy. The thing is, while I have torn apart car doors in the past, this was my first “power” door. The wires and speaker system make it a little more complex. I got to curse at my stupidity when I broke a plastic part. (Duct tape will fix it!)

When I got the door panel off, I figured the fix would be easy. Silly me. It seems that GM cars have a planned obsolescence built into the window assembly. The scissor lift that pulls the window down or pushes it up attaches to the base of the window with a ball joint that fits into a clip, (the socket) that is embedded into a runner that is pop-riveted to the frame holding the window glass. A really slick design for a big car window that uses curved glass. It can flex inside the door.

The thing is GM used a cheap plastic clip. And over time plastic gets brittle and then one day snap, the clip breaks and the window glass can fall inside the door frame. I guess I am going to have to buy a two clips and get it fixed right. For now, I just got the window into the top position with the ball joint locked into the runner where the broken clip is. As long as no on lowers the window, it won’t fall down. I immobilized the switches.

I was talking with my Dad yesterday afternoon. Two of his GM cars have the same problem. Looks like I’ll be buying a bag of clips and fixing the whole lot.

The warranty period on these cars has expired. Did GM use plastic instead of aluminum or some other light metal to save money, knowing that the warranty would be over before the plastic turned brittle?

Sure looks like planned obsolescence to me.

I asked for the rain…

I asked for the rain but I didn’t expect this. I think mother nature is trying to make up for the lack of rain this spring. It seems that nearly every day now we are getting gully washer strength afternoon thunderstorms that are typical here in Ohio. Typical in their sudden appearance and departure, in the volume of water, in the power of the tree bending wind. Not typical in the number of afternoons in a row that they have been happening.

The garden is doing well now, aside from the wind damage. Yet, even with all of these afternoon storms the ground is still soaking up most of the rain. So, I guess “gully washer” was an overstatement. The storms would be gully washers if we’d had a normal spring and if these storms were resulting in a nearly 100% run off instead of a nearly 100% absorption.

The bad side effect of these storms is the pain they cause migraine sufferers. So for the sake of those dear to me, whatever power I invoked to get the rain to finally show up, please, oh please, turn down the volume and give us a few calm showers or light drizzles. Knock it off with the theatrics. You got my attention. Thanks for the rain, but ease up, will ya?

Compact Utility Tractor

I have said here before that I actually like working outdoors. I don’t mind mowing the grass, or working in the garden. I like to think that I work intelligently, and never push myself to hard. A few years ago we had a riding lawn mower and a borrowed rototiller. Both of them worked the heck out of me. It would take three days to mow our entire yard. I did push myself and the lawn tractor one Saturday just to prove to myself that the entire lawn could be mowed in one day. Our garden was small and that was mainly because I tilled until I was exhausted, then stopped. What I had been able to do ended up being the size of our garden.

The borrowed rototiller had fuel and exhaust problems. I even tore it down and replaced all the gaskets once. The tractor became so worn out that if the grass was damp, it would refuse to cut. I replaced the bearings in its engine in an attempt to reclaim some lost power. No amount of tightening the belts or sharpening the blades helped.

It was time to get replacements. I decided to go out and get one of those mini-tractors. The industry calls them Compact Utility Tractors. Mine has a three point hitch, rear and belly power takeoff (PTO), and a PTO driven 64inch mower deck. I also bought a PTO driven rototiller attachment that fits perfectly on the three point hitch.

It only took me a half an hour to till our large garden this year. Ten minutes of that was attaching and detaching the tiller.

I can mow all 3.3 acres of my lawn in about three hours, and use less than five gallons of diesel fuel. I have used the tractor to pulled out small tree stumps; which reminds me that I need to pull out a dead bush near our driveway.

The bottom line is that I really like this little tractor. I have gotten it stuck in the mud five or six times, but I was really into wet areas I had no business being in. The main reason it got stuck (besides my bad judgment) is because I have turf tires on it instead of the standard ribbed tractor tires. Our property is so wet that I thought it was better to try and float above the ground instead of digging in and tearing up the lawn by leaving tire tracks. The farmer who use to own this land use to called it swamp acres. I made the right decision. The turf tires have really helped with the mowing when the ground is wet.

