Thursday, January 31, 2008

just a little somethin'...

"It's on the strength of observation
and reflection that one finds a way.
So we must dig and delve unceasingly."

- Claude Monet

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"There's a word for that..."

This past Saturday I learned something neat from a 14-year old fellow named Wil.

I had been discussing with him and his mom about 'life' stuff, and how important it is that we all do something of service for others, the environment, etc. We can all walk our own paths chock full of the highs and lows and sudden right turns and screeching left turns...but there is always the opportunity to do something for others, and therein lies the healing powers for ourselves as well as those around us.

"There is a Jewish word for that," said Wil. "Don't remember what it is, but there is a word that describes everything you just said."

I've been around almost half a century and have studied many spiritual texts from myriad sources, but nothing in my memory was jarred. I knew my morning producer John would know, so when I asked him yesterday morning about it he said, "yeah, Tikkun olam."

Tikkun olam.

"The spirit of
Tikkun olam involves protecting and restoring the resources of the earth, including human resources. We are responsible for the condition of our planet and we have a duty to nurture and preserve it."

It's a beautiful phrase with powerful meaning...and certainly not unique to Judaism. Native American spirituality involves the same principles of stewardship and reverence. It's a shame more of our government officials don't embody it, though.

In sifting through more sites and information, I found an interesting quote from Tikkun magazine...they have a two-fold vision of the interrelationship between social justice and religion. Their premise is that advocacy of economic and political rights must balance with spiritual needs to achieve any sense of social justice and improvement:

"We in the Tikkun Community use the word "spiritual" to include all those whose deepest values lead them to challenge the ethos of selfishness and materialism that has led people into a frantic search for money and power and away from a life that places love, kindness, generosity, peace, non-violence, social justice, awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation, thanksgiving, humility and joy at the center of our lives."

Amen to that. The old saying says money is the root of all evil, but I know money itself isn't inherently evil. The obsession, fixation, and greed factors that often can grow from chasing money and materialism are the poisonous sprouts, however, and whether blatant or subtle it's rather pervasive.

That's why I found Tikkun olam to be so refreshing..."old school" philosophy says we fix things by going to war and using force, and throwing gobs of money in questionable directions, not understanding that spiritual matters must be addressed up front and center if we truly want a healing and positive growth to take place in our communities and in this world.

Years ago Virginia Slims cigarettes used the slogan "You've come a long way, Baby!" I'd change that around and say "We've got a long way to go, Baby!" And that road starts with daily decisions each of us makes.

"That's a breeze..."

With the flutes I make, I always have to remind players that you should never have to blow hard on a native style flute, and that with mine, you blow even less than average for the best quality of sound. Gentle breaths go a long way.

Well, forget anything in the category of 'gentle breaths' for the next 24 hours. We've got a pretty blustery system encroaching on the Carolinas today, with high wind warnings in the mountains for 60mph+ gusts tonight. While not that strong in the Piedmont, gusts could still be hitting 30-40mph in the overnight hours. The main window for the strongest winds will be tonight from 9pm through mid-day Wednesday.

Being brain-dead for creative blog ideas today (I kept coming up with posts that just got too 'involved' for the time I had!), I thought I'd throw some wind tidbits your way...

Fastest wind speed recorded in nature:
301 mph (+/- 20mph)
tornado reading observed by a DOW (Doppler on wheels) radar
near Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999

Fastest recorded by anemometer:
231 mph (gauge then broke)
Mt. Washington Observatory, New Hampshire
April 12, 1934

Fastest daily average:
108 mph
Port Martin, Antarctica

Fastest recorded at Grandfather Mountain, NC:
196 mph
April 18, 1997

Average # of days/year with winds >100mph
at Grandfather Mountain:
6 days

Fastest recorded at Mount Mitchell, NC:
178 mph
State Climate Office of NC

Monday, January 28, 2008

For Your Monday: The Wright Stuff

With all the incredibly depressing news around the world as well as at home, along with the winter blues and today being a Monday, I figured we could all use a few chuckles. May I present to you, if you don't already know him...

Steven Wright

rn in 1955...inspired by Johnny Carson's show...was swept away by George Carlin's "Class Clown" album... self-admitted introvert and odd-man-out, though he listened to endless hours of comedy played late on weekend nights on a Boston radio station...

Whereas Robin Williams bounces off walls more erratically than photons in an entropy chamber in his stage deliveries, Steven's humor comes in the form of dead-pan delivery...not necessarily everybody's cup of tea, but he makes me laugh.

Here are just some of his sage deliveries:

"It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it."

"Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time."

"The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard."

"Last year I went fishing with Salvador Dali. He was using a dotted line. He caught every other fish."

"It doesn't make a difference what temperature a room is, it's always room temperature."

"What's another word for Thesaurus?"

"You can't have everything. Where would you put it?"

