Friday, March 30, 2007

"Stressing, Are We?..."

Another Friday. For many, another end to a stressful week. Another 5 days completed holding back the urge to scream like a banshee at the top of your lungs. Another 5 days of endlessly telling yourself "insurance and benefits, insurance and benefits..."

(NOTE: for any News 14 management reading this, I am merely speaking for other friends; I love my, really.)

Actually, I haven't had a stressful week...did kinda royally screw up my body clock by napping Wednesday afternoon in order to attend a movie premiere downtown that night, not lying down to sleep until 10:30pm, only to boing back up with the 1:00AM alarm and work my regular hours stress here. Sleep-deprived, yes. Stressed, no.

I think we are all aware how harmful and useless stress is, yet often we find ourselves with our knickers in a knot over some condition or other people or a visit from the Screw-Up Fairy. So today's post is meant to bring a smile to your face, hopefully. How do you know if you are stressed? Carefully study the picture below:

If your stress level is below the 'critical' level, you will see what appears to be, for all practical porpoises, identical jumping dolphins. If the dolphin on the right appears to be more green, you need to get more exercise each day. If you see a "sea cow", and I ain't talkin' Manatee, then you need to go to the doctor immediately... you can open a whole 'nuther can of worms! Actually, a smile works wonders, so take a deep breath and say, "CHEESE!".....

Ever notice how some people have a million dollar smile...and then some?...

So here's wishing all of you a stress-free weekend! Now, go spread a smile today...the world needs more of 'em...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"Travelogue: Sunrises, Amelia Island, FL"

(REMEMBER: you can click on each pic to enlarge)

Fresh from last weekend are these images I had a hard time paring down...given the opportunity I love looking for form and texture, well beyond the traditional postcard-type of picture. Mind you, there are a couple of those as well...just thought I'd give you beach lovers something to dream about...

SO much is going on in the natural world at this time of day....the birds are active, searching for an early breakfast, gliding in the gentle breezes, all enjoying the relative coolness of a new day...

Without storms at sea, the ocean begins the day rather placid, still in anticipation of the day's winds and tidal pulls...and the transition from dark to purple-esque dawn to orange-y sunrises is always a joy to watch, as are the ever changing textures...

When I look at a scene, I naturally start with the 'big picture'...but it is a valuable thing to teach yourself to look at parts of the big picture...isolate certain aspects of the environment...focus on it and just look at it by itself...

...note the colors, the textures...note the unique form that makes it look 'different' from the other parts of the scene...then put the camera to the eye and capture that wonderful essence...

One nice thing about my job is that even on 'vacation' I naturally wake up before sunrise, a time of day I dearly love as so few people are up and about. It helps to know your camera, and what it means to adjust your EV settings, or go to selective priorities for certain effects, though for the 2nd of the 3 sunrises I realized my camera had 'magically' switched into monochrome mode...

And yet, even in that after-the-fact realization that something got terribly screwed up, there were some images that made me smile, even in black and white....and I know enough to know that even if something appears to be a 'lemon' there is always a 'lemonade' to be made from it...

And so I've included 3 of my 'oops!' images that I thought looked pretty neat in black and white, anyway...figured you might like them as certainly can't call them 'normal' but as a great bumper sticker I've seen says, "Why Be Normal?"...

3 consecutive sunrises, all with consistent spring weather which helps heal the Soul...finding the uniqueness of each day, for that is what each New Day is: a Gift. A Gift not only to be enjoyed, but to be shared with others...which is the whole impetus of why I bother to write this blog at all...

As my daily mantra says, "Each new day give thanks, help others, and make a difference."

Go in peace, friends. Thanks for stopping in.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"All Hail to NPR!!!"

I had to run a long errand Tuesday afternoon, in 80+ degree heat. In and of itself that's not an issue, but it starts to be one when my car's air conditioner decided to quit working on the return trip from Florida Sunday, and have had no time to have it checked/recharged just yet.

