Monday, March 31, 2008

Musings on marketing...

Being rather gray and somewhat dreary this weekend, not to mention chilly and damp, I tended to some loooooong overdue cleaning, dusting, vacuuming....everything except my taxes. Hey, just slow this year, what can I say...

Some time ago I blogged about a mailing ad that talked about how life was too short to do your own cleaning. Behold another such mailing...I'll give 'em credit for the 50's comic book look that was at least an attempt to hide the topic in a little humor:

Yep, good ol' Cleaning Authority will happily take away the trepidation one might have at the prospect that they might actually have to do their own cleaning...after all, if one doubts his or her ability to clean house, then they will do a lousy job at best, so why not farm it out to a professional to do it right the first time...or every couple of weeks?

Another mailing was for Bed, Bath, & Beyond, with their quite regular "20% off sale" postcard. As a consumer, I'll never be lured in by a 10% sale, and a 20% sale ranks runner-up in that ho-hum category.

Nonetheless, I enjoy reading fine print, be it for an ad like this or a car dealership (THOSE are rich with traps and exceptions)...and at the very bottom in red is the area where the following disclaimer is. Sorry, but if you enlarge the pic you won't be able to read the fine print it is SO small. Yep, 20% off whatever you want from the store...except for the following product lines:







Tommy Bahama




Vera Wang



Orrefors Kosta Boda




kate spade




Richard Ginori


Frette Home products

Oh yeah, see store for details. Naturally, you can't use the discount to get gift cards, but that's everybody's policy. 24 lines of products excepted, which is about as extensive a list as I've ever seen for some big store-wide sale...if you can truly call it that...


Linens 'n Things gets a consolation prize for their Sunday circular ad:

They're just a 'wannabe' compared to the previous ad, as they listed only 14 brands not eligible for the small discount.

Back at Christmas, I found an off-brand 10-cup thermal coffee maker for $ could I go wrong? I suppose you can say I got three months of good service before the thermostat went haywire a couple of days ago. Seems the water being heated and sent to the filter area was hot enough to be practically all steam...10 cups of water became maybe 4 ounces in the bottom of the pot. Don't need that kind of electrical malfunctioning in the house.

And so I got a Mr. Coffee thermal model...I just love the thermos idea as I can preload my sweetener and cream, just like my grandmother drank it and taught me when I was little. OK, I've never been 'little', but when I was 'young', rather. I set the timer, and as I wake up I smell fresh coffee, grab the thermos and can sit and write uninterrupted (except for Mercy wanting another treat or to go out and look for nocturnal gollywogs for the third time!).

With the timer feature, I found this inserted card quite amusing:

I know why they disclaimed this, preheating the carafe, as MC has had a consumer complaint history of having less than hot temperatures on some models...but to tell someone to do all of this when you're using a timer? That's about as useful as a pair of oars in the desert.


March goes out like a...lamb, I guess. Warming trend ahead, though skies stay rather unsettled this week, and it looks like good weather to put some grass seed out and let nature help with the watering. Afterall, you know about those April showers which bring May flowers which bring...


Friday, March 28, 2008

"Fried Fridays: Monster on the loose!"

No, this "Fried Fridays" post isn't about the New Hampshire pedophile who in self-defense claimed he was molested by the legendary Bigfoot at one time...that man is himself the real monster...

Rather, this gentleman was forced by fear for his very life into the snowy streets in only his boxer shorts and slippers, calling authorities from a phone booth where he felt temporarily safe.


You would like to think that while you're in your own home, your castle, you could peacefully sit down and watch TV. Sounds reasonable. Hey, don't most of us put on 'slouch' clothes to relax when we're in our 'down' time, as well?

And so the unnamed 23 year-old was innocently watching a movie when the monster appeared. Police paraphrased the young man's admission that there is nothing in the world he's more afraid of than....



...a mouse.

As he lounged on his sofa and immersed in the cinematic footage, this young man suddenly came face to face with the most fearsome of 4-leggeds, the blood-sucking, life-draining Field Mouse. He was lucky to get out alive in just his boxer shorts and slippers, never mind the frozen streets and icebox temperatures.

Thankfully that phone booth wasn't too far away...and the police rather quickly came to take stock of the situation. Seems the little gray intruder had long since made its getaway, and the authorities deemed "the coast was clear."

To be on the safe side for the ensuing nighttime hours, the young man chose to stay with relatives for the night.

Another life saved.

Another waste of policemen's time.

And another stupid story on the wires from which to choose.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring pics and thoughts

As the old saying goes, "NOW we're cookin' with gas!"