"If you shoot at mimes, should you use a silencer?"

"I have an existential map. It has "You are here" written all over it."

"Curiosity killed the cat, but for awhile I was a suspect."

"If a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know?"

"I have the worlds largest seashell collection. You may have seen it, I keep it spread out on beaches all over the world."

"If Dracula can't see his reflection in the mirror, how come his hair is always so neatly combed?"

'I can remember the first time I had to go to sleep. Mom said, "Steven, time to go to sleep." I said, "But I don't know how." She said, "It's real easy. Just go down to the end of tired and hang a left." So I went down to the end of tired, and just out of curiosity I hung a right. My mother was there, and she said "I thought I told you to go to sleep."'

"I bought some powdered water yesterday. I don't know what to add."

"Every now and then I like to lean out my window, look up and smile for a satellite picture."

click on photo for video link


No super-cold wintry weather this week, but we do have some rain chances, which is a good thing. Looks like I'll have some time to catch up on other things the recent cold kept me from doing - except for when it's raining!

Carpe diem, y'all!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fried Fridays: It pays to study

No, really.

To help boost math and science grades/scores, two Georgia schools are proposing "Learn & Earn" programs that will pay students $8 an hour to attend study hall 4 hours each week during a 15-week pilot program, and offer a bonus if certain scores/grades are reached. Newt Gingrich has been spearheading this privately funded and 'innovative' program that has it's supporters and opponents, as you can well imagine.

A moment, please...

This is not my typical find-a-crazy-news-story that borders unbelievable. I didn't go with the poor Russian woman who returned home after some extended time period in the countryside only to find a local construction company had demolished the wrong house - hers. Or the incredible trip of a kitten in a suitcase that thankfully had a happy ending.

No, this is a story and subject that has valid opinions from all well as valid concerns. Having been a teacher for 9 years many moons ago (hence my 'wings' to some degree), I am bothered by the idea of paying for achievement...and for that matter, I'm even more bothered by our schools being overly fixated on scores, scores, scores in the first place.

Speaking of school's fixation on scores, don't get me started on Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program, which has done a great deal to create more problems than it solves. It's a program with good rhetoric but absolutely no financial backing to make the rhetoric happen...and the schools get penalized when they don't make the rhetoric happen. That's when other stuff happens. But I digress.

My last year of teaching I was at a Middle school in Richmond, Virginia...and I was rather taken aback by the number of my students who panicked over one point in a test score or report card because it made the difference in them getting $5 or whatever mom and dad were going to pay them for their 'achievement' . Sadly, a job well done is no longer about self worth - it's about 'net' worth. So it seems.

The Georgia programs will help families that have limited finances to begin with, so $8 and hour to study will help put some food on the table, of that there is no doubt. It does provide a constructive activity that could help keep some kids stay out of trouble in the process, and assuming they do well, they'll gain self-esteem. If the overall scores at the schools come up, they benefit by meeting standards and goals. What happens when the program ends is debatable.

I just wonder where it went and when...the idea of doing a job well done and giving your best, with no thought or expectation of a reward. There is no one problem to solve, and no single 'fix' that will aid our increasingly crippled education system. Even though I don't like the undertones of this program, who knows - it just may work.

The story

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Americana: Church sermon signs

I have no idea where this blog idea came brain is random, and I just go with the flow...

When you think of things uniquely American from days gone by, there are some archetypal icons that stand out...and beyond your 'hot dogs, baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet'. Small towns with white picket fences. The Drive-In. Cold-war bomb shelters. But I digress, per usual.

Church signs came to mind. Posting Sunday's sermon on a mini-billboard in a way that draws attention. Maybe too much attention. Maybe none at all. Some are plain, some are plain scary, and some are quite clever and funny. The signs are omnipresent in the states, and in this day of digital file sharing, I figured I could find some pictures of the more humorous ones to make a blog with.

I searched. I was not disappointed. Surprised, yes, as you will soon read...remember to click on the pics if you want to enlarge them:

I found some signs that were not quite believable, as you might expect...and then I discovered that a lot of those were fakes. Like the one above, obviously. I found a website where now you can have fun and create your own church sign and save it to send to someone...kinda fun to play around with. All you have to do is follow the instructions below:


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Oh where, oh where has my...."

Been a wild 6 days for the ol' work schedule with wintry threats. After yesterday's marathon shift I woke up this morning to find my get up and go had gotten up and gone...and I haven't the foggiest idea where it is.

I think it had something to do with my 7 consecutive hours of live weather coverage that when all was said and done encompassed 46 forecasts totaling 101 minutes.

Yes, you may correctly assume I get tired of hearing myself talk.

Once in a blue moon there will be a grueling day or storm system, and many at News 14 have had even harder periods, no doubt. Luckily I had a can of lentil soup at work, and it tasted incredibly good straight out of the can! (Epicurean palate have I...)

