Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Glue Makers Sticking It to Us

It's been awhile since I posted anything and what I have today is definitely on the lighter side. I almost hesitate to do it with all the tornados, flooding, and other troubles in our land.

On the other hand, maybe you need to smile today. I hope you enjoy this over-the-top, tongue-stuck-in-cheek piece of writing.



            I have discovered a widespread, low-down, highly unscrupulous practice in today’s modern world.  Someone named Elmer is ripping you off, sticking it to you, and generally taking advantage of millions of little kiddos, or at least their parents, who bought them a gluestick.  It’s not just Elmer’s either, but every gluestick manufacturer on the market.  Just stick with me for a moment, and I’ll explain myself.

            Have you ever noticed, while applying glue with a gluestick, that the last half inch is unusable?  You are gluing away, lost in your own little world of pieces of paper, or photos, or making a stubborn stamp stick on an envelope, and then you turn the little knob on the end of the gluestick one more time, and suddenly—it’s all over.  No more glue, it’s like—finished.

            But here’s the rub—it’s not finished.  This is where the glue company is making their profits, multiple thousands of dollars at your expense.  The gluestick is designed so that the ordinary consumer throws it away at this point, leaving the last half inch of glue unused because of the evil, diabolical, and fiendish design of the gluestick.

            That last half inch of glue is embedded in a little cup-shaped container that the plastic screw-up assembly connects to.  Now I’ve no doubt a gluestick could be designed in such a way that all the glue could be used, but no—the glue company prefers you just toss it and buy a new one.

            I’ve no intention of falling for the glue companies’ villainous plot, so I’ve devised a way to beat them at their own game.  I keep two gluesticks at all times, and when one runs out, I put it aside and use a new one, until the glue is down an inch or so.  Then I turn the new gluestick back down to the bottom and get out my old gluestick.  With a pocket knife or something sharp, I dig out all the old glue and put it in the new one.  Only then do I throw the old one away.  It can be a little messy at times, but it’s worth it, in my opinion.

            I may be tacky, but I’d rather do that than be taken advantage of by a stickum-up glue company.  The whole deception makes me angry—in fact, I’d like to paste somebody.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tour of Africa Mercy Drydock for Grandchildren

Dear Friends,
I wrote the following letter for our grandchildren while I was on the ship in October 2010.  Helen thinks it will be of interest to you – or your grandchildren. 

Dear Grandchildren,

Yesterday I walked under the ship.  Yes, I said walked—not swam.  I’m sure you think of a ship floating on water, and it usually does, of course.  But once in awhile when special things need doing on a ship it is necessary to take it out of the water.

But, you ask, can you pick up a huge ship and take it out of the water?  No, you can’t—it is much too heavy.  So this is what you do—you sail the ship into a long box-like enclosure called a drydock, and close a water-tight door across one end.  Then you pump the water out.  The ship settles down lower and lower as the water is removed and finally settles on some large metal and wooden blocks placed on the bottom.

As the last of the water is pumped out you can see fish swimming and jumping in the shallow water.  When the drydock is finally empty, fish flop around on the cement bottom!  The dockyard workers collect the fish and take them home to their families.  I heard there was one fish about four feet long and people were arguing over it.

While in drydock we cut a hole about eight feet high and twelve feet wide in the side of the ship to take out several old generators and put in some new ones.  We saved the large piece of steel we cut out because we needed to weld it back in, and make sure it didn’t leak.  Nobody likes a leaky ship.  I suggested that if we had any leaks we could patch them with bubble gum, but no one appreciated my idea.  : (

I went on a tour with eight other people to the bottom of the drydock.  We climbed down some very steep stairs attached to the wall.  We walked from the back of the ship (stern) to the front (bow.)  We walked down the right side (starboard) and came back up the left side (port.)  We looked at the two large propellers, which are fourteen feet in diameter.  We saw barnacles on the propellers, rudder, and on the hull (bottom and sides of the ship.)  The barnacles are scraped off during drydock so they don’t slow the ship down while sailing.

I noticed a pipe coming out of the side of the ship.  Usually it was under water, but now some birds were building a nest in the pipe.  They thought it was a good place to raise a family but will need to change their plans when the water is let back in the drydock.

