Sunday, October 28, 2012

Delivering Books to the Rez

I’m a little late in posting this, but better late than never, right? I want to thank everyone who donated books to the library at Windswept Academy on the Cheyenne River Reservation. I received another box today. Don’t worry. All donations I receive after my return from Eagle Butte will be either mailed or taken when I go back next summer.

My trip up there this past summer was rather uneventful until I got the brilliant idea to drive straight through the night. Being a night person, I wasn't really very sleepy when I had originally planned to stop at around 10:00. And since I hadn't reserved a hotel ahead of time like I usually do, I didn't have any need to stop. So, I thought, why not drive for an hour more. I had a book on tape that I was listening to, and since it was so interesting, I didn't feel sleepy. (Thank you Cracker Barrel for making books on tape available for bored travelers.) 

Around 11:00, I still felt fine, so, on I went. Just for an hour longer. At midnight, I was beginning to lose that wide awake energetic mood, but I still felt fine, so why not keep going? At this point, it almost seemed wasteful to stop and pay money for a hotel room. And if I did get a hotel, knowing myself, I would undoubtedly sleep late the next morning and thereby lose a lot of time that I could spend driving. Also, think about how much time I could make up if I kept going. I was sure I could do it. After all, I had just stayed awake for 40 straight hours when I came back to the U.S. from China. So, keep going I did.

I wasn't worried about any trouble that I might come across by being on the road so late at night. I have a relatively new car, and since I was on the interstate, I didn't have to worry about gas stations. Indeed, not only did I find well-lit gas stations everywhere, but I was also surprised at how many other people stopped at them at that time. It felt nice to know that I wasn't the only one crazy enough to be out and around so early in the morning.

1:00 a.m. came and went and then 2:00 a.m. The monotony of the road started to become more noticeable. Around 4:00 a.m. and a few Mt. Dews later, I started to get that tingly feeling that comes from a combination of tiredness and caffeine. My book on tape had ended, so I began looking for songs that I could sing to, loudly, to help me stay awake. It was then that I really began feeling the late hour. Of course, I couldn't stop at a hotel at 4:00 a.m. That would certainly be a waste, so even though, I was starting to become very tired, I had to keep going.

Around this time, the world started to become a little surreal. I never lost my focus on the road. I made sure of that, but at one point when I made a pit stop, for a moment, I had the feeling that I was in a dream. Do you know the feeling? That sensation that you get in a dream when you think you’re awake. Well, I had the same sensation, but since I was awake, it felt like I was in a dream. For a moment, I wondered. But, I reasoned, if it were a dream, if I were sleeping, then I was asleep at the wheel. Since I wasn't having a car wreck, I must be awake. So, on I went.

I counted it an incredible blessing when the sun started to rise. The darkness had begun to weigh heavily on me, especially around 5:00 a.m. It got a little easier when the sun came up. Not easy, mind you, but easier. More Mt. Dews, and the additional pit stops necessitated by them, helped some.

It was after lunch when I realized that I’d finally reached my limit. I pulled over at a rest stop and took a 30 minute nap. More refreshed than I expected to be, I continued my journey and made it to Anne and Ilhami’s later that evening early enough to spend some nice time catching up with them. While I’m glad for the experience of driving through the night, I don’t plan on doing it again, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. If you do try it, the key is to know your limit, and when you reach it, do as I did, and stop to rest.

The next day, I got to see the new school building. It looks great! And I got a chance to meet the new faculty and staff. All of the teachers and workers seemed really gung ho to get the school year started. Based on the last count I heard, they have 41 students now. I’m really excited about the opportunities these kid’s will have at Windswept this year. With this group working with them, wonderful things can’t help but happen.

I only had one full day to stay and help because I had to get back in time to begin classes at UNA. I didn't have time to do as much as I would like, but I was able to unload and somewhat organize the book donations that I had brought with me and those that others had brought earlier. Hopefully, if someone else doesn't beat me to it, I’ll have a chance to organize them even better when I return next year.