Beautiful day, yesterday...more of the same today, even warmer than the 71/72 degrees had in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Raleigh. I grabbed my camera as I went to take Mercy to the park for her daily traipse, and just took some snaps of neighborhood trees and the first wildflowers up in the woods where we walk.

(click on pics to enlarge)

Leaves are already starting to sprout quickly...this magical greening is like paint flowing down a canvas in its steadiness. These little Smooth Yellow Violet is soaking up the rays before the leaves block out its highway of sunshine...

...and these streamside violets were just a little too far down the steep bank for me to get closer, but I appreciated their regal color...

The two maples below are in the front yard...the first a Red Maple, the second and next to it, a Silver Maple...

...and speaking of maples, this is a trunk to a Sugar Maple that Mercy and I pass on our walk...and woodworkers can only drool and dream of what the wood cut from this trunk would look like. See all the knots all over the trunk? That translates into, more than likely, intense figuring, curls, and wavy burls in the grain. If that puppy ever comes down in a storm, I'm going to volunteer to the Parks and Rec department to help 'dispose' of it!

"If spring came but once a century
instead of once a year,
or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake
and not in silence,
what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts
to behold the miraculous change."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In all, the above picture sums yesterday up: it was a grate day. Mercy firmly believes that below every single one of these openings there live gollywogs and scrumpdoodles. She'll be checking it out today, too, without fail, and maybe...just maybe...


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A daily dose of Tao...

The ancient Chinese wisdom of Tao is based on the Tao Te Ching - a book itself shrouded in mysterious origins hundreds of years before Christ, often attributed to Lao Tzu. According to legend, he had been the keeper of the Imperial Library at the ancient capital of Loyang. Disgusted with government corruption (and they say prostitution is the oldest profession!), he chose to leave the city forever and head out into the desert wilderness. The legend continues that a guard at the city gates begged LaoTzu to write down his great wisdoms before leaving.

And so the Tao Te Ching was born - philosophical masterworks replete with paradoxes, subtleties, and complexities within simplicities. In boiling that pot down, the sage writings in large part teach about patience and understanding as we work in harmony with life's circumstances and Nature.

And so here are a few quotes that I thought you might like to read and muse over on this fine-looking Hump Day here in the Carolinas...

(by Lao Tzu)

Fill your bowl to the brim,
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife,
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security,
and your heart will be tight.
Care about people's approval,
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work and then step back -
The only path to serenity.


The best people are like water.
They benefit all things,
And do not compete with them.
They settle in low places,
One with Nature, one with Tao.


I hold three treasures
close to my heart.
The first is love;
The next, simplicity;
The third, overcoming ego.


Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profundity.
Kindness in giving creates love.


Do not conquer the world with force,
For force only causes resistance.
Thorns spring up when an army passes.
Years of misery follow a great victory.
Do only what needs to be done,
Without using violence.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For your reading pleasure...

Forgive me for taking the easy way out this morning, as I had too many irons in too many other fires - I found this list elsewhere earlier and really got a chuckle reading these "Top 10" quotes again. Thought you'd enjoy them as well - including the warming temperatures the rest of this week!

1. Robert Benchley

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up, because by that time I was too famous.

2. Oscar Levant

What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.

3. Paul Merton

I'm always amazed to hear of air crash victims so badly mutilated that they have to be identified by their dental records. What I can't understand is, if they don't know who you are, how do they know who your dentist is?

4. Homer Simpson

You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is 'never try'.

5. Jean Kerr

I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. That's deep enough. What do you want - an adorable pancreas?

6. Steven Wright

If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat and drop it?

7. Partick Moore

At my age I do what Mark Twain did. I get my daily paper, look at the obituaries page and if I'm not there I carry on as usual.

8. Groucho Marx

I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.

9. Ellen DeGeneres

You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She's 97 today and we don't know where the hell she is.

10. Elayne Boosler

I have six locks on my door all in a row. When I go out, I only lock every other one. I figure no matter how long somebody stands there picking the locks, they are always locking three.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Coming full circle..."

(click on pics to enlarge)

You can go back to blog entries from late 2006 to early 2007 and find my pics of my winged Soul partners, a brace of Red Tail hawks that frequented the edge of a nice little forest tucked between a YMCA and an interstate beltway. Many a day Mercy and I would go romp about and often catch the pair in one tree or another, surveying their domain for a meal...or curiously looking at an off-duty weatherman and his furry four-legged companion...

"Whatcha doin', Weatherman???"

And then, at the snap of a finger one day, the tree rippers were there and going at it whole hog. And I must say, in the greater scope of downing timber, this was one of the messiest harvests I've ever seen. Worst yet, it wasn't to make way for building of anything...apparently the landowner had some dispute with local authorities and did a "I'll-show-you" move to take the timber for quick cash. I cried, it was so ugly and so disrespectful of the environment...

