Archive for May, 2009

Schedules, Meetings and Growing Older

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Some days one would be better off1 staying in bed!  Today was a prime example2, but because the day is not yet done, we’d better be careful not to anger the powers that be3.


Things started ok.  Don got up at 6:00am, took Blitzen IV out, and began to fix breakfast with only minor interference4, but the dog just wasn’t interested in her usual breakfast; wouldn’t even eat a bite of Don’s toast with red plum jelly!  That usually is one of her favorites after she has eaten her usual kibbles and bits5 along with sliced beef and gravy6, but this morning she just didn’t want breakfast.


Maxine soon found her way from the bedroom to the family room, and our house guest7, Mark, joined us for oatmeal with sliced bananas, hickory nuts –except for Maxine who had previously said she preferred her oatmeal without nuts!  But today she wanted them, but only after she was finishing up her oatmeal and bananas.  We had our coffee – too strong today – but we drank it anyway, and hoped the caffeine8 would give us the little kick9 we needed.


Mark departed for the Central College campus after Maxine warned him, twice, that it was almost 8:00am, and he had a meeting scheduled for that hour. Then we watched the national news and local weather for a few minutes, checked email messages and found nothing of importance other than someone wanting Don to join his Facebook10, which neither of us wants to be involved with. Who needs another activity requiring more time at the computer.


Maxine had indicated earlier that she had a luncheon meeting at 11:30am at the Country Club11 with her Reading Circle12 group.  Don agreed to take her there, then to do some shopping and other errands13.  The few cars in the Country Club parking area should have been a clue14, but Maxine entered the building and found not a single other member of her group.  A helpful waitress told Maxine that she was probably in the wrong place, but fixed her a coke, and about a half an hour later asked her, “Are you a Baptist15?”, Maxine said, “I may look all wet, but no, I’m not a Baptist”, to which the waitress answered, “they’re supposed to meet here for a noon meeting,”  With no other members of the Reading Circle there, the waitress suggested to Maxine that she was perhaps supposed to be at the Monarch Restaurant16.  The kindly manager at the Country Club joined the conversation and offered to drive Maxine across town to the other restaurant.  Half-convinced of this, Max got into his car, and when he was about a block from the Monarch, his cell phone rang.  He was told that Maxine had been at the right place, but the meeting time was 12:30, not 11:30!  They returned to the Country Club, and the Reading Circle members were beginning to straggle17 in, and indeed they confirmed18 that the time was 12:30 as scheduled, and the meeting continued well into the mid-afternoon.


Maxine was not alone in memory glitches19.  Don took Blitzen IV along for the ride, and was supposed to pick up Maxine’s medicine at the drug store, then to shop for a few groceries at HyVee.  He remembered the groceries, and he and Blitz had a lunch from McDonald’s drive in, then went home.


Don had wanted to plow20 the garden soil in preparation for planting, but the tiller21 motor would not start, so he decided he’d try it later, and go to see either a baseball or softball game which he thought he remembered were scheduled for that afternoon.  Wrong again, the games were scheduled for Saturday, not Friday, so his walk down to the ball diamonds22 became only a bit of unwanted exercise. By late afternoon he wondered if he had forgotten how to start the garden tiller engine, but tried it again and after a half hour of failure, he gave up and had to push the heavy tiller back into the tool shed. Time was passing, he was tired, and thus he failed to get any of the yard work finished that he had planned for the day.


Maxine was given a ride home by another member of the Reading Circle group, and she found Don at the computer, tired, dusty, and a bit grumpy23, trying to get something done on the computer, but with little success there also.  We each told our tales of woe24, laughed a bit, and laughter does help, doesn’t it?


Both remembered that they also had a dinner invitation, scheduled for 5:30pm, and also, they thought it had been scheduled for the Country Club.  Within about a half hour, after cursing their luck25 and bemoaning26 the busy spring schedules, they received a phone call from their friend telling them that the dinner was at 6:00pm, not 5:30, and not at the Country Club, but at her home!


