Friday, October 31, 2008

"Fried Fridays: On Vacation"

Actually, not on vacation...just an early jump this morning to Greenville, SC for today's shoot. I looked for Fried Fridays fodder yesterday and just didn't find a story that tripped my trigger. Alas, I am out of time this morning, so apologies for the non-entry.

At least I can leave you with a pic from this year's color in the mountains! Have a good weekend and enjoy the fine weather!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

As I was anticipating pouring a jar of Prego into a pan to heat for a quick and easy spaghetti dinner, the proverbial light bulb went off in my head...

"THAT'S what I forgot to get in the store earlier!"

I went into 'train wreck' mode, a term that's held on from college days where I took whatever I had (which was never very much) and threw it into a pot, heated it, and added spices to taste.

And so I happened on a neat twist to spaghetti, if you're feeling adventurous. I took a can of tomato sauce and added a can of Rotel (original recipe) which is always useful for mexican dips. I opened up the spice cupboard and randomly grabbed "Herbs de Provence" which is one of those large Costco spice bottles (great for fish, too!), and ground Sage, and put in some healthy amounts (along with a wee bit too much black pepper!). I added to that the ground beef I'd alrady browned with olive oil and Worcestershire sauce, and it was pretty darn tasty, if I do say so myself.

You have to truly understand how much of a formal cook I am NOT. So I had this pot of sauce...I see a spice bottle, unscrew the top and sniff, and mentally 'picture' how it might taste in the tomato-mix, and put it in...always a different combination, never measured, just a culinary adventure at every turn. Usually works just fine.



Looking for an alternative to dialing 411 for information when you can't find a phone book or have internet access? This info came in a forwarded email recently and as I did some snooping it's legitimate...from the fine folks at Google. Pretty sophisticated service, too...

1-800-GOOG-411 (link to website with more information)


FINALLY have my video shoot for the Michelin X One tire (truck), a gig I landed back in the end of August and only now (tomorrow) coming to pass. The economic bust had Michelin holding off on projects, then scaling back the original concept to a much shorter, smaller shoot...but it's always good to be thankful for whatever work you can get.

Since I always absorb myself into the product and scripts, I read up more on that tire...crazy concept that's been on the roads about 8 years already, but it is really something, all the science behind it. On 18-wheel rigs, tires are paired (except the front cab axle)...the X One is a wider tire so that one replaces 2, while actually increasing fuel efficiency by up to 10%.

Always good to learn something new, eh? Enjoy the blessings of the day!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Do you talk to yourself?

I sure do. Especially when I'm driving.

Maybe I talk to Mercy, but that's about the same thing as talking to myself. All she hears is, "blah blah blah blah blah blah pretty girl blah blah blah blah blah blah Mercy blah blah blah blah blah go for a walk? blah blah blah blah..." Amen.

NPR/public radio is my station of choice while in transit, and to say the least politics are front and center for discussion fodder as we fast approach a truly historic election.

Maybe it's because this month has been a go-go-go month for me...maybe because I recently navigated the masses at WalMart...maybe it was because I've just hit certain points where my brain slams on the brakes from overload. With that information in mind, I'm driving and listening to Neal Conan's "Talk of the Nation", and he's reading emails and taking phone calls for his interviewees to answer. Not only was I talking to myself, I was talking to the radio...

You've been in this situation before. Maybe differing circumstances, but the idea is still there. Someone makes a statement, and then the person giving the answer tries to be polite and politically correct...when, in fact, the best answer (the one we'd all love to hear) is to immediately say, "That's the most idiotic thing I've heard in a long time. How stupid."

Tuesday's program was about people who were not going to vote in this election, people who could but were choosing not to exercise their precious right to do so. Most that I heard were abstaining because they don't like either candidate...


"ELECTILE DYSFUNCTION" is the inability to become aroused over andy of the choices for President put forth by either party in the 2008 election year."


It just so happened the cartoon above came in a forwarded email as I was starting to write this post yesterday, ol' perfect timing. Listening to the program, I was truly amazed at some of the reasons people were giving for not voting...

