Trolling for Ephemera, Space and Time, and Other Things I Don’t Understand

I found a wonderful new place to troll for old pics and related ephemera- believe it or not, the Library of Congress’ website is a vast treasure trove of scanned digital images of cool old stuff (most of it is OK to save or print, as most of it is public domain.)  I have merely skimmed the surface of this treasure trove. 

It only reminds me of how I should get busy with the scanner myself while Dad still remembers who some of the people are in all those piles and piles of pictures my grandma hoarded over the years.  She had literally tons of pictures in her stash of stuff.  Grandma never threw anything away.  Some of those pics go back to the late 19th century, most of them are family members, and I would love to have scans of them, especially if I can find out who they are.  It doesn’t help that my scanner is ancient and slow (that doesn’t help my motivation factor at all) and that I would probably have to take a few stacks home here and there and spend some late nights scanning them, uploading them to Shutterfly, and then going through the Shutterfly albums with Dad so he can identify as many of them as possible for me.

Perhaps I can do some of this on my next vacation, if Jerry doesn’t find me “better” things to do. 

I’ve learned long ago that if I want an actual vacation, I need to take it by myself.  Otherwise I simply become Jerry’s personal gofer for the duration, and I end up looking forward to going back to work so I can get some rest.

I volunteered myself to take Mom and Dad down to North Carolina for my niece’s half-sister’s graduation.  I know that sounds complicated but it’s not terribly difficult.  She and my niece have the same father (my sister’s ex-husband) but they have different mothers.  Technically I would assume this would mean she’s not really related to me in any way, but my sister is still close with her ex’s kids.  I don’t know her terribly well but any excuse for a road trip in early June is an excuse for a road trip.  I can put up with Mom as long as Dad is with her to keep her somewhat under control.  Besides, I really don’t want them: 1. driving down there in either one of their elderly, high-mileage vans, or 2. making that long of a road trip through mostly boonies by themselves.   My car gets far better gas mileage, and it’s a 2010 with 11K on it versus either of their 1998 vans, one has 180K and the other over 200K.  Dad’s van would be particularly fun on a long trip because the fuel sender doesn’t work.  It’s nice to know how much gasoline you have left from time to time when the nearest gas station is sixty miles out or more.  Granted, anything made by humans or machines can fail at any time, but failure is less likely in a newer vehicle, and even if there is a failure it is less likely to be a catastrophic one.  

I also know how to use the GPS function on my phone.  Yay!

One thing I’ve not been able to get a good understanding on is the one thing on a car that seems to wear faster than anything- the tires.  It amazes me that “run flat” tires aren’t standard equipment, given how often tires go flat and fail at the most inopportune times.  I wish I could afford run flat tires, and that’s probably why they aren’t standard equipment. I’ve been stranded by having flat tires and not being able to remove the lugs so I could install the spare.  Now I have a breaker bar so if the lugs are properly torqued (and they better be, because I make them note the torque specs on the RO when I get my tires rotated or any other time the wheels are taken off) I should be able to change it out.  I should check to see if I have one of those damned donut things as a factory spare, and if I do, I should go trolling for a full-size wheel and tire.   I did that when I had my Corolla- after, of course, I had a blowout and had to drive forty miles on a damned donut- after I paid a tow company $75 to change the tire because somebody at the shop overtorqued my lug nuts and I couldn’t get the tire off.   The poor tow driver must have been at least 300# and he was jumping on the dinky little wrench that came from the factory tool kit (this was also before I got my breaker bar) to break the lugs loose.   That wrench was bent at almost a right angle by the time the dude got through with it. 

I learned my lesson well from that.  Any tech who overtorques my lug nuts because he just grabs the impact and goes at it (too lazy to use a torque wrench on the proper setting) will be a very sorry puppy should I find out about it the hard way.

There are certain modern innovations I can’t function without, but I still have a fascination for history.  It’s interesting to observe, but perhaps it wouldn’t have been so fascinating up close and personal.  I know bathing wasn’t incredibly popular back in the day, there was a lot of communicable disease, and no indoor plumbing.  No wonder people died young, and of things that would be preventable today.

As I was trolling through pages of old Civil War pictures- mostly of people whose identities have been forgotten, I came across two pictures that haunted me a little bit. 

This was a mother’s picture of her son taken long before he died in battle at age 18.  I can’t imagine the heartbreak.   The irony is that death in battle is probably one of the most preventable causes of death- but it’s still happening today.  There are still soldiers dying in battle today.  There are still mothers whose sons aren’t coming home.

And a little girl whose father never came home…

Intellectually, I understand that there is such a concept of  “just war,” and that there are times where the only morally correct thing to do is to fight for one’s country.  Emotionally, I have a lot harder time with that concept.  I’m thankful that Dad got out of having to go to Vietnam at the 11th hour (a long story, but one reason why I should be thankful for my sadistic oldest sister- she was the reason he got exempted from service) and I am grateful that barring any unforseen apocalypse, Steve-o will likely not serve in the military.  I don’t think as things are now that he could get an exemption for the nerve injury in his hand even if he would try (again) to enlist.

I have nothing but respect for military Veterans.  I don’t know if I would have the psychological strength to do what people in the armed forces do every day.  I highly doubt it, even if I had been physically sound enough to serve.  My leaky heart valves pretty much nixed my chances for any type of military service.   So I am, like every other common American citizen, beholden to those who were willing, and who were put in the position to make the ultimate sacrifice. 

I do certainly hope that the quality of military chow has improved since this pic was taken:

That kitchen set up looks like Montezuma’s Revenge just waiting to happen.

2 thoughts on “Trolling for Ephemera, Space and Time, and Other Things I Don’t Understand

  1. I am new to your blog. I found this post to be very intriguing. I loved how you intertwined the personal with the present, the past, and politics. From reading your earlier posts I know that you are more conservative than I am, and believe it when I say that I respect your personal beliefs.

    I was struck by your feelings toward war. Like you I respect those that serve our country and am disgusted with the way we treat our veterans. I generally am opposed to war and constantly wonder why we never try the alternative. Perhaps it is so ingrained in our nature that it is nearly impossible. Our nation has been at war for eleven straight years and I don’t even remember what it is like to not be at war. I pray every day for peace but my prayers are never answered. Many of my ancestors were veterans, I stand almost alone for not having served. It sometimes seems strange.

    That you have put this out in the open with photos and words (the photo of the boy that would be killed in war was very haunting) was very effective. Thank you. You can be sure that I will return.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comment. It disturbs me that most people have no sense of historical context. If we fail to learn from history, we miss the lessons our ancestors already learned- and we set ourselves up to make the same mistakes. I owe a great deal to one of the best teachers I ever had- my eighth grade history teacher. She had a talent not only for making history come to life, but making it relevant for us. I have to admire anyone who can make anything stick with 13-14 year olds who usually can’t see any further than today’s hottie du jour.

      History does not only consist of facts to memorize, but people- people who had faces, who had flesh and blood and thoughts and feelings. And whether we like it or not, our civilization builds upon the foundation set by those before us. When I visit historical places and look at those images (I am primarily a visual learner, after all) I have a connection with those people, tenuous though it may be. Sometimes, if I try, I can imagine them as they once were.

      If we don’t understand why our world is the way it is, it’s a lot more difficult to navigate in it, to avoid past mistakes, and to improve what we can.

      As far as war goes, it is a constant of human history, another evidence that humanity continues to decline since the Fall. (If I may be gratuituous, my page on confessional Lutheran theology explains a lot regarding my world view.) That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to change what we can, but reality is, we live in a fallen world. As individual people all we can do are the good works that God created us to do.

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