It can get humorous, too, all that 'live' work...your head gets so full of technical data and numbers and towns and roads and closings and such that you suddenly realize any and everything can come out of your mouth before you know it...and you won't see it coming, either. I'll get so involved explaining a situation that I forget to look at my clock (we time ourselves out), only to suddenly realize I have 3 seconds before getting chopped off. Instant deer in the headlight look. Or I'll be going over a detail in a map that when I look back to the camera I realize I got clipped seconds earlier.

Mud-brain happens, what can I say.

I should add yesterday morning was complicated by one of my classic allergy attacks that started just before 5am. In the world of medicines that are supposed to calm sneezing, itchy eyes, wattery noses, and such, I've tried 'em all at one time or another. The one absolute sure-fire medicine that works every time for me is basic pseudoephedrine, which thanks to the world of meth addicts has been altered. I'm glad control of it has helped reduce the spread of that dark world. On the other hand, labs quit making the white 60 mg tablets that were my favorite. The time-release version doesn't do the trick, so I'm left with the smaller red ones. All that to say that was part of my fray out of the gate. By the time that tie came off, I could have taken Rudolph on in a red nose contest.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Well, here we go with another potential 'nuisance' sytem and an extended work day today - there is a 'threat' of freezing rain or other mix of precipitation for the morning rush hour. The problem is the bulk of the precipitation, what gets here, probably will not be detectable by radar....and surface observations are a bit limited.

Too, relative humidities are very low, ~30%, so a lot will evaporate before it reaches terra firma. Alas, if and when anything does reach the ground it won't take but a good little coating to turn bridges to ice.

With that said, I'm low on time (as well as blog ideas!) this morning, so am keeping this short. Who knows...inspiration may hit me upside the head later today and I'll have something interesting for y'all...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Just Chillin'....

You can definitely say it's cold out this morning. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, y'all. Good for you if you have the day off - should start to warm a little this afternoon with good sun and less wind than we had yesterday. Yesterday was a brrrrr one all around the board.

Good thing that cold air got held up Saturday or we'd be in a winter wonderland of inches of snow still. Can't argue with the (overall) good amounts of moisture NC got between Thursday and Saturday's fizzle-duds, though that dry air from the northwest seriously evaporated the precipitation totals in the N and NW Piedmont Saturday. While we at News 14 have the capacity to go live with weather as long as we need to, it has a way of wearing the limited ponies out. I can safely say when I woke up Sunday morning I did not want to think about any weather for a while!

The only blip this week is Tuesday morning when some light rain may move in with surface temperatures at or below freezing. Ultimately we lose the freezing rain threat with rising temperatures later in the day, but that's all that is immediately ahead.

Our extending period of cold weather has put a whammy on my flute-making as I can't get the outdoor grinding and mess-making steps done. Not having a shop or even a garage is a bit limiting in the winter at times! Besides my hands freezing, it's not a good idea to go sending orbiting vibrations through glue joints in well-chilled wooden tubes. I've got enough firewood as it is. One special order flute has been seriously delayed by the weather, so I'm anxious for a break soon...they are, too!

Thought you'd like to see a couple of pics of one recently finished flute that had been sitting around for a couple of months and just needed some final hand-sanding (OK, lots of hand-sanding). Light sanding like that and adding oil coats are messes I can handle inside. I had found this unusual board of Cocobolo last summer, which I knew would make a gorgeous mid-range flute (F#). There was one problem spot in the wood as I was shaping it down, which is why the added mouthpiece area is a little longer. The mouthpiece and the bird block are made of Zircote, and I added an Ebony spacer and endcap for aesthetics. The dense woods make for a hefty flute, but a beauty, in looks and haunting sound quality (click on pics to enlarge):

Stay warm!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Weather update

Heading in to work the Triad weather center this morning...passing along some 'stuff' for anyone interested...

These maps are pretty fresh off the NWS press...the first map below is a precipitation guidance for estimated totals, in this case through Sunday morning...If this were to verify, clearly the best chances for a good sledding snow will be east toward Raleigh/Wilson direction. Most of the Triad is left/west of the 0.25" liquid line (red). If you want to play the 'what if' game, let's say PTI airport got 0.2"...let's assume it all fell as snow...and let's assume it fell in the good ol' 10:1 ratio of " of snow:" of rain. That's 2" of snow. Wheee.
(click on any pic to enlarge)

I was trying earlier to get onto the News 14 website but it was temporarily nuked...I trust it will be back up and running soon. At this time only Alamance County is in the warning area, and, honestly, that's marginal. The core Triad population centers are in the advisory, and the north and west periphery is in the advisory. Unlike Thursday's start with super dry air, we've held on to the moisture. Temps are in the upper 30s, with dewpoints in the mid 30s, so we won't lose much to evaporation. Especially in the advisory, I'm doubtful any rain will fall, just snow. But keep in mind, models indicate very little moisture to accumulate much.