February 5, 2007

Kind of a shocker to see it all happening - I walked in the now-clearing, anyway, that day over a year ago. Safe to say the hawks left and basically did not return. Oh, you see 'em once in a while, but it's fairly uncommon anymore. Copious weeds and shrubby growth have moved back in, making it a challenge to get through it on a walk, especially for Mercy.

March 7, 2007

The timber miners did their work in the course of just a few days...and the above is how it was left. By this time I was beyond sad...I was a bit angered. And not because I'm anti-development, but because the land was handled disrespectfully...and until we learn that we are intrinsically a part of All, we'll never 'get it' that what we do to the environment we do to ourselves. Chief Seattle was only one of many to say as much.

And so I had this idea to walk in and salvage some of the Eastern Red Cedar and, out of curiousity, some of the take it home and let it cure. My plan was to use that wood in some of my flutes, so that what was once 'wasted' would be transformed into art and music that could beneficially add back positive energy to this weary planet we steadily beleaguer.

March 15, 2007

These are some of the Dogwood logs I cut and brought home. Had I the space, I would have collected more, but for the bigger pieces from which to hopefully make flutes, they'll need to dry 2-3 years. Many of the trees were cracked lengthwise from the massive tree cutting machines, and a few I cut up into shorter pieces for blocks, like the piece pictured below...

OK, I'll grant you a lot goes on from this point to the next photo set...I took the flat bottom and sketched a rough view of what I saw the block looking like from straight above - the outline. I first sanded off the bark to get to the woody core, which allowed me to draw my sketches of where I needed to cut as it looked from all angles.

No plans here, just going inside my head and playing it by ear as I went along. Band saw, scroll saw, Dremel tool, and orbital belt sander, using whatever was best for the step at hand. Oh yeah, and a whole lot of sitting and looking at it going "this is certainly new territory for me!"

And so just last Saturday I released my first Dogwood 'effort' to a new loving home. In honor of my hawks that moved to some other vacant area before it, too, gets ripped down, I kept with a 'stylized' hawk-in-flight motif for the flute's block. The choice was obvious.

I've already used the cedar a lot for blocks in other flutes, but the Dogwood was new. Never talked with anybody that used it, and so I began to experiment. In short, I'm now a huge Dogwood fan. It's quite light in color like Holly, and has a very tight, dense grain - works like a charm and this piece was far from fragile. I fell in love with the sturdy wood, though being hard it takes a while to sand out.

Technically, I first started using Dogwood on another flute for a friend who ordered another 'special' may remember the "Jonah and the Whale" flute I blogged about last year...same fellow. However, I'm attempting some really tricky things with his flute and Dogwood pieces, and this hawk block was much more 'straightforward' for my brain. Hang in there, Mike!!! It's a-comin', I promise!

Thanks for reading this lenghty means a lot to me. Always try to make lemonade from the lemons, friends. Makes life a bit more user-friendly!

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Fried Fridays: Throwing in the towel...all of 'em"

I think we can all relate to 'times' in life turning sour. Hey, it happens. Life happens. So be it. As the old saying goes,

"If life gives you lemons,
make lemonade."

Good advice. And so 44 year-old Ian Usher, a British immigrant to Australia, is following said advice. Seems he and his "ex" have had such a falling out that he is ready to walk away from it all. Literally and figuratively.

After it sells on eBay, of course.

Yep, a quality "Fried Fridays" contender, this one. When all else fails, put your home, car, possessions, friends, and even your job up for sale on the Mecca of sales sites, eBay. Yes, you read it right: even friends and a job can be up for sale, kinda sorta.

Of course, it takes a buyer for the whole kit and kaboodle. Starting June 22, you could bid to step into Ian's shoes and pay to:

1) own his rather pricey 3 BR home in Perth, AU

2) own his car and toodle around Down Under,

3) own his jet ski and let the wind blow through your hair (just avoid those monster brack-water crocs near Darwin),

4) own his parachuting gear (which is guarnateed to be "good to the last drop")

5) be able to apply for his carpet job

6) be guaranteed an initial meeting with all of his friends

Yep, you'll be able to try out for his job, an idea that his employer has even signed off on. That is, if you like wall-to-wall carpeting. Joy Jones Rugs, the employer, is offering the successful bidder a two-week trial run...things go well, you can extend it for three months..and if things go super well, you can make it a permanent position, all things falling into place.

"On the day it's all sold and settled, I intend to walk out of my front door with my wallet in one pocket and my passport in the other, nothing else at all," Usher says. For him, everything seems to have a memory and attachment to his wife of 5 years, even though they've been apart for a year, now. For him, it's just too much to bear.

