Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Five Down, One To Go..."

Well, after today, technically...still one more month left in the Atlantic Hurricane Season, and Tropical Storm Noel is alive and well, doing what all tropical storms do well which is providing torrential rains.

In Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico (among other locations nearby), the terrain is rather mountainous; such heavy rains (15"-20" in some areas) can have disaster written all over 'em as they trigger mudslides and rapid flooding. Tie that with the widespread poverty and poor housing and road qualities and you have a humanitarian crisis.

The water vapor imagery above shows Noel over Cuba and now making its turn to the north, basically, right at Nassau, Bahamas. Miami may get nicked with a few showers, belted clouds and windy conditions, but that will be it. For us here in the Carolinas, nada, zip, zilch.

The forecast track shows what happens when a tropical system runs headlong into a strong cold front (coming through the Carolinas Thursday)...hit a wall, turn right, and zip-tang into the north Atlantic. Interesting to note that the modeling has Noel maintaining tropical storm strength all the way to Newfoundland, where it should make for one nasty weekend for them.

The sharply defined western edge is clearly visible on this variation of water vapor imagery, with the center of circulation where you see the small white dot in the darker blue, to the left side of the cloud deck.

So far this year, we've had 16 tropical depressions, of which 14 have become named storms. Of those 14, only 4 have become hurricanes: Two reached Cat 5 status, and the other two reached only Cat 1 status.


Of course, 'tis Halloween today...and perfectly timed is a photo from my brother of their dynamic duo's first Halloween: Ellen (left) and William (right). I think the picture will speak volumes by itself.

Here's a few Halloween jokes I'll teach em' when they hit their stride in cognitive developement:

Q1. What is a ghost's favorite fruit?
Q2. What is a ghost's favorite Italian dish?
Q3. What does a ghost call his or her parents?

A1. Booberries
A2. Spookghetti
A3. Mummy and Deady.

Did you hear about the skeleton that went into a bar?
He ordered a Manhattan and a mop.

Happy Halloween Hump Day, Y'all!

Monday, October 29, 2007

"We Interrupt This Blog..."

After working Sunday, I'm off today and also Tuesday...may post a blog tomorrow...maybe today...but the above sign says it all...!

Friday, October 26, 2007

"Fried Fridays: Milking It For All It's Worth"

Whereas these "Fried Friday" posts usually involve my selection of a shamefully ridiculous 'story of the week', this one is pretty humorous. Kudos go to those affected by the story that follows...

If you make airline reservations frequently, or deal with meteorologic data on a regular basis, you become familiar with airport "identifiers".

Some make sense:




And some make no sense, at first glance:

...New Orleans (Moisant Stock Yards)

...Knoxville (Tyson Field)

...Louisville (Standiford Field)

And some, well...some just 'are':

....Sioux City, Iowa.

Yep, city leaders in good ol' Sioux City decided to quit petitioning the FAA to change the identifier for Sioux Gateway Airport; instead, they've chosen to give it a big ol' bear hug and turn it into a marketing and merchandising extravaganza.

That's right, be the first person on your block to buy a ball cap or T-shirt emblazoned with the words


And if you think I'm making all of this up, go check out their website which is, of course...

Yes, hand it to the stalwart Iowans to make light of a burdensome moniker. Oh, it gets better. You see, the city petitioned the FAA on two occasions, once in 1988...and again in 2002,when then Mayor Craig Berenstein described SUX as an embarrassment to the city.

The FAA then offered 5 options, one of which was...again, I did not make this up...GAY. Even though GAY is taken from "Gateway" in the airport's name, it simply added kerosene to the fire at hand.

Myself, I'm rather fond of shorts and T-shirts, which I wear 80% of the year...and I found a T-shirt at that tickled me more than the ones above:

Never been to Sioux City...but I think I now know what to expect...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Travelogue: Blue Ridge Parkway, October 21, 2007"

(click on pics to enlarge)

Welcome to a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, roughly between ~MP (milepost) 370 (Craggy Gardens picnic area) to ~MP 345 (Highway 80), both north of Asheville, NC. Sunday, October 21, was a sunny and warm day, with nary a cloud in the sky...