I can understand someone having moved; they can't vote in their former state and they're too new of a resident to vote in their new home state...I would like to think we could standardize state rules, but that seems to be a pipe dream...

Then there is the 'convenience' of early voting. For many places (according to people I've heard), if you wrote a list of 100 adjectives to describe their early voting experience, you won't find 'convenience' on the list. I have no doubt it's working in some areas, but I've tried it and the lines/wait are prohibitive. If they opened early voting truly early, like 6am, I'd give it another try; alas, the hours are 11a to 7p, and by 11a I'm deep into my daily 'stuff' and by 7p I'm ready for bed, literally. On Conan's program were stories of multi-hour waits only to have to give up for other appointments, going through this multiple days as they won't be here to vote November 2...

But the ones that got my goat, that led to many of my rants at the radio itself, were the ones like these:

"I don't like McPain's voting record, but I just can't in all good conscience vote for someone named Obama..."

"I'm a christian and I feel something fundamentally wrong with voting for a Muslim..."

"I don't like either one so I'm not voting. Any other candidates don't stand a chance, so I'm not voting for anyone..."

Sadly, the list could go on. It's just that after hearing some of the listener's comments, what scared me most wasn't that they could think, believe, and say such things, but that there's a good chance they've had kids...

NOTE TO ALL Y'ALL: Elections go far, far beyond just the Presdiency....MANY local issues and positions that need leadership are at stake. Just like our government's response to the financial meltdown, a "do-nothing" approach is irresponsible and not a conscionable option in this a monumental election year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Fried Fridays: Cutting to the point..."

There is no doubt that whether from within or outside our nation's boundaries, one can see in the fabric of U.S. society a strange and sad mix of behaviors from what is supposed to be one of the premiere civilized nations.

Mind you, I'm well aware there are wonderful, positive aspects...but we do have our fair share of head-shaking issues that make one scream out, "What is wrong with you people???"

We are not alone when it comes to road rage...


Losing one's cool is never a good thing, except maybe in a life or death situation. Way too many people snap like pole beans when it comes to offensive behavior, especially behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Take one Kenyan High Court judge , G.B.M. Kariuki. Toodling down the road in his official Mercedes Benz, he was involved in an accident last weekend. A 29 year-old government worker, Robert Kamau was the other driver who met him, well, by accident.

It's yet another heart-warming story of 'He said he said", apparently.

Both stopped after the 'incident' which quite frankly was sparse in details. Kariuki accused Kamau of hitting one of his side view mirrors. I can only assume there was some level of disagreement...and I say that because per a statement from Kamau, "(Kariuki) demanded that I pay him. He then slapped me and took away my keys. As I went for the keys, he stabbed me."

Oh yeah, did I say Kamau gave his statements from his hospital bed?

Yep, it was the ol' knife-in-the-belly trick-because-you-supposedly-hit-me-and-now-I'm-angry-because-you-won't-satisfy-my-demands.

In his defense, the holy High Court judge claimed a much different version of the incident, claiming Kamau came at him with a knife and then accidentally fell on it, stabbing himself.


Part of Kariuki's statement went on to say, "It is a self-inflicted injury. He was very drunk, I am a judge and cannot engage in something like that."

Unless you're power-drunk, yourself...but who am I to judge a judge and be not judged? There is that chance his is the more truthful version...

It's in the hands of the courts now. The police admit there is clear evidence and what should be an unavoidable court appearance on serious charges for Kariuki. Yet at last check they were awaiting further 'instructions'....and, uh, from whom are they waiting for instructions? Wouldn't Joe the Plumber have been charged, if not arrested, immediately?

Sorry, couldn't resist taking a stab at that last over-used iconic figure...

Thursday, October 23, 2008


We as a society are notorious for not discussing certain personal issues, at least not to much depth.

Politics. Religion. Sex. Our incomes.

And Death.

I do know we'd all be better off if we could engage in such dialogue in a positive and supporting way instead of slipping into an
"us-them" attitude. Seems to me that with Death, especially, many have suppressed fears about dying and what it's all about.

