Very Busy

Sorry to be absent of late. I’ve been very busy with “domestic” items, including watching grandkids for 9 day, dealing with outdoor property stuff, and working on both outdoor and indoor projects. It’s my plan to get back to a more regular blogging schedule. It’s my plan. Will it become a reality? Stay tuned.

R.I.P. Arthur Miles Vick, Jr.

Norman and Arthur - cropped - about 1928

Arthur Vick (front) with his cousin Norman Todd, abt 1928

Yesterday one of my dad’s first cousins, Arthur Miles Vick, Jr., was laid to rest in the National Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas. A Navy veteran from World War 2, he received military honors at his burial. Here’s a link to his obituary in the local newspaper.

Arthur was born August 5, 1922, in Providence Rhode Island, either in the Olneyville or Silver Lake district. His parents were Arthur Vick Sr. and Mabel Evers. He joined a sister eight years older, Madeline, and they completed the family. He was part of the larger Vick family of Rhode Island, which included the Todds, Willises, and Millers. The extended family scattered, as most do these days, to Michigan, New Jersey, Chicago, and eventually many other places.

When World War 2 came, Arthur was drafted into the Navy, and served on the USS Woonsocket in the Atlantic. After the war he returned to Rhode Island and married Agnes Boyd. They had three children: Alan in 1950, and twins Robyn and Gail in 1953. These would eventually add seven grandchildren to the family.

I knew Arthur. I won’t say fairly well, for often one generation doesn’t come to know the one next to them all that well. Arthur and my dad were first cousins. We living in part of Cranston close to Providence, and they living in part of Providence fairly close to Cranston, we got together with them more than any other of the Vick family. In winter we would go to their house and walk to the sledding area of Neutaconkanut Hill. In summers they sometimes rented a cottage for a week or two right next to my grandparents’ home on Point Judith Pond, and we would share times there.

We all attended church together at the Church of the Epiphany, Episcopal denomination, on Elmwood Avenue in Providence. The Norman Todd family sat on the first row, left side, and the Arthur Vick family sat on the second row right behind us. Discipline being the way it was, we didn’t “cut up” back and forth between rows. But we knew family was close.

Through all these encounters I knew Arthur and his wife Agnes, at least a little. I have memories of being at certain places with Arthur at certain times. Family gatherings in Providence, Cranston, and Warwick. And of course summers in Snug Harbor. I actually must confess I knew nothing of his profession until after his death, learning he owned a construction company. That makes sense, as his father owned a construction company, his grandfather worked as a plasterer, and many Vicks in prior generations in England worked in the building trades. Arthur continued in this tradition.

At some point they gave up their home on Harlam Ave. in Providence, and moved to a retirement place in Wakefield RI. Two decades later, Arthur now in his 90s and Agnes approaching that, they moved to the Northwest Arkansas areas to receive help from their two children who had relocated here. However, it wasn’t but a couple of weeks before Arthur left this world.

Yesterday, after a time of visiting, remembering Arthur privately and between relatives, an Anglican funeral mass was held in the funeral home in downtown Fayetteville. We left there in caravan, wrapped once around the Fayetteville square, and headed to the National Cemetery. A bright sun shone on us as we drove slowly, only to be obscured by clouds as we parked in the cemetery. The rain that was coming held off, however, until late afternoon. Under the roof of an outdoor chapel, a short service was held. A recording of Taps was played. Two Navy honor guards in dress blues folded the flag with extreme care and presented it to Agnes. The Anglican priest said a few more words, a very appropriate closing to a sad few hours.

Arthur will be missed, especially by Agnes, Alan, Robyn, and Gail. I pray for their comfort in this time. As I write this at work I have no photo of Arthur to upload, except the one at the top, cropped from a larger one. My dad is the boy in back, Arthur is the one in front. If I find another photo of good quality at home later, I’ll add it.


I’m Not There Yet—Writing, That Is

Every night when I go home from the office I have a to-do list that can’t possibly be accomplished that night. Last night, Thursday, was a good example. I’m writing this at the end of the work day on Friday, and I think I left the to-do list for yesterday at home. I remember it included a certain item of yard work, something I’m spending 60 to 90 minutes on every evening. It included adding entries to the checkbook, totaling it, and entering items in my budget sheet. It also included: measuring for shelves in the storeroom; stocks research; moving certain items to their proper storage location; and some leisure things such as reading a chapter in a book. Oh, yes, and fixing supper.

