Friday, February 15, 2013

A Valentines Day Trek

We decided to take a little walk down to the Wakarusa river to check out how it looks in a low-water stage.  If it is running into Clinton Lake, it is underground because it looks land locked from the bridge. 

This is Dan by an abandoned hand dug well that is directly south of our house.  I can’t believe this has never been sealed by the Wildlife and Parks.  Maybe they don’t even know it’s there.  All that covers it are a few logs. 

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Listen as Dan throws a rock into the well: 

The river is obviously low, but looked good. 

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Then we saw this!  Dan says mud will often make a print look larger.  Still…..

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A good day and nice to get outside. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tiffany Stained Glass Windows

First Presbyterian Church, Topeka Kansas

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Slideshow Link

Slideshow Link for ipad or iphone

Inspirational, breathtakingly beautiful, priceless.  These are the words that come to mind when trying to describe these historical windows.  I have linked to a slideshow with comments about each window.  It helps to click “slow” in the upper left corner in order to slow down the slideshow.  Also, a thank you to Carolyn, our SHARE group’s First Presbyterian Church docent.  We learned so much by having her with our group.

Louis Tiffany was a painter, but he wanted to create something people could use in everyday life.  He began to work with glass, but didn’t like glass made in the United States so he built his own furnaces in Corona, New York in 1892.  His trademark glass was “favrile.”  The glass was made in 10 - 12 layers and pushed together and shaped while hot to make folds in robes or hair.  Unlike most stained glass artists of his day, he used the colored glass to “paint” his windows.

In 1909, prior to making the windows for the First Presbyterian Church,  he spent a week studying the light in the Topeka sanctuary.  We personally saw the beauty of his placement when we arrived in time for the morning sun to shine directly behind the Ascension window.  It only lasted a short time but we could only stand in awe at the beautiful sight.

The windows were very difficult to photograph so I strongly recommend scheduling a tour with a docent or attending church on Sunday morning.  The interior of  the church not only has the priceless windows but hand carved ornate wood trim.

And, the windows are thought to be the best examples of Louis Tiffany’s stained glass created for a church west of the Mississippi River. 

There is a picture of one of the stained glass windows in the chapel.  They are not Tiffany but beautiful on their own. The one I included was featured on a Hallmark Christmas card in 1982.  I also wanted to illustrate how the picture of the newer stained glass is vibrant but lacks the depth and realism.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

USPS-Six Thoughts about Five Day Delivery

Something near and dear to me was in the news last week. My mail.

Well yes, I did work for the United States Postal Service for 30 years. But, I am retired so the changes won’t affect my job or work week. It will, however, affect my mail.

1. News Flash: not everyone uses email or even has a computer. Or wants to pay their bills or send birthday cards online.  Headlines are quick to say no one will miss getting mail on Saturdays. Then I read the article and reporters have not bothered to venture out of the city limits to ask rural customers, especially elders who aren’t as mobile.  Then there’s me, the first of the Baby Boomers.  There’s a bunch of us, bringing  trends of expanded home services.

2. Reporters have not watched UPS and Fed Ex trucks come by the back docks of post offices, city and rural.  Some days there are over a hundred packages for our small office alone.  These are delivered by USPS letter carriers.  The Postmaster General is saying parcels will continued to be delivered six days. If mail is gearing down Friday night, how many packages will be taken out into high mileage rural areas on Saturday.  Are they running the whole delivery system for packages—and post office box mail?  Oh, and who is going to deliver the packages (hopefully No. 3)  and oversee the PO boxes (probably No. 4). 

3. I did not read reporters interview employees who most often carry rural Saturday mail. These Rural Carrier Associates are part time employees, no benefits, no health insurance. (City carriers have a similar position). My neighbor and friend is working as a RCA, has worked for nine years actually, hoping to move into a full time position vacated by my former coworkers retirements. She and thousands of others will now find that time investment all for nothing. And, will it be cheaper to pay full time employees overtime to get the same amount of mail delivered as it did the part-time employees?

4. Did any of those reporters speak to high paid mid management types about whether they had even touched a piece of raw mail in the past month? The USPS is unbelievably automated. Just how much management does it take to tell carriers how to do their jobs or oversee post office boxes. 

5. Somewhere buried in the middle of these news stories it sometimes mentions the fact that the USPS has to prepay millions of dollars toward their employees’ retirement fund.  Money I suspect the Federal government is dipping into to finance their own deficient because no other Federal program is required to pay ahead in this way.

6. Finally, I cannot end my little soapbox without wondering if this isn’t about the big “P” word—privatization. The USPS has already privatized a huge part of its organization. In western Kansas, or any other sparsely populated area, rural routes are carried by contract carriers. The practice was even moving into more populated areas when I retired. Distribution centers, maintenance, probably many other places I don’t know about, are now contracted out. Given time, with continued internal austerity, including retirements, the USPS could fit into a trimmer, more efficient work force—with six day delivery.

Elimination of Saturday delivery hurts the customer, me. And, there will be the same amount of mail. Out here where rural carriers get no help with their mail, no matter how much, Monday delivery will be late, very late.