I love that ol' car, heading toward the 250,000 mile mark. Put 54,000 miles on it in the first 12 months alone, thanks to endless acting auditions and work from Philadelphia to Atlanta. The tape deck went kaput after 8 months, but by then I'd exceeded the 36,000 mile warranty so I never had it repaired. Still enjoyed a CD changer for years, but, alas, that rolled over dead over a year ago.

I guess that makes me a radio guy by default, though I can make a 5-hour trip and never turn it on...not one of those people who has to have noise. Too, mainstream radio grates on my nerves with the insidious loud, fast-talking ads, or the same old songs playing repeatedly because they use a lot of pre-taped programming...they need to bring back more live DJs and interaction with them, and quit playing strong-armed political games like not allowing the Dixie Chicks to be played for awhile. It has become quite boring to me. (NOTE: the above was edited to remove any insinuation that Clear Channel was involved in playola, which they are not.)

the station is owned by, say, Clear Channel, which allows only certain artists and labels to be played (read 'artists and labels Clear Channel has financial contracts with'). Frankly, it bores me.

But what a jewel there is in public radio (and TV)! NPR radio might not always have on a program I'm interested in hearing, but I almost always learn something from listening. The morning talk shows fit my travel schedule these days, so I get a good dose of Charlotte Talks, the Diane Rehm Show, Here and Now, and Fresh Air, to name a few.

And it was this afternoon, as I sweated like a pig in the stop and go traffic, that Fresh Air had on Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren. Only days ago I mused at the number of credit card solicitations that regularly bombard the mailbox, wondering why when so many Americans are deeply in debt and trying to get out...yet here was this major contrapuntal effort by 'lending institutions' to extend even MORE credit to people...

...and there was Ms. Warren ripping up the credit card industry up one wall and down the other, and with excellent reason and credentials: she is an internationally known expert on bankruptcy, credit law, and a staunch opponent of consumer lending organizations. She recently testified in depth on Capitol Hill about unscrupulous tactics commonly used by lenders to pull the wool over consumers' eyes, all in the (ultimate) name of raking in billions of dollars in earnings in late fees and 'hidden traps'. Everything I had been thinking of recently was addressed front and center, and the substantiated accusations would make you shake your head in disgust. It all gets back to this idea where good solid business practices spiral out of control into an unending appetite fueled by greed that many times knowingly takes advantage of consumers by duping them. With 8 BILLION credit card solicitations sent out last year, it must be a system that wallows in unfathomable profits...and comes with a lobbying arm that is equally as overwhelming.

This link is to the website where you can listen to the whole program, though it is almost 40 minutes long. You can open it and then continue to work at your computer while you is well worth your time and effort to hear all of her sage advice and knowledge. I certainly learned a lot. Or, if you just don't have time to listen, you can remember the title to yesterday's post: things aren't always what they seem. The scary details are in the fine print, in this case.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Things Aren't Always What They Seem..."

That's so true in life, isn't it? Things aren't always as they appear, and most of us would do well in stressful situations to take a deep breath and tell ourselves that!

(NOTE: before you begin, remember you can click on an image to enlarge it in a separate window...)

Thought I'd provide you with a little diversion of some nice eye tricks, definitely incorporating some 'things' that are not as they appear to be! We'll start with a simple one: the shadowed dot. Stare directly at the little black dot for several seconds and perceive the shadow to slowly but steadily disappear, leaving the dot in place with a tiny shroud around it...
Have a piece of white paper handy for this one....stare at this unusually colored flag for a bit, then quickly look at a blank piece of white paper and let the image start to form...recognize the colors now? Think US flag...

If you don't believe the diagonal black and yellow lines are parallel, check it yourself!

At ease, eye soldiers! Think they're all different sizes? Look again, and measure if you have to...they are one in the same!

Remember the group Blood, Sweat, & Tears? "What goes up....must come down....Spinnin' Wheel, got to go 'round..." These wheels really look like they are spinning...until you look directly at one and it 'stops'...

Now, get back to your daily 'motions' and make sure you get outside and enjoy some fresh spring air...!

Monday, March 26, 2007

"I'm Back In The Saddle Again...."

Howdy, Saddle Pals! "He's baaaaaack..."

