Thursday, February 23, 2017

Best Foot Forward

   There are many phrases in our language that refer to our feet like: step into the light, dance to a different tune, and put your best foot forward.
   You are issued two per life time. Medical science has made marvelous advances with other parts of the human body replacements, but those for feet have yet to reach the level of the originals.
   Each day we live we move, exercise, walk, run, or dance our feet take a pounding. They respond to our instant commands. Serving us faithfully day after day.
   Many must live and work on concrete floors which have no give or cushioning when we stand for long periods of time or walk on them. Our feet get little rest as they hold up the weight we ask them to bear.
   When I was teaching I needed a new pair of shoes. I asked the clerk for something that didn't look like a pair of combat boots. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him. He looked down at my shoes and said, "Go buy another pair of combat boots." It was the best advice I've ever gotten from a sales person.
   The structure of our feet is extremely complex. We have 26 bones linked by 33 joints (20 of which are active articulated), means they are connected by flexible joints. These bones are bound together by over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. So when we walk or just wiggle our toes after a long day they work in a fantastic syncopation much like a well scored piece of music.
   Like most people I didn't think much about my feet until several years ago when I was watching Dancing With the Stars on TV. It was a brief clip. One of the dancers was having problems with her feet. They showed them - they were covered with large lumps of dead skin cells or calluses. It was painful to see and I can only imagine how it felt dancing for hours each day as they prepared a routine.
   Many little girls dream of wearing a beautiful white dress and floating across a stage as a ballet dancer. The professionals who follow a lifetime career suffer in the later years from deformed feet that met the demands of toe shoes.
   When we have problems with out feet many times the cause is rooted in ill fitting shoes. This is true for both men and women. Women especially like me who want to be stylish follow the dictates of current fashions.
   Remember as you age your feet grown. It is a good idea to check your shoe size. We don't see bunions as often as we once did, but studies indicate they have a direct relation to wearing shoes that are too short.
   We neglect our feet, not intentionally but it's much easier to scrub them when taking a bath than it is to bend over in a shower. There we simply forget.
   Two home treatments for tired feet are: 1.) Soak them in a solution of warm water and Epson Salts then give them a good buffing with a rough towel and 2). Take a bottle or small balls and roll your feet back and forth as you watch TV.
  For runners to help prevent blisters a roll of paper like surgical tape is a cheap solution to an age old problem.
   Any person who has ever been in the military will tell you care of your feet and frequent changes for clean socks is one of the first things they learn to endure long marches bearing heavy packs.
Nash Black, author of Sandprints of Death, the beginning of the Jim Young series.

Friday, February 17, 2017

No Sign of Winter

  As sure as I write this, the weather will change and cold will come. But for today, it's pushing toward the end of February with a balmy 65 degrees, The sun is breaking through the clouds. I noticed our neighbors having lunch on their protected east & south facing screened in porch.
   Spring tulips and daffodils are up about six inches and putting out buds getting ready to dance across the garden. A few up the hill at a higher elevation are providing spots of color to a dreary landscape. Some years ago I picked daffodils from a neighbor's yard for the table on Valentine's Day, but I can't remember the year.
   The white forsythia in its southern exposure, by the office window, is in full bloom. It does bloom much earlier than the yellow variety and its blooms are smaller. The yellow forsythia is budding out and here & there a few bright yellow blooms.
   The Farmers' Almanac for 2017 predicted for this day "Frigidly cold temperatures" and I wonder where winter is. I know we sit in an area where two major climate regions meet (according to the maps) and at times I believe they collide directly over our house. So that whichever wind is blowing the hardest will bring with it the weather we least expect.
   Surprisingly the Farmers' Almanac is seldom wrong and has a better track record than the National Weather Service, which is a mere infant in the weather forecasting department. The Farmers' Almanac has weather data going back 200 years. They publish their predictions sixteen months in advance. That is taking a long shot in a chancy business.

   We join a grateful nation in saying congratulations to a publication that has existed for 200 years. We will forgive you when you miss it and continue to heed your predictions in the future.
   One hibernating animal I've not seen running across the patio is a chipmunk. Maybe they read the almanac and decided to stay in their burrows, knowing no matter how nice it feels today Old Man Winter isn't finished with us.|
   We had decided not to put this piece up on the blog as it is a local occurrence. We know others parts of the country are not enjoying an extended spring. 

   A stranger stopped by our table this morning while we were eating breakfast in town to tell us how much he enjoyed the piece when it appeared it the paper. This is to say thank you to him for making our day.
Nash Black, author of Sandprints of Death Volume 1 of the Jim Young series.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Lake Cumberland in the snow
How long has it been since someone sent you a postcard other than the water bill? The little note on a colorful card from a far away placc saying the writer wished you were there and informing you they were enjoying their vacation 
   Maybe you found a cigar box of cards tucked away on a closet shelf when cleaning out the home of a deceased family member.
   The thick paper cards were an answer to a faster and cheaper way to communicate for the citizens of the 19th & 20th century. There was a distinction between cards - postcards required a two-cent stamp and postal cards used a pre-printed stamp of one-cent.
   The penny cards were printed by the United States Postal Service until Congress in 1898 passed the Private Mailing Act that permitted private publishers to manufacture cards. The private cards carried a label and had a space for a message below the illustration, with the reverse side reserved for the address and stamp. The earliest cards did not have an image. 'Lipman Postal Cards' appeared when Hymen Lipman purchased John P. Charlton's patent for the little cards around 1878. 

   "It was not until 1907 that private citizens were given permission to write on the address side of the card." This opened the Golden Age of Postcards and millions traveled through the US mail much like the flyers we are all familiar with.
   Today those cards are highly sought after collectibles; postcard collecting ranks third behind coins and stamps in popularity.
   Souvenir cards in America appeared in 1893 with the World's Fair in Chicago and still appear on a limited basis near resort check-ins and tourist centers. The souvenir cards were followed rapidly by advertising and comic cards too numerous to name.
   Early colored cards were hand painted on an assembly line system by women. Each worked with a separate color of paint passing them on to the next artist. This process didn't last long due to a familiar habit of water colorists of putting the tip of the brush in their mouth when it became too dry. The lead content of the paint made the workers sick and unable to continue working. New developments in printing technology also made the labor intensive process of hand printing an obsolete practice.
   Instant communication by cell phone has replaced the fun of opening the mailbox and reading a personal note, which everyone was sure has been read by the mailman. My traveling friends specialized in finding cards with a photograph of a library. I have cards from Sidney, Vancouver, New York,  and Kansas City proudly displaying their public library.
   A beloved card is of the Eiffel Tower sent by my grandmother. She had no way of knowing it was the initial souvenir postcard. It was postmarked Paris, France and had my name and address in her distinctive handwriting. It contained no message. We didn't know she'd left home. She forgot to write a message on my card before she mailed them and left her hotel for a tour of the famous landmark.

   The illustration is a current colored photo of Lake Cumberland after a snow. The card has that bluish cast we all get when photographing on a cloudy day with poor light. I played with it and discovered that when I converted it to black & white I have a stronger illustration.
   We wish to thank Russ Hatter and Gene Burch for their 2015 publication, Postcards of Historic Frankfort Kentucky from which much of our information on the historical development of postcards was obtained.
Nash Black, author of Games of Death.