Friday, August 31, 2007

"Fried Fridays: The Queen of Mean"

Boy, what I woulda given to be a fly on THAT wall...

Leona Helmsley, the late Helmsley Hotel heiress, passed away early this week on Monday. Earlier this year, Forbes listed her as the 359th richest person in the world at $2.5 billion. At the height of her's and her also-late husband Harry's dynasty, they owned such pearls as the Park Lane, St. Moritz, and Palace in NYC, among many others. To their credit, they did make sizable contributions to hospitals and research organizations which ultimately has impacted the lives of even...yes, the 'little people'.

The Little People.

She's probably rolling over in her grave when I put it in that perspective. It was back in 1988 when her opulent conquests came to a crashing halt with a federal conviction on counts of a $1.2 million tax evasion...and when it came to testimonial light a 'snarling' comment she made to a housekeeper that was a shot heard 'round the world:

"Only the little people pay taxes."

In typical Leona style, akin to that of a self-declared demigod, she is to be interred in a $1.4 million mausoleum with her husband and, when appropriate, her white Maltese "Trouble". Oh yeah, and left $3 million dog-eared for the cleaning and upkeep of said classy crypt in Westchester County, NY. "I was SOMEbody, and don't you forget it!" is what that screams. Anybody that has to shove it in your face that they were great clearly failed the first test of true greatness: humility.

To her partial credit, massive sums of her estate will go into the family's charitable trust. Clap, clap...

But that's still not the basis for this week's FF nod. No, it's the $12 MILLION she left her appropriately named pooch "Trouble". I suppose you can say it was her money and it's hers to do with as she pleases...can't argue that one...but in the greater scope of Life on this earthly plane, and the myriad opportunities to give back, do good, improve things and REALLY make a difference for others, such pooch-padding tells me all I need to know about that woman. Ego can be very, very ugly.

Of her 4 grandchildren, 2 got not a penny...she claims they know why (rumor has it they refused to name any of their children after their grandfather)...and the other 2 get $5 million each immediately, with an additional $5 million held in 'trust'...the trust stipulation is that they have to visit their father's grave site at least once each calendar year, or they get none of it. Talk about your strings attached...

Her stories of nickel and diming and outright cheating contractors and vendors are legendary and numerous beyond count. She represented all that most of us stand up against, and for good reason. The longer and more each of us invests in the idea that we are separate from each other, better than another, more 'right' than another, the longer it will take to heal this planet, if we even have the chance to do so. "Us" and "them" serves only as a mighty wedge, on the smallest and largest scale...and can never fix a single problem together.


Enjoy your weekend and (for most of you) the cooler weather!!! YAY!!!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Travelogue: Pactola Reservoir, Black Hills, SD"

Welcome to Pactola Reservoir, uphill from Rapid City, South Dakota, and supplier of precious water resources for that region of the Black Hills. At this nippy time of the year, a solid drought had locked up the many ways it was far less picturesque, and yet...and yet, by taking the time you could find the 'neat' pics and viewpoints...

The ice donned a mottled sheen, providing a constant groaning and cracking that only large ice sheets can create in the heating of the day, contrasted with the cooling of the night... fishermen ventured with great caution upon the cracked surfaces...and the reflective surface in the shadows made for nice frozen blue tints...

I chose these pics because of the drought gripping much of the Southeast right now...river and lake levels are extremely low, stranding docks and boats...obviously, Pactola had issues of its own that superceded our current low levels...

Even with the boat ramp stranded in the upper right, above, there was still an interesting perspective to be photographed from the ramp itself (below), visible only in such low-water conditions...

Needless to say, the lake has rebounded...such is the nature of Nature, especially bodies of water...their temporary emptiness taking its immediate toll on tourism and water usage, but ultimately returning to a more stable level in due time...

Of course, that left plenty of shoreline to be explored....and wonderful driftwood textures to photograph for posterity's sake...

...not to mention the Birch bark of a fabled native tree, curling in the wintry sun along the shore...

...or weird melting holes thanks to heat-keeping value of the rock...kind of a weird looking picture with the relative melting going on...