The surface map is for 8pm this evening...showing the cold front along I-85 and pushing the precipitation eastward, where the switchover to all snow takes place with nice accumulations for, say, students at East Carolina in Greenville, NC.

I'll add to this as I see interesting information...not overly excited for this system in terms of a good snow, and we may well have news crews out in the field without a whole lot to talk about, at least for a while.

Stay tuned!

Friday, January 18, 2008

(click pic to enlarge)

Above is a graphic fresh off the press from Raleigh National Weather Service office on totals from Thursday's wintry event. By Sunday, they'll have another one made up for Saturday's more snowy event, I'm sure...!

My "Fried Fridays" blog is next...just saw this and wanted to post it.

Fried Fridays: Driving a point home...

Jerry Sennett
Deputy Chief

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police

"We have rain, for instance...our
accident rates go up. And so
I'm sure some (accidents)
are related to the weather.
Some...people just can't drive."

What a breath of fresh air. We all know it. We all say it. News media in general, however, avoids saying it as if it were the plague.
Winter weather arrives, like this morning. News stories abound ad nauseum about how you need to take extra time for your commute, learn to use your car's gearing to slow down instead of slamming on the brakes, don't go out unless you absolutely have a subject beaten to death in every storm. Not that it's not good advice, but it is belabored beyond usefulness all too often.

Fact is, there are idiotic drivers out there without a lick of common sense, even in sunny, warm weather. They cause accidents, they cause traffic flow problems, and they make many of us use language inappropriate for even blog usage. And the worst part is, they don't seem to care. Heaven forbid they hit the roads when there is a wintry mix to slicken the thoroughfares.

Just a few days ago in sunny, calm weather, I was behind someone who slowed to 10 mph under the speed limit in a nearby town, and for a goodly distance...though it was one wide lane, they pulled to the center line and hit their brakes...and with no signal, no nothin', they whipped right to pull into a parking space. &*$#-near caused serious wreckage. A 30's something person, too, with no mental excuses I was aware of, driving a nice new-ish tank of an SUV. Just the tip of the proverbial 'stupidity' iceberg, stereotypical as it was.

We've all seen them, daily, and hopefully aren't among the numbers of really bad, careless drivers. The way I look at it, the second you are behind the wheel of a vehicle, driving properly and looking out for others is Rule #1...NOT talking on a cell phone, NOT playing around with your Blackberry, NOT putting on make-up, NOT rifling through papers on the passenger seat, NOT turning around and tending to a child in the back seat while you're moving, NOT speeding in and out of traffic far atop the speed limit. Yet such actions are rampant, and daily cause accidents that shouldn't be happening.

I was watching a local news affiliate last evening when Deputy Chief Jerry Sennett made his quote above...thank goodness for Time-Warner's DVR box, as I could back up the newscast and capture his priceless quote. There are too many drivers who simply can't drive well, even on the fairest of days. May we all have the eyesight of eagles to spot them before they cause our own insurance rates to go up.

And may we all call a spade a spade. Just wait 'til I do a in-depth blog feature about selfish, lazy drivers who illegally park in handicapped spaces or who take up 4 spaces with their nice new car so it won't get scratched. But I digress, as usual...

Oh, and by the way, Saturday's forecast is looking like another golden opportunity for certain driver's to show their total lack of skill...

Happy Friday, y'all!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

You're missin' it, pups! Good ol' wintry weather has beset parts of the Carolinas, and with roads already slick and snow-covered where I am, I need to forego my blog and get on into work. It will be a ferociously busy day for me, so I'm doubtful about getting a blog posted.

Enjoy and be safe, y'all!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Winter weather refresher

(updated ~7am)
Well, here we go...been a while since the Triad has had to deal with wintry conditions, and the stage is set for just that early tomorrow, Thursday. A Winter Storm Watch was upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning early this morning.

In going over the new data sets I regularly use, the bull's eye for a likely travel mess will be the greater Triad region (NW Piedmont and Foothills), especially along and north/west of I-85 corridor. Yesterday I remarked how the ETA MOS had Charlotte unusually cold...this morning, the models are flipped and Charlotte's #s are a tad warmer, where Greensboro may see all of a 2-degree temperature swing all day. Yep, lookin' a bit yucky.

Now, we aren't talking inches of snow and howling will be far more subtle than that. First, winds are no issue. Second, the chance for a good snow should be dampened (pun intended) by sleet and rain mixing in. The bottom line is it takes so little icy accumulation to cause travel problems...the quantity issue is almost secondary to the issue of precipitation-type.

And so I found these graphics from USA Today that will help refresh your mind on how the various wintry forms are produced. Keep in mind the atmosphere is like a layer cake, and at different altitudes you can have varying temperatures, humidities, winds, and all kinds of 'stuff' that makes a huge difference what falls on our noggins.