Our guide told us the ship weighs 15,000 tons!  It’s over 500 feet long, which would be like one and a half football fields.  I can’t think of anything else interesting about the bottom of the ship.  It is painted a reddish-brown color.  We wore hard hats in case we hit our head on the bottom of the ship, but nobody did.  It was kinda muddy down there but when we got back to the dock we washed our feet with a hose before climbing the long, sloping gangway leading to Deck Seven.  Then we went back to our cabins or to work.

I was tired when I left the drydock.  It must have been because I was showing off and lifted up one end of the ship.  My end only weighed 7,000 tons, so it wasn’t too bad.

Love, Granddad

Monday, February 28, 2011


Someone asked me once if a cat can dog a man’s footsteps? Yes, I believe so—I’ve seen a cat following closely behind his master, tail erect, and all attention. Of course, we don’t really know what the cat was thinking. He was probably surreptitiously planning an attack on the man’s leg.

But can a bird dog a man’s footsteps? I have a wren following me around these days. It started this winter while I was splitting firewood. He found out some of the newly split blocks had bugs, termites, and larvae in them. After a while he showed up whenever he heard the sledgehammer ring on the steel wedge. I suppose it sounded like a dinner bell to him. He hopped around from block to block and on the ground, often coming within three or four feet of me.

Today I was building a cedar shake wall out in the yard. The wren, who I named Wilberforce, came to check things out. It seems he associates me with food, and thinks I’m the best thing that happened since God created worms. This afternoon he got under the lumber stacked across my wheelbarrow and I could hear him pecking on the bottom. He sits about four feet away and isn’t even bothered when I use the chop saw.

I’m talking to him nowadays, like, “Wilberforce, what are you doing here? You could get hurt.” That could be a bad sign—talking to birds. I won’t worry about it unless I hear him answer.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Keep Walking

My early morning jog tired me out considerably. It isn’t that I go that far; I guess it’s the early start. Five a.m. comes earlier than it used to when I was younger. The morning was foggy and drippy, too, and my flashlight only cut a thin beam ahead. When I tired of running I stopped to catch my breath, and then told myself, “Keep walking.” The words triggered a memory that transported me half a world away—-to Canton, China.

In the fall of 1984 Helen and I, with our two teenagers Brad and Brian, attended a Discipleship Training School on the Mercy Ship Anastasis. Following the lecture phase, our school went on outreach to the Philippines and then Hong Kong.

From Hong Kong, we traveled by passenger train to Canton, China. Nearly everyone on the team carried a backpack filled with Bibles or Bible study books. I had personal visions of capture at the border and subsequent torture, like slivers driven under my fingernails, but it never happened. When we all arrived in Canton with luggage intact, the team checked into a hotel and backpacks were placed in “left luggage” racks.

Later, part of my job was getting these backpacks full of Bibles into the hands of Chinese Christians. This took place in various discreet and clandestine ways, most of it late at night. I had detailed instructions for each drop off. I’ll mention only three.

1. Pick up a backpack from the hotel, cross the lobby, and you’ll meet a man on the steps outside wearing a red scarf. Give him the backpack.

2. Take a backpack, get in a waiting taxi outside the hotel and ride. At the next stop, a man will get in the back seat with you. Let him have your backpack.

3. The last one was the most memorable. I was to carry a backpack out of the hotel lobby and down a certain street. I was told a man would follow me. When we were out of the street lights, I should give the bag to him.

I walked down the street. Soon I could hear footsteps behind me. It got darker. Without turning around I asked, “Is this far enough?”

“Keep walking,” a voice answered.

Finally, far beyond the gleam from the last streetlamp, I asked again, “Far enough?”

“Yes,” he said.

In near total darkness, we shook hands and I gave him the backpack. With a hurried “Thank you,” he took the Bibles and disappeared into the night. I retraced my steps to the hotel.

Although my life was never in danger while delivering the Bibles, the lives of the Chinese Christians receiving them were very much at risk. I would only be deported—they could be put in jail or executed. Knowing this, I took my part very seriously. I knew Helen and our sons were upstairs in the hotel praying.

It’s possible that today you may feel like you’re “walking into the darkness.” Please remember that the Lord is walking right there behind you. Isaiah 30:21 says, “You will hear a voice behind you, saying ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

So friend, whatever the circumstances you’re facing, don’t be discouraged or give up—just Keep Walking.

