Friday, June 29, 2007

Been a loooong weather week....

exclusively on

It's been a wild and woolly week in the weather world here in North Carolina, and it has put to the test once again the ability to be live all 6 hits each hour, or even step up to the uninterrupted "wall-to-wall" situation where the on-air meteorologist is live non-stop whe
n certain storm parameters and positioning are met...which can go on uninterrupted for over an hour! (That's a LOT of talking!) Rare is the time there is a second person there to help pull data or manually operate the radars, so it becomes a serious and grueling dog and pony show to beat all shows. It's what we do best, but it can also drain and tax our limited human resources.

I'll admit it...I feel guilty. It's been like a big party that I wasn't invited to. Being the early morning shifter, I'm in around 2-ish and handle morning affairs through 11am (or later, dep
ending on extra shifts)...the point being, the vast majority of these storms are diurnal in nature, driven by the sun's all Hades breaks lose late in the afternoon into the early nighttime hours...when we morning mets are trying to sleep. Basically, we miss all the action.

Later today and tonight will be yet another day of maelstroms, this round promising to end the week with a bang, not unlike next Wednesday night's July 4th fireworks (can you believe it's here already???). Because I had to work last Sunday, I'm off today, and leaping to the mountains for a little break, even with the expected storms...sometimes ya just g
otta get up and go, eh?! Trusting you know your geography and where NC is, I'm posting the severe storm reports (national) map in sequence from this week...with all the blue wind and green hail markers, mentally add in the scope and spread of storminess it took to create them. Hats off the evening-side News 14 weather warriors...!
(you can click pics below to enlarge)

June 24, 2007

June 25, 2007

June 26, 2007 (the 'quiet' day!)

June 27, 2007

June 28, 2007 (preliminary)

June 29, 2007 (anticipated)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Travelogue: North Divide Road, Slim Buttes, SD"

There are many neat areas around Slim saw an earlier travelogue entry of The Castles, for example. Today, welcome to what ended up being a dead-end "road", contrary to the map: North Divide Road. The sign below gives you an idea of the path ahead...

The gray skies added nicely to the desolateness of this area, and made for a pleasantly cool day. The road was a bit rough at first, but my good ol' wagon forged ahead...roads like these are a dime a dozen out there and are highly addictive...

At this point Slim Buttes runs north-south, and the road gradually climbs toward the west rim and roughly parallels it ('roughly' being the operative word!)...Myriad places to explore pop up at every turn, offering unique vistas from every angle...

Yet to the east, there is this wonderful, gently rolling terrain that you can take off in virtually any direction. Recent rains had the scenery looking nicely verdant, as well...

Ahhhh, one of the smoother stretches of road...had you seen some of the other sections, you would have questioned my sanity for driving my car on that road...especially when I realized I'd hit a dead end when the road disappeared down a rugged hill!

For all the showers around the region, they pretty much stayed away from the top of the Buttes. Nearby there is an antelope research station, so the map said...and sure as shootin' on my way back out at dusk, I got to witness rather closely a galloping herd of 20 or so running like the wind across the plateau....breath-taking...

One of the sad stories not too far from this region is the untold contamination of soils and groundwater supplies from nearby uranium exploration and mining...a great deal of government and corporate inaction seems to continue to this day, and some areas are off limits due to the spoilage...

Alas, Slim Buttes itself is a wonderful playground for endless exploration, and as was the case with many of my ventures...t'wasn't another vehicle or person in sight the whole day. You may be getting an inkling by now of why I found that region spoiling...

Video Postcard for Slim Buttes

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"The Great American Chestnut Comeback"

In walking in some nearby woods, I realized this little sapling (below) was one of the woodland ghosts, evidenced by it's tell-tale leaf design. It's fairly common to see young-ish American Chestnut trees here and there, though the overwhelming majority succumb to the fungus blight that was accidentally introduced in the U.S. in 1904...and soon enough the landscape was never to be the same as the once 200-million acres dominated by the tree disappeared.