I like to spend time outdoors, but when I am as busy as I have been these last few weeks it is nice to be able to get the lawn mowed quickly. If you have more than a acre or two of land and you find yourself needing more than an afternoon to comfortably mow your lawn, I suggest you look into getting a mini-tractor. And don’t let them put anything smaller than a 60 inch mowing deck on it.

Green Apples

I love green apples. I am specifically talking about unripe apples, not apples that remain green after they are ripe. Don’t get me wrong, as far as eating apples are concerned I think Granny Smiths are the best. But there is something about those sour unripe apples that appeal to me.

When I was a small kid we lived in a Columbus neighborhood near Ohio State University, on the west side of the Olentangy River. The back yards in this neighborhood seemed to me to alternate the kind of trees that had been planted. One next door neighbor had cottonwood trees, we had maple trees, the other neighbor had apple trees, then cottonwoods again. I am not sure if there was a pattern. I don’t remember if any other back yards had apple trees or not. What did I care? The yard next to ours had apples, why go looking any further?

My big brother Lloyd was crazier about green apples than I was. I could blame him for the neighbor yelling at me for being in his yard, but the truth is that I would have climbed the fence to get those apples even without Lloyd’s encouragement. I would only grab two apples, maybe three, anytime I climbed over the fence. It wasn’t a daily occurrence either. I don’t know why the neighbor yelled at me. It’s not like a six year old, especially one at tiny as I was, could pick very many apples. Well, there was that one time that we ate so many that we both had bad stomach aches.

There are I times I still can’t resist. Just a few minutes ago I was mowing the lawn, and one particular apple was just at the right spot when I was mowing around our apple tree. It almost picked itself. And since it was off the tree, I figured I’d polish it up and see how much red was starting to show. And since it was all shiny and clean, I figured I’d go ahead and eat it. Sure hope I don’t get a stomach ache.

It sure tasted good.

When the broadband goes away…

{another rant about work}

I find myself heavily dependent on my broadband internet connection. For the most part it is because of the way my job’s VPN security works.

I use to be able to remain productive and keep working when the broadband connection was down. Not any more.

You see, because individuals have lost, or allowed to be stolen, data that should always remain in secure areas, the bureaucrats have massively over reacted. This is the world we live in post 9/11.  Instead of looking at the individual instances of data loss and getting rid of the people that allowed the data to be taken out of our secure environment and fixing that bit of lax security the bosses treat us all like we are dunderheads that can’t follow some very simple rules.

A laptop with over 26 million secure data records was stolen from an individual. That individual had no business taking 26 million secure data records out of the secure building. The response from the bosses? Penalize everyone that uses laptops or workstations outside of a secure building, regardless of how secure their data needs to be.

I access work via VPN which stands for Virtual Privacy Netoworking. For most that is more than enough security, but not for my job. Now specialized software must be running on my workstation for the work network to recognize me as legitimate. I guess they don’t trust VPN. That person that lost the laptop with 26 million secure data records wasn’t even using VPN. They were supposedly taking the laptop home to do work they hadn’t finished. If they had been using VPN, they could have securely accessed the data from home, and if the laptop was stolen it would have been no big deal because the data would not have been on the laptop’s hard drive.

Did that stop the data breaches? Nope. You see since it got harder to take laptops out of secure areas, other individuals decided that it would be okay if they dismounted the hard drives and carried them home to install in another computer. A further 8 million secure data records were lost this way when the idiot with the hard drive left it on a commuter train. But did the bosses react reasonably? Heh. They must not trust that the software that proves legitimacy on top of VPN either because they decided that all hard drives had to be encrypted. Did they do anything about the data walking out the front door? No. But now if some other idiot lost a laptop or a hard drive at least no one could read the data. So now I have an encrypted hard drive with special software that proves I am legitimate when I connect to work via VPN.

Guess what! Yep, some other idiot lost more data. Somewhere around the 12 million record range. The bosses hushed this one up and it was barely a blip on the news media. How did this happen? Well since the idiot couldn’t take a laptop home that had data on it, and the encrypted hard drive wouldn’t work when he installed it on another computer at home that did not have the encryption software, he decided to take the data home on a USB flash drive (jump drive, thumb drive). And he lost the USB flash drive.