Fear has two angles to it: either you're afraid that you are not going to have something, or afraid that you won't have enough of something. And we'd all do well to remember that 'fear' is an acronym for 'false evidence appearing real." I prefer the term 'crossing over' anyway, since it more realistically portrays what happens when we leave our bodies behind.

Yesterday I attended a funeral service for Becky Honeycutt, who at 47 years of age couldn't beat the advanced stages of a long-fought battle with cancer. While many were very sad, I was actually relieved...she was in such pain and poor health of late, and now she's not. A valiant warrior, she.

In some ways I became the detached observer during the service, looking at the overall scene, the people involved, listening...I well imagine that in a room of 100 people there are close to 100 different views and attitudes about death and reactions to it.

I've given a lot of things a lot of thought over the years, and death is one of them...if for no other reason than to be at peace with something so many are uncomfortable with. I'm not. I don't even have any trouble being around sick and dying people...just kinda grown that way over the years.

As for me when I exit stage right, I want to be cremated. My physical body doesn't need to take up any more space on this planet than it will have during my consumption of oxygen molecules. And sending flower arrangements? WHY? I can't use 'em. They'll soon dry out and be tossed, so save the money or donate it to a worthy organization. Sometimes I think people get fancy stuff not for the deceased but for themselves to feel better.

For a funeral/memorial service, I will outlaw black and gray wardrobes and ask that everyone wear bright casual, comfortable clothes...and I would especially welcome shorts. Mark my words: I will come back and haunt violators. There will be no slow tempo organ music; rather, music will be upbeat and joyous. I want people to laugh, even if through tears. I want them to laugh a lot. I want people to feel joy. I want a celebration atmosphere where people feel the connection with each other.

Since I'll be cremated, I want a giant blow-up photo of me up front making a funny face or in the middle of a big belly laugh. And when people leave, I want them to each get a gift of flower seeds or a tree seedling so they can go plant it some place special. Just don't give me somber, dour, deflated, dark anything. How depressing.

Death is not an end to anything. We are not our bodies...we are our Spirits, and like matter they can never be created or destroyed. We all simply transition from one realm to the other, and the beautiful circle continues. We'll all meet again, rest assured...if we so choose.

Yes, a rather strange post...but maybe it will give you pause to consider your thoughts, ideas, opinions on death and the whole social-spiritual process. So much of who we 'think' we are comes from ideologies given to us early on in we get older, may we all have the wisdom and, more importantly, the courage to decide for ourselves what our Truth is and how we want to express it...both as a living human Being as well as a 'crossing' Spirit.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled day...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Students and learning...

In all of my many hats I've worn professionally through the years, I taught science for 9 years. Syllabi. Tests. Homework. Special assignments. Labs. Progress reports and report cards. The whole ball of wax. The idea was to make students want to learn, and there was no getting around their putting effort into the process.

And so I clinch my teeth and seethe a guttural grrrr when I see emails like the following come across the weather inboxes of the stations I've worked for over two decades (note: this is my version to give you the gist of my jungle-like emanations):

"Dear Meteorologist,
My son has a project due in two days and needs to know what a meteorologist does. Please send me any information you can, preferably today. Thank you."

...and another type...

"Hi. My daughter has to turn in her April weather notebook and she needs the highs and lows for the following dates: April 3, 4, 17, 21, and 29. Also say if it rained or not. Thanks."

Oh, there are other variations on those themes. Of the many schooling situations I have difficulty swallowing is a parent who steps in to do the work their child should have done. Accountability goes out the window. Owning responsibility and going through the intentions of the whole learning process vaporizes. I simply run across too many parents who do the work for their kids and try to make homework easier for them, justifying it with excuses.

It's critical youth understand what it is to shoulder responsibility. It's also critical that they be allowed to fall and scrape their nose, to actually fail at something if it's a consequence of their laziness and poor planning, or even just a bad day.

If your child needs to know what a weatherman does, have the child write the email. If there is data missing from a report, have the child look it up...even if you just go to a website, guide and instruct them as they themselves click on links and retrieve numbers. Spoon-feeding has negative consequences.

