Saturday, February 28, 2009

Corning, coulmn, and chain mail

I have more to blog about our Corning experience, but Betty and I have two days home, getting ready for our southern beading marathon so I will enter a column published recently in the Springville Journal and the Arcade Herald....

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes:chainletters
I remember some of the first chain letters I received years ago. One explained how I could become rich. The letter had a list of names and addresses. I was to send a dollar to each name on the list. Then add my information to the bottom of the list, remove the top name, make copies and send the list to ten new people.
If everybody followed the rules, by the time my name worked its way to the top of the list, I would have made somewhere in the neighborhood of a bazillion dollars.
I followed the instructions. For twenty dollars and postage, I was sure I was going to make a killing. I sat back and thought about what I would do with all the money when it came rolling in.
I pondered whether it was legal. Usually any easy way to make money is illegal. If I began bringing shopping bags full of dollar bills into the bank to deposit, would someone start asking questions?
Money did eventually show up. I received two letters; each one contained a single dollar bill. It took a while, but I realized my get-rich dream had dried up and blown away.
Another chain letter, which is seen more often, was full of death and bad luck stories. If I broke the chain, I would be responsible for all future poverty, destruction, disease and misfortune in my family.
Ha! The trick was on them, I was already responsible for most of that stuff. I quickly fed the letter and envelope into the wood stove.
Since then, and to this day, I have had an ongoing contest involving chain letters. It is a keep-me-on-my-toes and keep-my-senses-sharp kind of thing.
Back then, I tried to see how fast I could identify a communication as a chain letter. Then, how fast I could destroy and dump it into the closest waste receptacle. It was great for manual dexterity; I cut my time down to a matter of seconds, from opening the correspondence to crumpled paper at the bottom of the waste can.
I always had a twinge of guilt, not because I broke the chain, but because I threw out a letter that someone had taken the time and effort to write.
In the wonderful world of email today, destroying chain letters has become my favorite (and only) computer game. I waste a vast amount of time without outside influence, so I’m unhappy when external stuff wastes it as well. News about our government spending gives me enough doom and gloom. I don’t need additional manufactured doom and gloom from chain letter prophecy., who bills themselves as “the definitive internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation”, has supplied me with some guilt relief.
They informed me (via email), any email that asks you to forward a chain letter to your friends, or sign a petition, or you'll get bad luck, good luck, or whatever, almost always has a tracker program attached that tracks the cookies and emails of folks you forward to. The host sender is getting a copy each time it is forwarded, and then is able to get lists of 'active' emails to use in SPAM, or sell to other spammers. This of course includes the most recent spate of chain letters that profess devotion to friendship and lovey-dovey-ness… Yuck!!
Therefore, if you get perverse joy from deleting chain letters, no more guilt. Do as I do, it takes microseconds. Speedily eviscerate with your mouse. Point, click delete, point, click delete. It’s fun and good for manual and mental dexterity, and your internet health.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Still Corning after all these years.

Betty and I have had a great time here at Watson Homestead and Corning Glass works. I thought I would like it and I really have enjoyed it a lot. The lampworking I find fun and satisfying. I am making a bunch of cylindrical beads so I can give my grandaughter a nice beaded necklace for her 6th birthday.
I think I do well at flamework and as a matter of fact have an easier time with most of these processes just because I've done a lot of metal working. Half the trouble most of the 'students' have is getting over their fear of being burned or just hot.
Corning has been super generous with their materials.

More later

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not so Hostel Corning


I am writing this from our room at Watson Homestead, Tuesday morning Feb 24. We are here as part of an Elderhostel learning program which is all about glass making. Our room is nice, clean, though the beds are small (I think they are double beds, we’re just used to lots of room) so we sleep separately.
One complaint is that we have a basement room and the stairs are long to get to the main floor, no elevator for moving your stuff in. Very little internet or cell signal, I have to go upstairs to the dinning hall to use those, as a rule. I would have changed the room but I need the exercise.
The meals are simple but substantial; we had meat loaf and baked potatoes and veggies and a salad last night. Watson supplies our lunch meal at Corning Glass.
After the orientation at Corning yesterday, we had classes in kiln working, furnace and flame working. Each class was an hour and a half long. The instructors are mostly under thirty years of age but are all very patient and helpful.
Betty and I are the youngsters of the Elderhostel group but they are all well-informed and interesting people. Several couples have done as many as thirty of these Elderhostel trips to different places.
I’m doing things with glass I either always wanted to do or wondered how to do. I ‘gathered’ glass from a furnace several times and cut it off the ‘punty’, a piece of ½ in stainless round bar used to take the molten glass from the furnace.
I made a bunch of big beads, mixing different colors of glass in flame working. I think I’ll made a necklace for my granddaughter for her birthday, and I made half a dozen small glass sculptures by mixing different colors of flat glass together to be melted in the kiln.
I knew I would like this course down here but never thought I would have so much fun or learn so much.