It does all start as snow, even in the's just so high up you'd never know. Air temps all the way to the surface above freezing make for good ol' liquid form.

Freezing rain is often our nemesis. Good winter storms mean moisture coming up from the Gulf or in off the Atlantic, which means it's being transported in a warmer air mass aloft...that slides on top of freezing or sub-freezing air at the surface. If that cold layer is thin, the liquid does not have enough distance/time to refreeze into sleet pellets, much less recrystallize into snow. Drops hit in liquid form, and depending on the surface it hits rather quickly forms an icy glaze. Extended periods of freezing rain accumulate enough ice to break trees and powerlines. Remember that horrific ice storm we had in December 2002? I was on-duty in the Charlotte office of News 14 when it hit...and watched it POUR rain for hours with the air temperature at 27-28 degrees. May I never see that again.

It would be nice to have a thicker layer of cold air so that the rain could refreeze into some sort of sleet or ice pellet. That's still very slippery when it accumulates, but you at least have some better chance to negotiate travel, where as freezing rain/ice is the great equalizer and neutralizer for travel. As a disclaimer, I do not advocate travel in winter weather, but some of us have to get places, regardless. Give me sleet over freezing rain any day. Will our cold layer stay thick enough to prolong sleet/snow, or will it be too shallow after sunrise and give us freezing rain? That's the biggee right now...

Good ol' snow...air column all the way up is cold, cold, cold. I don't see the air nearly thick enough for that tomorrow, although I do expect a few hours of snowfall early, albeit getting mixed now and then with other forms.

CURRENT THOUGHT: for the Triad, while precipitation could fall anytime after midnight, I see the best statistical window for precipitation to be 7am - 1pm. Snow and sleet have their best shot at us early in the AM before freezing rain joins in in earnest by 8am. That will beat down any accumulations and make for a slippery mess. So far my thinking has leaned toward more limited accumulations (like 1-3") toward our NW corridor, and very little for Greensboro. When you mix in rain and such you really just focus on roads and travel issues. The NWS is forecasting 0.1- 0.3" of icing from this storm for all but the far eastern and southern edges of our region...they're most concerned about that, and not snow/sleet accumulations. Air temperatures during this period are forecast to be 31 and 32 degrees for 7-8 hours, so you can imagine why 1 degree lower or higher will have a huge impact on tomorrow morning's weather.

Too, evaporative cooling principles will be front and center after midnight...I'll try to write more about that later on...time to head in to the salt mine!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Quick update...

Just passing along info and thoughts on Thursday's weather scenario for the Triad....

Had a conference call at 2pm today (Tuesday) for all the weatherheads, headed by the Greenville-Spartanburg NWS office, and, well, here is my take FOR THE TRIAD...

"In-situ" cold wedge should form through evaporative cooling...that means onset of precipition (in earnest) around 6-7am, should be a mix of snow, sleet, and even rain. Of all the Carolina locales, if anyone is going to have a mess on their hands, it's us, the Triad, given our location north and west up against the mountains, where cold wedges are their most stubborn. Below is a recent GFS map with my notes added in (click to enlarge):

Freezing rain appears to be a contender when earlier I was leaning toward more sleet. That tells me the thickness of the cold air layer will be quite shallow...and ice is NOBODY'S friend. Raleigh/Blacksburg NWS offices think up to 1/4" of ice is in order for the Triad...that's nasty stuff in itself...thankfully winds are NOT an issue. However, even 1/4" of ice would bring down some trees and power lines.

Bottom line is, I expect roads to be yucky for most of Thursday...conditions will be worse the farther north and west you go...I don't expect a great deal of accumulation, but keep in mind it will take only an inch to really muss things up...and that should be easily achieved.

The high pressure feeding cold dry air is 'transitory' in nature, which means it is a moving target...NOT ideal for a good snow system, and helping keep us 'marginal' in the temperature department. Be that as it may, expect a mess problems Friday with much warmer air...then really cold (dry) stuff for the weekend.

Feel the excitement.....!

48 hours and counting...

It's not a 'classic' winter set-up by any means, but Thursday could easily have it's set of travel woes when a wintry mix of snow, rain, and sleet move into the Piedmont of North Carolina early in the morning. My question to viewers is "how little accumulation do you think is needed before there are big traffic problems?" In the case of frozen precipitation, even less than an inch can be a problem, especially the way a lot of people drive (read 'irresponsibly'). Limited accumulations are likely.

The storm system itself has far from fully organized yet, so we are all going over the myriad data/model runs and discerning our own 'markers' as to what we envision the situation to be. So much to look at, keeping in mind they are not 'what will happen' scenarios but 'what could happen.' And so I isolated last night's GFS run for Thursday morning and added some notes to the graphic below (click to enlarge):

In the models for the past couple of days, the storm system has stayed on it's track from the TX Gulf coast over to the FL panhandle and up the Coastal Plain on the Atlantic seaboard. Too, the timing has been consistent run to run, with 'likely' precipitation in Charlotte before sunrise and closer to sunrise in Greensboro Thursday.

