Monday, December 31, 2007

"Lila anpetu waste!"

On some earlier blog I used and explained the title phrase:

Lila (LEE-lah)
anpetu (ahn-PEH-too)

waste (WASH-teh)

It is Lakota Sioux for "It is a very good day!"...and a great day Sunday was with gray skies and steady rainfall...nothing exhorbitant, mind you, but the perfect rate to maximize soaking in and minimizing run-off, the type of rain perfect for lawns, river basins, and at least some groundwater recharging. This one day won't have a long-term impact on our drought, but beggars can't be choosers, either!

A few daily precipitation records were set for December 30th in the process:

So here we are at the last day of 2007, with everyone heading down the New Year's holiday stretch that started back at Thanksgiving for many...I have to admit I've been doing some deep cleaning and reorganizing already, which this time of year inspires me to do. Great day for it, I might add.

There is no way to segue into what I wanted to write about and share with you, so we'll just jump over the info canyon and get right to it. In the Sunday paper, there was an article written by D.G. Martin, Charlotte lawyer and host of UNC-TV's "North Carolina Bookwatch" which parlayed some updated (albeit estimated) census type info on North Carolina.

As you know, U.S. Census Bureau data comes out years after its collection, so it's nice to get a thumbnail update sketch as to what's what in The Old North State. I've pulled only some of the information, that which I found interesting if not enlightening...

(all data is 2007 or 2006 - varies)

"Just how big are we?"
State-estimated population (mid-2007):
(12.6 percent increase since 2000)
(U.S. growth rate: 7.2 percent.)

"The 'Big Dawg' cities"...
1. Charlotte 630,478 (2000: 540,828)
2. Raleigh 356,321 (2000: 276,093)
3. Greensboro 236,865 (2000: 223,891)
10. Asheville 72,789 (2000: 68,889)

"On auto-pilot for 2007"...
8,523,302 NC-registered automobiles
(one for almost every resident)

"Wheel of...."
13 of the Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here.

"Get a job, will ya!"...
#1 NC employer: Wal-Mart...
#2 is Duke University...
#3 is Food Lion...

"You can bank on it..."
Wachovia has the most NC bank employees
at #4 on the above employer list...
Bank of America is #6...
BB&T is #9...

"Show me the money!"
Average employee weekly wage: $718
(Federal mean wage: $1,122)
(Private industry mean wage: $711)

"Who's afraid of NC's big bad Agriculture?"
#1 commmodity: Chick-chick-chickens...
#2 is 'hogs' (close second)...
#3 is 'greenhouse/nursery' (not a close third)...
#5 is 'tobacco'...

No doubt there is serious growth still occurring all around The Tarheel State...and you really noticed it Sunday if you drove by one of the too-many recently cleared/acred could only shake his or her head at the rivers of red mud defying erosion fences and making a royal mess of roads and waterways...***sigh***...

Happy New Year, y'all!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What I did...what I'm doing....

What I did....on my Christmas break....

Among many other things, I got to see my twin niece and nephew for the first time. ~6 months old and growing fast, down from Boston, thanks to the generosity of my brother and sister-in-law...

Little William practicing scales

Elfen Ellen all aglow

(endless captions, here)

three generations

"Swing your partner do-si-do..."

"Grand" time for feeding

"You're scaring me, Dad..."

The Child chilluns and grand-chilluns

...and what I'm now doing???

Oh, ruminating about something that has been boiling for a few weeks...and so I look to sage sayings that express the situation at hand...

Kenny Rogers sang in "The Gambler":

"You got to know when to hold 'em,
know when to fold 'em..."

Ranks up there with the saying:

"Pick your battles carefully."

I am not fond of New Year's resolutions; every day should encompass every holiday, every focus, every effort...but it's only natural at year's end to take stock of the past 12 months see what sticks out in your mind. No doubt I focus on the 'good stuff' and find plenty to take stock of...but of late, I've gotten fed up with those who choose to use no manners in dealing with others.

You've probably heard the expressions referring to people as 'warm fuzzies' or 'cold pricklies'. The latter send out negative energy waves a mile away, and I either steer clear or let them pass without incident. With that said, lately, I've gotten kinda fed up with the lot of 'em.

I don't just mean that isolated instance where you hold a door for someone and they barrel through and don't bother to look, smile, or say 'thank you' know, the ones where you smile and holler "You're welcome!" as they hurriedly continue on their way. Some people are just toxic day in and day out.