I arrived at the house and fixed supper for me and my mother-in-law (my wife being out of town, helping with grandchildren). Since we had a leftover main course it didn’t take long. Then I went out for the yard work. Back inside around 8:15 p.m., I discovered I had left my checkbook at the office. Obviously that significant part of my to-do list had to be postponed. So I tackled some of the other items on the list, with some success. I found five potential stock trades to make today (made one this morning, successfully). I put some things in their storage location. I read a chapter. I cleaned up some papers, putting them in the right recycling bin. When I headed to bed at 11:15 p.m., my breakfast and lunch prepared and packed, needing only to be taken out of the fridge in the morning, I felt good.

But, the one thing not on my to-do list was writing. And it’s not likely to be on it anytime soon. Too much to do in too many areas leave me no time for writing. Oh, I could squeeze out 15 minutes here, maybe even an hour or two on Sunday, and get something done, but it seems pointless. I have no sales of what I’ve already published, and no time to correct a few errors in two of them. And, no time to promote them. Why write more stuff if I can’t properly manage the things I have published now? So the only writing I’ve done in the last three or four months is a little bit of work on a possible family history book in my wife’s family. It was probably time wasted, and what I was able to accomplish has about convinced me that I will never be able to write the book I had in mind. Alas.

One day, I hope, I will be able to return to writing. Creative writing. Novels, non-fiction, Bible studies. One day, I hope, but not now. Not in the foreseeable future.


I need to give up caring. It only leads to pain.

Of course, without caring there is no trying.

Without trying there is no living.

Without living there is only dying.

A small part of me died yesterday and today. There’s not much left.

Research while Searching

I’m searching for a topic to write on right now. Well, I’m sort of searching. I have six or seven things I know I’m going to write. Hopefully, someday in the future (the nearer the better), I’ll be able to carve out meaningful time to write. At present I can only carve out a few quarter hours at a time. That’s not enough to make the effort worthwhile, so I don’t carve out that time and write.

So instead, what I’m doing is researching. That may sound strange, especially when I say that I let the time I spend researching drag out to hours at a time. How can I justify the time to research when I can’t justify the time to write? My only answer to that is: All time spent researching will eventually show up in writing, somehow, somewhere, sometime in the future.

In 2015 and a little in 2016, my research project has been Thomas Carlyle, leading to two different works of his. I’ve discussed that on this blog before. However, that is perhaps useless research, as I’m not certain I’ll ever actually get those two works written. Both of them are started, and both are well along. However, they will have limited appeal, and I don’t know that they will add to any scholarship on Carlyle. Anyhow, I’ve set that aside for now, all except for occasional reading in his letters (I did a little of that last night).

About two weeks ago I decided to get on with research on another project. My wife’s immigrant ancestor in her paternal line is John Cheney. He came to Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635, residing for a few months in Roxbury before removing to Newbury. A history of the Cheney family in the USA was written in 1897 by Charles Henry Pope. As is typical of genealogies written about that time, it focuses on the men, all those who carried the Cheney name forward. The daughters and granddaughters are given very short treatment.

My goal with this book is to document John Cheney’s life in a more expansive way than Pope could in 1897, given the limit of the resources available to him, and to list all (or as many as I can identify) of his descendants for three generations. Much has been learned over the years, especially in the Internet era. More is coming available every year as more and more documents are scanned and made available for viewing on the Internet, sometimes for a fee, but often for free. I won’t be able to identify all the descendants for those generations. John Cheney had 12 children, 10 who lived to adulthood, 9 of whom had offspring. They produced the third generations, and had a total of 65 children (at current count; trying to verify three more). Of those, it appears around 50 married. If they produced an average of 6.5 children, as their parents did, that would be 325 names in the fourth generation, the third generation of John Cheney’s descendants. That’s a lot of people, even in the Internet era.

So, I’m doing this research, trying to verify what Pope has in his book (which includes no sources for specific data), and trying to add information on the daughters and their offspring. I’m reasonably complete on John Cheney’s children, and can see an end coming for his grandchildren. I have only nine left with no information other than a name and who their parents are, plus the three that people. While I’ve been writing this blog post I’ve been going back to this research, and have found reliable publications that goes a long way to documenting the children of one of John Cheney’s daughters. I had their names from Pope’s book, but not a lot of data. I still don’t have as much documented data as I’d like, but with this new source I have a lot more. Yea!