"It's time to shed the old, and in with the new," according to Ian.

Happy New Year in advance, Mate.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Spring has done sprung..."

Just 15 minutes after saving the radar scan below, the Vernal Equinox passed. It's Spring, saddle pals! With a little more rain in our coffers from the past few hours, the grasses and plants and puddle-flapping birds will be happy little campers today.

And we got our modest rain shot it in a 'good' way...the driving center of low pressure lifted up through eastern TN yesterday, taking with it the bulk of the severe weather. Rains were not that heavy, but the PTI airport had picked up right at 0.40" total at last check, with the last of the last falling. Not too shabby.

This is my radar scan from ~1:33 AM, and there's our cold front passing, showing up via the linear bands passing down through the Triad. "Official" almanac data has yet to be processed this morning, but on the preliminary report I did see a peak wind gust of 40 mph with highest sustained speed at 33 mph, so that verified. Best part of all was not dealing with severe weather and getting a nice soaking rain.

Big weekend ahead for travel, outdoor plans, family gatherings, and lots of special new outfits catching a breeze Sunday. Late yesterday afternoon I was trying to look and plan ahead for post office and bank holidays this weekend...and maybe I've just been asleep at the switch, but I was really surprised to see that neither Friday nor Monday is a holiday for either. Now, I'm sure some of you knew this all along...I guess with a lot of school holidays around this time, I assumed Easter was in some way on the Federal Reserve's official holiday schedule - but it's not.

I put this information in my weather forecast write-up yesterday for the Triad and thought you might like to know about "white" Easters, since it's so early this year (March 23). With Easter's date hopping around like Petey Cottontail, I never found specific data for snowy Easters...but I did pull some interesting tidbits from the records kept at Piedmont Triad airport since 1929:

Greatest snow total for March 23:
4.6" (1981)

Latest measurable snow:
March 30 - 1.2" (2003)

Latest 'trace' of snow:
April 24 (1955)

Why the talk of snow? For several days several models have been doing an even bigger Hokey-Pokey than normal with next Monday's forecast. Today through Saturday will be sunny and pleasant in the 60s, maybe even 70 by Saturday...then a strong cold front drops Sunday's highs into the mid-upper 50s, with a Gulf low quickly riding up along that front and making for a crashing cold and rain-snow mixed Monday (40s for highs) before quickly pulling out Monday night. That's been the gist of it.

Not surprising to see forecast runs flip-flop given the volatility of weather at this big change of seasons, and one of my favored numeric models this morning has Monday warmer and drier...will be interested to see the 06Z runs later this morning to see if others have taken their left leg out or it they're shakin' it all around...that is what it's all about.

Nice thing about this time of year is that really cold temperatures can't hang around too long with the ever increasing sun angle and southerly jet getting stronger. And though there are some forecast lows that flirt with the freezing mark, we don't have the set-up for something like last year's record killing-freeze Easter morning.

Time to hoof it in...and get that &*$# "Hokey-Pokey" song out of my head...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How early IS Easter this year?...

A little Easter trivia follows...wanted to first follow-up on my ending comment yesterday about a particular tree in bloom...

Spring continues to gently nudge it's way into the landscape. Though cooler yesterday (one of those where you wait for it to warm up and it never really does!), it was still gorgeous. I remarked yesterday that just up the street there is a Tulip Magnolia, and it's deep magenta blooms recently popped out. Think harbinger.

But not of spring, necessarily. In my many moons here on earth and many transitions from winter to spring, when I see the Tulip Magnolias bloom, I know that within a roughly 7 day period, something really stormy and cold hits. On the one hand, wait 7 days and plenty of things can happen...but in my general observations, 4 out of 5 years I've seen 'em get whammied. Last year, as you may remember, the peach crops got nailed by a deep freeze, which killed this tree's blossoms all at once.

I love these flowers, but in the world of blooms they're relatively fragile...and after a big storm or wind event they're prone to be decorating the ground around the trunk. Wednesday's potentially strong storms might do the trick; however, I don't see any crashing cold that would also do the trick. Maybe this will be an 'off' year for my correlation - I'd take that!

Easter weekend has a shot of colder air and potentially sub-freezing temperatures Sunday morning (though barely, at first glance), and I have a feeling it will be on the breezy side. Keeping showers out of Sunday's forecast for now...just a cold sunrise for outdoor services.

Speaking of Easter...early, ain't it? So the question begs to be asked, "How early is Easter this year?"