Maybe it's because I just turned another year older this week that I'm feeling my age, growing weary of putting up with rudeness from the 'cold pricklies' out there...I think part of their brashness is because no one ever stands up to them and says 'that is not acceptable'.

It's not a risk-free option to speak up, and I'm sure I'll return to my 'go with the flow' being soon enough. It just reached a point where I had to speak up to some. And I have. Maybe you can relate and have done the same...just felt like sharing that this morning.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Goodbye, Oscar

As you may know from prior posts, I hail from a musical family, and while my sister and mom are the stellar pianists and vocalists, I couldn't help but take that left turn at Albuquerque when I was in elementary school and veer from classical music into boogie woogie and jazz.

And so I was always in awe of the jazz piano greats...not all genres and styles trip my trigger, but I bow to the masters that make my jaw drop. One album in particular I found phenomenal in it's improvisation along with well-disciplined technique: Oscar Peterson's "Digital at Montreux", released July 19, 1989.

His Duke Ellington series on that particular recording are breath-taking, especially the medley with "Caravan" in it. He was steeped in the classical tradition at an early age, which is boldly evident in any passage you hear. He was phenomenal, and could sweat a river with the best of 'em when got into his playing. He played with all his Heart and Soul in every performance and truly lived his Passion in life.

Oscar passed away in this past Sunday in his home in Mississauga, Ontario, due to kidney failure. No need for me to rewrite his obituary as it's plastered everywhere...but this eight-time Grammy winner and Lifetime Achievement recipient has left a legacy and level of achievement that, of which, few will ever get close enough to even get a whiff.

And so I leave you with some video links of his that are worth a listen...and ironically enough, this first video is his rendition of an appropriately titled song...

(click on pics for links)

Oscar Peterson Trio

Oscar Peterson, piano
Niels Pedersen, bass
Martin Drew, drums

I trust everyone had and is continuing to enjoy special times with friends and family this holiday season. Back into the swing of things for me, but I especially enjoyed seeing my twin niece and nephew for the first time, now going on 6 mos. I think I smell blog pictures just ahead...!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Words to live by...

Well, still here at mom's visiting with my newborn twin relations, niece Ellen and nephew William, down from Boston with my brother and his wife. Having a wonderful time, though it will be too short, and heading back home later this afternoon.

A friend just sent e-wishes for the holidays, and thought I'd pass on these 3 images of 'pearls' which spell it all out as to how each of us can carry the magic of these days throughout every day of the year, and our entire life:

Peace, y'all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

"Fried Fridays: Sue me, Scrooge! Bah Humbug!"

Scrooge will forever be the iconic figure of curmudgeons who are officially NFW - No Fun Whatsoever. They will always abound, the Scrooges of the world, and so will our pickin' on 'em and calling them what they are. But first, a digression...

My runner-up story was too short to use, and so I present you with the 11th Annual Wacky Warning Label Contest, conducted by Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch. To enter, simply document the most stupid warning label you run across and mail it in. Here are the 2007 winners:

Third Place:

(from a label on a baby stroller with a small storage pouch)

Second Place:

(from a label on an iron-on T-shirt transfer)

First Place:
(warning label on small tractor)


I think I'll heed that sage advice...

We now return to today's FF winner...

Dateline: Zhuhai, China

In the hamlet of 1.3 million sardined civilians lives their beloved deputy mayor Chen Yeng. Starting this week, Zhuhai launched a 3-month campaign to boost fire-prevention standards and reduce the risk of...uh...fires.

He did that by starting with the commercial sector, well visible in the public eye: you know, your malls, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and various other entertainment emporiums...generally, all public venues. Christmas trees are now verboten.

That's right, no Christmas trees allowed. Period. OK, and any other flammable decorations...but the trees were singled out. No matter Christmas is less than a week away. Chunk 'em.

Ironic, too, that this week's announcement came on the s
ame day as President Hu Jintao's remarks in tepid support of religious believers in China, where Christmas decorations and in-your-face symbolism has become rather pronounced. Said symbolism is its own can of worms, of course, viewed as a Western intrusion into Eastern traditions.

According to the Southern Metropolis Daily there, violator's who "fail to rectify the situation will be subject to legal measures like suspension or closure," so was quoted the deputy mayor.

And just where should they stick all those trees? I have an idea.

(cute, unrelated cartoon)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

And now a little holiday music...

