Friday, October 30, 2015

Boxing, in a Weird Sort of Way

Last Friday (Oct. 23), a large box was delivered to our house.  It was from Bed Bath and Beyond, and it was big, big, big.  But I hadn't ordered anything from BB&B . . . 

I pulled it inside and noticed my name was on the tag - so it wasn't a error in delivery.  I opened it, and inside was a car seat.  A car seat?  And cushioning the box were smaller boxes with Kenneth's address on them  Huh?  Perplexing for sure.  I texted Kenneth to ask if he had sent me a car seat.  Nope.  I called Melinda.  Nope.

I pulled the car seat box out.  It was empty.  And there were other boxes underneath, accompanied by papers from the Tulsa World.  I called Melinda again, and she said that she had sent her dad to Lowe's to smash the boxes, and he said he did it.  Hm.  So that Chuck.  He played a trick on us.  Melinda agreed that he might do that, but it still seemed odd.

A phone call to Chuck came next.  "Hi, Chuck, would you like me to bring your boxes back to you?"

"What?  What boxes?"

"The ones you left on my porch."

"Karen, I do not have any idea what you are talking about."

I explained about the boxes, and he, too, agreed that he might play a trick like that, but this time, he didn't.  Eventually, we figured it out.  He took the large box in, and the manager told him to put it down and he would take care of it.  Since that office was near  Shipping/Receiving, we are pretty convinced the driver thought it was something to be shipped, and it was shipped back to me . . . newspapers and all.

Just when you think you have seen everything.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Come with Hope, Leave with Memories

Last Sunday, our Diocesan Bishop came to our church to confirm and baptize several adults.  His sermon I thought was particularly meaningful, and the one statement I remember from it is that we come with hope and leave with memories.  This applies both in literal birth and death, and in Christian birth and death.  His point, of course, was to make the most of our lives by giving what we can to the greatest number of people, being compassionate to those less fortunate than we, being loving to all.  Start with hope, leave with memories.  What a great way to live!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Food of San Antonio (New Mexico)

Did you know Conrad Hilton was born in San Antonio?  New Mexico, that is?  I didn't.  Apparently the state of Texas did not either, as they inducted him into the Texas Hall of Fame before they realized he was born in New Mexico, and I am told he is the only non-Texan in the Hall.  But I digress.

San Antonio is the closest town to the Fite Ranch and the Trinity Site, so that is where we ate.  As a little girl my dad took us to the Owl Bar, where people would pin dollar bills to the ceiling after writing their names on the bills.  They have cleaned the place up a bit, now not allowing writing on the bills and not allowing the dollars to be pinned to the ceiling but instead taped to the wall.  And now they donate the money to charity.  We went there on Saturday after going to the Trinity Site.  We were lucky.  A busload of children had just arrived, but they were ushered into a back dining room.  Just after, a table emptied that we could use, and then a huge line formed.  They opened another dining room, however, and everyone was happy!  Our group ordered Green Chile Cheeseburgers, which are the specialty of the house.  Within about ten minutes we were all served, and the hamburgers was as good as remembered - sloppy, sloppy, and as tasty as ever.

The first night we were in San Antonio we ate at the Buckhorn.  We knew nothing about it, but have since learned that the proprietor, Bobby Olguin, won one of Bobby Flay's Throwdown competitions.  Not knowing that, however, we went in.  A table was not available, but it wasn't long before a man in a black apron waved us back.  As we walked up he said, "I don't even know you but I hate you."  My sister said, "What?" And he said, "Not you.  I like you.  I just don't like them (Don and me)."  Well, I am a bit thin-skinned, and it really bothered me that he said that, even though he was probably kidding.  We sat down (perhaps we should have walked out), ordered, and I have to admit, the food was very good.  I still prefer the Owl Bar's hamburgers, but the Buckhorn's were pretty darned good.  The onion rings were not great, unfortunately.  After we ate, the proprietor (Bobby Olguin, who was the man in the black apron) came over and talked to us.  Turns out he used to teach in West Elk and Howard and his wife worked for a friend of mine in Howard.  Bobby chatted with us, told us a joke, and was generally very amiable.  Too bad he didn't start out that way  The first impression is still with me.