Both Don and Maxine agreed that it was difficult to keep schedules straight, schedules were changed too often, and we didn’t get the changes made on our calendar as we should have.  But, basically, the problem was that there was simply too much happening to suit a pair of retirees27 whose memories admittedly were not at their zenith28, and who didn’t really like attending schedule meetings very much anyway.


The evening meal, excellent in fact, was in honor of our 56th wedding anniversary29, we think, though maybe not.  Who knows?  At least the day ended better than it started, and it seems days, weeks and months pass in much the same fashion as they always have.



1. better off (doing something): (idiom meaning it would be) better, happier or improved (更好).

2. prime example: very typical example (非常典型的例子).

3. powers that be: (idiom meaning) whatever forces or  controls that exist (权威,决定因素).

4. interference: things which prevent or keep things from happening (干扰).

5. kibbles and bits: small pieces of dried dog food (小块的狗食).

6. gravy: a sauce made from the juice that comes from meat mixed with flour (肉汁).

7. house guests: friends or relatives who are staying in your house for a short time (在家暂住的客人).

8. caffeine: a compound in coffee or tea which stimulates one, or wakes one up (咖啡因).

9. kick: (informal) a feeling of excitement or pleasure (快感,乐趣,刺激).

10. Facebook: a social utility or computer program that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. (是一个联系朋友、工作伙伴、同学或其它社交圈之间的社交工具。).

11. Country Club: a private meeting place, often associated with a golf course or swimming pool, etc. often with a restaurant and meeting rooms where members may arrange to eat, hold meetings or have recreation (乡村俱乐部,聚会的地方,附有高尔夫球场,游泳池,餐馆,会议室等,人们在那里可以进餐,开会或娱乐).

12. Reading Circle: a group of people who meet periodically to discuss books of interest (读书小组,其成员定期活动讨论感兴趣的书籍).

13. errands: short trips, taken to complete tasks or business, often for another person or group (差事).

14. clue: a hint or prompt which may lead to further discovery or explanation (暗示,提示).

15. Baptist: a person who is a member of a religious denomination (派别) of Christians who advocate immersion of members in water as part of the requirements for membership (施洗礼者, 浸礼会教友). The practice is derived from biblical times in which followers of Christ were often immersed in streams or rivers to cleanse them as followers of Christ’s teachings.

16. Monarch Restaurant: the name of a restaurant located in the Amsterdam Hotel in Pella, Iowa (帝王酒店,设在爱荷华州派拉镇的阿姆斯特丹宾馆内).

17. straggle: enter a place one by one, often at the last moment, to attend a meeting (在最后一刻才一个个进来).

18. confirmed: established as a fact (肯定,确定).

19. memory glitches: errors or mistakes in remembering something (记忆失误).

20. plow: turn the soil over and reduce it to smaller pieces prior to planting in it (犁地).

21. tiller: a type of small plow used by gardeners (一种小型的园丁用犁).

22. ball diamonds: diamond shaped playing fields for the game of softball or baseball (钻石形球场,打垒球或棒球的球场).

23. grumpy: unhappy, or somewhat disagreeable (不高兴,生气).

24. tales of woe: explanations of troubles or difficulties (不愉快、麻烦的事情).

25. cursing their luck: expressing their dissatisfaction verbally for how things had turned out (表示对已发生的事情的不满).

26. bemoaning: complaining about something or someone (抱怨).

27. retirees: people who have retired from their professional work or labor (退休者).

28. zenith: the highest point of a career, life, or effort (顶峰,全盛).

29. wedding anniversary: the annual celebration of marriage, or the wedding ceremony (结婚周年纪念日).




Spring Break

Monday, May 4th, 2009

This week (March 16 through March 22) is Spring Break1 for both the college and schools2 here in Pella.  What are people doing with their free time?  I find the answer to this question quite interesting.  Most of the ones I know are not taking the trips to exotic3 beaches and islands like those which are shown in movies or on TV.  Instead, they are doing work of some type. 