Feelin' like a little music had sent me a video link to a wildly popular arrangement of the "12 Days of Christmas", viewed over 3 million times on YouTube. As a die hard A Capella singer myself, I appreciate the mastery it takes to pull off an arrangement like this first one! (For any of today's links, simply click on the pictures to go to the video...cut those speakers on!)

"12 Days of Christmas"
Straight No Chaser
Indiana University

While I love holiday 'standards', I also appreciate variations on a theme, and cool vocal jazz is enjoyable to hear when the voices really blend...

"Silent Night"
Boyz II Men

Take 6 has always had my jaw agape...and they pull this medley off in true Take 6 style, which is unlike any other group. And to think their group began to form in a college bathroom (acoustics in bathrooms are usually phenomenal for harmonies and resonance!)...

Christmas Medley
Take 6

What, 'Danny Boy' isn't on your Christmas 'hit' list??? Hey, at least it mentions 'snow' and summer being 'gone'...besides, it's too gorgeous of a song not to pass along to you today...

"Danny Boy"
The King's Singers

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Ho, Ho, Snow!"???

You will need to click on these maps to enlarge them to see the features I wanted to bring to your attention. These are images taken from the 6Z run of the GFS forecast model. There are many sophisticated models, and you never write forecasts from them in stone. In fact, I've seen the GFS go from 2 inches of rain for day 6 in one run (4 runs daily) to no storm system at all on day 6 in the next run. You always take these maps with a big grain of salt...

Understand at this moment the National Weather Service office in Raleigh has "mostly sunny" for Christmas Day in the Triad. Below, the map indicates rain switching over to snow by the end of Christmas Day.

The one line of interest is "the 540 line", which is a general rain-snow demarcation. This storm is tapping both the Gulf and Atlantic, and on the northwest side is pulling down pretty cold air...cold enough for snow. The top map is for Christmas morning, and the bottom one is for Christmas evening.

The 540 line is down into the Foothills, and would naturally move east and then north. The precipitation would end in the night...and these were the last two frames in the 6Z run, so I can only interpolate out from 'em.

Remember: these are only models and come with zero guarantees...except the guaranty that it will most likely change in the next model run!

Monday, December 17, 2007

"Christmas: Catch My Drift?'

"Drift" is right...this was shot yesterday in Montreal, which picked up 24" of snow in some places from the east coast storm...

AP - Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press

Even with the hardships snow and ice bring, it also makes for great family fun...and a novel idea anymore in society, family exercise fun...

Reuters - Frank Polich, Chicago

If looking at those pictures makes you feel cold, try on these 5am observations from Mount Washington, New Hampshire yesterday as the storm center cranked through:

TEMPERATURE: minus 13 Fahrenheit

Alas, it's that time where folks talk and dream about having a "White Christmas" since we are now a week away. I know I shared this link last year, but I dug it back up as it's worth another look. May it bring a little lightness to your day!

"White Christmas" by The Drifters


Fun holiday idea for kids!

OK, so I was up a little later than usual last night, but I had an important job to do. It was an annual holiday gathering of kidlets at a friend's house in a well-decorated cul de sac neighborhood, the house well-appointed with decorations and foodstuffs. Close to 30 excited elementary school children flitting here and there while their parents were more firmly fixed in their respective locations, sipping on...uh, cokes.

Everytime the doorbell rang, one small group of children would greet the guests, while an adult would offer to put coats aside (believe it or not, it finally got cold enough for a coat!), and a couple of the children would scurry to the appointed 'gift' table with the incoming presents.

The highlight of this annual party is an ornament exchange between the children. But this is no ordinary exchange...

At the appointed time, all the children gathered around on the large family room floor, spreading out as best they could into a circle. They all made sure they had the ornament present they brought, all festively wrapped, in their little laps...and when all were quiet, I began my job as the official reader of "Auntie Claus", by Elise Primavera:

It's a wonderful holiday story about how a little girl, Sophie Kringle,

solves a bit of a mystery surrounding her Auntie I began my animated reading of this cute story, every time the name "Auntie Claus" came up, I would pause while the children handed their gift to the person to their left. I'd read some more, then hit another "Auntie" and they would pass again.

Of course, I took great liberties with reading the story as I dislike ever being boring...and so we enjoyed our literary journey to the North Pole to discover why "Auntie Claus" (pass) went on a business trip every year from Halloween through Valentine's Day, leaving her New York penthouse empty and yet decorated for Christmas all year 'round. And when the final page was read, the children excitedly opened the package that ended up in their lap and got to see their new ornament. The sheer delight on their faces said it all, some running excitedly to their parents to show them their beautiful treasure, with the room in a make-shift blizzard of torn paper, bows, and tissue wads.