...with 2-legged crowds out the wazoo!, As I always try to do, I kept those humanoids hidden from my photographs!

Most of this stretch is in the Black Mountains of the Blue Ridge, home to Craggy Gardens and Mt. Mitchell, the latter of which is the highest elevation east of the Rocky Mountains. The above pic is from the southeast flank of Mt. Mitchell...

Oh, the color gods are decrying a dull leaf change this year...please don't waste your time telling me that...the highest elevations were past peak (Craggy Garden peak below) , but the 4500-foot levels were stunning (above)...

The Black Mountain range was so named because of the density of spruce and related evergreens, which give the highest peaks a very dark appearance...of course, between acid rain and the Woolly Aphid infestations, many of the evergreen forests are under attack and dying at a rapid rate...

Still, the beauty remains, especially where the dark greens mix in with the other rich fall foliages...

The sun was bright and warm, and the shadows rather pronounced and harsh...with the sun at my back, the photos came easily...

But with the sun at my side, was almost a no-win situation resolving the significant difference in exposure values for the hazed hills versus the colored foreground...

One of my favorite stomping grounds is Linville Gorge, pictured in the horizon below, taken from the south flank of Mt. Mitchell. The two pointed 'peaks' are Hawksbill Mountain (left) and Table Rock (right), both on the east rim of Linville Gorge proper...

Aw, enough jawin', already...just enjoy the pics, and be prepared to answer the following trivia question at the end: Mt. Mitchell was named after Dr. Elisha Mitchell who died one night bushwhacking down the north side of the mountain on June 27, what was the name of the peak before it was named after him?

(the above three shots were from the south flanks of Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains)

The answer to the trivia question? Black Dome.

Ya learn somethin' new every day, eh? Enjoy the Moment of Now!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California Fires: Some Neat Imagery

It's almost no use writing out the numbers of actual fires, sizes, %-contained, # evacuated (already half a million!)...the Santa Ana winds are cranking like the often do, creating fires as they often do, under their own drought-like conditions. It's happened for millenia. Here is a quote from an AP wire story early this morning:

"...Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said the flames were threatening 68,000 more homes.

"We have had an unfortunate situation that we've had three things come together: very dry areas, very hot weather and then a lot of wind," Schwarzenegger said. "And so this makes the perfect storm for a fire."..."

You left out the fourth thing that makes it all the worse, Governator: Way too many people who have been allowed to build and develop in areas that are extremely fire prone, naturally. This type of disaster will happen again and again, and while the personal tragedies are monumental, please don't cry me a river. Money-hungry and land-grubbing interests have pushed developments far into natural areas that arguably shouldn't be densely populated, if at all. In a related way, rampant development there goes into canyon country, then someone gets mauled by a mountain lion when they go for a run or a hike...and all we hear about is the blood-thirsty lion being hunted down and what a tragedy it is for the family. We are very good at getting it all "bass ackwards"...

Bringing it home, remember earlier this year the major brouhaha with Kannapolis and Concord petitioning the state so they could draw millions of gallons of water daily from the Catawba River for their water supply, even though they are not part of that drainage basin? Can you even IMAGINE the scope of our current disaster if that already were in operation? Trying to talk about population and growth limitations brings out the worst in selfish people and corporations that are primarily profit-driven (as well as tax-driven). A change of attitude is needed on a large scale, friends...otherwise we are doomed to fulfill the very definition of......