My daughter Kim works for the Pella public schools so she has the week off4.  Today she has worked very hard catching up on5 doing laundry, taking cans to the recycling center6, sorting through7 books that we plan to donate to the public library, and also sorting through older clothing, which we plan to donate to the Goodwill Industries8 for use by people who have very little money.  Tomorrow we will take them to the big donation center in Des Moines.  When some of Kim’s friends heard that we plan to go there tomorrow, they asked if we would take some things for them, so we aren’t the only people collecting things to donate.  Another one of Kim’s friends, who is a teacher of Spanish language at the college, is working on writing his dissertation9 this break.  He told another friend that he would like to go bicycle riding today, but she told him he should stay home and write.  If he does that, he can go out for Mexican food at the Mexican restaurant here this evening.  Otherwise he should stay home. 


Speaking of going out to ethnic10 restaurants, Kim and I will meet some friends at a really nice Japanese restaurant in Des Moines tomorrow evening.  I am really looking forward to it because I like Japanese food very much and none is available here in Pella.  I especially like shrimp and vegetable tempura11, and I haven’t had any for a long time. 


Another person I know is taking a test for the first stage of getting her driver’s license today.  She has to take a written test first and then she will be allowed to be instructed.  I hope all has gone well for her.  She is being taught the actual driving by another professor who is staying in town for Spring Break.  This is a good time for learning such things, I guess.  The college parking lot is about a block away from us behind our house, and a young man is obviously learning to ride a motorcycle out there this afternoon.  I believe that someone else is taking instructions today.  Our local airport is about a mile from where we live, and someone must be taking a flying lesson this afternoon, as a small plane keeps taking off, circling the area, and landing again.  Obviously Spring Break is a very good time for special lessons. 


Do I know anyone who is traveling to another country this week?  Well, yes, I do.  Fifteen members of the church that Don and I attend have gone to Haiti to do some volunteer work.  Haiti is a very poor nation, so these volunteers have gone there to help build houses and also a school.  They also took large bags of rice to give to some of the poorest people.  This is a very good type of volunteer work, I believe.  Most of the people who went there are either teachers or have the type of jobs where they could take time off this week.  I’ll write another blog about some of the popular types of volunteerism at a later time.  Meanwhile, I just want to remind you that despite the stereotype12 given you by Hollywood, Spring Break is probably quite the contrary for most people.


1. Spring Break: a period of time, usually a few days about halfway through the semester when there are no classes in U.S. (春假).
2. schools: a collective term for both public and private elementary and secondary
schools in a given area (中小学,包括当地的公立和私立学校).
3. exotic: referring to unusual, usually attractive places one may wish to visit (奇异的,异乎寻常的)..
4. off: not at work (休息)
5. catching up on: doing necessary tasks which have been delayed or put off from before because of the lack of time, or from other interests (把积压的……做完).
6. recycling center: a place where waste items such as paper, metal, etc. can be returned for reuse of materials (废物回收利用中心).
7. sorting through: examining items, such as books or clothing to see whether one wishes to keep them or to give them away (查找,翻检).
8. Goodwill Industries: a charitable organization which collects used, but still usable clothing for redistribution or sale to economically poor people (慈善业,慈善组织).
9. dissertation: a written report required to meet the goal of an advanced degree such as a Master’s degree, or a PhD degree from a university (博士或硕士论文).
10. ethnic: a specific cultural or racial group with specific differences from other groups, i.e. Spanish, Chinese, Mexican, etc. (种族的,民族的).
11. tempura: a Japanese food in which vegetables, shrimp, or other food items are coated in a batter and deep fried to form a thin crust on the item as it is cooked (面拖油炸食品,一种日本食物,有蔬菜,虾等).
12. stereotype: a belief or idea of what a particular type of person or thing is like (模式化的思想).


Spring Forward, Fall Back[1]

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Each spring and each fall of the year we hear people repeat this quotation2.  It is especially true on the TV news, as the commentators3 are trying to remind the listening audience4 to change the time on their clocks on a Saturday night early in April or a late in October.  In the spring we move our clocks ahead an hour5, and in the fall the reverse6 is true. 


The period during the spring and summer when we have changed our clocks ahead is referred to7 as Daylight Saving Time8 because we believe that we have more daylight hours in which to enjoy outdoor activities and we believe that we use less electricity during this time.  In fact, it was established during the World War II. as a way to economize9 on the use of electricity.  After the war ended, the nation went back to what is know as “Standard10 time and since then has gone back and forth.