A good time was had by all...and I nigh lost my voice! Worth every ounce of effort and lost sleep, too.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Fried Fridays: Visions of Sugarplums..."

Dateline: Wellington, New Zealand

This article came to my attention from a Reuters wire story after it ran in the Manawatu Standard. Before I begin, I wanted you to know I am not witholding names herein to protect the innocent; their names weren't given. Besides, they're hardly innocent...

Can you imagine the luck of it a 31 year-old male with plenty of appropriate hormones, you get a phone call from a young girl you know, one you've been interested in and probably had 'designs' on for some while.

She tells you she has a very special present lined up, ready and waiting for you to go and 'unwrap'. Two 'friendly' women have agreed to meet up with you at their place for a little...well...let's just say you fully understand which column you'll be listed under on Santa's list.

She gives you the address and the appointed hour under the guise of nightfall...she also gives you a strange piece of information about how they are expecting you to arrive, but you are so raging hormonally you could care less. In this situation you aren't really thinking clearly about anything.

So you go to the house...there it is, just like your young friend described it. You look and, indeed, the front window is open, just like it was supposed to be. You look around to make sure the coast is clear of other people, and you go the front door, strip all your clothes off, and throw everything through the open window as a signal that you are there to waste no time in getting your name on the "Naughty" list with them. You then find the front door unlocked, just as it was supposed to be, and you let your excited little self in.

Only it's the wrong house.

Or, more appropriately, the 'wrong' people in said house, so the homeowners tell you after you gave them one helluva scare. While blog readers may be laughing right now, the residents weren't, and they immediately called the police who promptly booked you for being unlawfully on the property...among other things. When you try to tell this rather insane story to the police, they believe you enough to locate and track down the originating caller, verify the story, and charge her with misusing a phone.

Lucky for both of you that upon further judicial review you escape prosecution, get cautioned, and put on 'good behavior' bonds.

And lucky for you this story now gets spread all over the globe.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"As the old joke goes..."

You can't help but hear holiday jokes now and then...laughter is good for the soul as long as it's not at someone else's expense (wait 'til you read my "Fried Fridays" entry coming this week...).

Just picture a cat taking a leisurely stroll on the beach, say, at Emerald Isle. A gentle warm breeze blowing off the land, small waves lapping at the is that like Christmas?

Sandy claws.

Digressing for a moment (imagine that...), I used to own a turquoise '57 Chevy and sold it to fix up a '57 Cadillac...back then cars had personality, all distinctive and many very attractive, in design if not color combinations. No doubt American car makers went through a long ugly period of sameness and unreliablity...even now many cars don't stand out too much from their competitors at first glance.

I say all that to get you thinking about cars. The 3 wise men actually went to Bethlehem in a car, not on camels, to see the newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Says so right there in the bible that they rode in a Honda.

They went in one Accord.

Which now leads me to digress further about information that popped up out of the blue that I'd never thought about. It's amazing how many conventional thoughts we have about all kinds of things, and we accept them as true, mainly just being raised knowing it no other way.

Case in point: nowhere does the bible speak of just 3 wise men. There were 3 types of gifts mentioned (gold, frankincense, and myrrh), but not 3 individual kings...and they are never mentioned as 'kings', anyway, and they certainly didn't have names. All of that type of lore and 'knowledge' has been added from outside biblical sources through the centuries.

Yet we have that imagery indelibly printed, figuratively and literally, don't we? "We Three Kings of Orient Are..." Lest we not forget, the wisemen were not at the manger scene (shepherds were, however.) The wisemen apparently arrived much later as they went "into a house" and visited a 'young child'.

Oh, I'll keep singing the song and picturing things as I have since childhood, enjoying all the magic...just goes a good reminder that not everything or every fact is as it may appear to be, and that we are free to examine things and come up with our own thoughts. And wouldn't it be great if we would just celebrate every day as if it were every holiday and celebration wrapped up into one?

Ah, now THAT would be truly living...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"What's hot this Christmas..."

What's hot this holiday season?......

We are.

80 degrees
Charlotte, all-time December high.

78 degrees
Greensboro, tied all-time December high

And so I looked around for some 'hot' Christmas/Holiday items to share with you today...