INSANITY: when you do the same thing
repeatedly and still expect a different result

With that said, I'll get down off my soapbox and share with you incredible images I found from various websites. They enlarge nicely when you click on them. I think they're pretty self-explanatory...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Winter Outlook

(remember: click on graphics/photos to enlarge)

While I posted other links to this effect a couple of weeks ago, NOAA put out these official graphics at the end of last week and bear repeating to give us some serious things to ponder. Keep in mind that just because a map says 'warm and dry' this winter does NOT mean there won't be any rain or cold weather...just that when all is averaged out, that is forecast to be the net effect. First up is the temperature outlook for the core of the cold months this winter:

In and of itself, you could argue that warmer temperatures around the Gulf of Mexico region would mean more moisture transport inland which, when combined with colder continental air inland during the winter months might make for better rainfall chances in the Southeast. However, our nemesis has been an omnipresent sub-tropical Bermuda High that continues to spread its influence far to the west into the Southeast U.S., which blocks a lot of incoming systems. Note the this winter's precipitation outlook below:

When I see that type of "dry" delineation in the Southeast, that tells me we will be under the influence of blocking highs more often than not, as storm systems coming in from the west and northwest will be buffeted by the drier clockwise flow around the high off the Atlantic coast, sending the rains into the upper Midwest, up and over the Southeast. Not a good sign given our critically low (and lowering) water supplies.

Speaking of which, in my Sunday wanderings in western North Carolina, I returned from the Blue Ridge Parkway via Highway 80, the gorgeous Buck Creek Gap road. Along the highway, closer to P.G. (Pleasant Garden @ Highway 70) there is a stunning mountain lake, privately and tightly controlled, called Lake Tahoma. Fantastic fishing, deep cold water, and no jet skis or motorboat wakes allowed...paradise, it is...unaffordable paradise for the majority of humankind.

As I quickly stopped and got a couple of photographs for the blog (their local 'sheriff' will quickly check up on your credentials and shoo you away), I noticed Lake Tahoma is at 'full pond'...a rare thing these days in the Southeast. The famous Buck Creek leading into the lake was still and hardly how is it possible?

It's a deep spring-fed lake, through and through, with springs going strong, apparently. Go swimming in that lake and you'll feel it! When my family used to live in Marion many moons ago, we had a friend with a house there...and I spent many a delighted hour fishing for handsome-sized crappie, bluegill, and bass from their dock. Just a great all-around lake retreat.

Well, that lake is in the distinct minority...we are in for a serious public relations policy haul as we quickly come to terms with what could be devastating water emergencies in the months ahead. The above map is sombre, to say the least, for much of North Carolina forecast to be in the "Persist" drought region.


Just a little teaser photo for Thursday's upcoming blog from parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway...this pastoral scene is in a valley in northeast Buncombe County, close to 3,000 feet elevation. Colors were only just beginning there...presently 'on fire' up around 4,500 feet, as you'll soon see...stay tuned!

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Just A Bend In The Road...Literally..."

A friend in Asheville sent an email Saturday with a couple of snapshots and said "finally, there is some nice color up here - you should see it!" After a Saturday of pulling up 2 rooms of what was arguably some of the nastiest carpet in the civilized world, I had no trouble signing off on Sunday to head west and hit some of my favored back roads to see for myself. Needed the fresh air. Needed the connection to Nature. Needed a break from the "concrete jungle".

With the deep blue sky and strong specular sunlight, the colors were bold and the shadows very deep, which wreaks a little havoc with photography as it is impossible to hold all highlights with all shadow details...the above is from a gravel Forest Service road I like to take from the Big Ivy community up the northwest flank of Craggy Gardens to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sleepy gravel road that beckons you to stay a while. When I got to my favorite bend, I did just that. I stopped.

Not much water was tumbling down the little creek, and the once crystalline pool was now filled with floating, twirling colors of fall. (Remember, with virtually all of my blog posts, click on any picture to enlarge for a better look) There's something about creeks, rocks, and fall leaves that I find very comforting...and even more so when you take the time to 'be' with just sit and look, turning off the 'thinking' mind and just letting the beauty and peacefulness envelope you.

I could tell from the leaves that had fallen that talk of a 'subdued' fall color change certainly had its exceptions...and wait 'til you see Thursday's Travelogue post this week - wanna see some mountain color? Hold on to your horses as I'll have a difficult time boiling my pictures down to the handful I'll post from the Black Mountain Range between Craggy Gardens and Mount Mitchell.

