January 31

Tuesday I had my environmental science class work with the stream table again.  They designed their own experiments, which were usually very interesting.  They did an oxbow formation, a levy breach, a beaver dam, and a streambank stabilization.

Wednesday Stacey left to go to a conference in Branson, about a 5.5 h drive.  About noon she called and said the Check Engine light on the car was on.  I said that was no big deal.  Then she said it was overheating.  I told her to turn the heater on, but it wouldn’t blow hot air.  Very bad.  Of course, she was on one of our Ozark highways with no shoulder and no place to pull over.  She finally got off the road and had to call a wrecker.  It turns out one of the idler pulleys seized, which eventually shredded the serpentine belt.  I guess that’s what was making that whining noise all last week.  She caught a ride to her hotel from a little old lady who witnessed to her the whole way at 40 mph. 

I had my plant class in the afternoon.  We went to Main Campus and saw 8 new trees.  It was bitterly cold, so I didn’t make them stay out too long.   I had book club Wednesday evening, but it was largely uneventful.  We are almost done with this book, which started out great but by now I am sick of.  When I got home I went out back to feed the furnace.  I was almost done when I heard Dustin pull up to drop of Savannah.  It’s very dark at this point, so I sneaked around the north side of the house while Savannah was walking to the front door.  I jumped out with a great roar.  Scared the living and nearly dead daylights out of her. 

I think it was Monday that we started out at 52 F, and by midnight were down to about 2 F.  I have just used up all the wood I had stored on the north and south sides of the house.  It lasted about two months plus 10 days.  Fortunately, we have large reserves out at Lowell’s.

Thursday I went to our QU basketball games.  The women’s was interesting.  Even though we were better than the other team, they were dropping three-pointers one after another.  We ultimately won by a large margin.  The men’s game was neck-and-neck through the first half, but we steadily pulled away in the second.  The other team’s coach liked to yell a lot, and he finally drew a technical.  It had been snowing all day, and continued to do so all the way home.  I had to drive slow.  That night before bed I asked Savannah why my toothbrush was wet.  She said, “That’s my toothbrush.”  I said that her mother had told me the blue one was mine.  Blue for boys–even I could remember that.  She said she had picked that one out herself.  She normally uses it in the morning, while I normally brush at night.  Yes, we had been using the same toothbrush for months.  I thought she was going to rinse her mouth out with bleach.  I pulled a pretty purple toothbrush out of the holder.  It looked like it had never been used, which was probably the case.

Friday I got the truck out so that I could use its 4-wheel drive to get up to a friend’s house to feed their dogs and cats.  I came home, traded it for the Lil Egg, and drove to Hannibal.  On the way, I saw a big pick-up truck pulling a bigger trailer that had just jackknifed in the other side of the highway.  Shortly thereafter, I saw another pickup truck in the ditch–upside down.  I went to see another ear, nose and throat doctor, which I had done 4 years ago without effect.  I remember getting the MRI on my head.  They didn’t find anything then (there was a brain, fortunately).  I still have the same problem.  It feels like there’s fluid or something in my middle ear, so my own voice echoes in my head all the time.  I’ve had this for about six years now.  More recently, I’ve had a much more difficult time understanding people.  So they tested me every way they knew how.  My hearing has decreased significantly in the problem ear (left).  I liked this ENT a lot more, but he couldn’t figure out what my problem is either.  We had a long discussion of options.  I decided I wanted to try using a hearing aid to see if it would help.  The audiologist found one I could borrow.  It’s a model that was made for profoundly deaf people, and I can crank the volume up to 11.  It seems to be helping, but the test will come when students ask questions in a crowded classroom with lots of background noise.

I went to QU and got lunch at the campus eatery.  I ordered chicken strips and they were cold.  Yum.  I sat with our student secretaries and found out some idiot had pulled a fire alarm at North Campus that morning.  I went to my office for awhile, then to the pet store to get goldfish, crickets and mice.  All will end up as food for something else.  I took them back to my office and then went home.  Stacey returned from her hellish trip, for which we are all thankful. 

Saturday morning I got the best of all possible news: a certified letter from the QU president indicating that I will be tenured and promoted.  Whew!  Third time’s the charm, I guess.  When I got down to the lock house, there were people already waiting.  I set up the laptop and projector as fast as I could, and by then there were more people.  So I gave the eagle talk.  There was a constant traffic of people all day.  It was probably the most successful Eagle Day ever, at least since the first one.  I am so sick of the eagle talk.  I must have given it five or six times.  We think it was the perfect weather: cold enough to keep eagles around, but warm enough to bring people around. 

Eagle on Eagle Day.  Tufted titmouse in back yard.