An 'iffy' part has been the necessary high pressure to the north - while it's on the map above it's not solidly in place on many other maps. You need that high to the north to drive in the N/NE winds that will build a cold wedge in the Piedmont while the moisture streams over the top of it in the opposite direction. Without that high in place, not enough sustained cold air gets fed in and the temperature will warm to above freezing in this case.

With that said, the most recent ETA MOS data (as I write) has the high/low for Charlotte at 33/30, which is colder than Greensboro's 36/32, and bit of a chin-scratcher for me. I'll need to sift through more data this morning to see if that trend disappears or, if not, what's going on in the model to cause that cold bull's eye to show up farther south like that.

It will be in and out in one day, with warmer temperatures moving right back in for Friday (briefly). I think there will be light accumulations early Thursday morning before a cold, cold rain dominates by 10am. The AM commute could easily have slippery problems. The PM commute should just be all a cold showery mess. Refreeze could be an issue Friday morning.

Them's my thoughts for the moment. FYI, Sunday is your cold day of teens to start and 30s for highs, with a slight but immediate warm-up Monday.

Monday, January 14, 2008

"My Fair Weather Lady"

That's what George Bernard Shaw could have penned had he dabbled in meteorology along with his award-winning plays (could NOT come up with something cute-sie for 'Pygmalion'...!). More on Mr. Shaw in a moment.

Looks like we've got a freight train of cold heading our way by next weekend, not unlike the hit we took two weeks ago...and a Gulf system poised to run up the coast and be here in the Carolinas Thursday ahead of the cold.

It's not a classic set-up for a wintry scenario...for that you'd prefer to have a 'low' kick out of the southern Rockies into TX and have it make a slow track near the Gulf coast and gentle curve NE in GA. This week's puppy will start further south and run straight up the Atlantic coast fairly quickly.

There looks to be a pretty strong area of high pressure that will be over NY then, which would feed cold air in from the NE and build a nice cold wedge in the Piedmont...with the charging Arctic air poised in the northern Plains states to rush in.

Ah, but there is the timing of it all...most most models (as well as the 'official' forecast) say only cold rain for us, with snow and snow-mix for the mountains (mainly from upslope flow from the northwest). But this morning, as I finish off my coffee at home, my one little favored model has snow in the northern Piedmont Thursday, or at least a rain-snow mix. Could make things a bit interesting for what is an otherwise quiet but cooler forecast.

(We now return to our regularly scheduled non-weather blog, that has nothing to do with the above weather scenario except that I started with a 'play' on words from "My Fair Lady"...)

I've always remembered and held dear a quote of Shaw's that rings of great truth:

"All great truths begin as blasphemies."

In general, people don't like to have their beliefs and world visions rocked, and they like to let it be known and heard. Just read the Charlotte Observer's editorial page on almost any given day and you'll see how widespread chest-thumping is even down to simple, trite levels. And then some.

And so I got poking around for more of his quotes, which I found of interest and worthy of mulling...I'll call 'em mulling 'spices'. Enjoy.

Quotes from George Bernard Shaw:

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."

"A fashion is nothing but an induced epidemic."

"Hell is full of musical amateurs."

"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance."

"If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion."

"Reading made Don Quixote a gentleman. Believing what he read made him mad."

"When a man wants to murder a tiger, it's called sport; when the tiger wants to murder him it's called ferocity."

"The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and , if they can't find them, make them."

"This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as I live it is my privilege - my *privilege* to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I love. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I've got a hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Fried Fridays: I'm dead serious....

When I saw this article I immediately knew I had to feature it...and hope you haven't yet seen it as it hit the wires a few days ago, with even a quick blurb on a local station...

I'm being dead serious.

So was Virgilio Cintron.

Well, he wasn't so much "dead serious" as "seriously dead". 66. Natural causes. Amen.

He lived in New York in the famed Hell's Kitchen area, with another retiree, James O'Hare. Apparently Mr. Cintron was dead for the better part of a day before his roommate found him in the apartment.

Ironically, the deceased had just received a $355 Social Security check in the mail that was now, well, dead in it's own way.

And what more wise thing to do for the roomie-discoverer than to enlist the help of David Dalaia, another 65 year-old bud, to assist in cashing the aforementioned SS check. And what more logical thing to do than:

1. carry the body to the street

2. set the corpse in an office chair

3. wheel it down the Manhattan sidewalk

4. try to cash the check at the local Pay-O-Matic

They left the body in the chair outside the office door and went inside to cash the check. As luck would have it, the teller knew Cintron and asked to see him. When the pair went back outside to the stiff-on-a-chair, a small crowd had already gathered, creating quite a stir.