More later.

Friday, February 20, 2009

mad rush

In the mad rush to get things done, to take care of the everyday minutia, I forget to post here.
Betty has been traveling every day for the past month an hour each way to visit her mother and make sure that it is known to her mother and the staff that the 90 year old woman she visits has people who care profoundly for her.
We have been preparing for a class we paid for last year in glass blowing, etching and various other processes. That is a "live-in" from Feb 22 to Feb 27.
We are home two days after that and then gone for 6 weeks to do shows in NC, SC, and Virginia. The logistics, campground reservations etc are time consuming and often just tedious. I retain little of the info and have to keep or I don't remember without a lot of prompting.
I will include our schedule in this post but intend to make a sidebar of our show schedule in the next week.

Our trip schedual is as follows:

For those interested in possibly intercepting or just the nosey, the Beaddy and Terry rolling bead tour for spring 2008 is as follows:
This schedule is tentative and could change at any time: We will leave blizzardy western NY the afternoon of March 2nd, with a possible stop at Chuck and Mary Fay Templeton's house, not too far from Pittsburg PA that evening. If we have any gumption we will be unable to stop there as we will have hours of travel left in us. We're not that big on gumption, so you might be stuck with us, we need to see your dog.. (Lilly?)
March 4th, in the evening we hope to roll into the Columbia State Fairgrounds to set our display up the folowing day.
March 6,7, and 8 are the show dates and if we are lucky we will be horribly busy from early morning till late evening.
March 9 we will be stopping over at a friends house (Kathy Ross, former West Valley resident) in Charlotte NC. Will probably spend the night in her driveway.
March 12th we have check in and set up at the Richmond Raceway Complex. The show is in the Exhibition and Commonwealth buildings.
March 13,14, and 15th show days- teardown evening of the 15th March 16th-21 is possibly our only actual vacation this year, probably explore Shenandoa National Forest..
March 22- A Sunday, we are shooting to be at Susan's house in Falls Church.
March 23-30 we will be camped at lake Fairfax campground for the Chantilly show which, starting with setup takes place..
March 26-29
April 2-5 is our Greensboro, NC show at the Greensboro coloseum, and as of this writing I don't know where we will be staying ... and after that we will be traveling home..

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I always feel like I need a specific reason for making a post on this blog and that I somehow need to explain the reason. I am going to try to just post and not make excuses or give reasons for those posts. Don't know if that makes sense or not BUT I'M NOT GOING TO EXPLAIN IT!

The beader I live with and I are getting ready for shows. We leave for South Carolina March second and we have four shows alltogether there and in S. C. and Virginia.
It doesn't help that Betty is visiting her mother in rehab every day. Ma broke her femur. Betty then comes home and frantically beads more creations because she thinks we will not have enough stock for the season. She beads so much she has gotten a nasty crick in her neck and has had to frequent the chiropractor as well.

I am making better (more sturdy) displays, spreader and light bars and feet that will help the displays stand alone as we are not using our booth at any of the indoor shows down south.

Monday, February 9, 2009


My column is due on a bi-weekly basis. Many columnists write several hundred words daily. Many more do their work on a weekly basis. I often think I should be able to write six or eight hundred insightful and humorous words on a weekly basis but I can't seem to do it.
I say that but I never get around to starting the column till four or so days B4 deadline.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ode to John Todhunter

Betty and I seldom make detailed plans when we go on trips. We dry camp as much as possible. In the U.S. out west in particular there are millions of acres of public lands available to anyone wishing to pull over and camp. In Canada there is 'Crown Land', their public owned land.
Any planed vacaion would have deprived us of meeting John Todhunter..

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes:
Emmy and I were camped in a prairie meadow at the foot of a mountain in southeast British Columbia.
Sitting in autumn sunshine, we were trying to figure out with binoculars if some highflying eagles were golden or immature bald eagles. A pickup camper similar to ours, but with distinctive scalloped curtains in its windows, jounced down the range road and pulled in beside us. A lanky man got out of the truck and said, “How you folks doing today?”
Thus began our short but interesting relationship with John Todhunter, rancher, hunter, and cowboy poet.
The tall man sat down beside us, cross-legged on the prairie grass, with a practiced ease that belied his 76 years. With patience and humor, he related tales and answered questions for several hours, with an encyclopedic knowledge of hunting, cow ranching, mountaineering, and life in general in this corner of British Columbia.
He told us why an ATV is useless for herding cattle, where Sam McGee is buried, and the only good use for a computer.
That day and the next we kept thinking of questions he would have answered, the provocative opinions and insights he might have offered, but sadly, we would never see him again. He was retired from ranching and now lived in a town in the opposite direction from which we were traveling.
Fate sometimes decides you need a second chance at something (or someone). We left our meadow and traveled a half hour or so east on secondary roads. In the parking lot of a roadside café, I recognized a familiar looking pickup camper with scalloped curtains. Todhunter was just leaving when I pulled up to his driver’s door. He accepted my offer to buy a cup.
Over coffee, Emmy and I sat at the country café, intrigued and entertained by John Todhunter for another afternoon. We found he was a fan of poet Robert W Service. My favorite Service poem is “The death of Sam McGee”; Todhunter rattled it off the top of his head as if he wrote it. We learned he was a poet in his own right.
He recited from memory a few of his own poems, most with dozens of verses. Subject matter was practical and included truck driving, logging, working the range or a combination of all.
I recorded the following poem and received permission from John Todhunter to quote it. Only one of his poems is published, he won first prize in an early cowboy’s poet competition in Nevada, all the rest are in his head. I apologize in advance for any discrepancies from the original and, if it is lacking anything, it’s his well timed delivery and rich bass voice. He never gave me the name of this poem.
* * * * * *
“I’ve shivered and shook on a dozer,
I’ve ranted and raved and cussed,
My fingers are broken and bleedin’
And both of my kidneys are bust,