How many of you have ever had 'difficulty' with re-entry from a vacation or much-needed time off? Be it when I was a student coming back
from break or vacation, or as an employee coming back from time away from my usual odd hours, there is this deep-felt *sigh* of mixed emotions as you hit the necessary transition back into 'the routine' of the working world, not at all in a social mind-set...!

Refreshed and rested, no doubt. Thankful not only for the time off, but for this annual opportunity I have to do something a little different as an awards ceremony announcer, which I blogged about a week ago today. I work with the same professionals each year from New York City and Charleston, SC, and in the 5 years we have worked as a 'unit' we've become a bit of a 'family', so it was good to see them once again. That working relationship serves as a significant plus in making the complicated awards banquet evening run like clock-work (to those on the outside!).

For this week's Travelogue Thursday, I'll be posting my select photo compilation from 3 morning sunrises, which you'll find aesthetically interesting. I have a few hundred s
hots to cull through in the meantime...
and discovered that during the second morning my camera switched over to monochrome (B&W) unbeknownst to me. I know how to go through the menu tree to reach that function, but at the snap of a finger the shots went monochrome, and I haven't the foggiest how that happened...I was heartsick at first, but found a couple of images that actually look pretty neat as B&W, so I'm sure a couple of those will make it to my top 8 or so. I have 3 days to make my selections, and will certainly need that time, as persnicketty as I am in my selection process!

One bummer in my update today...not that it affects many, if any, of you...this was going to be a pretty special week for our Carolina Flute Circle friends, with Grammy-winning Mary Youngblood coming to town. While she and percussionist Jim Brock will be here for Wednesday evening's premiere of a new PBS feature film "The Spirit of Sacajawea" down at the Blumenthal, they canceled their weekend concert Sunday April 1 at the Schiele Museum in Gastonia...a few of our members were going to be opening for her, as well. Ah, even the best laid plans....

Yes, a significant bummer...though I ran across this tongue-in-cheek photo/description below that is significantly more of a bummer than our circle's disappointment...!
(click to enlarge)

Y'all be good now, y'hear?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Travelogue: Sheep Mountain Table, Badlands, South Dakota"

Welcome to Sheep Mountain Table, found in the North Unit of the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It's actually a part of/up against the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation, Sheep Mountain being an area publicly accessible, just south of a bend in the highway called Scenic, South Dakota...all about an hour east of Rapid City, SD.

The Badlands are surreal to begin with, and future Travelogues on the park will show a different 'look'...but this was one of my on a rough gravel road a few miles, making your way through a veritable moon-scape, climbing a steady grade to the top of this large mesa...(click on pics to enlarge)...

Here is my "K9 LIMO" atop the you can tell, not much to look at per the flat grassy expanse on top. But drive along one of the few rutted roads and you soon approach the edge...and you've got a whole different world opening before your very eyes...

To say it takes your breath away is a bit of an understatement. You can see the flat table at the top, and yet the immense erosion and canyon-esque formations that surround you at every turn.

For miles this large mesa has myriad scenes and features to look at and visually explore from afar...and your mind can't help but wander to the not-so-distant past when the Siouxian bands had to traverse and hide out in these landscapes they called "mako sica" for "land bad" (pronounced "mah-ko SEE-cha")...

The Badlands themselves are sedimentary formations that are full of significant prehistoric mammalian animals....the classic "dinosaurs" like T-Rex, et al, are found in the Dakotas, but not in the Badlands, which has formations from the more recent late Eocene and Oligocene epochs.

No matter what the activity, the rules of the Lakota Nation have to be respected first and foremost, leading to activities and opportunities that must be closely controlled for all the right reasons. The Badlands scream at you to get out of the car and get away from the asphalt ribbon even if for a moment, to be still and soak in the unusual raw beauty and history of the region.

Part of the park was used as a gunnery and bombing range in the past, so you will see signs warning of possible live ordinances in the area. If you know something of the Lakota heritage there, you will know of the famous "Ghost Dances" of 1890 which were held in what is the Stronghold Unit of the Badlands, co-managed by the Oglala Sioux Nation, just west of Sheep Mountain.