Too, we can be a busy lot, meteorologists, with myriad daily responsibilities. Occasionally a student will send in an email asking if we could answer some questions for them for a report they're doing. 2 or 3 are do-able, but asking 14 questions, some on the order of "discuss your opinion of global warming" is inappropriate.

As a lot we'll go the extra mile to be helpful with a smile, but on occasion I have had to speak up as a former teacher and suggest an alternative action. As the old anonymous saying goes,

"Give someone a fish and they will eat for a day. Teach someone to fish and they will eat for a lifetime."

and now, for some humorous variations on that last thought...

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he'll be gone for the entire weekend." ~Zenna Shaffer

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he'll sit in a boat and drink beer all day." ~anonymous

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he'll be dead from mercury poisoning inside of three years." ~Charles Haas

"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day; give him a religion and he'll starve while he's praying for a fish." ~anonymous

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Le pant, le pant !!!..."

That's what I hear Pepe LePew saying from an old cartoon, and my October continues to be a strong flowing river of activity that leaves me saying the same thing. Gorgeous fall weather here in the Carolinas, eh? The colors in the mountains are vibrant and widespread, and enough staggering to keep the color machine going longer.

Last weekend was my last official show for 2008 with ye ole Ugly Boy Flutes, and in a former stomping ground of mine, Tryon, NC. The economic sourness is evident in the world of buyers, but it was a successful showing nonetheless...too, I had the unexpected pleasure of getting first place for my booth and wares.

It was especially good to see family and friends...above is a most charming and dear friend, Mrs. Elizabeth Landrum, who was out cutting a rug in front of the music stage just prior to this photo. That's my sister Beth in the background, El Presidente of the Tryon Rotary this year, and to the right Elizabeth's daughter Rita. A good time was had by all.

I'm back in the saddle at News 14 for a trio of evening shifts for the Charlotte market this week... had to blow the cobwebs out of my head Monday afternoon, so I was thankful for the quiet weather as I remembered (or not!) which buttons to press and how to do this, that, and the other. I've had my energies focused in areas far different from my former weather shift work the past few weeks, hence the modest challenges.

It took me a bit to figure out how to get them routed, but I enjoyed being able to put up some of my fall leaf shots on-air and use them in my weather segments. Always good to remember that not everyone can get out and about...there are always viewers in hospital rooms, nursing homes, or simply home-bound folks who appreciate the beauty being brought to them.

Finally have a little time this morning to clean and reorganize things...well, truth be told, you really can't 'reorganize' something that was never 'organized' to begin I have much work cut out for me in that department. Since I keep putting that task off, I figured I'd better work on my procrastination while I'm at it, which I think I'll do...uh...tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Fried Fridays: God only knows..."

Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers has been a public servant for 38 years.

Hey, you have to be elected and re-elected to go almost 4 decades in those official roles, and Chambers certainly must have gained a good degree of public trust throughout. God knows he did.

Or did he? God 'knowing', that is...


Chambers filed a lawsuit against God. No, really. His suit claimed that God wasn't properly served thanks to his 'unlisted' address. His claims are that God made terrorist-like threats against him and his Omaha-ians, created and inspired fear, causing "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of Earth's inhabitants."

Now Chambers just wanted to make a (what he thought) sensible point: that "everyone should have access to the courts regardless of whether they are rich or poor." If you're not really following any of this, join the club...

This past Tuesday Douglas County District Court Judge Marlon Polk decreed that, per state statues, a plaintiff must somehow have access to the defendant for a lawsuit to proceed. "Given that this court finds that there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant this action will be dismissed with prejudice," Polk penned. Or more likely typed. Heavens.

Chambers continued the logical rebuttal Wednesday by asserting that the very court admitted the existence of God...and that by such acknowledgment, there is a consequential recognition of God's omniscient nature. Basically, that would mean that since God knows everything, He/She didn't really need to be notified in writing of this lawsuit.

Which reminds me of a joke...

If you're still not following this completely, take a number and stand in line...

Bottom line is the court has ruled and thrown this case out. Chambers has 30 days to talk it over with God and decide how to proceed...or not.

So, back to my first sentence, morphing it into the question that begs to be asked: how did this state senator survive the past 38 years, which now ends thanks to term limits?