It just so happened a detective was having lunch across the street and saw the unusual gathering...around an unusual form draped over an office chair on a New York sidewalk. Not your normal confluence of images, I don't imagine. Cutting to the chase, the police came and arrested the the corpse-rolling duo for attempted forgery. Uh, for which surely there is a stiff penalty...

Seriously, folks - I can't make this stuff up even if I tried...including the "Pay-O-Matic" part.

What gets me is not just the story, which is golden enough...but wouldn't you have loved to have been a fly on that corpse - er, uh, wall - when this all took place?

Forget that your friend was now dead as a doornail. Heck, he had a check that just arrived. Manna from heaven. "I know, let's take him to the corner check-cashing store and see if we can get the dough before he starts to smell!"

To begin with, dead people have a weird look about them, and for good reason. They also stiffly flop about when you wheel them down a bumpy sidewalk in an office chair, which has nowhere the wheels or suspension of, say, a wagon or a wheelchair. Nope, I imagine those little plastic wheels were shimmying and shaking and jarring Virigilio's dentures loose, if he had any. And last time I checked New York City was a bit on the crowded side. This wasn't going to be an easy covert operation.

Aw, whattheheck. Bumpity-bumpity-bumpity-bumpity went the pair with the chair and the corpse flopping left then right then forward then right then left then right then forward...eyes rolled back in the head, mouth more than likely hanging open...the imagery is sadly rioutous, I'll admit.

'Tis reminiscent of the campy "Weekend at Bernie's" movie where a corpse was paraded around...except this was proof in the pudding that truth can be stranger than fiction...

"They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad to realize that I'm going to miss mine by just a few days. "
~ Garrison Keillor

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Travelogue: Mt. Coolidge, Black Mountains, South Dakota

I really am almost totally out of Travelogues to share with you, which heretofore had been my Thursday mainstay. Only a week ago the Triad was shivering in quite a chill, with 2 consecutive highs at just 36 degrees. At 4am the temperature spiked to 73 degrees at Piedmont Triad Airport, as we had been enjoying a complete temperature turn-around.

Such was the case for this posting. Mt. Coolidge sits amid the central Black Hills of southwest South Dakota, and has a gated 1-mile gravel road to the summit full of communications towers and powerlines. The gate is understandably locked for the winter...but here it was February 20-something in 2005...but instead of snow and arctic cold, it was 78 degrees the day I made the walk.

The two black specks ahead of me on the road were my two pups, then. With the road blocked and it totally being out of tourist season, we had the place to ourselves. The only mistake I made was not taking along much that very dry air, I not only heated up but evaporated lots of water that I couldn't readily replace...but the Two Amigos and I budgeted what we had as we hiked, knowing there was water back in the car (I always carried a gallon for safe keeping).

It was easier said than done taking pictures and avoiding power lines, which were a dime a dozen, clustered tightly near the peak. I might also add these pictures came from an old digital camera (read small file size) and not my newer razor-sharp cameras; hence they don't enlarge much or well.

That area of South Dakota is prone to wildfires, and there are any number of scar burns throughout the arid, rocky landscape. The area around Mt. Coolidge was no exception.

The fire damage here was from years earlier...yet Nature, ever the resilient one, bounces back, and on occasion you can see some deer or Bighorn sheep grazing lazily away...

In that wonderful silence with only breezes in the pines or the rare lone vehicle on the highway below to break it, you look over the landscape and wonder what it all looked like before civilization arrived...where you would like to hike and explore at your leisure...the opportunities are rather limitless, even today...and especially out of tourist season.

And so we three lazily meandered along the road and around the summit, peering off into all directions, knowing this was a restful time of year for Nature...

..and we accordingly sauntered back down the wide-open and temporarily private road back to the waiting "K9 LIMO"...hoping that just maybe on the way back a Bighorn might let his or her presence be known.

Upper 70s in the Black Hills in February - how incongruously wonderful.

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."
~ Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I don't know about you, but I've rather enjoyed the extremely mild weather the past few days, knowing Winter has a great deal more to throw our way. For yet another day severe storms and tornadoes plagued the central states, with most activity focused in the lower Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys where the atmospheric battlegrounds were drawn between air masses:

(click pic to go to page with more report details)

As is so often the case, the SW to NE running Appalachian Mountains do an effective job at breaking up such incoming systems, hence our being rather protected in our tepid SE pocket. High pressure has been sitting on the SE coast recently, as well, making sure storm systems are largely detoured around the Carolinas.

That protection is costly in terms of lack of rainfall, of course...and don't hold your breath for much from this front today. Wait for it's cousin Low to spin up on the stalled boundary on the GA/FL border and immediately return clouds and showers to us Thursday into Friday morning. Mo' better rain chances.