I think I’ll end this. Time to button up this new find, write the name of the source, save the URL, and put this info in a place where I can find it later, on my Nook and on my computer at work. Progress as promised. I love research.

Author Interview – Faith Blum

HotWest - The Solid RockFaith Blum, who is a fellow member at an Internet writers site, has a book out that I suspect some readers of my blog might be interested in. It’s The Solid Rock, which is available at Amazon: DAT: The Solid Rock sounds like a title for a non-fiction Christian book. But your book is a novel How did you come up with that title? Faith: All of the novels in my series are named after hymns and the hymns are woven in throughout. I chose The Solid Rock because the theme of the song fit the theme of the book so well. I didn’t know exactly how well until I finished the rough draft, though. It was perfect! DAT: Give us a 60 second tour of the book. Faith: The Solid Rock is a Christian Western Mystery about a talented detective with a mission to find his kidnapped colleague who ends up working undercover with a heinous outlaw who has more plans than first meet the eye. DAT: The description of the book at Amazon gives no hint of any romance element. Is there one? And if so, tell us a little about it. Faith: There are a couple of slight romance subplots in the story. I’ll try to tell you about them without giving spoilers away. One is between the daughter of the missing detective and another young man. He’s been waiting for God’s leading to ask her father’s permission to court her and finally gets it. There are also five mail order brides in the story, although their romances are mostly told in the three novellas that will be coming out this summer. The other romance subplot happens mostly in the final chapters and epilogue, so I can’t really tell you anything about it without major spoilers. DAT: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Faith: I hope readers will see that Christians aren’t perfect and that’s okay as long as they continue to let God guide them.
DAT: This is book five in the Hymns of the West series. What are your plans for this series? When might we expect the next book in it?
Faith BlumFaith: For now, I plan to end the series with The Solid Rock. My spin-off series, Hymns of the West Novellas, still has three novellas coming this summer, though. And I am currently writing a series called Orphans of the West about some of the orphans who have been introduced in either a novel or a novella. I am also planning to write two other series’ about the descendants of characters from either the novels or novellas leading all the way up to current times, and possibly a slightly futuristic novel or two. That will depend on how long it takes me to write the other series’. So even though this particular series is coming to an end, the characters will live on.I hope some of you will buy Faith’s book. Check out her website: her series page on Facebook:, and Faith is doing a giveaway: a full set of paperback books! Fill out this form to earn entries to the giveaway. Each entry gives you one point, plus there are opportunities for bonus entries.

Back to Normal?

Yesterday we took our three grandchildren back to their parents in Oklahoma City. We took them to our house to spend Spring Break, intending to bring them back today. However, having a 7 year old, 5 year old, and almost 3 year old proved to be a bit much on the nerves and constitution. So back they went, a day early. That means today we were back to normal.

But what is normal? Is there such a thing? My “normal” I mean usual routines. I am a creature of routine, I must admit. Yet, for the last year or more I have not been able to find or establish a routine. My work at the office is somewhat routine. Leave the house the same time each day; work till lunch; eat lunch at my desk; walk a mile if weather and energy permit; work the afternoon; leave each day about the same time and drive home. The activities on any individual day could shift, but they rotate among predictable tasks.

Evening has become a little routine. I’m hot and heavy into stock trading right now, trying to come upon a winning formula that will allow us to recover from prior losses. Alas, that takes up all of the evening. Or, more correctly, it takes up all the remaining brain energy. By the time I spend an hour or two figuring out what to do with stock trading, I have no mental energy left for much else. I might be able to file papers or update the family budget records. But creative writing? No, won’t happen.

So, I’ve written nothing since October last, other than the Blizzard of 1948 story for the Meade County Historical Society webpage (which they have yet to post; not sure why). Things continue to float through my head, and I continue to suppress them. I have three works that need revision. On is a very minor revision on one page, and applies only to a print version and Kindle version. That should be easy. The other two require a number of typos to be fixed in each, and each having two different e-book versions and no print version. Those are three discreet tasks. They aren’t exactly creative writing, but they will further my writing “career,” so I should knuckle down and do them.

Perhaps I will this week. Before starting this blog post I finished my income taxes. I had them almost all done two weeks ago, or maybe three, but then the non-routine got in the way of the non-routine, and I had to lay tax preparation aside. But I just got them done, now needing only printing, signing, copying, and mailing. That’s the last non-routine item out of the way, which should allow me to concentrate more on writing.