The answer: God knows.

And now for the joke that popped into my mind...If you call a psychic, and they answer by saying 'Hello?', are they really psychic?

Have a heavenly day, friends!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Miracles do happen...

You have to know me and creative filing system, which is to say it's creative to the point of non-existence...good intentions, but a failed mission most of my life.

My little Canon S2 which takes dramatic macro shots I've posted herein a lot, has developed a month-long problem that has ended in the lens stuck out and "E18" displayed on a black screen in the camera. Dead in the water. Looked up "E18" on line and found that a good many Canon users have run into this problem, and it's no cheap fix.

The title of this entry is because I actually found my extended warranty plan which I rarely buy and usually don't recommend. I bought it in June of 2005 when I was in Rapid City, South Dakota, and actually got the 4-year plan which is really something I don't mess with; however, knowing I was all over that beautiful landscape in all kinds of conditions, it was worth it to have an 'insurance' policy instead or replacing the camera from a mishap.

For most (read 'normal') people, you have a place you put such important documents. I did to...only I couldn't remember where. Cross-country moves don't help matters, and I had a 'visual' picture of it but couldn't place where. Lo and behold, today's miracle unearthed itself before the sun rose as I found what I needed to run by Best Buy when it opens.

NOW the trick will be to see how well their customer service handles it...the S2 has long been replaced by the S3 and now the S5, which I would happily take as a replacement. To send the camera off for 2-3 months while they look for excuses not to repair it under warranty will not make me a happy camper as much as I use the camera (when it worked!). Rest assured I'll keep you posted, and I hope it will be a two-thumbs-up!


And quickly to a flute that has been sitting for over a year, a closed-end flute with a snake coming out the end...the flute body is Poplar, and I'll let you imagine how long it took to burn in the entire flute to make it look like a log (click pic to enlarge).

Originally I was going to make it a black rat snake, but once I had my little encounter with the Canebrake rattler I blogged about a while back, I felt compelled to reshape the head and start blocking out the paint patterning. I have a long way to go, but the painting is the fun part, and the quick-drying acrylics work just great.

Naturally, I'm gonna hear it from my mom about making something with snakes on it...even some flute players don't care to handle flutes with snakes on 'em, but I figure that's their problem. And because earlier this summer I watched a hawk just after it caught a snake and was sitting in a tree tearing up it's meal, I had this idea for a block....

...from a piece of cedar I found that, with minimal shaping around the head, looked like a hawk to me. That's been sitting around waiting for the cows to come home, as well...but I found a nice tip to a small log that made for a nice natural perch for it...and so I'll have the hawk on the block eyeing the snake that, I bet, it passes on...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Monday Mop-Up...a day late!

October continues to be a month of almost excessive activity and responsibilities for me, 7 days a week. Not complaining at all, mind you, but I have been forced to accept that I really can't do everything at once and that I have to work hard at prioritizing the best 'bang for the buck' in terms of time management. Let me fill you in on a little secret: that is NOT a strength of mine!

Last weekend was a one-day art show in Waynesville, NC, 30 minutes west of Asheville...plenty of color popping, but the 'peak' conditions are truly that, above the 4,000 feet mark. Another good couple of weeks of color as it descends the slopes, and overall nice weather to do so. 'Leaf peepers' should score nicely this year.

I scored unexpectedly at the art show by winning a third place award. A lot of shows judge a booth overall, but this one asked you to place a marker on your one special show piece for silent judging, and my intricate "dragonfly drone" brought home the bacon.

How did the show go overall? Since I have only flutes to offer, which are not in the category of $20 momentoes, it's a slow go. Really slow. It ended up being a solid day, however, when someone bought the the very time the show officials delivered the ribbon and prize. Hard to see my 'kids' go, but it has gone to a wonderful home, I'm sure. (Flute info: made of figured Cherry with Walnut endcaps; the inlay of 5 dragonflies and the block involved turquoise, malachite, lapis, abalone, sulfur, and a little brass and aluminum dust)

Western NC had possibly even more severe issues with the recent gas shortage...prices from last Friday through Sunday continued to fall, with most places by Sunday in the $3.19 range or a tad higher. When I got to Charlotte, the story was a bit different - a huge disappointment to find recurring gas shortages, closed pumps, and higher prices. Yes, more stations have gas, but my Costco station had no regular unleaded...I was told they are still having to truck it in.