Or, by turning to the side away from the drought, you could catch one of the giant evergreen boughs defracting the specular shaft of sunlight...perspective is everything.

As I've said before, there is always beauty to be's as close as being right under your nose at virtually every turn...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sunday Sales Circulars....

There's just something about the Sunday paper and the ream of sales circulars that slide about every which way as you stack them up and rifle through 'em. The older I get the more aware I am of the extreme wastage it represents, and just because a company is willing to pay for it doesn't make the original resources any more abundant. Ultimately such flyers and information should effectively be distributed electronically to help zero out the waste factor...but until then the morning ritual continues, with coffee in hand (well, actually it's green tea, and a pot of it at that...).

And so the past few weeks have seen a plethora of 'back to school' sales of every sort, and every week it seems that one of the large mega-supply stores has really great prices to lure you in. Office Max was the store of choice Sunday, so I went and purchased only those items that I thought were too good to pass up....not that I really needed them...just the principle (or lack thereof!) involved.

Below is a pic of the booty haul:

1. 72-pack #2 pencils.
$0.25 each (limit 5) $1.25

2. 2-pocket folders, with clasps
15 for $1 $1.00

3. 12-pack ballpoint pens, ass't
$0.15 each (limit 5) $0.65

4. 24-pack crayons
$0.01 each (limit 3) $0.03

5. 70-sheet notebooks, ass't
$0.10 each, limit 10* $0.80*

sub-total $3.28
tax $0.24

TOTAL $3.52

(* I had 2 black notebooks in my hand at one point...a 'birdie must have flown by' and I set them elsewhere instead of my basket, hence getting only 8 instead of my limit of 10 notebooks and not realizing it until I got home and went to take the picture...)

The Grand Question yet to be answered is what I'm going to do with these things? My answer is I have no answer. Opportunities will arise to use or give away the items in a timely manner, I'm sure...the pencils will get consumed as they rank up there with socks in the dryer per 'disappearance' statistics, followed closely by the pens for second-place in the same department. I like keeping different notebooks for different creative ventures, be it flute data, art sketches, show/program designing, etc. Can't argue with penny crayons, either, if for no other reason than they cost a penny.


Had a couple of days off per schedule readjustment and I can't say I have a whole lot of cool things to share with you. Doc visit has resulted in an upcoming MRI for my 'good knee' which has fallen into shambles the past month and a half...I can get up in front of the keywall and do my weather schtick, but the simple act of sitting in and especially getting out of the chair has become an unpleasant affair...hopefully some relief is around the corner. Value what health you have, friends, and never take it for granted. Or as a geologist would quip, don't take it for granite. Rock on...

What's not rocking, yet, is tropical activity. The statistical peak of Atlantic hurricane activity is the September 8-10 window, just around the corner. The above map (late last night from the National Hurricane Center) shows only 1 area of prime interest for development, #2. #1 thunderstorm batch is heading west into the Yucatan, and #3 is a non-tropical low drifting southward....of course, let it go far enough and long enough and things could change, but only #2 is showing any hopes of organizing and 'doing something' down the pike. Or pickerel, but since nothing fishy is going on that won't make much sense to some...

And to completely ramble all over the map, I did start a very odd flute this past weekend that now needs only a tremendous amount of sanding, some detailing, and finishing...and you can rest assured you will not have seen one quite like it. If I'm lucky it may be finished next week, but I'm loaded with more appointments and travels in the meantime, which will limit my flute focus this week.

Time to pull some weather data and put my weather head on...been kinda nice to leave it on the bedside table for the past few days, I must admit. Happy Hump Day, y'all!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I've been off Monday and today, and loaded with errands, appointments, and flutes to work on...and forgot to post a 'Gone Fishin' sign to let you know.

As Hagrid (from Harry Potter) would say, "Sorry 'bout that!"

See you Wednesday...with a picture of what $3.52 bought me Sunday....

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Travelogue: Iron Mountain Sunrise, Black Hills"

Admittedly, I'm 'out of order' this week...I blew yesterday, 'forgetting' it was Thursday...and here it is Friday with my new input towards a 'Fried Fridays' here I am deciding what to do...