There are mixed feelings11 about changing the time as we do.  When I first moved to Iowa, the U.S. congress decided to institute12 it again.  I was quite amused by the attitude of some of the farmers in our area.  They were against Daylight Saving time, saying that their cows probably wouldn’t produce milk13 if the time were changed.  Of course, this didn’t prove to be so at all, but the arguments continued.  Last week there were articles in the newspapers telling us that the change in time forward really isn’t energy saving14 after all because during the long warm afternoons we use our air conditioners more.  I must admit that our electricity bill15 shows this is true for us.  Still, we enjoy having the extra16 daylight hour during the summer evenings.  When autumn (fall) comes and we set our clocks back to the standard time, we will complain about the dark evenings and wish for that extra hour of daylight that we are enjoying now.


The U.S. has five major time zones17, Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific and Alaskan.  Our state of Iowa is in the Central zone.  The time zones were established in the 1880’s when the government saw a need for standardizing18 time for the railroads as the trains traveled across the country.  Most citizens have been content with the time zones, whether they like the Daylight Saving Time or not. 


Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for our bodies to get used to19 the one hour change.  We “Sprang forward.20  We changed our clocks three nights ago and I think I’m ok with it by now.   However, I haven’t heard about the cows at the nearby farms.



1. Spring Forward, Fall Back: 这是用来帮助人们记住夏时制如何拨钟的,即春天往前拨,秋天往后拨。
2. quotation: a series of words commonly recognized (引文,引语).
3. commentators: persons presenting and making remarks about the TV news items (解说员,指在电视、电台做实况报道的人员).
4. audience: a group of people listening or observing an activity (听众,观众).
5. move our clocks ahead an hour: move the hands of a timepiece one hour beyond the present hour indicated (把钟拨快一小时).
6. the reverse: the exact opposite of what has just been mentioned (相反的状况). It means “in fall we move our clock  back an hour”. 
7. referred to: called or named (称作).
8. Daylight Saving Time: period of the year during which the time on clocks is advanced one hour (夏时制,日光节约时制).
9. economize: reduce cost or expenses (节省).
10. Standard time: the portion of the year when clocks are turned back one hour after Daylight Saving Time ends (标准时间).
11. mixed feelings: of varied opinions or emotions (忧喜参半,不同的心情).
12. institute: establish, or put into effect (设立,启动).
13. wouldn’t produce milk: would fail to make milk because of the change in their daily routine (不产奶).
14. energy saving: causing a reduction in the use of electrical energy (节约能源).
15. electricity bill: the printed charges for electrical use given to a consumer by the provider of the electricity (电费单).
16. extra: additional or added to (额外的).
17. time zones: horizontal bands within geographical areas, each band having the same hour for time of day (时区).
18. standardizing: making the same; or of the same time or other measurements (使标准化).
19. get used to: becoming accustomed or habituated to a given schedule or time (习惯于).
20. “sprang forward”: “Spring”既可以表示“春天”也可以作动词表示“跳跃”,作者表示(我们)已经提前拨钟了。

April Fool’s Day

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Wednesday of last week was April Fools Day1. This is not an official holiday2 and its origin is obscure3.  One possible theory4 is that it was first celebrated after the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar5; and the term referred to someone still following the Julian Calendar6, thus an “April Fool.” In many pre-Christian7 cultures May Day (May 1) was celebrated as the first day of summer, the time to start spring planting8.  Those who did this prematurely9 in April were called April Fools, and ridiculed10 by their neighbors. Still another theory is that April 1 was once counted the first day of the year in France.  When King Charles IX changed that to January 1 in keeping with most other countries, some people kept using April 1, and those who did were called “April Fools.”   Whatever the origin, the term April Fools Day seems to have originated11 in Europe, and with many immigrants12 coming to the U.S. from this part of the world, it became widely used.