(click pics to enlarge)

Nothin' says "I love you" like liquid Habaneros...

And here's a stocking stuffer that's sure to please....(somebody somewhere)...

And then surfaced hot-related cartoons involving snowpeople - this particular one having many laughing because they know it's all too true....

Taking the heat for woodland thugs.....

...and hot under the collar...poor Calvin's dad...ah, but there are a gazillion Calvin and Hobbes snowmen cartoons, all wonderful and many twisted...

Not a great idea to give a snowman a dog for Christmas...

Just keeping abreast of the myriad cartoons I was choosing from...

The things you can learn on this blog...

Great, now I'm feeling guilty for not getting to the gym yesterday...

Don't worry, BIG temperature changes forthcoming shortly...for now, enjoy another shorts day! And how 'bout that Olga, huh? Subtropical-turned Tropical Storm Olga churning due west toward the Yucatan...never say never!

Monday, December 10, 2007

"It's a small, small world..."

"It's a world of laughter,
A world of tears.

It's a world of hopes,

And a world of fears.

There's so much that we share,
That it's time we're aware,
It's a small world after all."

When it comes to one of my new flutes, it is a small world, after all, indeed. I realize that some of you reading this aren't into music or techincal jargon or Native American style flutes...but there are aspects of what I do many find intriguing, it the woodworking and how different woods behave, to the construction and how-to, even the process itself. And so I digress...

I recently came up with a 'first' for me, a type of flute that there simply must be very few of around this ol' world of ours. It's what I call an ultra-high key of A-flat (Ab). Some people don't like the really high keys...all I can say is that different pitches, different keys, play different types and styles of songs best. When you get really high and really low, it pays to slow down and let melodies do the talking. Out in nature, Life really responds to the high keys, maybe because they carry so well, or maybe because they are closer to bird-talk.
This flute is in my flat-bottomed Half-Pipe design, which allows for larger diameter finger holes as opposed to a round-bore flute for the same key (waaaay too long of a story for another day). But when I go above the key of high F, there has been a train-wreck of space for all 6 fingers to fit (for the 'usual' 6-hole flute design). After a friend's suggestion for a 6-hole ultra-high key, I thought that I could rearrange the finger holes so that they could all fit in a tight space.

In designing my flutes, the center of any finger hole is a specific distance from the end of the flute. Draw a perpendicular line around the flute at that hole mark, and by theory the hole can go anywhere on that circumference. And so I held tubes and looked at how my fingers would behave cramming them together in the 'normal' left hand above right hand configuration. I came up with this:
You are looking at the flute's left side above, where the mouthpiece is to the right, and the end of the flute to the left. The right hand is on the 3 holes to the left, and the left hand is covering the holes on the right hand side of the picture. If I can make this any more confusing for you, please let me know.
All I can say is it worked. Oh, it takes a minute or two to get used to feeling the holes in their relatively different positions, but it is rather natural feeling. Run the scales a couple of times and you're golden. All the notes are there, even the above-octave ones, cleanly and clearly.

The flute is about 19" long - didn't need to be, but I like the aesthetics of it. In the above picture, the hole to the left is a tuning hole, which lets the air know that's the 'end' of the flute. The Quilted Maple wood was too pretty to simply cut off at the hole. Same went for the figured Massarunduba wood used for the body of the flute.
Toward the back are two dark walnut inserts...the Maple bottom had two small holes in the wood, so I enlarged them and glued in the walnut circles, using them to mark the flute. I'm always inventing new and little things as I get bored with the same ol'-same ol' approach to work or Life.

Bottom line is I proved to myself a 6-hole in the ultra-high keys is only takes a player willing to 'learn' something new to make it a perfect match. This one sold before it hit the streets because someone had just happened to write about wanting one if I ever made it. Ah, serendipity...


And so here it is December 9 and I'm looking at forecasts for mid 70s highs and mid 50s lows for the next few much for a yuletide fire, eh?
Nice radar grab out of Nashville, TN late yesterday afternoon showing thunderstorms with hail markers for 1-1.25" hail. Forecasts have been nigh impossible to nail down the past few days as a stationary front went wacko and flew north, against virtually all models. High of 63? Try 73. How about 67? Nope, 75. Oh well, got lots done outside and inside...and wearing the same wardrobe for both activities! "It's beginning to feel a lot like September...."

Of course, we're gonna pay for this excessive warmth, and it looks to arrive with a passion next weekend. So be it. 'Tis the season.