I vote nature photography, hence "travelogue" entry. Could've easily done a Fried Fridays that would have contested Leona Helmsley's $1.4 million mausoleum burial site up against the NAACP President's comments, per Michael Vick and dogfighting, where he said "it was only a dog"...both are worthy "Fried Fridays" contenders.

Last week's travelogue blog was the moon setting over the Norbeck Overlook....what transpired was I arrived there, shot some moon shots (west), then walked 200 yards to shoot the sunrise from another rock outcropping (today's pics), and then went back to shoot some early sun shots from the Norbeck Overlook. Needless to say it was a wonderful and blessed morning, and I heard one single car in a 3-hour period, making it even better! Morning is my time of day, hands down...

"The morning light, which rains its quivering beams
Wide o'er the plains, the summits, and the streams,
In one broad blaze expands its golden glow
On all that answers to its glance below."

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

"Early morning hath gold in its mouth."

- Benjamin Franklin

"I think you might dispense with half your doctors if you would only consult Dr. Sun more."

- Henry Ward Beecher

"Morn on the mountain, like a summer bird,
Lifts up her purple wing, and in the vales
The gentle wind, a sweet and passionate wooer,
Kisses the blushing leaf."

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature, if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you, know that the morning and spring of your life are past."

- Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Random (humorous) thoughts....


I had these thoughts pass through my head yesterday, in musing over the English language and unusual words, double entendres, etc... words for groups of similar animal species:

If the Animal Planet channel had a running series dedicated to whales, would they offer podcast versions?...

If someone were convicted of illegally killing just one single crow, could you in all good, proper conscience call it a murder of crow?...

...and other twisted word play or 'thought' play that roamed through my cerebral cortex:

Stands to reason has a web page...

Undertakers make their money through layaway plans...

Farmers are definitely worried about our they talk about it a with furrowed brow? If they make light of the parched situation, is it considered dry humor?...

If there were a Pirates Encyclopedia, wouldn't the "R" volume be 10 times thicker than any other volume?...

I have always wondered why drive-up ATMs have braille on them...

Isn't going to a landfill a waste of energy?...

Do Eskimos use refrigerators?...

Is there a word that rhymes with purple?...

You know what I saw? Wood.

If I ran a lumberyard, wouldn't I get board with work?


I try to sleep from 7p to 1a - last night around 10pm, there was a pretty significant storm passing by, splitting my sleep period right down the middle. Needless to say I'm not quite as rested and 'together' as I would expect to be.

Tomorrow is Friday, which normally excites me...but I remember I have to work this Saturday for Tara. Oh the joy of having no one yet hired to replace Jess Torpey who left the Raleigh weather office many many weeks ago.

Enjoy your day and maybe...just'll get some much needed rain!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Of Storms And Lightbulb Humor..."

So much for "isolated" storms yesterday...!

The upper level trough sure did it's thing in yesterday's heat, eh? Just thought you'd like to see a radar grab and the myriad thunderstorm warning (red) boxes that were I madly scrambled to secure my outdoor woodworking tools in winds wanting to turn my tarps into sails! Wheeeedoggies!


While I really do have a disdain for forwarded emails, occasionally I will have something forwarded that makes me chuckle, and on even rarer occasions I will pass it on. I will say the 'sender-string' gender on this one was female...and they all gave their approval from having been there and done that!


Question: How many hormonal women does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: One! ONLY ONE!!! And do you know WHY? Because no one else in this house knows HOW to change a light bulb! They don't even know that the bulb is BURNED OUT! They would sit in the dark for THREE DAYS before they figured it out. And, once they
figured it out, they wouldn't be able to find the %$#& light bulbs despite the fact that they've been in the SAME CABINET for the past 17 YEARS! But if they did, by some miracle of God, actually find them, 2 DAYS LATER, the chair they dragged to stand on to change the STUPID light bulb would STILL BE IN THE SAME SPOT!!!! AND UNDERNEATH IT WOULD BE THE WRAPPER THE FREAKIN' LIGHT BULBS CAME IN!!! BECAUSE NO ONE EVER CARRIES OUT THE GARBAGE!!!! IT'S A WONDER WE HAVEN'T ALL SUFFOCATED FROM THE PILES OF GARBAGE THAT ARE A FOOT DEEP THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE HOUSE! IT WOULD TAKE AN ARMY TO CLEAN THIS PLACE! AND DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON WHO CHANGES THE TOILET PAPER ROLL!!