One of the classic biological travesties...Castanea dentata used to be the literal king and queen of the forests, especially in Appalachia, where it once dominated one-fourth of the timber acreage, supposedly. Stately giants. Hearty long-lasting wood. White flowers that would make mountaintops look snow-capped due to the chestnut's density in some areas. An economic staple with no equal. Shortly after WW II, they were gone, for all practical purposes, save for such shrubby sprouts that continually arise from roots and stumps, only to fall prey to the blight in short order.

Ah, but for the glimmers of hope. For decades scientists have battled to understand the interaction of the biota, the cause and effect relationships therein, and have put forth yeoman's efforts in genetic experimentation to breed a healthier if not blight-resistant chestnut so that it's return to the North American Forest can begin in earnest. One of the leaders of the leaders is The American Chestnut Foundation based in Bennington, Vermont. Founded in 1983, the foundation's goal is to restore the American chestnut tree to its native range, which they are in the process of doing through their time-intensive and extensive scientific research and breeding programs.

One thing you may not be aware of is that over the years scientists have found living, burring, fully grown American Chestnuts that were not affected by the blight, in isolated pockets here there and yon. Could it be they are simply resistant to the blight? Were they living in a moisture-starved area the blight couldn't live in? Long story short, great progress is being made, and the first experimental plantings of healthy resistant chestnuts is already underway.

It's a great story. I have a couple of old, old wormy Chestnut boards (reclaimed) that one day I will make flutes out of...they have lots of worm holes to fill in, of course, but the Spirit of that wood would be worth the extra effort to make it play beautiful music.

Before long, the Great American Chestnuts will be making their own music as their classic massive branches reach for the sky...and in time, maybe we'll get back to roasting the real McCoy on an open fire. AHO!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Whadda YOU Lookin' At???!!!"

Good 3-letter word for Scrabble, Emu. So are geologic terms like erg and reg, but I digress.

Here in North Carolina we are stuck in yet another repetittive weather pattern, with days upon days of muggy, hot air that fire up afternoon thunderstorms, many of which get attitudes and become sev
ere, wreaking havoc into the nighttime itself it's not a problem, but it is seriously curtailing my outdoor flute work, and forcing our late-day weather shifters to wear themselves to the bone with live coverage of the severe cells.

I should also add that my odd sleeping hours have been rather disrupted by the celestial rumblings, as well, and one overnight threat for severe had me go into work at 1am. All in a day's work, but a solid period of sleep has been a tad difficult to come by of late.

I do have a pic set of one of my block projects...the finished shots with the flute will have to wait as I'm held up in the finishing
department because of the weather...I decided to take the time to take pieces of wood and using their natural shape to make a unique flute block. It's like a mini-sculpture in itself, and arguably takes way too much time to complete. But in the same breath I can say it's also satisfying to do it. I cut roughly a third of the manzanita burl off and have made an even neater block of a whale coming out of the water breaching...those pics coming soon...

(per usual, click on pics to enlarge)

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Do You Like Severe Weather?"

The above pre-dawn radar grab is a "storm total" rainfall throughout the greater Triad. While generated purely on estimating algorithms within the Doppler radar, it gives a fair representation of the widespread rainfall the region received Sunday through midnight. Especially heavy were the rains up in the NW mountains along the TN border with Ashe and Watuga Counties.
(click pic to enlarge)

What I don't have images to show you were the overnight storms in the southern Piedmont around the Charlotte region, where massive slow-moving thunderstorm conglomerations produced several warnings, reports of large hail, but most impressively cells which had 4,500 to 5,000 lightning strikes per hour...a light show to beat all light shows.

Needless to say, the radars and our forecasting bodies here at News 14 have been worked a great deal lately. The development and behavior of severe storm cells is oftentimes fascninating, watching outflow boundaries spawn new storms that blow up in 15 minutes, cells converging, cells diverging, cells rotating...there is a mysterious beauty and sacred reverence in watching if not experiencing classic storms...yet we all know they can cause a great deal of damage.

