Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The legend of Streetcar Number 952

We went to Celebration in the Oaks at City Park just before they closed at the end of the Christmas season. One of the highlights of the walking tour is the Model Train Garden, which re-creates several historic New Orleans neighborhoods and has (I think) five train lines running, including Southern Pacific and Southern Railway passenger trains, a Union Pacific freight train, and a New Orleans Public Belt Railroad engine towing freight cars. The garden has been lovingly restored after Katrina by a group of dedicated model train enthusiasts. The floodwaters did not come up to the level of the tracks, I've been told, and the models of New Orleans houses had been brought inside before the storm came, so the garden didn't have to be completely re-created from scratch...but it was a huge job anyway.

Oh, did I mention? The garden includes three model streetcars, two of the old 1920s olive green ones (I think the designer is called Perley-Thomas) and one of the new red and yellow ones. And one of the old ones bears the number 952.

I spoke to the man who was in charge that night, and I told him, "I know the secret of number 952." He did, too. I said, "It's running on the Embarcadero line in San Francisco." Yes, he said. And then he told me something I didn't know: New Orleans traded it to San Francisco for one of their cable cars. He indicated the cable car was being stored somewhere in City Park. As for that model with the number 952, it's not in honor of the one we sent to San Francisco. That's just a coincidence. Oh well!

Now I am curious. We have a San Francisco cable car right here in New Orleans? But what on earth could we do with it? Those little cable cars that climb halfway to the stars run on cables under the street, going up and down very steep hills. It's not like we have any hills in New Orleans.

Except...we do have a hill in New Orleans. One.

Oh, I can see it now. A San Francisco cable car running up and down Monkey Hill in Audubon Park. Legend has it that Monkey Hill was created by the Works Progress Administration back in the Depression so the children of New Orleans would know what a hill is. I did my fair share of running up and down Monkey Hill when I was a child. Today, it's in the middle of the Audubon Zoological Garden. Probably not the ideal location for a cable car.

But hey, I can always dream, can't I?

I left my streetcar in San Francisco...and came home with a cable car.

December 28 sermon

A link to my December 28, 2008 sermon at the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans:

The title is "What They Lived to See."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fourth Sunday in Advent, 2008

The midnight uploader has been at it again.

"Promises Kept." God is in the house-building business.

There will be a Christmas Eve video, but we are planning to video the whole service, and it may be too long to upload. (It takes about an hour to upload one minute of video.) Stay tuned for further details.

May your Christmas be a blessed one, filled with hope!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The day after

The snow on the ground and rooftops was gone by late afternoon, but it turned cold during the night. In the morning, this was all that was left of my snowman. I think it now looks a little bit like a sculpture of a dove (or a hen?) sitting on a round rock. Note all the green grass around it, unscathed. It's possible some of my veggie garden survived the brief flirtation with snow, but the petunias in the urn by the front steps are definitely finished.

My neighbor's granddaughter (who like most children was in school during the two hours when the snow was coming down and thus missed all the fun) squealed with delight when she saw the snowman in my yard in the late afternoon. So hey, if he made a child laugh, his short life was worthwhile. There's a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

A friend sent me this photo of a St. Charles Avenue streetcar in the snow yesterday morning:

Now there's one for a Christmas card. And Merry Christmas to Number 952 on the Embarcadero Line in San Francisco!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow, hours

It doesn't snow very often in New Orleans...and to the best of my knowledge, it has never snowed here before Christmas. But we had one of those rare snowfalls this morning. It lasted about two hours. So here is my quick effort at a snowman, with bits of grass (from the lawn being cut a few days ago) stuck in its chest. Behind it is the garden. The fall squash plants are turning that frozen dark green color. Some of the plants bloomed but kept their buds folded shut against the not-summer temperatures, so they never bore little squash. The snap peas I planted a few weeks ago are just coming up, and I think they will survive. But the bed full of cilantro -- the plants scattered seed everywhere last year and I've got cilantro all over the place -- smells decidedly like, well, cilantro. It may be time for an emergency harvest.