I'm sorry...what was the question?


May all y'all have an illuminating day!

Monday, August 20, 2007

"It's All About The 'D' words..."

Dean and drought.

Dean continues on a beeline square for the Yucatan Peninsula, reminiscent of the forecast track from the middle of last week. The high pressure ridge building in the Southeast will keep the track lower (in terms of latitude), which continues to remove the continental U.S. from the equation.

Talk about your million dollar is Dean's eye from the space shuttle. Well, I guess it's just as million dollar a view as what the actual Hurricane Hunters see as they criss-cross the storm through the eye itself getting their recon data. What a ride that must be, especially with Dean's being a Cat 4 and flirting with Cat 5 status today, Monday...

And so the Cayman Islands are getting whipped now...the eye will pass well south of there, but it puts them in the northern/northeastern quadrant which is oftentimes the worst part of the hurricane to be on...which is why Jamaica's damage should be extensive with the eye having raked the southern coastline.

The Yucatan will take a hit head on as Dean's path will be perpendicular to the coastline, but just south of Cancun and Cozumel and north of a unique (1.3 million acres!) area called the Sian Ka'an Biosphere which was to be a center for eco-tourism. It could do so at a projected Cat 5 strength, which would do mondo damage early Tuesday morning, to say the least.

So, the ol' southeastern high keeps Dean out of south Texas' also keeps rain out of our forecast (except for the piddly 20% chance for isolated PM convection). We will continue to bake and get drier this week, sadly. Here is the most recent map from the U.S. Drought Monitor:

Tropical systems are somewhat counted on to provide good rains in the late summer and fall months in the Southeast. Last year's relatively calm and peaceful 2006 Atlantic hurricane season cheated the region of said waters, and we're only adding to that through this year. Much of the Chattahoochee River valley and Alabama are in dire straits, and the oppressive heat we've had (and will continue to have this week) is not helping matters.

So far the past 19 days of August, 2007, the average high temperatures in NC have been sweltering far above average:

Greensboro......94.7 degrees
Raleigh...........96.3 degrees
Fayetteville......98.6 degrees
Charlotte........97.3 degrees
Asheville.........89.5 degrees
Hickory..........96.9 degrees

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fried Fridays: "If I Had a Hammer..."

...I'd sell it to the Pentagon for $643,582.

Twin sisters from Lexington, South Carolina got an even better return on their investment:

$998,798 for 2 washers

No, we ain't talkin' Maytags, here...we're talkin' 2 little metal circles that totaled $0.38 before tax. Seems they found and significantly exploited an auto-payment system in the Defense Department, starting back in 2000.

Check this out: Since 2000, the U.S. Government has purchased $68,000 worth of actual items from C&D Distributors, owned by this pair of pirates. The billed (and received!) shipping costs for those items totaled (drumroll, please)....$20.5 million.

Gee, they've been caught, now. Shame on the greedy sisters and anyone else there in on the scheme. And and equally scolding shame on the Pentagon for such a glaring lack of financial accountability. What's scary is to think what other phantasmic sums have gone out the window in like manner to the hoardes of scoundrels out there...and what other areas the Government is allowing itself to be bilked of astronomical sums. Talk about the proverbial tip of the iceberg...

More on the scheme


Speaking of "Katrina" (oops, did that slip out?), "Dean" has been cleared atmospherically for take-off into the 'major' realm of hurricane development. At this time, there is no significant impediment to its becoming a big 'un, though it has yet to cleanly and fully develop all of its structure. By the time you are reading this, the eye will have already passed by Martinique and St. Lucia (in the middle of the Lesser Antilles) as a Category 2 hurricane.

