Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And then it happened....

Oh, trust me, this morning I was going to write about the House's 'thumbs down' on Bush's bailout, and will maybe tomorrow. But I awoke to my own issues, a serious jolt of Reality in it's own right.

Zip. Nada. Zilch.

Back up the bus to when I was a pre-kindergartner...and had my first sips of coffee with cream and sugar while spending quality early-morning alone time with my visiting grandmother. We all have our little 'security blankets' that manifest as something we do or look forward to each day, or each week...and mine is not only my early natural awakening, but the grabbing of my thermos coffee pot and pre-loading it with Splenda and Half and Half. I am then free to take the pot with me to the computer, or sofa, or flute room and not have to make trips back and forth.

I'm temporarily involved with a great deal of manual labor all day long, and after having a fairly good night's sleep, I got up naturally at 4:30a. Sore as I was, I smiled when I smelled the coffee that just brewed, and with a relative lightness of step headed towards my pre-sunrise routine.

Only then did the dimmest of light bulbs go off in my head as I stared into the sparsely populated refrigerator: I had finished the Half and Half yesterday.

Now, in the past, say, 5 years, I've encountered the lack of liquid dairy maybe 10 times. Maybe there was a little skim milk left one time...maybe there was some leftover powdered creamer I use to try to keep on hand for emergencies (I've obviously not tended to that garden)...I've used vanilla ice cream/yogurt ice cream and let it melt in the coffee...I once used a can of vanilla Slim Fast...desperate times call for desperate measures.

Alas, this morning, there were no options except to: forego creamer and drink it black (GASP!), or freak Mercy out and take her for an 0'dark-thirty ride to the 24-hour grocery store about 2 miles away. A no brainer for me, I chose the latter.

And so amidst the chaos within our country and world, I present to you my impromptu "Top 10" list of advantages to shopping at 4:45am...

10. I don't have to be cautious of neighborhood kids waiting for the school bus as they loosely gather out in the road like Guinea Fowl (you can appreciate that statement if you've ever been around 'em...Guinea Fowl, that is).

9. There are no delays from road crews continuing to significantly disrupt traffic while they work on the major thoroughfare in front of my subdivision.

8. For that matter, I have the road to myself with virtually no traffic.

7. I can park close the front door of the store.

6. I can navigate the aisles and not deal with a family of four waddling side by side, oblivious to my polite "excuse me, passing through, please" pleas.

5. I also don't have to glare at the parent who exercises no control over their out-of-control 5-year old running and screaming through the store.

4. I get great customer service if I have a question.

3. There's no waiting in line at the checkout.

2. I can walk Mercy in nearby grassy areas and clean up after her in shadowy anonymity.

...and one of best advantages of shopping well before sunrise is...

1. I don't have to wait in line at the gas pump...oh, wait a minute, my local stations STILL have no gas.

May your cup runneth over today!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Just a thought to get you going...

"Change your opinions,

keep to your principles;
change your leaves,
keep intact your roots."

- Victor Hugo


Lots of change out there, far more than normal. Historic, even.

The Election.

The financial meltdown.

The empty gas pumps.

And that's just within our own borders...

Consumers are angry and fed up with with the old way of our doing 'business', and yet scared to death as we see investments, jobs, and security wobble significantly.

Just don't 'stop' what you're doing, pull in your awning, and hide...this is precisely the time to make adjustments with a clear and calm mind, and move forward into what may well appear to be a dark void. Go towards it with both eyes open and a quiet mind. You'll either step on solid ground or learn to fly very quickly.

Don't forget: rainbows come after storms.

P.S. Someone please remind me of this the next time I 'lose it'...!

Friday, September 26, 2008

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in."

~George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was one forward-thinking scientist; he had a brilliant aptitude in agricultural sciences, and was responsible for myriad inventions and new products (especially related to peanuts). Too, he was a role model of the first order at a critical time...Reconstruction had been underway, which for freed slaves was full of difficulties, the boll weevil had wiped out the cotton crops, and much of white dominant Southern culture was resisting recognizing them as equals. Among his many deserved accolades, Carver inspired freed slaves to become self-sufficient, educated, and motivated. One of the Tuskegee Institute's finest, he.