The deep blue sky and golden maple colors overhead made for enhanced water reflection in between the floating leaves...and as I moved in closer to select a more detailed shot, I was reminded of a simple physics lesson when it comes to photographing such a scene. The above picture appears natural as you would have seen it...but not really. The human eye is the most amazing camera of all, and can instantly refocus and combine visual changes in light and distance to where you often aren't aware it's doing all of that. The following 2 pictures reveal something to you you might not normally be aware of...

I found a nice little section where the orange-red Sugar Maple was reflecting amongst the shaded leaves. Your reaction is that the camera focuses on what's toward the center of the screen, letting the leaves and water be in focus. The big surprise is that the focal distance to the reflected Maple is not the water but the distance from the reflection to the tree itself added in. You can clearly see a focused Maple (such that the slowly rippling water would allow), with the floating leaves far from the zone of focus...

...and now the same shot focused on the floating leaves, the reflected tree now blurred. The second shot looks especially neat enlarged...where the water cohesion curvature glues the leaves to the water, some of those edges reflected the blue sky and made for a pseudo-postarized glow around some of the edges. If I had had a tripod, I could have mounted the camera and shot the scene at and aperture of f/22 or even f/32 to try and get both leaves and reflection in focus together; however, the time of the exposure would have been slow enough to allow for movement of both leaves and water ripples as to have rendered the scene potentially muddy and unfocused. Just a little photo tidbit, FYI.

And what creekside stop would not be complete without the mighty Mercy along, jumping in perfectly into the very place I wanted to photograph! Always good to remember you don't have to go far and you don't have to do much to find Peaceful Medicine. May you find a little corner of it yourself, today...

Friday, October 19, 2007

"Fried Fridays: They're Wedding Vows, Alright..."

"Do you, Elana and David Glatt, take thee Posy Floral Design Studio to be your...."

Ya know, there has to be drawn that proverbial line in the sand when fully-brained 2-leggeds go off the deep-end as a result of self-righteous pride and indignation.

Granted, wedding days are big events...lots of intricate planning and coordination...oftentimes replete with short tempers and joy and tears mixed with hysteria and calm smiling...nothing short of the whole gamut of emotions. Can't say I've ever seen a single one that went like clockwork all around the board. You roll with the punches. The show must go on. In the greater scope of day to day living, this, too, shall pass.

Seems as though Stamos Arakas, owner of the above named florist shoppe, now has his hands full of legal troubles thanks to a lawsuit pressed by the newlywed Glatts. Oh he provided the flowers and centerpieces alright, in place and on time...only the newlyweds decry the colors were NOT the colors they ordered...Arakas counters otherwise with photographs (which I can't find to show here...probably part of legal documents, anyway.)

Such a horrid quandry at a posh restuarant on 42nd Street in the Big Apple...
The couple claimed, literally, that the alleged faux pas caused them "extreme disappointment, distress and embarrassment." They went on to add in their legal papers that "the result 'had a significant impact on the look of the room and was entirely inconsistent with the vision the plaintiffs had bargained and paid for,' " and accused the florist of fraud, a breach of contract and woefully negligent misrepresentation.

The couple claimed they asked for deep, dark shades of fuchsia, rust, and green...and that Posey Florists instead provided pastel pinks that were almost whitish, totally wrecking the ambiance of the couple's special celebratory digs. I'd love to see the original bill of sale and the photographs...seems cut and dried to me, even if they were 'live' arrangements.

You might like to know Elana filed her own lawsuit - she's a lawyer practicing under the name Elana Elbogen - and filed on behalf of herself, her husband, and her mother-in-law who paid for the flowers, Tobi Glatt.

She originally sent emails to the florist asking for $4,ooo in reimbursement, to which the florist ignored as he thought it was either fake or extortionist measures. Little did he know the hellish hound he would unleash...
The resulting asked-for pricetag?...the mental duress, valued in the lawsuit, stands at...