The various models have the projected paths tightly bunched for 72 hours while "Dean" steams west-northwest at nearly 25 mph. That fast movement will help limit rain totals, which will still be significant, mind you. Jamaica continues to be in line for the dreaded northeast quadrant to hit them Sunday, with anticipated landfall square on the Yucatan Peninsula late Monday night/early Tuesday morning...potentially as a Category 4 or 5 hurricane.

To me the most interesting part of Dean is its forward movement, which is rather significant, as well as its rather predictable path for now. The wildcard will be what happens post-Yucatan when it reaches the southern Gulf early next week.

Better git...have a good weekend, y'all.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Travelogue: Little Missouri Breaks, North Dakota"

"Mako Shika"
"Where the land breaks"

And that's exactly what the Little Missouri Breaks resemble: 'broken land'.

Welcome to North Dakota, a state that most have no idea has such beauty in its boundaries. All of these images came from (or very close to) Little Missouri State Park north of Killdeer, ND on Highway 22.

This particular park caters to those who wish to trailer in their horses for days of trail riding, and an awe-inspiring trail ride it must be. Because I was on the clock to return from my foray into the Roosevelt National Park, I did not have time to do any hiking myself. **sigh**

All of these photos came from somewhere close to a road or entrance trail...and you can just look into the landscape and picture what it would be like to be down in there, walking amidst the formations and devouring all the different perspectives they surely provide.

I know I always say this, but these pictures look much better enlarged, which you can do by clicking on them. It's clear in the timing of my visit that the word 'drought' was not a topic of yard now is the color of the rocks in the picture, NOT the verdant grass seen in these photos!

By the way, this has NOTHING to do with the 1976 film "The Missouri Breaks", starring Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando. That area is way up in Montana along guessed it...Missouri River. However, sure would be a beautiful setting for a movie, eh?

Caught this little lagomorph in mid hop as it was searching for the tastiest greens. Maybe I could film a documentary of this rabbit and the life-cycle of creating offspring'd have to admit it would be a hare-raising drama...

Ah, what's a typical blog entry from me if it doesn't have at least one lame joke? Well, most days, anyway. Speaking of lame, any sense of that is best avoided as this particular park as almost 5,800 acres to explore.

The Little Missouri Breaks. Clearly one of those places on my 'must go back to' list.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"On the Topic of Tropics.."

Got a postcard from Time-Warner announcing sporadic disruption of internet in my home area over the next few weeks, most of it occurring from 12am through 6am. Imagine what I woke up to at 1am today...The Great Disconnect. Hence my delayed post, which for today I've focused on what most meteorologists in the southeast are keeping an eye on: tropical activity. Heat and drought issues have had their time in the spotlight to date...time to step aside and let the big dogs run and play.


Statistically, 'tis that time of August where tropical Atlantic activity starts to stretch like a bloodhound awakening from an afternoon's nap on a sunlit porch. Up and at 'em, Saddle Pals. Sitting here awaiting the 11am EDT updates on both Tropical Storm Dean and Tropical Depression #5 (which could become "Erin", albeit briefly before hitting Texas.

Infrared imagery helps tell the story of areas of high cloud tops and strong convection, with the red TD5 clearly visible off the Texas coast...exactly where it's heading...and exactly where they've had waaaaay too much rain. Corpus Christi alone has had a rainfall surplus of over 15" so far this year...with this system promising a good 4-8" more.

Because I usually work the pre-dawn morning shift, I basically never get to use 'visible' radars, which show a lot more 3-D detail thanks to the sun. Above is TD5 from this morning, showing nice little explosions of thunderstorms poking through the dome of clouds.

The 'vis' shot of "Dean" far out in the Atlantic might not be impressive...nice overall form, little signs of just happens to be a little bugger for now, in terms of covered real estate.

"Dean's" path should keep in heading west-northwest right through the Antilles Arc islands Friday (as a Cat 1 'cane), just north of Barbados, and very close to St. Lucia. Traversing to the south of Puerto Rico, Dominica, and Cuba, "Dean" is forecast to reach a Cat 3 level, making it an even more serious storm. Keep in mind those countries have some quite mountainous terrain, which can a) interact with the storm and weaken it, and b) create devastating flooding and mudsliding in those countries.