And in line with his wonderful quote above, I spent a little time just watching the hummers yesterday...it's all too easy to get caught up in the frenetic pace of life, especially with our gas pumps still dry and now Washington Mutual biting the dust with a thundering thud. Ugh. Just didn't feel 'led' to dive into the news dumpster for my usual 'Fried Fridays'. Don't need the toxins right now.

Life at the sugar feeder has been a bit busier, what with the cooler temperatures in place. Soon these wee ones will wing their way south to a warmer clime, but knowing them I will look forward to their return next spring.

The Nuthatch (bottom) will stay with me, of course...the suet feeder will get more and more attention from its kin as winter sets in...fun to watch them run head first down tree trunks. With today's rains and winds, I'm thinkin' I'll keep the camera indoors today...

TGIF, y'all!

(click on pics to enlarge)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What is normal?

No two days are alike for me, and the past few are no exceptions. Writing is no different from any other artistic pursuit, and like too many places in NC right now I've been out of (creative) gas.

The empty gas pumps and stations have made me feel very uneasy. Yes, I know the gas is now flowing to Spartanburg's hub from Texas and that supplies should start to increase by early next week, but that doesn't help for the moment. In Asheville, the excellent A-B Tech community college has canceled classes...some government offices have closed...all to cut down on vehicular traffic to limit the demand on local pumps, what few still have gas.

Charlotte has had plenty of its own issues with empty tanks, as well. Most places have long lines, which creates opportunities for increased tempers. I was the third car in one line when the attendant came out and closed the pump...and it was the last one they had had running. After my 15 minute wait I had to turn the car back on and go looking elsewhere.

In large part the gouging has stopped, although I hear stories of a few places jacking up prices. While gouging is not acceptable, there is a benefit if you look at it from more of a triage angle: if prices spike, it usually slows the dispensing of gas, making for a supply on hand when you really need it. As it is for many, they've had to park their cars until stations close to their house get gas...some can't get to work...some can't get to hospitals for treatments...there's no gas to be had, even if they were willing to pay $7 a gallon. That is a frightening proposition for some people.

And with that fear everyone seems to be tanking up wherever and whenever they can. As 'Joe Consumer' you bet I've curtailed shopping trips and spending...so throw our localized gas issues on top of the mountainous national economic news and I'm starting to feel like that bottom-weighted punching bag clown that keeps getting whacked from all sides. We have to get back up and keep our nose to the grindstone, regardless, getting what 'thick skin' we can to steady a very weak ship.

In a kinda-sorta way, each of the past few days has brought its unexpected detours...the frustrating ones, I should clarify. I go to cut wood, but all of a sudden the switch is dead. Not really dead, as I remember when it happened a couple of years ago...but what should have been a 2-minute cut was a 50-minute disassembling of a switch to remove dust and file off burnt contact points and then reassembling. Or trying to start a gas-powered weedeater that finally cranked after 20 minutes of messing with it, priming it, checking the spark plug....and when it finally buzzed to life, I ran out of line within 30 seconds. Add to that Mr. Brilliant, here, first finding then winding the string in the wrong direction (makes a HUGE difference!) and I had another one of those long diversions that took me far off any planned track. It's truly amazing how at times one little thing can immediately lead to 10 other things...kind of like a perverted Rube Goldberg contraption all its own!

And so I'm just trying to stay at peace and be as productive as possible. I have some other major issues to work on, but I'm apprehensive to tackle them for fear of more long diversions...so for this morning I'll play it safe, post this, go sand on some flutes, and hope that some gas trucks make it to the hardest hit areas.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Mop-up...

I had already posted my Fried Friday's selection when I began reading some AP wire stories later that morning. I'll admit I don't fully understand Islamic faith...in fact, I probably understand very little. But it is easily observed that all religions have ultra-conservative sects and leaders, and in some Islamic circles, fatwas are decreed that 'okay' murdering someone.

In Saudi Arabia, Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan is chief of that kingdom's highest tribunal, the Supreme Judiciary Council . He recently ordered that owners of 'immoral' satellite stations be killed, basically. I really don't need to add any other comment to the above...but I did want to share a quote from the news article showing that virtually no one is immune from prosecution...not even a mega-marketing icon with big black ears:

--- Obscenity isn't the only thing that disturbs some. On Tuesday, another Saudi cleric, Sheik Mohammed Munajjid, said the cartoon character Mickey Mouse should be killed. Munajjid said in an interview with a religious Web site that under Islamic law, rats and mice are considered "repulsive" and as "soldiers of Satan." ---

Eeegads. As a bumper sticker says, "Dear God, save me from your people."