March 23 is not the earliest Easter can fall on, but it is the second earliest. March 22 takes the 'earliest' honors, but it's pretty rare. Last time it did that was 1818, and it won't happen again until 2285, 277 years from now. Obviously, no one alive today has or will see that (ah, to be Master of the Obvious...).

The last time Easter fell on March 23 was 1913. Only those 95 or older were around for that one. The next time Easter will be on March 23, we'll be dust, folks. 2160 - 152 years away!

For the curious, the latest Easter can occur is April 25, which is less rare than the above. Last time that occurred was in 1943, and the next date for it will be 2038.

So why the variability? Get's a little tricky, so bear with me. Unlike fixed-date 'holidays' like Christmas Day or Halloween, and unlike still-easy-to-figure Thanksgiving which is the fourth Thursday in November, Easter's date is purely tied to things astronomical, and even then there are some hairs to be further split. It centers around the first full moon after the Spring Equinox (known as the Paschal Full Moon), with which Hebrews identified Passover. The only problem is that on our Roman calendars, that moon occurrence can fall over a pretty wide range of dates.

There are a few other little details involving localized calculations from tables, but I'm not going to touch that with a 40-foot pole. The only other question that comes to mind that I have but mused on and not researched...

...have we had any "White" Easters? Hmmmmm...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saturday's close call...

(click on any pics to enlarge)

The Carolinas Flute Circle was having one of its semi-monthly gathering at a member's home south of Lugoff, SC, which is just NE of Columbia. As I was driving down late Saturday morning, the radio station cut in with a newly posted tornado watch for most of SC.

Great. I had thought about bringing my laptop since it has a boogie-jam radar program on it and can run off of a cell phone signal at DSL speed. Naturally, I opted not to bring it since I had so many other things in tow...and the Saturday storm reports below tell the story, especially for South Carolina:

The tornado in Atlanta Friday, one day prior, caught all the big headlines with its damage and ripping the top of the Georgia Dome while basketball tournament play was going on...but Saturday's cells were something to behold.

And so it was I was on the road around 5-ish to return north, picking up I-20 NE of Columbia heading back in to pick up I-77 north back home when I came close to one of the tornadoes. The radio reports were of golf-ball sized hail, torrential rains and winds from the cell just off to my right, with the sky exceedingly dark.

I mused how I was glad I wasn't in the thick of it, remarking to myself that I was under the southern edge of the storm/clouds with sun trying to peek out a little to the left side. Didn't take me but a second to realize that in many instances tornadoes form on the southern edges of cells...and as I crest one large hill, I looked ahead on I-20 only to see a debris cloud cover the road, with cars pulled off everywhere.

Unfortunately, by that time the rains were so hard my cell phone pictures didn't show well what my eyes were seeing...and while I didn't see the funnel per se (hard to do unless you're right at it in such rain and turbulence), I found out later there was one and it passed just to my right, north. Had I taken an alternate back highway home, Highway 34 through Lugoff, I would have been square in its path. I had decided beforehand that the interstate would be safer if the weather got dangerous. Good choice, eh?

Just before I crest that hill, there was little rain but all the tale-tell signs of a potential tornadic cell. I took this with my cell phone because the green glow was especially luminous and eerie, and while not as dramatic as midwest storm wall clouds, there were lower-rung wall clouds there just the same. And you can clearly see the edge of the storm, with the tornado just over the rise.

There was a moment after I and just about everybody had pulled over on I-20 that I was going to buckle the passenger seatbelt and lay down with it around me as well, just in case...but in a matter of a couple of minutes it was clearly north of the interstate and moving away from my location. Goose bumps the size of BBs were all over me as I was not scared but in awe of being close enough to see all that was happening but not be too close, risking injury.

Just one of the 38 tornado reports from across the Southeast Saturday, that one. And while I didn't see or get close to any other atmospheric hombres, I certainly had periods of those torrential downpours that make you get off the road to sit it out. Enough fun for one day. As an additional observation from the day, there is a boatload of not only idiotic but dangerous drivers on our highways.

And then there was Sunday. Ah, a gorgeous, sunny day, and a complete flip-flop from 24 hours earlier. There was only one sight that made me wonder in that peaceful sunshine...wonder and muse a neighbor's tulip tree is now in bloom.

And....? Tomorrow's post, friends. A blooming tulip tree tells me something...

Friday, March 14, 2008

"Fried Fridays: A really sweet story..."

Overload. That's the word that comes to mind as I clicked through potential "Fried Fridays" contenders for today's post. From the sad to the bizarre to the stupid, myriad stories vied valiantly for top honors.

In the greater scope of the earth rotating, the seasons changing, and governments being overthrown in civil unrest, this story is a tee-tiny blip. But even in its diminutive scope, it spoke loudly of "what were they thinking???"