May it be so.

Some Days

Some days are better than others, some worse. Today is one of the worse.

It’s probably not a day to be writing a blog post, but I haven’t found enough to care for to read or do much else.

Life isn’t always kind. In fact, some days it’s mean, rotten, and nasty. This is one of those days.

I don’t know if I should keep the blog going or not. I’ll be thinking hard about it over the next few days, maybe weeks.

Retirement is 1 year, 8 months, and 14 days away, though I’ll probably had to add a year or two to that.

A Tale of Two Weekends

Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities tells the story of London and Paris at the time of the French Revolution and contrasts the societies of England and France during that time. At least, I guess that’s what it does. I have never read it (it’s on the reading list). A tale of two ——— is an oft used meme for contrasts, which you find in books, articles, and in conversation.

So, based on my title for this post, you might think I’m about to write how two weekends were different. You might also think that this will be two recent weekends. After all, a blog can be a sort of diary or journal, and my blog certainly is for many of my posts.

You’d be right about it being two recent weekends, as it’s last weekend and this weekend that we’re in now. However, you’d be wrong about the weekends being substantially different. In this case I’ll tell you about two remarkably similar weekends. Similar, that is, in terms of accomplishment.

Last weekend, February 27-28 (not counting Friday evening), I got so much done I was surprised. Saturday morning, rising around 7 or 7:30, I went straight to The Dungeon and caught up on family budgeting. I was about two to three weeks behind due to the trip we made causing me to miss most of two weekends at my computer. But I got it all done, with everything balancing and matching the bank accounts. That brought me to just before 9:00 a.m.

At that time I went upstairs and cooked breakfast for the ladies. It wasn’t terribly elaborate, but it was nice. I then went to the backyard and continued removing leaves. This is a rock yard, not grass, and for about ten years we decided to just let it go. We weren’t using it, so why go to the effort? Summer of 2015 we decided we’d better restore it to reasonable health and attractiveness. The main remaining work at the new year dawned was clearing ten years of accumulated leaves on the rocks. We’d done some last year, but most of the 1/2 acre remained to be done. Last weekend was my third two work on it during this mild winter, and I achieved major progress, leaving only a sliver of it to be done another time.

Then it was inside to fix and eat lunch, then back to The Dungeon, this time to work on the stock trading business taxes. I had already calculated profit and loss for the year, and I had my spreadsheets from last year copied to this year and partially filled out. I was hoping it would go easy. The annual statement from our broker had come it during the week. The main work was to check that against all my spreadsheet entries and make sure I didn’t miss any. I had missed a $13.97 dividend, which I added. The next main work was to compare the 2015 IRS forms against the 2014 ones and see if my spreadsheet needed any tweaking. The forms are the same, so all I had to do was plug in any  missing numbers and add a few bells and whistles. That all went quickly. Then it was manually transfer amounts from the spreadsheet to the tax forms and save them.

All of this I accomplished in less time than I expected. The business taxes were done in record time, and I had time to spare. So I filed bills and statements, both for the business and for personal finances. By the time to head upstairs for supper, most of the filing was done. I was way ahead of the game.

Sunday was church as normal, with me teaching Life Group. After lunch Lynda and I went for a long-ish walk, including a large uphill grade. It measured out to 2.65 miles. That felt good. Then down to The Dungeon to work on personal taxes. Again I had to check 2014 spreadsheets against 2015 forms. Again I found no difference. I had to add to the spreadsheets the Social Security worksheet, since Lynda began collecting Social Security this year, but that didn’t take too long. Two hours after starting, personal taxes were done with the exception of my writing business Schedule C. That will go easily once I inventory the books I have on hand. Oh, and I wrote and posted to this blog before doing the taxes.

So the weekend ended with considerable accomplishment, and a feeling that, if I could just do as well every weekend, I’d never fall behind in my chores. This weekend we’re in now would be the test. I’m happy to say that I’ve been just as productive as last weekend.

Saturday morning I helped some friends from our Life Group at church get rid of junk in their basement. Actually, I was the organizer of the work party. We hauled it from the basement, up the hill to the cul-de-sac pavement, loaded it in pickups and trailers, and drove it to the weekend disposal facility for our county. Three hours and that was done. On the way home I stopped at Lowe’s for some shelf material and other items needed.