My fingers are broken and bleedin’
From wielding the tools of repair,
Oh God of internal combustion
Please grant me a cat skinner’s prayer.

Now I’ve studied your parts book bible
And here’s the things I require,
A set of unstretchable cat tracks
That won’t come off in the mire,

Tanks, for gas and diesel,
Of the type that don’t run dry
When I’m working a road on a hillside
Twelve miles from the fuel supply

Some diamond studded cat rolls
That will turn and abrade the soil
And a crankin’ motor magneto,
For which I will never toil

Oh God of internal combustion
I have worshiped and served you well
Forsaken the Gods of my father
Until my soul is spligged for hell

If you grant me these things I require
I won’t ever work Sundays again
But I’ll worship internal combustion
For ever and ever, Amen

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Another good person gone...

This column was published in print last week. I hate if when I look around and people are missing from my life. Pam was a sweetheart and only 53 years old, she will be missed by many.

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes:obits
I have mixed feelings about reading the obituaries in the local paper. I’m always glad to see that my name isn’t included, but I usually find someone else I’ve known.
It happens to all of us, we find that obituary notice and realize that death has left another hole in the fabric of our little universe. I always regret that I didn’t have a chance to get that last bit of wisdom or humor or advice the deceased had to offer.
Sometimes seeing the name is a shock, other times it’s expected. When the person you knew has been suffering and their name shows up in the obits, it can be a relief.
Emmy Lou and I were taken aback recently to find a neighbor and friend listed in the death notices. The woman, half a dozen years younger than I, was always active and vibrant. She spent a lot of time working in her garden or on her lawn. Even after her husband died, she kept her home and grounds immaculate.
She tried different places of employment. To me it seemed she was looking for social interaction as much as for the extra income. I was happy to see her land a job at a local convenience store, which serves beverages and light meals. I stop there often and sometimes take part in coffee and conversation. She and her husband, and Emmy and I had been acquainted for thirty years as neighbors, I came to know her better. Though younger than I, she reminded me of my mother, timid, kind, and generous.
She told me about her recent job history. She abandoned one job at a local large grocery store when she could no longer endure the mean spirited pranks pulled by a group of ill-mannered stock boys. They would take her supplies and hide tools she was working with if she turned her back or had to leave the area. It made her look bad, as though she couldn’t perform her duties. It is kind of a paradox; she raised her own kids to respect others and then had to put up with lousy treatment from other’s disrespectful young miscreant offspring.
I felt protective, as most who knew her would, I wanted to pay a visit to those stock boys, maybe try to make them see how they should respect someone older, especially if the person was weaker, timid or somewhat defenseless. Maybe some corporal punishment would show them the error in their ways, make them display a little respect.
Our friend began dating. She was excited and apprehensive. She seemed to feel a bit guilty about having a good time, as though she didn’t deserve to have fun. I tried to assure her that she had served enough staid and serious “widow time”; she should invite enjoyment into her life. I’m glad the began dating, I suspect it was a bright spot in her last months.
Our friend quit her convenience store job three or four months ago. I knew she had been sick. I asked co-workers when she was coming back to work; they didn’t seem to know or weren’t saying.
I knew she liked her job and fit in well at the store. I was sure she would be back to work in a short time. I made a decision not to make that phone call, hoping she was just having a good time. I would leave her alone to have fun, catch up with her later. I had no idea she was going through cancer treatments-chemo, radiation, the stuff we all know about, either first hand or through someone close.
I regret the decision not to ‘get in touch’; I could have heard her voice, mended in some small way the hole she was soon to leave. If you are thinking of picking up the phone to check on a friend or relative, or offer a little support, don’t hesitate. The opportunity will be taken away from you. Most likely before you are ready for it to happen..
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