Assuming it holds together (very likely), "Dean" should be poised to enter the Gulf of Mexico sometime Monday...needless to say this one bears watching. At this time there is no forecast impact on our Carolina weather...but we all find these systems intriguing, knowing full well how they can greatly impact us.

Toodles for always, click on pics to enlarge.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"How Sweet It Is...!"

For a couple of months I've come home to a bone-dry hummingbird feeder, knowing that some nocturnal critter was to blame. I work such weird hours that I go to sleep when the Hummers are still feeding, and by the time I wake up the 'damage' has already been done.

And so Sunday evening there arose a chorus of barks that instantly smelled of either a UPS delivery, a cat out the front window, or a squirrel on the back deck sucking down sunflower seeds. Ruling out the first two given the day and time, it left me with the back deck option... Lo and behold, there was my sugar-thief at 730 PM instead of the dark of night! I had to shoot pics through window glass to capture the 'Coon, so didn't use the flash for fear of reflections...but there was enough light to get it at ISO 1600 okay...thus putting a 'face' to the sugar heists!!!

That ol' rascal knew exactly what he was doing...and tapping on the glass as I may, NOTHING swayed it from the finger lickin' good task at hand except opening the door and letting Mercy go say hello. I know enough to know that that is not always advisable, but the 'Coon had a quick escape route that it took every time, and the two never even got close.

Ah, and so the temporary 'mystery' was solved, not to my surprise, though. I know what excess sugar does to us 2-leggeds...and I only cringe when I think what this does to the masked ranger...sure hope it has a good dental plan, as well!

Absolutely no developments per the Pyrenees post yesterday. No surprises there, though Monday I did walk a school official through the parameters I observed. It's in their hands from here on out.

And now the Tropics are hinting at well they normally do in late August. Still looking for a good sized 'Cane to be in the Gulf August 22/23, per long-range models. 'Bout that time to start sleeping with one eye open, as they say. The red marker is for Tropical Depression #4 that if it intensifies will be named "Dean"...still a good 1500 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. The circled yellow area is being watched for development, and may well become Tropical Depression #5 later today.

We desperately need rain, and tropical systems are a major seasonal conduit for the Southeast's water supply in general. This week's prospects for 'liquid sunshine' are minimal at best, with hotter than average temperatures bathing us yet again this week, pressing the 100 degree mark. 'Scuse me while I go pour another mug of joy... ;-)

Monday, August 13, 2007

On a serious note...

I share this with you because none of us are immune to the 'ugly' in some humans. There will be times where things happen, and we can either turn our head the other way, try to do something about it, or at the very least bring it to someone's attention.

The way I look at life, we are ALL stewards not only of the land but of each other; of environments as well as facets of society; of the big as well as the small; of the pretty as well as the ugly. Some people do nothing. Some do a mountain of work. It is a choice each of us makes, a choice no one can make for us but ourselves.

And so I make a semi-daily trek into a patch of woods behind McKee Elementary where there is a short nature trail, a trail of 1 bigger loop and 1 decidedly smaller loop to a little amphitheater of sorts. With school out, I consider myself somewhat of a 'keeper' of the woods since no one really looks after it, not even the school. There are periodic signs of kids smoking and doing things they shouldn't there after hours late on odd nights, with what small benches and nature signposts there mostly vandalized over recent years.

It is also, overall, the same woods where we came across a suicide victim and his wife wailing last fall.

Even with our record 104 degree heat 2 days in a row, Mercy wanted to walk the second short loop Friday morning...I usually let her decide and she's cut it short up 'til then. And so we went. Within 15 yards or so I noticed something had been dragged along the wide trail...not like a log, but more like a large sack of potatoes. I thought it a bit odd, but went ahead. 40 yards or so ahead was the amphitheater, and when Mercy got to it, she balked.