After lunch it was back to the backyard. It took only an hour to clear away the rest of the leaves, and to remove a couple of large deadfall items from the yard. I then sawed some smaller logs into firewood length. This wasn’t a lengthy process, maybe half an hour.

After that it was down to The Dungeon. I still hadn’t done the inventory of books to sell in hand, so I instead updated the family budget and filed a few papers. It was 5 p.m. and I was done with all I wanted to do that day, so was able to go upstairs and relax. I read some for pleasure, some for stock trading, and some to prepare for teaching Life Group.

That brings me to today, which I can summarize as follows: prep for Life Group early; attend church and Life Group; lunch at church, an informational meeting about the upcoming building project; home to relax a bit; then down to The Dungeon. I started on this blog post, but keep switching off between this post and my budgeting spreadsheet. I’m adding a bell and whistle to it. After that, all I have on the to-do list is e-mail my book inventory spreadsheet to my work e-mail so I can take the inventory tomorrow (since most of my books are at work).

Then, I’ll relax. I’ll head upstairs to relax and resume reading. I have a book I’ve just started reading for pleasure. Perhaps I’ll have time to read in that. I have stock trading reading to do, and some of my mother-in-law’s papers to file. I’m actually behind on that. But, for now, I’m off to my budgeting spreadsheet to see if I can finish that bell and whistle in the next half hour. See you all in a week.


Our Trip to San Antonio

On Sunday, February 14, Lynda and I headed out on a road trip to San Antonio. The purpose was for me to attend and speak at the Environmental Connection 16 conference, the annual conference of the International Erosion Control Association. We had begun to make this an annual event in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Then life circumstances got in the way and I attended alone in 2014 and 2015.

We had to accommodate life this year, as Lynda’s mom is living with us. We either had to find a place for her to take her along. We decided on the latter, knowing we would be slowed down, but feeling better about having her along with us instead of bunking in with someone else. For sure she couldn’t stay alone. Lynda also wanted to take our not-quite-3-year-old granddaughter along, but I vetoed that. It would be extra driving to Oklahoma City to get her, extra luggage and gear to carry, REALLY being slowed down. No, while I enjoy the grandkids immensely, this wasn’t going to happen.

Except, that Sunday morning, as we were preparing to leave, we got a text from our daughter in OKC. She had almost fainted in the shower. Clearly something was wrong. Lynda immediately said we should offer to take the granddaughter off her hands for the week. That scheme was approved, and so off to OKC we went. I guess I’m just an old softy.

Due to the extra driving, we didn’t get into Dallas that night until almost 10 p.m. I had planned on us getting in before dark. The next day, when we visited the 6th Floor Museum (the Kennedy Assassination site), we had our hands full between corralling Elise and helping Esther to work the audio tour guide gadget. I saw much less of the museum than I had hoped to. But at least I saw it, and walked the grassy knoll, in fulfillment of a dream I’ve had for some time.

Then it was on to San Antonio, getting in a little later in the evening than I’d hoped for. On Tuesday we saw the Alamo, then went down to the River Walk for lunch, then back to the hotel for an afternoon of rest. All of this was walking, as our hotel was right downtown, not far from the main attractions. That evening I had dinner with my old high school/college friend Alex Larson, who has lived there for 14 or so years and who I hadn’t seen for 42 years. That was good to see each other and rehash old times while Lynda, Esther, and Elise walked to the downtown Denny’s, the restaurant that would become our main eatery.

Wednesday through Friday was the conference, so my days were tied up. But I turned down every invitation for evening activities, and decided just to go back to the hotel and help my wife with the 90 year old and almost-3-year-old. I spoke three times at the conference, giving the same paper twice and teaching a half-day class. This is my sixth straight year to speak at it.

Saturday we decided to go to the zoo. It was a great time, though Esther had trouble getting the hang of the motorized wheelchair. In hindsight we would have been better off getting a manual one and having me push her. We saw lots of great things at the zoo. The temperature was just right, the crowd was large but not oppressively so. We had a good time.

Then Sunday, Feb 21, we headed home. We did the drive to Oklahoma City in less time than expected, had dinner with the kids, dropped Elise off, and headed home, arriving about 11:00 p.m.  I forget what the mileage was on the trip counter, but I think over 2,000 miles. I’m glad it all turned out okay. I got back in the groove without any trouble, and had a somewhat productive week afterward.

Author | Engineer