Michael Sheridan seemed to be the kind of student that makes parents beam with pride, the talk of the grocery store aisles, that sort of kid. As an active eight grader, he had already established himself as an honors student and had been elected class vice-president. I think that qualifies as someone who is respected by his peers and faculty alike.

But as many seem to do at one time or another, he fell. He tripped big-time, skinning up not his knees but his reputation. Afterall, he is an eighth grader and hasn't had enough time in life to serve such positions as "Client #9", but a fall from grace is a fall from's just that the landings can be a little different.

I suppose you could argue that his one-day suspension was at least short-lived for his 'crime' that broke sacred school policy. He was supposed to attend an honors dinner, but they barred him from going. I should clarify that "they" is Superintendent Reginald Mayo and principal Eleanor Turner...and "they" went one step further and stripped Michael of his title of class V.P.

Hang that head, boy. That'll teach you to buy a bag of Skittles from a classmate.

(pregnant pause)

Yep. That little bag of those colorful fruit chews came at a high price. Michael said he was unaware that it violated school policy to buy candy at school, though he admitted the seller was acting a bit secretively. (FYI, there was no other info given about the seller except they received a suspension, as well.)

He should have had a better memory back in elementary school...back in 2003, the New Haven school system started a district-wide school wellness policy that specifically banned candy sales.

In that regard, I suppose you could say he was caught red handed. And yellow. And purple. And green. And orange (couldn't resist a little color commentary, y'all...).

The story does have a sweet ending. The school administration 'saw the light' and after meeting with the Sheridans restored Michael's VP post and expunged all related suspensions from the record books. However, they couldn't bring back the honors dinner opportunity - and I'm willing to bet they didn't serve Skittles for dessert, either.

"I am sorry this has happened," principal Turner said in a statement. "My hope is that we can get back to the normal school routine, especially since we are in the middle of taking the
Connecticut mastery test." Yes, let's...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

'Bout that time...

"We interrupt this blog..." show you an update of my nephew and niece, William and Ellen....!

(click on all pics to enlarge)

What gorgeous weather we've had the past few days...if you're starting to tingle over Spring Fever, it's for a good reason.

In walking Mercy today, I decided to forego the traditional park walk and revisit my 'hawk-forest' that the owner decided to poorly slash more than a year ago. I don't go there too often as with the new under-growth it's not user-friendly to Mercy.

However, winter has a way of reducing the foliage, and she could maneuver a bit more. Nice day for it, especially without burrs and ticks to worry about.

Caught this winged-one on a dead stalk briefly...luckily I got a sharp shot before it took off to parts unknown (rather camouflaged in it's arrays of browns)...

Mercy had enough 'vision' and room to romp a bit in the wooded mess still dormant from its winter's sleep...

...and yet the 'greening' has most definitely begun. Plant varietals all have their 'start' times, and so the staggered start begins...

Dandelions are hearty critters, no doubt...and they, along with their yellow-counterparted daffodils have been having a hey-day for a while, now....

...and the neighborhood has it's show of early blooms that make for a heart-warming scene after the grays of winter...leaves won't be too far behind...

This Silver Maple in my front yard is bursting with seed pods which in time will make mighty fine "whirly-gigs" and great little science lessons for the beauty of seed dispersion techniques. Ah, but I wax poetic...I do love all seasons, but there is something about the 'coming back to life' from the inertia of winter that warms the Soul and once again gives us Hope for better, warmer days.

Lately, there have not been better days than these...except I have to cut them short by going to sleep at 6pm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Like a bolt out of the blue..."

Spring is right around the corner, and these gorgeous days are spoiling me. Little leagues of soccer and baseball will soon start in earnest, and weekends will be more packed with outdoor activities in the user-friendly temperatures.

Spring is also a very volatile time of year as the polar and subtropical jet streams duke it out for dominance, changing air masses rapidly and firing up potentially strong thunderstorms in the process.

And so I just wanted to reitterate the importance of respecting lightning and not tempting fate by thinking "oh, it won't harm me"...I have some video links of people that probably thought the same thing.

The title phrase is appropriately true...lightning can jump laterally up to 10 miles, so while you may see a storm to your southwest but you are in pure sunshine, a bolt really can come 'out of the blue' and hit well away from the storm.

In a pool and hear thunder? OUT, no ifs ands or buts. Outside and caught in a storm? NEVER stand under a tree. The legendary golfer Lee Trevino once quipped a golfer could hold up a 1-iron in a storm and be safe because even God can't hit a 1-iron...a little golfing humor for you.