I trust the pictures give you a good idea of why I loved to escape to that mountain. Many a trip did I make that I saw not one other vehicle or person. And you can easily imagine how playing my flutes and music from a lookout ledge was nothing short of other-worldly.

If you travel out there, take the time to get off the beaten path and experience the Magic for yourself. Take the time to travel in the landscape, not just through it...

(REMINDER: This is my last post for the week as I will be out of town through Sunday. My next blog post will be early Monday morning, the 26th.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Video Postcards: Straight to the Heart of Art"

I don't know why this never entered my mind before. The world of has become nothing less than a massive repertoire of world video of every conceivable genre and level of acumen and artistic well as lack thereof...and in past posts I've listed several links to videos of either amazing young artists, or otherwise talented/interesting individuals worthy of watching, if even but to marvel over...all off of the website. Now, hold that thought...

When I was in Rapid City, South Dakota doing weather at KEVN FOX 7, I had developed a unique concept to share with viewers there my photography, combined with my flute music, playing flutes I've made, my Ugly Boys. They were just under a minute long...from ads the screen would go black...then fade up to my title card with my flute music playing, slowly fading between my nature photography stills, and then fading to black at the end. The camera would then pop up on myself and the news anchor that day, and we'd chit-chat about where I went the past weekend to take the pictures, and somehow segue into the full weather forecast.

I called it my anti-news effort. I've worked in news for 18 years now, albeit just weather, and I disagree with the way a vast majority of news stories are handled. I wanted to make a positive effort to put something on the airwaves that was different, uplifting, and honoring of the incredible natural world around us, to counter the murders and accidents and other depressing news items we are bombarded with daily.

As an artist, it was a true 'synergy' to have taken all the photographs, recorded the music myself, and having made all the flutes I played, doing all of the recording/ was the 'total' package experience and then some for me.

So I came up with these "Video Postcards" each week. And for some reason I only just now realized I could and should put a few on so you can link to it and see them for yourself, instead of sending out emails with 6MB files. I'll admit, the compression kills the quality, and you are best served by watching the video in its smaller window instead of enlarging it, FYI. Below are the 3 I've chosen to put on so far, the underlined words serving as a link to that particular video:

He Wakinyan Hohpi, Black Hills, South Dakota
(a.k.a. Harney Peak, today)

Spearfish Canyon, Black Hills, South Dakota
("Autumn's Quilt" I call this one)

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
(Badlands on a spring day)

I suppose that's what I love about the beauty of each new day...knowing there will be opportunities to learn at every become more Aware of the world around us.

May you walk in Beauty today and everyday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Things That Make You Go 'Hmmmmm'......"

Which of these news events are for real?

Hooters is expanding operations into Israel and the Holy Land.

Tokyo had a St. Patrick's Day parade.

A blind auto mechanic hired a deaf shop assistant.

A skyway was built over part of the Grand Canyon.

They're all real news stories. News can be so weird anyway, and I had to tame down my selections as it was.

(NOTE: Links to the related stories are underlined.)

Hooters in the Holy Land..."Would you like some Jerusalem Tea to wash down those buffalo wings?" A business man just bought the Hooter rights for all of Israel and will open the first restaurant in Tel Aviv. Oy ve!

Somehow an Irish celebration on the streets of Tokyo is something that made me go 'huh?' instead of 'hmmmm'....and it was held a day late, too, I might add. Something about a pair of black pointy shoes, a shamrock hat, and a kimono make me tilt my head a moment...

The blind mechanic who hired a new deaf assistant is a tribute to the fact that we are limited only by our own minds. Only in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Click here if'n ya need a little inspiration to persevere....

The skyway over the Grand Canyon is one that is fascinating, simply from a designing and engineering perspective...but it was the real impetus for today's post. There is no doubt we as a nation not only have failed but continue to fail miserably in properly recognizing and assisting the First Nation peoples of this country; their dire need to improve many of their impoverished reservations (especially in the west) leads them to sometimes innovative solutions to bolster their own recovery. The Hualapai allowed a private investor to build a $30 million clear-bottomed skywalk on which you can walk and look down over 4,000 feet...for a nice fee, of course. No doubt tourism dollars are a good source to beef up an almost non-existant economy.