Finally, after our day at the Trinity Site and the VLA, we stopped in at the San Antonio General Store.  We heard they carry delicious homemade fudge, so Don and I decided that ice cream and fudge would make a good dinner.  We bought maple fudge and chocolate fudge, and we each had some ice cream.  The fudge was as good as advertised.  Much better than I have ever had from other fudge stores.  We would most definitely go back there again.

The moral of this story?  We ate at the only three food establishments in San Antonio, and they all have pretty tasty offerings.  I would not hesitate to recommend any of them . . . just make sure you aren't too thin-skinned! 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


In 1997, I saw the movie Contact, and it impacted me in extraordinary ways.  It was filmed at the VLA, and when we found it being sold in the gift shop there, we bought it to show Katie and Teri Saturday night.

The first time I saw the movie, I thought it nicely completed the circle between religion and science. The movie cemented for me the concept of faith and how something doesn't necessarily have to be seen to exist.

When Katie, Teri, Don, Jordy, Nelson, and I all sat down to watch Contact, I was nervous about how Katie and Teri would like it.  I needn't have worried.  I had forgotten a lot about the movie, which reinterested me in it, and we particularly enjoyed seeing the places where we had just been hours before.

One part of the film that hit me this time but that I missed last time was when the instructions for building a machine did not include some features that the humans thought necessary.  The "alien" design was counterintuitive and the scientists felt they had to build it the safest way they knew how.  Jodie Foster's character wanted to build it as designed, and in the end she was right.  She listened for what was being said to her, even though she didn't understand it - much like Moses with the burning bush or Abraham and his son, Isaac.  How many times have we been conflicted and failed to listen intently enough for the answer?

The ending of the film struck me even more this time.  Perhaps because I am older, perhaps because I have seen God working in mysterious ways, perhaps my faith has grown . . . I don't know for sure . . . but the way Jodie Foster's character experiences something that she cannot prove nor can she explain helps me understand the nature of God.

Thankfully, Katie and Teri enjoyed the movie, too.  I think I will have to watch the movie again . . . who knows what else I might pick up.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


As we were going to San Antonio, NM, I mentioned to Don that the VLA (Very Large Array) is only an hour away and perhaps we should consider going there after the Trinity Site and lunch at the Owl Bar.  Katie and Teri thought it was a good idea, so after lunch, off we went.

What we didn't know is that the VLA holds an open house on the same day as the Trinity Site.  As we drove up and saw many cars, we commented that we had no idea the VLA was that popular.  It isn't, except on free Open House day.  But lucky for us!

We were just in time for a walking tour, and luckily we took it.  Our tour guide, Prashant - a PhD student on a felllowship from the University of Capetown in South Africa - provided interesting commentary that we could all understand.  He could have gotten very technical, but he didn't, which made the tour fascinating.  As a part of the Open House, we were allowed into the control center that houses the huge collating super-computer.  It collects 312,000 bits of data every second or a terrabyte an hour.  That's 24 terrabytes a day x 363 days (they are closed on two days)  . . for 30 years and counting.

The VLA collects radio waves (versus visible waves or gamma rays).  By doing so, astronomers are given another view of the universe that completes what can be seen with visual telescopes. With radio waves, gases can be detected that are not seen any other way.  Since the VLA is a global project, scientists from all over the world can make a proposal for VLA time.  The collection of data is free to those who have earned array time, and one does not have to be an astronomer to use it.  But a proposal must be very strong to earn time.  Guess I won't be applying.

By the time we left, our heads were exploding from all of the information we had picked up at the Trinity Site and the VLA.  And we understand better both the technology of the past and of the future.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Trinity Site

When we heard the Trinity Site Open House was to be on October 3, and we knew we were going to be in New Mexico, we altered our trip plans in order to attend.  We both have long been fascinated with the whole Manhattan Project, and this would be a way to perhaps complete the circle.