Filling in for Matt Morano for a couple of days, I am. Superb fall-like weather moved in late last week, and has let us know that, yes, Virginia, there is a seasonal change a-comin'...right on cue as the Autumnal Equinox is today. Tropics tend to get quieter with these fall like patterns in place although later-season hurricanes are not only possible but can be big ones. I am reprinting part of a recent email from Jeff Orrock of the National Weather Service on one of the worst:

1954 category 4 Hurricane Hazel Makes landfall over southeastern NC and tra
cks across Central NC on October 15th
...and the last of 3 hurricanes to ravage the state in 1954 (Carol and Edna had already hit the coast in August and September). If we had another Hazel today it would be one of our worst fears. Wind gusts of 90 mph were recorded at RDU, 120 mph wind reported in Kinston and Goldsboro and 140 mph winds in Wilmington. The inland devastation from Hazel was incredible and would be catastrophic today. Along with the wind Hazel dropped 6 to 10 inches of rain over Central NC including portions of the current day Triad and Triangle. Nearly 50,000 structures were severe damaged or destroyed from the coast all the way to the Virginia state line, and that in 1954. Hazel is a benchmark storm for NC and anytime the topic of hurricanes is raised discussions of what Hazel did to our state and what similar storm could do tomorrow are always paramount.

Right now, all we have is an area of 'high' interest plopped over Puerto Rico...whether it develops or not will be an aside to the area of low pressure expected to drift northward and increase our northeasterly breezes this week...the coast will pick up showers, and possibly by the end of the week some of those rains could make it into central NC...bears watching.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Ike" satellite updates...

This product has been out a few days, but in case you haven't seen it, click on the image below to go to that webpage...when you select a box, it will open a smaller color screen with even more boxes to choose from...when you select a box there, it will print a 'regular' size image...click on 'full size image' to enlarge and *note* that, depending on your browser and settings, you can click on that picture and it will get very large in your screen, where you have to scroll all around to see it all. Post-Ike, of course.

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Fried Fridays: Shafted!"

Yes, I understand the title could easily refer to the falling of financial giants this week...after all, many a person and business has now lost a boatload of worth, and the ripples won't quit anytime soon. Besides, it's more 'scary' than 'fried'...

No, this week's winner goes to someone who apparently is a legend in his own mind...


Army troops go on missions. Church groups go on mission trips. I go on a mission to find my car keys most days. Ah, but one young man was on a very special, secret mission...

25-year old Richard Anthony Smith is a self-avowed "special agent from the United States Illuminati, badge number 0931." His mission: to locate a Soviet-made nuclear warhead, (if you must know, a MERV6SS-22AN warhead), defuse it and then confiscate it. According to Smith, the bomb was believed to be hidden in a blue, plastic cow sculpture in the basement...

...of the Knoxville Museum of Art.

There was only one problem: Smith told officers his "agency" called to say it made a mistake and the bomb might be in a Memphis museum instead. Oh yeah, there was a second problem...

Smith got stuck in an air conditioning vent below the museum's roof and was forced to call 911.

When he was lifted out of his tight lodgings some 45 feet down below the roof, he told officers a helicopter dropped him off on the roof so he could use a long rope and descend into the museum. He then went on explain his 'mission' in detail and had this to add:

"Mission failed," said a dejected Smith.

You don't say...


From yesterday's post, at the bottom, was the picture of the Bengal tiger, and I said 'find the hidden tiger'...go back and look at the tiger's stripes...they spell out "the hidden tiger".

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm sorta bugged...

Been a bit of a stomach virus going around and it acted like it wanted to get a hold of me yesterday. No energy, stomach cramps, a bloated feeling, minimal hunger...I needed Midol for Men in a big way.

And so, as you can tell from the time stamp of this post, it was also yet another night where I can't seem to sleep much past midnight (well, I do lay down around 730p-8p, so I get my gratuitous 5 hours in before tossing endlessly), and still not feeling up to snuff. Thought I'd go to the humor well and share some chuckles with you today. Looks like some gorgeous calm weather moving into (most) of the Carolinas...enjoy!