I'll do a future post with a lot more trivia and facts about lightning at a later date...for now, have fun watching these video links I pooled together. Most of 'em anyway (see notes...!)

(very odd song and video, this followingone...came up in the search and it was so odd I had to watch it)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Just thinkin' this morning...

It's a "vewy, vewy, qwuiet" week in the Carolina weather world. Wascally Wabbits and other fauna have stepped up their activity, including their appetites. Bird seed is disappearing at an increased rate, though I suspect a nightly opposum is helping Hoover it least it's a possumbility.

And with very little weather facts and trivia to jumpstart my forecast day, I naturally let my mind wander down the free-form path of conscious streaming, which is more fun than Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Some things had come across my e-desk recently that bear pondering...

Things that make you go "hmmmmmm..."

Take oils, for instance. Corn oil is made from corn. Vegetable oil is made from vegetables. Almond oil is extracted from, you guessed it, almonds. So where does Baby Oil come from?

Why do we all push an elevator button that is already lit?

If "Jimmy cracks corn" and nobody cares, why is there a song about him?

If you're feeling blue, should you start breathing again?

Why is it in this age of a gazillion camcorders that we're not seeing new, better footage of UFO's?

If you think about it, life is sexually transmitted.

Why should you take life seriously? You won't get out alive, anyway.

Do people that eat natural foods die from natural causes?

Time for yard work to begin. Clean out those beds...if you can't decide if something is a weed or a valuable flower, go ahead and pull it up - if it easily comes up, it's not a weed.

The quickest way to find something is to go buy a replacement.

Why is it one match starts a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to light a campfire?

If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?

Per Disney, why does Goofy walk on two legs and Pluto walk on all four? Aren't they both dogs?

If Wiley E. Coyote had the financial wherewithall to buy that boatload of stuff from Acme, couldn't he just have gone out and bought his dinner instead?

Ever notice when some people need to know the time they tap on their wrist? It's probably a good thing they don't do a similar thing when they have to go to the bathroom.

Why is it when a man makes lewd remarks to a woman it's sexual harassment, but when a woman talks lewd to a man it's $4.99 a minute?

If you give someone a penny for their thoughts, why do they get to put in their two cents worth in return?

Can someone driving a 'loaded' hearse use the HOV lane on the interstate?

Why do doctors call their work 'practice'?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing? And I still marvel over the first time I saw braille on a drive-through ATM...

We would do well to learn a valuable lesson from the weather: it totally ignores criticism.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Aging gracefully..."

'Gracefully' might be the more dubious part, physically. I've been in blended bifocals for several years, and just got my prescription altered to handle more astigmatism that has developed. We really do have just one moon...

My knees sound like rifle shots anytime I stand up and unfold them, but usually after 15 seconds of teetering I'm able to start moving. There were times it took 30. No better defense against arthritis than a positive attitude, I say. I no longer need to worry about what I'd do in a dangerous situation, choosing the ol' 'fight or flight' impulse. It's fight....or hide real fast!

There's only so much you can do to help the body as we all 'go with the flow', but there is a tremendous amount each of us can do to mentally offset infirmities and things that turn left at Albuquerque. A positive, fun and love-filled attitude will take you around the world and then some. "Live your life and not your age," as Norman Vincent Peale appropriately said.

And so I remember another most appropriate quote that we've heard in form or another, which is basically about living life large and to its fullest:

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO-HOO!!! WHAT A RIDE!!!"

I was also enlightened that there are some fun games 'agers' can play at parties or with friends on a rainy day...

"Sag, you're it!"

"Hide and go pee"

"Musical recliners"

"Simon says something"

"Red Rover, Red Rover,
the nurse says bend over"


Great looking weather this week...buds and blooms and excited birds abound, with the grass greening...and no 50 mph wind gusts for a while. Enjoy and take every moment you can to wonder at any and all of it, in stillness. It's a great elixir.

Friday, March 07, 2008

"Fried Fridays: Unforgettable quotes"

Speaking of things 'Fried' (or soon to be), I found this picture by happenstance on Flickr (photo credit: Ariel Bariel Long). It's exactly the type of thing my mind would think of and scene I would create and photograph myself...but it was done so well already that credit goes where it's due...

(click to enlarge)

That's eggs-actly the type of picture that makes me laugh. Cracked me up. May it help you keep your 'sunny side up'...and please don't take this too seriously, as it's only a yolk...I got a dozen of 'em, I tell ya!...or had...