I've written before that animals "know" significantly more than we give them credit for...and that when things seem strange I watch Mercy intently. And for good reason. That pup "knows" stuff.
She hesitantly took left off the trail into the edge of the woods, and was very fidgety and somewhat nervous/skittish. I watched. I entered the woods with her. She finally froze, not knowing where to go, so I started to carefully look around.

Mind you, we're only 15-20 feet into the woods...and as I looked right, I got a glimpse of what looked like sheepskin draped over part of a log. We retraced our steps back to the trail and circled the white patch...and found lying there, dead, an adult female Great Pyrenees. No collar, no blood or cuts...just dead for probably 24 hours or so.

Being an animal lover, I quickly became distraught. In the world of strays and dogs that wander, a (small) 120 pound female Great Pyrenees simply isn't on that list, ever. And so I thought some family was missing their dear pet...maybe it had
met harm with these amorphous night-ghost kids that go there...I was a mess in very short order.

I called the police, as my first instinct was the dog was killed (drag marks)...they cut me over to 311 and animal control, and I began one of THE most futile wastes of time trying to tell them the situation. They wanted an address. I tell them I'm on a cell phone in the woods, but that it was a public school, McKee Elementary on McKee Road. They needed an address. I tell them surely they have a database that can pull up such public locations. They needed an address. They wanted to know if the dog was on the street. I said no, it's a good 1/4 mile off the road behind the school in woods. They wanted me to drag the dog to the street. I think I said something I shouldn't have. They then went on this long discussion of whether it was in Charlotte limits or in Mecklenburg County, given McKee goes through both. I said I had no idea...if they would look the school up they would know. They said they will not do anything more until I call them back with complete geographic details. I'm pretty sure I just hung up on them at that point.

I gathered Mercy and headed home. I got a phone book and began calling the local vets as well as a sizable 24/7 emergency vet clinic very close by. I called Matthews Animal Control, and I attempted to call the Humane Society later, but that's a whole 'nuther story. I check the papers and the "Lost & Found" sections going back a few days. Nothing. Not one mention of anyone missing a very unusual and large animal...not even to this moment that I'm writing, which would be Day 4 of the dog's disappearance.

The rest of Friday was a waste for me. Saturday, with some renewed strength, I went back to the scene. Having been a science teacher for 9 years, I learned to observe details wherever I go. I was a bit emotional Friday, but I felt more objective Saturday morning. I found the very spot where the dragging started. the leaves, mostly from a Muscadine type vine on the ground, had a whitish residue on several of the leaves. No blood. No signs of struggle. Just a few flattened leaves, and that residue. I followed the drag marks, and 'they' were taking it not deeper into the woods, but on toward the far end of the trail that opened up into large fields by the west end of the school. For whatever reason, they stopped, drug it back into the woods 15 feet and laid it against a log.

I'm sad to say there is no more to the story. I still think the dog was killed, via an injection...and the residue being whitish makes me think of salt which makes me think of sodium pentobarbital. However, that is a highly controlled
substance used for animal euthanasia, so logic escapes that part. It was dragged, and then given up on, more than likely because it must have been quite a chore dragging a 120-pound bag of potatoes. 'They' put it in the woods to make it look natural. Failed miserably.

I think back to several months afternoon where I was getting ready to enter the east end of the woods and I saw an elderly man walking west to the second loop part...walking a Great Pyrenees. In the past year I may have encountered 5 people there, so it was a one-time sighting. Never saw him again.

The dog, the breed, the suspect evidence, and the fact that NO one has reported one missing makes me want to find that gentleman and ask him a few questions. Just as easily could be a fluke.
The way things stand now, I don't expect to ever know what really happened.

I'll be calling the school after 9am Monday so they can more appropriately deal with the situation. I just hope they know their street address and city/county jurisdiction...

Great Pyrenees are not small.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Fried Fridays: The 'Shot' Heard 'Round The World"


As far as I know that is the most powerful, all-encompassing number in the sport of baseball. As a kid I grew up in Georgia when Hank Aaron was topping out his incredible playing career with the Braves. The elite upper echelon of home-run kings: Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron...and now Barry Bonds.