I'm going to give you a really neat link that will take a lot time to play around with...that is, if you like tornados and clicking buttons. The website is a super-data base housing archived tornado data from all over the U.S., and is chock full of data...combined with GoogleEarth 4 (which you can download for free), you can fly the path of the storm. Pretty neat views when you zoom in closer in an area (use scaling tool in the upper left to zoom). As you can see for yourself, there are myriad parameters you can select...have fun playing around with it:


Luckily, our overnight storms were not rotating here in North Carolina. Stay tuned this week as I will (hopefully) have some neat "art" to show you of my recent won't be tomorrow, but later on this week.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Forgot to check the light...

Mentally, that is. As the old Jackson Browne song says, "Runnin' on Empty"...

Sorry there is no blog least not for a while. Happy first full day of summer, though!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Travelogue: Railroad Buttes, South Dakota"

Welcome to Railroad Buttes in the middle of nowhere east of Rapid City, South Dakota...out in the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands... Many years ago there were old railroad beds that ran nearby, hence the naming of these marked buttes; because they are part of a National Grasslands, there is full public access.
The Buttes are known for many things, including agate/geode caches, as well as myriad ATV and off-road motocross trails...
Thankfully I had the place to myself and my (then) two was humorous as the two dogs ran far out in front of me, they made a large circle and eventually bypassed me to head back to the car, which I'd learned to leave the tailgate in the up position with a water bowl...for this very reason that they forever knew where their 'security' was...
So I made the hike up onto the Buttes 'sans chiens' and marveled at the endless views amidst the 40 mph wind gusts (tame by some comparisons there)...
I knew of the interesting geologic finds there, but I went just for the solitude and peaceful time, in an area that's equidistant between the Black Hills to the west and the Badlands to the east.
While the area is frequented with motorcycles and ATV's galore, I was pleasantly surprised to have none cross my path as I hiked up and around Railroad Buttes on that windy spring day...
Anytime I was anyplace in that region, I tried to picture what it would have been like there hundreds of years ago...the tribes, the scenes, the views, the animals...there is a rawness there...
Directions were pretty easy...just go west of the Rapid City airport to some bend in the can see the Buttes off to the south...easily gotten to on a public gravel road, dusty as it was....
Click HERE to go to the link for my video postcard on Railroad Buttes that I recorded with a mid-G drone, making it sound like a wailing train whistle at the start...
This is one of those classic places off the beaten path where tourists try to hit the regional highlights and don't bother to research the secondary sights that are equally a way it's their loss....and in a way I'm glad they bypass it...
Railroad Buttes. Forget the ATV and motorcycle. Go on foot and relish the raw beauty and nature of western South Dakota...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Making somethin' from nothin'..."

In this day and age of computers and videos, of ipods and cell phones, of technology designed to make us live our lives more quickly so we can cram more into it...we have created a troubling trend especially within our youth of what I call "artistic abandonment." Whether in schools or personal lives, the engaging of the human mind in things spatial, haptic, and artistic is falling by the wayside at an alarming rate.

Clearly there will always be those budding artists of all ages in all genres; but I think we all agree that the average child growing up these days is exposed to less and less creative activities that force them to use limited resources with unlimited ingenuity to create some cool stuff. Oh yeah, and throw in a modicum of patience and 'drive'....that certainly helps the task keep on tasking!

In a tangential way I thought I'd show you the kinda-sorta fruits of my labor from this past weekend, where I purposefully tried to create something a bit more complicated from simple pieces of scrap wood. I have several new flute bodies that are rather unusual in wood and sound/key, and they need something a little special in the block department. Since I make my blocks last, I make each one to 'fit' the feeling, Spirit I get from a particular flute. Sometimes that changes, or takes a long time to work out, and sometimes it's immediate.

Currently, I'm the middle of several projects that are questionably time-consuming, yet I feel led to progress along at a much slower and more deliberate pace...this has not always been my style, but sometimes you have to listen to the ol' Gut and go with the flow. The heat and 'iffy' weather of late has helped break my rhythm, as well...but I do have a couple of results to share with you.