Now do you think the bosses would have wised up to the fact that the problem was not with the hardware security, but the humans that were using the hardware inappropriately? Yeah, right. So now they will be issuing encrypted USB flash drives, so in case anyone else is taking secure data home (which they are not allowed to do) at least no one will be able to read the flash drive. It would have been much simpler and less costly just to provide these idiots with VPN access. But, no. That can’t happen.

So, you ask, how does this impact Devenbert? Why can’t he be productive when his broadband is down?

Before the laptop data loss I could use VPN from my personal home computer over my dialup ISP account. That extra software that checks for “legitimate” connections put an end to that.

Before the USB flash drives were encrypted, I could at least download documents from the work computer and use my home computer to email them to my bosses and coworkers via my personal email account. But now I can not even get a simple non-secure document out of my work computer. USB flash is encrypted and my home computer can’t read it. And now when my broadband connection is down I can’t connect to the work network via the extra special VPN. I can’t use my home computer as a backup. I am literally, and completely, dead in the water.

Maybe when my broadband goes down next time, I’ll polish my keyboard or do something equally useful, like leave an empty box on a street corner.

Overview: Ohio Genealogical Society

Last year Doris and I visited the Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS) library in Mansfield, Ohio. We both were able to find new information on our ancestors, and were so pleased with the quality and quantity of the materials that we decided on the spot to join. We have not set a date, yet, but we both want to return to the OGS library. Having friends that live in the area is an extra bonus.

The OGS provides two quarterly publications for its membership. At first I was curious about this seeming redundancy. Once I perused each publication it became very evident that each served a very different purpose.
I’ll start with the older of the two, the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly.
This publication is closer to the journals I am familiar with in the computer world. It contains data for the most part. The primary thrust of this journal is to publish abstracts of church, family, cemetery and court records. Society members that transcribe such records now have a place to share them. It occurs to me that the Pike Heritage Museum has in its collection a few business sales record ledgers, church attendance records and public school records. If the Pike County Genealogy Society, a chapter of the OGS, has not already availed itself of transcribing these resources, then perhaps I should. On days when no visitors show up at the museum, it would be a more useful activity than reading fiction.

The second publication is more like a magazine. The Ohio Genealogy News covers the day to day activities of the society. It also covers research topics that have a more general nature than simply publishing data abstracts. For example the Summer 2007 edition covered an interesting aspect of the War of 1812. In these modern times we tend to assume that women serving in front line positions in a new thing. It is not. And while I was aware that women served supporting roles throughout most of the military history of the United States, I did not realize that women specifically were recruited during the War of 1812 to provide laundry, medical and other services on the front lines. Additionally due to the nature of the War of 1812, many wives of the men stationed in forts saw active duty when those forts were under siege.

To date I have really enjoyed my membership in the Ohio Genealogical Society. There is an ongoing effort to build a new library and it appears as if it will be a reality very soon. I look forward to visiting it.

Origins 2007

Over all I had a great time at Origins.

There were a lot of families at the con this year. This was a good thing. And not all the kids were playing collectible card games either. There were a lot playing miniature base war games, traditional board games and even role playing games. I saw one family where the mother was the gamer geek, and the dad kept an eye on the children when they didn’t have events. Stereotypes fail again!

There were some problems. The organizers were disorganized. They had events scheduled wrong. Wrong time slot, same game listed twice at the same time with the same GM, that kind of stuff. Both events I paid for had problems.

The first game I played was a miniatures war game by Jim Getz with the diorama and figurines by Uncle Duke Siegfried. The organizers shorted the time slot by two hours. It should have been a six hour game (yes, six hours). More than half of the players scheduled other events that conflicted with the end the mini game and they had to leave.

In my Dragonquest game, the time slot was an hour off. I got there an hour late, and it ended an hour before I expected. I was able to play.

The juicy rumor is that there is a strong possibility that there will be a Fourth Edition of Dragonquest. More on this later if it does move forward.