Monday, January 3, 2011

1st personal blog

It is with much anticipation and a little trepidation that I enter the blogging world. While I welcome the opportunity to post my writing I know that someday I’ll offend someone by what I write. “Welcome to life,” you say?

While I love to write, I’ve avoided computers as much as possible. My main reason is that most computers sit on desks, and I don’t like to sit at desks. ☺ My idea of torture is being chained to a desk, pecking at a computer keyboard.

I use a pen and paper to compose all my thoughts. I can sit on a rock and write, if I want to. I put everything down longhand and my dear wife types it for me. Then we edit multiple times before you see it.

A pen is much more transportable than a computer. I was getting a story once in a remote part of Nicaragua. I was riding a public bus and then walking around in a small town looking for a former Mercy Ships orthopedic patient. I thought to myself, “No one wants to steal my pen, or this piece of paper!” It was a comforting thought. Carrying a laptop or other fancy electronic gear can be dangerous to your health in some countries.

My laptop is my pen behind my ear. I call it my “eartop”. When I push the button on the top the writing point extends. That’s called “uploading”. Push it again and it retracts—“downloading”. When I drop my pen I call it a “computer crash”. Some parts of my life are still relatively simple and trouble free. ☺

My first article is an account of a visit to my eye doctor’s office. His name is Dr. Nickel, and yes, I always get my money’s worth.

*****“Mr. Trace?”*****

I was sitting in the eye doctor’s waiting room when a nurse appeared from a side door, clipboard in hand.

“Mr. Trace?” she called. Getting no response, she raised her voice to be heard in the various side rooms and alcoves of the large waiting area. “Mr. Trace? Mr. Trace?”

I was about to tell her “There seems to be no trace of Mr. Trace,” when he suddenly popped up from a distant chair and followed the nurse through the door and down the hallway.

The search for Mr. Trace reminds me of my own sinful heart. Just when I think I’m doing well and have conquered that besetting, unsettling sin, the Holy Spirit shows up and calls out, “Just a trace? Just a trace?” And sure enough, up pops a little fear, anxiety and worry. Or just a trace of bitterness, anger, or critical spirit. When confronted, they duly identify themselves and follow the Holy Spirit down the hallway—to the altar of confession and forgiveness.

Dear Lord, please erase every trace of sin in my life that I may serve you more fully, more effectively, all of my days. Amen.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." I John 1: 9 NIV

Friday, October 29, 2010

Africa Mercy Generator project Update

One of the old generators being removed
from the Africa Mercy
Mercy Ships state-of-the-art hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, has recently entered dry-dock in Durban, South Africa. Built in 1980, it had become essential to replace the onboard power generators in order to provide the vessel with a reliable supply of power and enable it to remain in service. The ship is receiving four 5L21/31 type MAN engines, each with an output of 1,000 kW (1,360 hp). The new generators will be mounted in such a way as to cause minimum vibration, as any vibration transmitted to the operating theatres could make the surgeons' task more difficult.

The Africa Mercy entered dry-dock on Sat. Sept. 25 th . Approximately 40 shipyard employees are working on the ship. Senior VP of International Operations, Jim Paterson, believes the project timeline is on track. “The shipyard is confident that we are on schedule for our completion date.”

At this stage in the project, the workers have cut a hole in the side of the ship and removed the old generators: four Frichs diesel generators and two B&W Alpha diesel generators. Currently, the foundations are being prepared before the workers lift the new generators into the ship.

 Other than the project manager and project supervisors, the Africa Mercy crew is not working directly on the generator project. They are, however, providing ample support for the ship yard during the project. There are roughly 80 Mercy Ships crew members still living on the ship working simultaneously on other projects. The ship being in the ship yard created an opportunity for the crew to repair areas that cannot normally be worked on when the hospital is in use. Projects include replacing the Main Engine Control System, doing a Main engine overhaul and painting in the dining room. There are also some hospital modifications being done.

When the project is complete, Mercy Ships will be able to reduce its fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20%. It will serve as a substantial cut of annual fuel costs. Founder Don Stephens is pleased with the amount of money that will be saved, and ensures those savings will directly benefit patients onboard the Africa Mercy in the future.