While I had to run to another work project for the day (read away from the TV and news) I later couldn't find any story headlines on it....I guess the 'flavor of the day' that news stations are notorious for creating just sees it as old hat, the gas problem...and I see it as a rat somewhere in the distributor web that hasn't been fleshed out, and I really find it inexcuseable that the problems still exist, though ameliorated.

While there is nothing eminent, the tropics are simmering down near the Yucatan and Caribbean. "Nana" further east seems to be a non-issue, but the Yucatan area prime for development has a potentital N-NW drift, up into oil rig territory. TD #15 in the Caribbean may hit a more favorable clime for development, as well...another Gulf oil rig disruption surely won't help this screwed up situation in any way. Where are your elected leaders when you need 'em to step up to the plate...

Nice to see the Dow index skyrocket yesterday...just wild crazy, the financial world, eh? For now, my efforts are in managing my wild crazy October. This weekend's art show in Tryon, NC is a new one for an old and well-established group "Tryon Arts and Crafts". Friday's cold front appears to have little moisture with it, and nice fall-feeling weather for Saturday and Sunday.

'Nuff mopping for now. Gotta go put some finish coats on a couple of flutes to get my day going!

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Fried Fridays: Music to my ears..."

Because I travel a lot with my windows down, mainly a consequence of a broken A/C compressor, I am often reminded how unpleasant it is to do so in city environments. Floating along a gravel backroad in North Dakota with the scruff of gravel under the wheels and a constant symphony of beckoning of Meadowlarks is one thing; diesel exhaust, throaty engines, and general noise, especially at red lights, is noisome.

But if there is one annoyance above and beyond any other to me, traveler of windows down, it's that stupidly (and rude) excessively loud stereo shaking the sheet metal on the car cradling it, with unwanted super-deep percussive thuds invading my 'space'...


You know it's bad when you can't even hear your own stereo thanks to someone else's noise pollution. Andrew Vactor, 24, is one of those master blasters, and was recently slapped with a $150 fine for playing his rap music on his car stereo too loudly.

Ah, but a golden light shone from above with a forward-thinking judge at the bench...Champaign County Municipal Court Judge Susan Fornof-Lippencott has a knack for coming up with creative solutions that just might help deter future offenses.

In Andrew's case, she had an innovative idea that, if agreed to by the offender, would reduce his fine from $150 to just $35. All he had to do is 'listen' to what she had to say...

...or, rather, listen to what she wanted him to hear: 20 hours of classical music to the likes of Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, et al.

Her reasoning was brilliant and worthy of a standing ovation: since he was forcing other drivers to listen to his obnoxious 'music' (an arguable stretch), she wanted him to be forced to hear other types of music he didn't like, in the hopes of either causing him to think twice and care about his actions, and, just maybe, to 'broaden his horizons.'

The result?

After just 15 minutes of listening, he basically said to hell with it and immediately paid the $150 fine in full.

Techinically speaking, with that fine and conviction, does he now have a rap sheet?....

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"Don't sweat it..."

I remember from my science teaching days explaining some chemistry basics per balancing those dreaded equations, especially as it relates to changes of state. Take water for add heat to the liquid to get it to change to vapor, or your cool it down enough to form ice. Clouds (vapor) can turn into raindrops (and more) if the air is by some mechanism cooled or too much vapor added to the air mass, coming in from another weather system.

And so I'd talk about stepping out of a shower, or getting out of a pool, even on a very hot day...there's that coolness you immediately feel. Same thing when you wipe your face and neck with a wet towel to cool off a little bit, and the real purpose of our sweat glands...


Good ol' water-into-vapor is a basic chemical equation in which heat is an 'input' into the equation and consumed, not given off/produced. The fancier word for that is "endothermic"...and if heat were produced, an 'output', like the burning of wood, that reaction is "exothermic". The prefixes tell it all, endo- and exo-, and thermic is self-explanatory.