First below are the scraps of wood I chose to work with: Walnut for a rattlesnake design, and a combination of Ebony for a Black Widow body and Ironwood for it's little hiding place in the wood. I had the idea of a Black Widow for a particular flute, but knew I couldn't carve or deal with the legs which would break 100 times over. Oh well, figured if I didn't like it when I was done I could start all over, eh?

I usually do have some sort of a mental picture of what I want to make, though I generally work in a very free-form mindset, allowing me to change directions instantly if I need to. A few projects were locked-in from start to finish...guess I've learned even in Life that it pays to be adaptable if and when you need to be, which is more often than not. All happens quite purposefully...

Ah, the Tao of my art...until something royally screws up and you go "oops!" Been there, done that too many times! And so is what I whipped up with the rattlesnake, which I attached to a little piece of Cherry with 2 small steel rods. The Cherry block just looked like it 'fit' better when I roughed it up with my wood burning knife...

And here was the far trickier creation of a bulbous Black Widow body in a wooden 'cradle...had hoped the red coral would have been redder, but it's more dark pink...and YES, I'm aware the hourglass would be on it's underbelly...just go with the effect, here, please! And for the 8 eyes on it's head, tiny drops of the thickest super-glue did the trick...

Just two little blocks from hours of time...and yet it's all worth it to me. I suppose you want to see the flutes they go with, but you'll have to wait a few more days that. Just wanted you to see a peak of how I approach my work. Below is the most recent flute finished off, a 'hunting bear' flute made of Black Limba (Africa). Fantastic tonal wood, which Walnut accents nicely...and the bear has a heartline inlay of turquoise, as well. Great playing bugger in A-flat (G-sharp)...

And so it is we point toward Thursday and my weekly Travelogue. I'll try not to repeat myself like I did last week! I'm thinkin' something from the Badlands, maybe even the wildlife there...stay tuned and find out!

Carpe the "Hump" diem, y'all!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Something fishy was going on..."

I had stopped on a footbridge in a nearby nature park this past weekend...after an afternoon shower, a lot of people had left, but with my raincoat handy I just waited it out. One minor problem was I usually put my wallet in my left chest pocket...only I forgot to zip it up. Okay, it was quickly a major problem...

Had I not leaned over to look at a shadowy area below, it might never have happened...but in that mental slow-motion split second that played for an eternity, I watched my wallet cartwheel to the watery world below.

As it got within inches of the surface, a rather large grass carp jumped up to grab it...but to my surprise, instead of holding on to it and taking it below, it was like he batted it to the left, where the water's surface soon roiled with other grass carp that seemed to be playing some sort of Osteichthyian foosball
game with it, using their heads to bat my poor wallet around...

What, you haven't heard of carp to carp walleting before?

All creatures great and small have their niche in the natural world...but sometimes things go terribly wrong, and often man has his finger in the pot. Kudzu was at first a nice ornamental plant brought over from Japan in 1876 for the big Centennial Expo in took 'root' and by The Great Depression it was urged to be used as an erosion control plant. Of course, Southerners are keenly aware how kudzu has now consumed untold millions of acres 'swallowing' everything in its path...

And so the Asian Carp was brought in to some Mississippi and Arkansas ponds to help with filtration needs, at which that species also excels at breeding rapidly and is aggressive in its eating habits. When the Mississippi River flooded in 1993, many of these filtration ponds were breached, the Asian Carp got in the river, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I had accidentally happened upon these video links and had heretofore been unaware of the unusual water hazards these often airborne fish produce...thought you'd like to see something odd, if not new to you...

DesMoines Register video...

Brazil? Last part is WILD...

As the old joke goes, "What's the best way to catch a fish?" Have somebody throw it to you. Or drive your boat through a school of Asian Carp. Or do what these people do in the following hillarious ads...

Commercial #1

Commercial #2

glub, glub, glub, y'all!

Monday, June 18, 2007

"Happy Flippin' 50th Birthday!"

Happy birthday, Pluto Platter! At least that was the flying disc's name when Walter Morrison sold his invention to Wham-O late in January 1957. Later, in 1958, it became known as a Frisbee after the Frisbie Pie Company went out of business (1871-1958).