We couldn’t help thinking about how things have changed on April 1st since we were young.  Don says that he and his brothers would put a bill fold13 out on the sidewalk, with a string tied to it.  When someone came along and started to pick it up they would yank14 the string out of reach15, and, of course, the billfold would disappear.  We would all play tricks16 on each other when we were on the school ground and then yell, “April Fool!”


One way that things have changed is in the recognition17 that it is now the computer generation, and people everywhere were fearful of a computer worm18 that was supposed to infect19 our computers on April 1st.  I had friends who wouldn’t use their computer that day, but we decided that our virus protection20 would be effective, and that seems to be the case as we used it and all seems ok.  At least there weren’t any computers to play tricks with when we were young.


My older brother had a favorite trick he would play on us.  Because it usually was somewhat cold on that day, he would say, “Let me help you put on21 your coat.”  If you forgot which day it was, he would hold your coat up, stick his fist in the sleeve22, and hit your face, while yelling, “April Fool!”  My younger brothers and I kept “biting23” on this trick, time after time. 


A friend of ours has a birthday tomorrow (April 4th).  We’ll have cake, coffee, tea, and a few snacks24 at the home of another friend.  Last year his daughter held a party for him in Des Moines25 and the weather was terrible; I’m glad that this party is supposed to be in Pella26 because we’re supposed to have bad weather again.  We usually think that it would be a good joke if we skipped27 the treats, but I’m sure that won’t happen.


Anyway, we’ll all mention April Fools Day one way or another and reminisce28 about the terrible way we all felt at his party many years ago when we heard that Martin Luther King Jr.29 had been shot.  We’ll hope for no bad news of any type this year. 


1. April Fools Day: the first day of the month of April (愚人节).
2.  official holiday: a day of celebration recognized by the government, and most government offices, banks, etc. are closed for the day (法定节假日).
3. obscure: not well established; unclear (不明确的,模糊的).
4. theory: an explanation based on some sort of factual basis (说法).
5. Gregorian Calendar: a revision of the calendar, carried out during the time of Pope Gregory (1582) of the Roman Catholic Church with the same length of year as the present time (公历,又称格雷果里历).
6. Julian Calendar: an older version of the calendar carried out in Rome in 46 B.C. which established a year of 12 months, 365 days, with each fourth year having 366 (罗马儒略历,一种老的公历).
7. pre-Christian: occurring prior to the birth of Christ, usually denoted as B.C. (公元前).
8. spring planting: the time following winter when flowers, vegetables, etc. are planted (春播).
9. prematurely: too early in the average year for successful gardening (为时过早地).
10. ridiculed:  made fun of, or teased (被取笑).
11. originated: begun or started (起源于).
12. immigrants: people who have arrived from another country (移民).
13. bill fold: a rather flat leather carrier for paper money and credentials (票据夹).
14. yank: quickly pull away, vigorously removed (用力猛拉).
15. out of reach: beyond the ability to grasp or understand (拿不到).
16. tricks: small jokes, or humorous entertainment (捉弄,恶作剧).
17. recognition: understanding, or observing (承认,认可).
18. computer worm: an infectious, intentional mistake in a computer program which causes further errors to appear; often of a harmful nature (计算机蠕虫病毒).
19. infect: initiate a problem or cause a disease; initially a medical term (感染).
20. virus protection: a computer program which protects against infection by a computer virus or other related computer problem (病毒保护).
21. put on: place a piece of clothing or other item onto the body of a person (穿上).
22. stick his fist in the sleeve: place his hand in the sleeve of a coat or jacket (and then strike your face) (从袖子里伸出拳头).
23. biting: being fooled by a trick, joke or jest (上当,受骗).
24. snacks: small food items usually eaten between meals (点心).
25. Des Moines: the capital city of the state of Iowa in the U.S. (德梅因,美国爱荷华州的首府).
26. Pella: a town in south central Iowa (派拉,爱荷华州中南部一个小城镇).
27. skipped: omitted or avoided, or absented (不吃,略过).
28. reminisce: recall or remember something or some idea (回忆).
29. Martin Luther King, Jr.: a well known equal rights activist of the 1960s in the U.S. (马丁•路德金,美国六十年代著名的黑人民权领袖).