When Ron found out about the tenure decision, he penned one of his inimitable poems:



Would you believe a birdie stopped once more


Yes, I heard this racket at my sliding glass door


I said come on in it is really cold


And in he hopped sprightly and bold


I said what is it this time, what should I know


He said have you heard the news about Joe


You mean that Portuguese guy that lives in Missouri


You mean that guy I’ve given fishing lessons for free


Yah, he’s walking around and smiles a lot


Sounds like he really thinks he’s hot


QU gave him tenure and a promotion too


Congratulations to him and good for QU


I guess it just shows that the university is bright


And it’s obvious that QU got it right.

Sunday morning I left somewhat early to give a talk to the boy scouts in Quincy.  This was the first time I’ve had the chance to talk about the Galapagos, which was fun.  At least it wasn’t the stinkin’ eagles!  I got a nice breakfast when I arrived, and they had a laptop, projector and screen already set up.  Mostly I showed images of wildlife and talked about the animals.  I stopped by the office, fed the fish, and got a file from my computer.  When I got home I shoveled ashes out of the furnace and filled it up with wood again.  Savannah went to some intramural basketball games at QU, while Stacey and I cleaned out the pantry and rearranged things somewhat in the kitchen.  That’s when it began to thundersnow.  Large flakes began falling from the sky.  A prolonged period of lightning and thunder followed, while the snowfall got heavier and faster.  It changed to snow pellet after awhile.  We had a good coating of snow before it stopped, but it was granular corn snow.  We took naps before the Superbowl.  I enjoyed the Giants win, not because I like the giants, but they were the underdogs, and the brothers Manning back-to-back Superbowl wins and MVPs makes for a great story.  Every time Maroney carried the ball, I said, “Bony Maroney!”  Drove Savannah crazy.

Female cardinal.  Snowstorm.

Monday morning we had a thick fog, as the day was warmer.  It got quite warm by the afternoon; felt like 70, and all the snow melted.  I wore the hearing aid most of the day, and it seemed to work.  On the way home there was a low-level fog lying in all the fields.  It looked really eerie. 

Here is Stacey’s travelogue from earlier in the week.
I was in Branson, Missouri–about six hours away from home—for a federal training. 

I had to leave before the crack of dawn to get to this meeting on time.  About 15 minutes from Branson, my check engine light came on, steam started coming from under the hood, and I lost steering.  To complicate the situation, I was in the hills of the Missouri Ozarks where there are no shoulders—only cliff drops.  Just as the car stopped completely, I was able to get to a small strip mall to call a wrecker.  By luck, one of the business owners personally recommended a wrecker and repair shop.  The wrecker driver was a bit rough looking, but very nice.  He rode with a cute dog.  So he puts the car on his flat bed and the dog and I decide to share a seat.  The Missouri Ozarks are very hilly, but the driver was a fast negotiator of the curves.

           The repair shop was literally a hole in the wall and the office looked like a converted closet.  Deb, the lady running the office, was very kind and salt-of-the-earth type person.  Carl, the owner, was quieter, but also nice.  He didn’t say much, but it was probably hard to get a word in against Deb’s chatting.  I was sure to be late to the meeting and I call and let the director know.  Carl comes to the office and tells me that there is bad news.  One of the pulleys that run the major belt that runs all of the Tracker’s systems has died.  He can fix it, but he can not get the part until tomorrow and it’s going to cost me about $400.  I explain that the car and money are not the real problem.  The real problem, I have to get to the conference.  He explained that there are no taxis or buses to Branson.  Suddenly, this little old lady who was there to get her car inspected says, “I’m not busy this afternoon, I’d be glad to take you.” 

            So I am relieved and a bit concerned.  I am praying that I have not gotten in a car with a serial killer.   The lady drives 40 mph the entire trip and gives me her testimony all the way. I heard about her heavenly visions and all.  It’s kind of funny when a person’s Christian testimony involves condemning her ex-husband to hell.

            While I was there, Branson got eight inches of snow.  I had to get a ride from another conference participant to go get my car (minus the testimony!) I paid, got in the Tracker, drove it six miles, noticed the check engine light was on, and the car started steaming.  I called Deb back and she immediately sent the wrecker.  (In the last 30 days, this car has been on a wrecker three times!) They needed to bleed the line –I still am not sure what this means.  But everything worked out and I was able to get back on the road.  So the car is fixed and should be able to get another 106,000 miles.

            Church went well Sunday morning.  We had nearly 30 people (virtual crowd in rural Clark County.  The little kids—which are a new and exciting aspect to our worship—made all types of noise, but no one cares because it is the sound of a growing church.  Silence is the domain of the dying.  I have always promised myself that I will not die quietly.  I missed Sunday school because I had to go back home and get the bulletins that I had left on the kitchen table.  When I forget my sermon manuscript, I just leave it.  It is not as important as the bulletins.


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