Okay, so I'm a bit scrambled in the belfry, myself. But ya just gotta love crazy quotes people make now and then. I can remember many years ago when UCLA was a basketball powerhouse, and they just won a major game, maybe the NCAA tournament. There, live on national TV, a national sportscaster interviewed a player who later went on to professional fame but whose name escapes me to this day...the question was posed about what basketball meant to him in his life (you know, one of those asanine 'DUH!' questions...), and the player said, in all earnestness:

"If it wasn't for basketball, I don't know what I would've did."

And you think we have educational issues now...

The things that slip out of our esteemed producer John had earlier sent me a link of a printed quote worthy of a "Fried Fridays" award. The sad thing was not only was it was said, but that it was recorded, and not only recorded but written up...and then reprinted for all the world to see:

I hear ya, Debra. On any given day you'll find me in gym shorts and some well-worn t-shirt when I'm not in my monkey suit forecasting weather. But if I have to make a WalMart run on my way home, you'd better believe I'm going to wear actual shorts and just maybe a collared shirt....or at the very least a t-shirt that doesn't have glue and paint stains all over it.

Yep, I don't wan't anyone to recognize me and think "Oh my! Doesn't he look deplorable!", and it could well happen at one of America's established super-Mecca's. Even wearing a low-slung baseball cap might not be enough of a protective umbrella if I'm dressed in such plebeian manner...

I'm just glad someone else feels my fashion-pain and resulting self-consciousness...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Rather appropriate that this week is "North Carolina Severe Weather Awareness Week", March 2-8. Lots of Tarheel damage from Tuesday's storms, to be sure. After investigation of the scene, NWS officials said it was an EF-0 tornado that touched down near the Alamance and Caswell County on the link for a more detailed report:

EF-0 tornado in Alamance County

And here is a link to the most recent/updated listing of storm reports from the Raleigh NWS office:

Updated storm reports to Raleigh NWS

The national map from the Storm Prediction Center has yet to put the red dot in NC, but this graphic gives you a good idea of who really took it on the chin:

(click on pics to enlarge)

Lots of strong wind gusts officially recorded around the region, as you would expect:

The one solid benefit was the locally heavy rainfall, accentuated by the flare-up of the stronger storms in central NC. The mountains certainly had their hands full as the storms squeezed out like a sponge over the mountainous terrain. They had additional flooding issues there as the rain was melting their several inches of snow...quite the mess, as you can imagine:

Below are the links to the reports for the aforementioned "Awareness" week if you'd like to brush up on your knowledge, which increases awareness, which you can never do too much of!

Monday- Severe Thunderstorms

Tuesday - Lightning

Wednesday - Tornadoes

Thursday - Flooding

Friday - The Severe Weather Alert Process

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"Tribute to a Milestone..."

Yep, this is the culmination of the "T-minus" posts recently, the numbers representing 'miles to go'...

"If a picture paints a thousand words...", then this one does:

A quarter of a million miles.

Though it's a 1999 model, I bought this buggy in February of 2000. Last year that Ford made the Escort wagon, and it was full of more irony than I realized. Consumer Reports gave this particular year and model glowing reports for reliability and performance. Ford promptly discontinued it in 2000 and brought in the Focus, which for a couple of years was riddled with recalls. Typical mental midgets.

To this day I get 35 mph at worst in the city, and up to 40 mph on interstate driving with its 5-speed manual transmission. Nice little trivia fact: I've never owned an automatic transmission, ever. I just love the manual transmission. For a while, such an option was available only on really basic models or fancy sporty models. Thankfully, with fuel efficiency concerns, more manual options are available today. Dog not included.

This is now the Mercy-Mobile. The Ugly Boy Flute Express. I bet I've never had 10 days where anyone sat in the stays folded down and is in impeccable shape. Dare I say it's the only part of the car that is impeccable, outside of its reliability. Note the $2.39 oak dowel that holds the tailgate up. Beats the $119 for a brace of new pneumatic tailgate lifts.

The first year I had it I put over 50,000 miles on it, auditioning from Atlanta up to Philadelphia, and cities in between. For years it took me back and forth to The Weather Channel from Asheville, including snows at midnight. There were places in South Dakota I took it that, had I gotten stuck or had a failure, I'd be there rotting away to this day, more than likely. It's like the old Timex watch commercial in that it keeps ticking and ticking and ticking...

Sure, I've had tie rods and serpentine belts and timing belts and tires and brakes and such replaced regularly...but nary a chronic problem has arisen. OK, so the A/C compressor is now on the blink. Works when it wants to. Ain't payin' the +$1,000 to replace it, either. Does me good to sweat in the middle of the summer should it decide not to blow cold air. I can live with it.

Truth be told, even if I were to win the lottery...I would drive this puppy into the ground until it goes no further. It's that much a part of me and deserves as much.

Happy 250,000th birthday, ol' reliable one!