But like everything, there is a price to be paid, a flip-side to the coin, the other side to a story.Personally, I'm not an advocate for major alterations in the natural world. Mt. Rushmore, Stone Mountain, Crazy Horse Memorial, none of them do a thing for me. Granted, they are master works of art, but at what price? I'm not a fan of mountain carvings or any construction that greatly alters a landscape, or activity that alters an environment. My family was living in western North Carolina when they built the hiddeous "Top of Sugar" super-high-rise condo complex at Sugar Mountain, which forever altered (read 'ruined') the views from anywhere around that region.

My hope is that more and more people truly embrace the idea that we are not masters of Nature but stewards, which entails a responsibility to live with the land and not just on it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Good Ol' Tulip Magnolia..."

Another year, another verification...for those who didn't catch last week's post and pics, For 30 some-odd years I've noticed that with a good bit of regularity that within a week of this lovely early bloom that a significant weather change hits. Here is my neighbor's tree Sunday afternoon...

Friday's cold front was simply incredible to watch, per surface observations. For the Triad, the going forecast had temps at 58 degrees around 4am, 45 degrees by noon, and 38 degrees by 5 pm, per a concensus of the digital model data. It was 56 at 4am, but by 7am it was 42, and by 10 am was one point there was a 22 degree difference between Greensboro and Charlotte as that front barreled south ahead of schedule by some 7 hours.

Put a whammy on that beautiful fuschia-blooming tree, too, right on cue. As AM temps dipped below freezing this weekend, it took it's toll on some other bloomers, as well, but not the mighty ornamental pear trees still exploding in their cottonballs of white. And now we have hit a quiet warming stride that will erase this memory quickly. Ah, the enchantment of Spring!


This will be a short week for me, which means a short week for the blog...I can tell you Thursday's post will be my weekly "travelogue" to the Badlands of South Dakota, in particular the other-worldly Sheep Mountain Table. I've already selected the photos to share with you from that canyon-esque wonderland...stay tuned!

I am taking Thursday and Friday off for a combination of R & R and a continuation of a long-standing relationship with a corporation where I basically serve as emcee for their annual awards night. And I dare say it's the only way I can afford to stay at a 5-star resort, as well! But I will welcome the rest and 'down time', and the weather is looking most cooperative. Last year was at the Greenbrier in West Virginia; this year is a decidedly warmer clime, as they head south to Amelia Island in Florida east of Jacksonville.

I know...of all the luck...well, somebody had to do it, and I volunteered.

I'll look like Shamu on the beach, that I can assure you...while I'm thinking about it, I'd better get some harpoon insurance ...

Friday, March 16, 2007

"Just like this work week..."

Just like this Red-Tail Hawk I ran across for a very brief period Thursday around noon, our work week is...




For most of us, this week has ended in rain and/or snow, seriously falling temperatures, but an open door to a sunny weekend, albeit 25-30 degrees colder than our recent balmy days. So be it. That is the beauty and variability of weather at this glorious time of year.

From my 'fallen' wooded area this week, I have secured sections of rather large, old dogwood trees to eventually make them into flutes once the wood cures...takes some time, and I precut lengths and sealed the ends for proper slow drying...all an experiment, of course, but experiments and I are good friends...! Dogwood flutes are not a common item...I'll make those mistreated woods sing a New Song once again, louder than before...what's sad to me is that these were waste trees just left in the mud, to be burned or buried at a later date...not if I have anything to say about it! HA!

What is so intriguing about Spring is how the vegetation explodes, and not all at is a staggered cacophany of colors that goes on for weeks, even with significant weather changes. Like these neighborhood trees (Bartlett Pears?) lining the quiet streets...even if you've had a bad day they make you smile real big when you pull in...

Gonna be a busy day with our Carolina rains today, Friday, so will keep this short and sweet. Here's wishing all of you a blessed day full of inspiration and Goodness. I'm sure you deserve it!