Reminds me of a joke where this person was helping build a house, and his partner was making much more headway nailing boards up...when the partner came to watch what his friend was doing, he noticed he was lining up the flat head and striking the pointed end with the hammer. "No wonder you're going so slow!!! Those nails are for the other side of the house!"....

While we're on construction techniques...

Rule #1 in construction (ok, rule # whatever): "Measure twice, cut once." Unless you're having a bad confidence day and you measure so many times that you end up making no cuts because you start confusing yourself...having pens and pencils handy are key, even if you have to write on the wood...

Would that be a blogspot? While we've momentarily gone to the dogs, this one is cute...

Have you seen the price of those legs lately? Gone through the 'ruff', thanks to inflation...

"Man, look at that S-Car go!"...

Speaking of 'man', I maintain the ability to laugh at myself when I see something like this:


You will find this either very difficult or fairly easy. In this picture below, your job is to find the hidden tiger. It's there. I'll post the 'answer' at the end of tomorrow's "Fried Fridays" column.

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Too good to be true?...

How does that old joke go?...something about trying to get the truth out of somebody, and one way to do it was to make them wear one shoe size too small...

If the shoe fits, wear it. And if you really like it, find a good deal on it and buy another pair for later.

Some time ago, out of necessity, I became a New Balance convert...with my myriad and long-running knee issues, and the fact that when I was doing weather I could wear tennis shoes with my suit because you never saw my feet, I've always been looking for a shoe that provided me the most comfort and support, at a hopefully reasonable price. I practically live in 'em.

Years ago I was a NB 991 fan...fantastic shoe, and then one year NB 'upgraded' to the 992. Ask anyone that knows anything about that line, even NB store clerks, and they'll willingly tell you NB screwed up a great shoe. It simply was worse in many ways. And so I migrated to the pricey NB 1222 and then the 1223...

while there was significant comfort, it was anything but comfortable paying for a pair...and so I began looking around again. Good ol' discount shoe warehouses...I found one delightfully comfortable (in fit and price) in the NB 645, which is a nice wide-base shoe that fit the bill. Add a quality insert and I was good to go. Been in 'em for several months and have been a happy camper.

Heeding my own advice, I went on-line to see if I could find a really cheap price on another pair to store for later when these lose their cushioning. Wasn't long before I came across a pair at Sears on sale...medium widths only in sizes 11,12, and 13, the latter of which I sought. $30 plus shipping, half of what I paid for the first pair, and I must admit the service was lightning fast and efficient.
Within a few days the box arrived.

I was a bit proud I'd done such a good job of shopping, which I'm known for doing anyway...and so I took the box to the sofa, musing how light it was, opened it up, and....deer in the headlight look, to be sure...

"Crestfallen" came to mind. So did other words that were far from printable. These might have fit me when I was 4 years old...

I went back to the web page to see what I missed the first time around, and the only thing that let me know these were kids sizes was the following line in the small print description at the bottom of the page:

"An adult feature, laced athletic shoe perfect for your boy..."

*** sigh ***

In this case, it was too good to be true. Back to the ol' cyber drawing board go I

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More than a wet leaf...

Early one morning I opened the door to the deck to find this sugar maple leaf with its world of water droplets...and it struck me as a beautiful painting would, full of beauty and layers of thought, emotion, and reflection (literally and figuratively)...

I suppose there are those that would never even notice such a thing, or care to look beyond a wet leaf, but I couldn't help but stop and marvel at the perfection of Nature. Henry David Thoreau was always good for introspection as it relates to the natural world, and so I pulled up some quotes of his that you might find worthy of mulling over...

(click on pics to enlarge)

Perfect sincerity and transparency make a great part of beauty, as in dewdrops, lakes, and diamonds.

from the Journal (June 20, 1840)

Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe.

from the "Conclusion" to Walden

In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.

from the chapter "Economy" in Walden

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.

from the chapter "Where I Lived and What I Lived For" in Walden

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.

from the "Conclusion" to Walden

I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

from the "Conclusion" to Walden

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

from the "Conclusion" to Walden

I have a great deal of company in my house; especially in the morning, when nobody calls.

from the chapter "Solitude" in Walden

However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names.

from the "Conclusion" to Walden

I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth anyone's while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them.

from the chapter "Economy" in Walden


In the days before his death, his Aunt Louisa asked him if he had made his peace with God. His answer was

"I did not know we had ever quarrelled, Aunt."

from the Harding and Richardson biographies