It's a good day to stay indoors and write Christmas cards. This Sunday we have a service of Lessons and Carols at First Pres, so I don't have to write a sermon. And now I can even include some pretty pictures of snow in New Orleans with the cards I send out!

Oh, did I mention? A mere forty-eight hours ago the afternoon temperature was well into the 70s. And it is supposed to be near 70 this weekend. I am lucky the snow lasted on the ground long enough to scrape up enough for a snowman.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

And here is another sermon video...

From November 23, 2008, Christ the King Sunday:

The videos are on a brief hiatus. First Pres had a candidate for the pulpit of another congregation preaching on Dec. 7, and there will be a Lessons and Carols service on Dec. 14. Stay tuned for a new sermon on Dec. 21, God willing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How to post your sermon video, part 2

Well, Ya Ta! as Hiro on "Heroes" would say. I did it!

I don't understand all the arcane techie rules, but Blogger won't let me post a video over a certain size right here on my blog, and the maximum size they allow is nowhere near as large as the size of this sermon video. So I can give you a link to cut and paste into your browser, or hey, maybe it will go directly to the site. I've never tried this before. But here is my first effort at a sermon video on the Internet:

And if you are a techie and have any idea how to compress an MPEG video file so it doesn't take 12 to 15 hours to upload, please share that information in a comment!

How to post your sermon video on the Internet

This post is best suited for those who are interested in techie things. I am one of those people who just wanted to clear the swamp, and I became an expert on alligators.

I did a continuing education course of the independent study variety yesterday. It was called "How to post your sermon on the Internet -- and you thought it was easy, ha ha."

1. Downloaded Sunday's sermon file from the camera to a DVD on the E: drive of the computer using the USB cable. Easy.
2. Tried to post the sermon on YouTube from the DVD .dob file (I think that was the extension).
3. Found out YouTube doesn't accept that file extension, for various arcane (to me but not to you, no doubt) reasons. It has to be converted to another file format, preferably MPEG.
4. Searched my various video programs to see if I had one that would do file conversions. Nope.
5. Did a google search for file conversion programs and found one. It said, "download for free."
6. No idea who the provider of this content was. Hesitated, then downloaded.
7. Converted the video. Started to open the file in Windows Media Player. The conversion program said, "Unless you pay for this free download, it will put a message in the middle of your video, making it unviewable."
8. Ah, $%#&!
9. With fear and trembling, used credit card to charge $39 to buy a year's subscription to conversion software. Payment went through some site called WorldPay CARD, apparently in the UK. At least Visa let me sign up for something called Verified by Visa in the process.
10. Typed in license key. Converted MPEG video ran ok on Windows Media Player, although the audio isn't so great and the picture is a little on the distorted side (tall and skinny).
11. Tried to upload video to YouTube. After two hours, never got any messages as to progress, didn't know what was going on, so canceled the download.
12. Discovered that YouTube won't accept videos more than 10 minutes long anyway, and this one is 15.
13. Did a search for other sites that let you post videos on the Internet. Found Google. After searching the FAQs and user posts, it seems that Google has no limit on video length.
14. Uploaded video to Google. At least it gave me a dialog box that let me know how it was progressing.
15. File was 1034.5 MB. Upload rate was a little better than 1 MB/min. Did the math. 15 hours to upload???
16. Started upload about 5:51 p.m. About 20 minutes later something went kaflooey and it stopped and started again from the beginning. This time it kept going.
17. Went to bed. At 7 a.m. I woke up the computer with fear and trembling. The window said, "Success."
18. As Hiro on "Heroes" would say, "Ya Ta!" I did it!
19. Google is now processing the video. Keep your fingers crossed. I have no idea how long this will take. Or how I can tell people how to access it if it finally does post.

So that was my Continuing Education Monday. I think maybe I qualified for the Nerd Herd at Buy More.