The morning started early for Bart, who had to leave Albuquerque by 5:30 to arrive in time.  Luckily we were staying at the Fite Ranch, just 10 miles away, so we didn't have to awaken until 6:00.  By 7:45, Katie, Teri, Don, Bart, Travis and I had assembled at the ranch and we were off.  The line to enter was astoundingly long, but we had taken the back road which put us ahead of many.  As we waited, I realized I had left my ID at the B&B.  Oops.  Fortunately, the guard took pity on me, and since everyone else had an ID, he decided I didn't look like a terrorist and let me in.

A 20-minute drive through the area and we were there.  We first opted to take a tour of the McDonald House, which is where the plutonium core was assembled.  Two hemispheres of plutonium were created from Uranium, and when they were ready, they were taken to the McDonald house.  The house itself is small, yet its story is huge.  After seeing the home, the swimming pool, and the barn, we went back to ground zero.

The Swimming Pool

There we learned what happened after the plutonium arrived on July 13.  The next day, presumably while the men in the house were working on the plutonium, the explosive assembly arrived from Los Alamos, and by that afternoon, all of the components were taken to the tower for final assembly.  By 5:00 p.m., July 14, the bomb was completely installed and ready.

It sat there for nearly 36 hours.  Yikes!  But on July 16, early in the morning, success.  Our family has a special story about that day.  The Tokay mine foreman was eating his breakfast when suddenly he saw a bright light and his plate-glass window in his front room shattered.  He called my grandfather and told him the windows in the mine had blown out, there was a bright light, and he didn't know what had happened.  It was only a few days later they found out what it was.

There isn't a lot to see at the Trinity Site, yet we were there over 2.5 hours.  The military was prepared for a large group of people, giving plenty of opportunities to stop and learn about Trinitite, purchase books about the Manhattan Project, or ask questions.  Signage along the fence line spread people out while providing interesting facts about the Atomic Bomb test.  Once we saw everything, we left - incredulous yet sober over the power and strength of this amazing weapon.

New Mexico Skies

,Kansas has beautiful sunrises and sunsets, no doubt.  And beautiful cloud formations, for sure.  But the sky is only infrequently bright blue - usually too much dust infiltrates the atmosphere.  But for some reason, the skies in New Mexico are beautifully blue - rich, dark, and gorgeous.  Pictures do not do them justice.

New Mexico also has beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  On Saturday morning, October 3, we were near Socorro, in the middle of the desert.  The bed and breakfast is by itself on acres and acres of land, with only the horizon in all directions.  When I took the pups outside, I was greeted by this sunrise:

Because this picture was taken on my iPad, the pink color is not as intense as it appeared, but with the creosote bushes in the yard, I thought it was beautiful.

As we drove to the Trinity Site, this landscape shot appeared:

I love the starkness of the desert highlighted by the brightness of the sun.  Mother Nature continues to amaze!

Fite Ranch

In 1918, my grandfather, Bartley Hoyt Kinney, founded a coal mine and he named it Tokay (from the name on a box of wine sitting in the corner).  Until 1949, that mine produced coal, but once the demand dwindled, the mine was closed down.  During that time, however, a town had built up that included a school, a store, and a bar.

South of Tokay, a man named Dean Fite owned a large ranch.  Not long after the mine was abandoned, Dean purchased the property, and it is now known as Fite Ranch.  In 2002, Linda and Dewey Brown purchased the ranch, and they turned what remained of Tokay into a B&B.  They live in the house my grandparents lived in (and my Aunt Ruth was born in), and the guests stay in what used to be the bachelor's quarters.  Sixteen rooms were made into four guest suites, each one roomy and well appointed.

This B&B is perfect for a person who wants total quiet.  Sitting outside in the morning, the only sounds emanating from the desert are the occasional bird chrips and coyote howls.  No cars, no planes, no television (though there is one in the room).  We would have liked to have time to explore the area a bit, but we had too much planned for the day.  Next time, we will leave ourselves a day to talk with Dewey and Linda and relearn some family history.  

There is more to do in the area than one would think.  And staying at the Fite Ranch is a great way to spend your extra time!