Puh-leez, Elana. Righting a wrong is one thing...but this takes the (wedding) cake. We are such a stupidly litigious society it's no wonder we are often the laughing stock of the saner world community. Your high-horse should be leveled. This almost ranks up there with the Washington lawyer who sued a cleaners for millions over 1 stinkin' pair of pants.

I'm thinkin' there needs to be a special place we can send such vitriolic legal maniacs with a complimentary one-way ticket. And we won't let the door hit 'em on the way out, either...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Travelogue: Doughton State Park, Blue Ridge Parkway"

Ashe and Alleghany Counties in NC just look different from NC mountain counties farther south. Welcome to today's Travelogue which simply features some snapshots from the Blue Ridge Parkway through those areas.

Though it was mid-October on the calendar, the color was delayed due to the drought mostly, and warm temperatures secondly...

...the sunny and relatively clear skies still yielded beautiful vistas, if not a touch on the hazy side...

Most elevations ran in the 3,000 to 4,000 foot range through this area, which included Doughton State Park in Alleghany County...

Just looking at some of the mapped trails that descended the mountain side made my knees tremble and say "NO THANKS!" to any possibility of a little side hike...

The other nice sidelight was that it was a Monday, when tourist traffic, and traffic in general, was significantly reduced on the popular roadway...

At the restaurant and gift store at Doughton State Park was this stately Sugar Maple below, which beckoned to be walked around and photographed...'s always worthwhile simply to get in close and revel in the colored shadows cast by the sun shining through the golden boughs...

In general, the color simply wasn't there, overall, save the above maple...but with million dollar views, who was caring? The lazy drive alone was worth it...

"I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes."
~ e.e. cummings

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"If Only We Had '20-20' Vision..."

My brother just sent this awesome picture of young William, now just over 3 months old. That innocent cherubic face that makes you grin right back at him...and it got me to wondering...

What will nephew William experience in 2020?

Cures for some cancers?
AIDS vaccines that work?

Will we still be talking about global warming, or will we as a world be more responsible and already lowering all pollution and emissions production for the sake of a cleaner environment, global warming notwithstanding?

Will we finally have alternative fuel cars available in mass numbers? Or will we still be totally controlled by fossil fuels because large auto corporations still refuse to lead the move away from oil dependence?

What will be the political make-up of the oil-rich Mid-East? Will U.S. troops still be there? How widespread will Islamic-based terrorist groups be by then, or not?

Will racial problems be any more resolved in the U.S.? Will we continue social and political efforts and programs that separate our nation economically instead of uniting it?

Will the U.S. finally take some of it's seemingly endless billions of dollars going overseas to other countries (in war or not) and keep it within the States to take care of properly funding much needed welfare work here at home?

Will teachers still have to spend their own money to buy students pencils and paper and other supplies that most schools no longer supply?

Will we have formed a viable and effective third political party in response to our current two party system growing toward polarization? Will individuals have the guts to vote for a candidate for her/his values and positions instead of checking one "X" for all same-party candidates?

Will Charlotte even be close to having appropriate levels of road and school construction to meet what continues to be unbridled development? Will they even consider bridling development to a more controlled and planned process?

And with the population boom, what if there is another severe drought in 2020 - will they control water usage much sooner? For that matter will they now go ahead with Concord-Kannapolis's plan to take millions of gallons of water a day from the Catawba River since they have no such water resource in their own geographic basin?

What will be the latest and greatest advancement in wireless communication devices?

Will someone somewhere have detonated a nuclear bomb?

Will our National Parks once again be properly maintained and staffed?

Will there be any indication the world community will respect each others' differences and move together in a unifying direction, respecting those differences?

Will we still care about Brad and Angelina? Will Britney Spears be reunited with her kids? Most importantly, will The Jerry Springer Show still be in syndication? Or, just MAYbe...will our society have grown up and said 'no' to all that schlock that serves no beneficial purpose whatsoever?

We can only imagine...

John Lennon

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one