The story goes that Yale students used the leftover Frisbie Pie plates to toss around campus, and would yell "Frisbie!" to alert the catcher of the incoming disc. Some say it was the lids to the sugar cookie tins they made that were the favored flipper...suffice it to say Walter's ingenuity and hard work paid off handsomely.

Not that Mr. Morrison's creative talents came out of the blue...his father developed and patented the sealed beam headlights on cars. The apple didn't fall too far from the tree, eh?

And so we celebrate half a century of an American toy icon that has flown around the world hundreds of millions of times. Definitely lab approved. And Border Collie approved. And Australian Cattle Dog approved.

Personally, I was never much of a Frisbee thrower...and of all my incredible pups I've had through the years, not a one was even much of a fetcher...unless they fetched their Cool Whip food bowls. Now, if there were a national competition for speed-destruction of squeaky toys, I'd have a stable of front-runners...


Monday's aren't the easiest of re-entries for me...sort of like kicking and screaming for the weekend not to end, refusing to organize my wares for the work day and week ahead with 3 double-shift days this week...and blog ideas don't necessarily come too quickly after taking a couple of days off. Maybe I'll start "MishMash Mondays" on the blog and let it be a lumping of interesting but unrelated topics I've kept in my craw. Hmmm....

I will leave you with the video link below...this gentleman actually appeared on one of the Sunday morning network news shows...just a great little story of a regular guy with anything but a regular talent, who went on to win "Britain's Got Talent" recently. Even if you don't care for this type of music, you will relate to his triumphant entrance through a newly opened door. This link is from early on in the competition, and is full of everything that is good and innocent as he takes the stage to sing for his supper..and now the Queen...

Congratulations, Paul Potts!

Friday, June 15, 2007

"That was music to MY ears..."

Memories. You can't help but flavor them over the years as you recollect, in this case, how a particular "Journey" of yours may have started many moons ago. I come from a very musical family - rather, half a musical family. The two males just didn't venture down those roads (though my brother would have made an excellent percussionist, I think!). But the estrogen side of my genetic allegiance rode (and still rides) a rather awe-inspiring if not humbling wave of talent, both on the piano and through singing. As I entered kindergarten and started my elementary school years in Columbus, GA, I would always here lots of scales and classical music being played at home...and it was only a matter of time before I started taking piano lessons for a few brief years. It became evident that my musical Journey was not going to be down the classical let me pause a moment and rewind to what I remember as "the" moment in time...

I love music. I love harmonies. I especially love the upbeat jazz and boogie woogie, taught myself to play and write it, fell in love with the Big Band era, and now play and record my own music through my Native American style flutes I make myself...and so in making presentations or talking with others, I peer back through memory's mist and look to see where my headwaters were, headwaters of what is a full-flowing, musically rich river for me today...


Don't know what the year was, though it had to have been no earlier than 1964 or 1965...but I will always remember "the" album (shown above). That album and the music became indelible, like a Sharpie on the ol' cerebral cortex. The song "What'd I Say" was the kingpin that seemed to have pushed my musical buttons for good, and it's as much my 'beginning' as I can come up with. Thanks mom, dad, whoever got that album into the house. Took a loooooong time to find an image of this album on-line this morning, too...not one of the more polished studio albums, apparently...just don't tell that to a little boy who didn't (and doesn't) care.

"What'd I Say" (video)
(FYI, a little trivia...the organ player backing Ray is none other than Billy Preston, who went on to make his own mark in the musical world...)

So I didn't end up going down a conventional path with my music...nothing need ever be conventional to begin with, and as that great bumper sticker says:

Inspiration should be expected and cherished every moment of our Living...oftentimes the littlest, most insignificant thing or event or meeting or sight or person opens an internal door that lets out life-changing thoughts and actions. And so it is wise that each of us always keep that in mind daily as we interact with and touch the lives of others, that we may well be a Johnny Appleseed of wellsprings.

Enjoy your weekend!