Needless to say, the shroud of steroid controversy over Bond's aura is worthy of serious consideration, and that 'jury' is a long time out from any verdict. But he did just break the ultimate sport record for total home runs, regardless of the yet undetermined ruminations.

So, is THIS my 'Fried Friday' soapbox? Are you kidding? Doping and cheating are so %*$# prevalent in many sports these days that that's TOO easy of a shot over the bow, eh?

No, the bee in my bonnet lies with the hapless soul who came up with that ball in his possession. Meet Matt Murphy, college student from Queens, NY.

Let's get the story straight. College kid with friend, en route to Australia for some summer traveling, laying over in San Francisco for one night, paying $55 for a cab ride to go to the Giants game for the heck of it and getting last-minute tickets at the gate, purchasing crab sandwiches only moments before returning to their seats for the landing of "THE" ball...and now, thanks to our Society, instant Hero and Celebrity status.

Is that the "Fried Friday" soapbox? Heavens no, again. Neat story all around the board, though.

My beef is with the modus operandi of the IRS.
I know we all need to pay taxes and pay our fair share...but the inheritance and gift tax structure has gone waaaaay overboard in scope and intent. Money-grubbing greed is one of America's best illustrious track records, and when it comes to winnings and 'unusual' situations for individuals, the IRS is guaranteed to be there showing their...well, their south-bound end of a north-bound horse.

Matt happens to be there and catches said ball. How cool is that. Speculators say that ball may fetch $500,000 or more, given it's uniqueness. IRS says Matt immediately owes them 35% of the ball's value, regardless of whether he sold it or not. Call it a $600K ball (knowing it would be FAR more if the steroids didn't 'cloud' the issue). IRS wants about $210,000 for it up front, now, no bargaining. Any income he earns will also be taxed in that highest of brackets as a result.

A college student at the right place and time, simply catching a ball, and our government demands immediate payment of a phantasmal sum. I can see paying taxes once it sells, but this current government push is, well...Macbeth would say something is rather putrid in Denmark. God forbid the poor soul retains an attorney to protect his interests (oxymoron of the first degree). He's financially screwed no matter which direction he now turns; it's the angle that few of us think about because it takes away from the joy of the story.

Latest is he might not sell at all. IRS is demanding its money, regardless. Could be doping proves true in Bond's case, and the ball will be further de-valued, giving Murphy a capital loss to deal with. Back up the bus to Mark MacGuire's phenomenal one-season home-run tear years ago, where a fan caught the "big" ball and ended up giving it back to MacGuire...and the IRS STILL fought to get tax money from the fan who but for a moment held a very valuable ball. It is greedy stupidity at it's ugliest; in the MacGuire case, Congress stood up and put a stop to the that particular push of IRS insanity.

It shouldn't take such a drastic measure. Ever. That's my 'Fried Fridays' nod...


Speaking of "Fried"...been a week of oppressive heat here in North Carolina as well as other things I'm not supposed to write about...and we ain't done yet. Long-range models put a hurricane heading toward the east coast of Florida in two weeks....while not written in blood, the Atlantic bears watching carefully. Of course, all basins bear watching anyway as statistical tropical storm activity starts significantly increasing the last half of August. Given the serious drought conditions for many in the Southeast, the significant rains tropical systems can provide will help in that recovery process.

(all photos from the AP wires)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Some Like It Hot..."

(NOTE: I have 2 blog posts today...the weekly "Travelogue" follows this 'hot' off the press entry...)

I love that classic movie by name, but other than that I'm not a fan of the heat, especially our record-shattering numbers from yesterday, Wednesday. As I write this the National Weather Service has not put out their 'usual' list of highs with heat index maxima, so I can only pull together a sampling of the actual high numbers 100 degrees and above (R denotes official record):

North Carolina





Raleigh....................102 R

Charlotte.................102 R



Greensboro............100 R




South Carolina

Florence...................106 R
Columbia..................105 R

Green.-Spart............104 R

Below is a heat index chart that factors in humidity with the temperature. Click to enlarge for a better view.