The school looks great, but it still needs some work, and with the additional students this year, they will be needing additional donations to cover the extra cost. If you would like to learn more about the school or help out, you can look them up on Facebook under Windswept Academy, or you can check out their website at

Sunday, October 21, 2012

An Experiment You Can Do at Home: A Balloon-Powered Craft

An Excerpt from The Lost Laboratory of Professor Xandiver
Once all of the boxes had been loaded in the raft, and everyone had seated themselves securely beside them, one of the sailors stepped in the front and started adjusting some strange-looking valves on the platform.
“What‘s that?” asked Jake.
Anicia looked over at him. “Oh, those control the pressure inside the balloon.”
“The balloon?” asked Jake.
“Well, it’s not really a balloon,” corrected Ms. B. “It’s bigger and thicker, but the concept is the same. Professor Xandiver invented it.”
            “Who’s Professor Xandiver?” asked Molly.
Jake glared at his sister then looked up at the balloon-like contraption hanging over them. “More importantly, just what does this balloon do?”
“It runs the raft,” Anicia answered in her usual formal tone. “Do you see the bar to which it is attached?” 
Molly looked up. She hadn’t noticed the huge balloon connected to a bar floating over the raft. How did I miss that?, she thought.
“The raft is also attached to that bar. A cable runs through the middle and extends from here to the manor entrance along the stream. The driver adjusts a valve, releasing the air pressure from the balloon, and we shoot out at a great speed over the stream.”
“Wow, just how fast are we talking about here?” Jake asked.
Anicia smiled slyly. “You will see.”

An Experiment You Can Do at Home

The Balloon-Powered Craft
If you would like to make your own miniature version of the balloon-powered craft that Lord Ravenworth uses to bring goods and passengers through the caves from his ship to his manor, just follow the directions below.
Easy version:
Items needed
   Two small cotton threads (one shorter one to tie to the boat and one longer one to run the length of your tub or pool.)
   One straw (Bendy straws do not work as well as regular straight straws.)
   One balloon
   One small toy boat
   One large tub or pool
   Tape

1.  Run both of the threads through the straw.
2. Tie or tape both ends of the shorter thread to both ends of the boat to attach it to the straw. (Make sure the thread is connected to the center of each end, so the boat will float straight.)
3. Set up a mini clothesline by tying or taping both ends of the longer thread to a wall or other solid support on both ends of the tub or pool. Adjust the height so that the boat just rests on the water. Make sure the thread connecting the boat is not slack and the thread tied to the wall or supports is pulled taut.
4. Next, blow up the balloon and hold the end closed without tying it.
5. While you are still holding the balloon closed, tape it to the top of the straw.
6. Once the balloon is securely attached to the straw, let the balloon go. It will fly quickly from one end of the thread to the other.

Advanced version:
1. Follow the directions above except replace the thread holding the boat to the straw with something more solid and steady such as small light pieces of cardboard or wood. You want the boat to be firmly attached to the straw, so it is stable and moves smoothly and unwaveringly through the water.
2. Replace the thread that you use as a line with something thicker and steadier such as a leather string or small wooden or metal bar. Just make sure that it is small enough to enable the straw to slide smoothly over it.
3. Measure carefully to ensure that the boat just sits on the water before attaching the line to both ends of the pool. If it sits too low in the water, it won’t run as well.
4.  Instead of holding the balloon closed, go ahead and tie it. When you are ready to set the boat in motion, get a straight pin and poke a small hole in the boat. It needs to be big enough to let enough air escape to move the boat, but small enough to make the air last longer, so that the boat can travel farther.

Now, you are ready. Put your own miniature passengers in the boat and watch their ride.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy “National Grouch Day”

verb (used without object)
1.    to be sulky or morose; show discontent; complain, especially in an irritable way.

Don’t we all have those days when pasting a smile on our face just seems like way too much trouble. Well, for one day you don’t have to struggle to keep that happy expression in place. Today is National Grouch Day. A day when we can all let out our inner grouch. Enjoy it while you can and grouch away. Just don't go overboard. Remember tomorrow, you may have to eat your words.

“A grouch escapes so many little annoyances that it almost pays to be one.”
Kin Hubbard

A grouch by any other name snarls as grumpily.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stop and Admire the Leaves

It seems like every year I get so wrapped up in my life and the things that I need to get done, that I miss the beautiful changing leaves that God paints the landscape with every autumn. Too often, I only stop to notice when the crunching caused by my footsteps on a thick layer of the colorful foliage becomes too loud to ignore. It is then that I look up and see the trees wagging their bare branches at me in the wind like a teacher shaking her finger at an inattentive student. Well, not this year! This year, I’m prepared! This year, I’m going to notice! It may be too late to stop and smell the roses, but it’s not too late to stop and admire the leaves.

Amber Glow

Red and yellow painted leaves
hang idly within the trees
They break and sail along the breeze
As fires of Autumn's time

They dance and surf upon the ground
Overlap each other with ruffling sound
A setting I am glad I found
As fires of Autumn's time
The grey clouds break, the sun appears
The dancing leaves appear to sere
These flames its kept for many years
As fires of Autumn's time

Wesley Mincin