Sunday into Monday continues to be it's own forecast wild-card with 6 heads. Colder air, more precipitation brought in from the Gulf and Atlantic...somebody somewhere in North Carolina could get some snow if the timing comes together optimally.


I was talking trash to somebody the other day. Literally. It was late Monday afternoon and I went out to put my car windows up for the night, and the recycling truck was making it's rounds far later than usual.

I think it's fair to say most of us would not want a job where you're handling dirty trash all day, and the noise of clanking bottles is enough to do my sensitive ears in. This truck puts the reyclables in one of 4 bins, then has the arm go up and dump them in their partitioned area, so the operator (works by himself) has to stop, get out, sort the materials, dump, and then move ahead.

And so I thought I'd go up and talk to the poor man, and I say poor because it was a very late day already and he had a long way to go a time when most of us are preparing supper and getting ready to plop and rest. I wanted to know how I might make his job easier by sorting items in certain ways, and which was more beneficial and efficient. He could not have a been a nicer, at-peace guy, and he gladly showed me the process and how he has to do his job. As we were talking his phone rang...he thought it was his boss, but it was his wife who was just wondering when he might be home and that she was fixing something easy like tuna fish, and he was smiling saying that was fine...

I thought here was this really nice man that most people ignore because of the 'trash' stigma...and it gets me to thinking of the numerous people we purposefully avoid for whatever reason...but when you engage someone in conversation, you build that bridge of humanity that can really surprise you, and help you understand more fully how we are One and not separate from each other.

I took Mercy in for her coat-reduction shave yesterday, which was at a location along a greenway park trail. I took my lovable shaggy yak for one last little walk and 'duty' before taking her in to the groomer, and noticed in every single person I saw/passed in that 10-minute period not one smile, not one eye contact (ok, there was a quick glance and a nod from one), and not one verbal response to my "hi's". Rather sad, really, how withdrawn people can be...I imagine many are a bit distrustful and fearful in public places, or maybe they just like being within their own walls. Such a contrast to meeting Mr. Recyclable the day before.

I muse a lot in a given day. Plenty of robotic human 'doings' out there, and far fewer human 'beings', so it seems. Long live the friendly warm-fuzzies of the world!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sage wisdom

And so I was wondering and mentally wandering what to write for today's blog...the weather had warmed, I had done a great deal of way-early 'spring' cleaning over the weekend, yet as is typical on a late Sunday afternoon I had to start gearing down at 4pm to be asleep shortly after 6pm. C'est la guerre!

I had lots of ideas, many of which were perfect for a "Fried Fridays" slant (maybe I should start a "Mad Mondays" and give you a double-dose, eh?!)...and then I remembered an email I received. You know the kind, the one where you hear from someone suddenly when it's been over a year, only to realize they did a mass-forwarding of a message they liked and had no personal message to add whatsoever...but the messages (in part) were worthy of passing on (clarification forthcoming)...

Mental Feng Shui

ONE. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

TWO. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

THREE. Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

FOUR. When you say, 'I love you,' mean it.

FIVE. When you say, 'I'm sorry,' look the person in the eye.

SIX. Be engaged at least six months before you get married. (As with any idea there are exceptions, though!)

SEVEN. Believe in love at first sight.

EIGHT. Never laugh at anyone's dreams. People who don't have dreams don't have much.

NINE. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely .

TEN. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.

ELEVEN. Don't judge people by their relatives.

TWELVE. Think quickly but talk slowly.

THIRTEEN. When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer, smile and ask, 'Why do you want to know?'

FOURTEEN. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

FIFTEEN. Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze, even if in a public place.

SIXTEEN. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

SEVENTEEN. Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your act ions.

EIGHTEEN. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

NINETEEN. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

TWENTY. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

TWENTY- ONE. Spend some time alone.

Wonderful advice, it is...too bad the message came with all this other garbage that was part of the email:

"Lotus Touts: You have 6 minutes.
There's some mighty fine advice in these words, even if you're not superstitious. This Lotus Touts has been sent to you for good luck from the
Anthony Robbins organization. It has been sent around the world ten times so far.
Do not keep this message. The Lotus Touts must leave your hands in 6 MINUTES. Otherwise you will get a very unpleasant surprise. This is true, even if you are not superstitious, agnostic, or otherwise faith impaired.

Now, here's the FUN part!
Send this to at least 5 people and your life will improve.
1-4 people: Your life will improve slightly.
5-9 people: Your life will improve to your liking.
9-14 people: You will have at least 5 surprises in the next 3 weeks
15 and above: Your life will improve drastically and everything you ever dreamed of will begin to take shape.

A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart. Do not keep this message."

The way I see it, a true friend wouldn't send this garbage in the first place, much less believe it in the second place. That's the fun and challenge of life, which is just like going out to pick your own strawberries: choose wisely for the best tasting ones. And remember: you were given a functioning brain for a very good reason...