And so it is a mass e-mail just came my way, and one I've seen before and you may have, as well. said it's a true story, pulled from the internet in 1997. The original story isn't quite as detailed as this one, and supposedly no grade was any rate, I'm posting the 'tweaked' version as it's really cute...although there is technical error some may catch...

Enjoy the chuckle, regardless!


Hell – As Explained By a Chemistry Student

Note: The following is an actual question given on a

University of Washington chemistry mid term. The answer by

one student was so profound that the professor shared it

with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why

we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well:

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or

endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs

using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats

when it is compressed) or some variant. One student,

however, wrote the following:

"First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is

changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls

are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving.

I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to

Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As

for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the

different religions that exist in the world today.

"Most of these religions state that if you are

not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since

there is more than one of these religions and since people

do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that

all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they

are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase


"Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume

in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the

temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the

volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are


"This gives two possibilities:

"1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than

the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and

pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

"2.. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than

the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and

pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

"So which is it?

"If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa

Stephenson during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a

cold day in Hell before I sleep with you', and take into

account the fact that I slept with her last night, then

number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is

exothermic and has already frozen over.

"The corollary of this theory is that since Hell

has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any

more souls and is therefore, extinct ... leaving only

Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a Divine Being

which explains why, last night, Teresa kept

shouting 'Oh my God!'"


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Welcome, newest NC state park!

(click pics to enlarge)

September 29, 2008 was a Red Letter day for preservationists: The Morton family agreed to sell their Grandfather Mountain property (all 2,600 acres of it) to the state of North Carolina for $12 million. 'Governor Easley, ya done good!'

Hugh Morton was a man of myriad visions, talents, and philanthropic endeavors, only one aspect being his controlled creation of Grandfather Mountain as a quality tourist destination and nature preserve. While I took these photos from the Blue Ridge Parkway last Saturday (en route to what served as yesterday's blog at Grayson Highlands), there is an extensive system of rather rugged hiking trails through the preserve.

Hugh Morton passed away after 85 fulfilling years on June 1, 2006. An accomplished photographer, he...many of us know one of his shots well: the iconic photo of Mildred the Bear set against the +5,000 foot rocky skyline. In 1952, he also built the famous "Mile-High Swinging Bridge", highest in the U.S., that connects the two rocky peaks. Winds can get ferocious up there, and that bridge can do some swaying...and for careless people playing around the edges, that mountain can take a life on occasion, as well.

And so it is the foresight and generosity of the Morton family has made this available for all to enjoy, instead of accepting a much higher sum for yet another private gated community that would have locked such a treasure away except for a wealthy few.

The High Country of the NC mountains are host to ecosystems that are becoming more rare. Grandfather used to be dominated by spruce-fir forests more akin to Canada, but around 1900 the Balsam Wooly adelgid found its way here from Europe and significantly killed off a lot of these forests (witness especially Mount Mitchell's woes to the southwest). In the fall, it's always striking to see lit-up deciduous foliage up against an evergreen pocket, like the shot below...

'Peak' color is yet ahead...the next couple of weeks will see quite the display up in the mountains as the colors descend to the 4,000 range and dapple even lower. Even with the high gas prices and weak economy, there are plenty of two-leggeds out and about enjoying the annual beauty pageant...

#34, this one. North Carolina's 34th state park. Or it will be, once the deal has been consummated and whatever red tape needs to be put in proper order. I'll admit that for all the hiking and traipsing I've done in the Blue Ridge, I've never hiked the Grandfather trail system itself. I think it's about high time I did...

Monday, October 06, 2008

"From a land far, far away..."

Technically, southwest Virginia is not that far away. Where my show was this past weekend was removed enough that there was no cell phone or internet service, and my room had no TV or even a land-line of those rare places where everyone knows and trusts each other, and door locks rarely used. It's all too easy to get hooked into those devices, so while strange it was far more 'freeing' to simply relax in a communication vacuum.

Of course, it's no vacuum at all...Nature always communicates loud and clear, and for a few hours Sunday I had the chance to revisit one of my favorite state parks in that region: Grayson Highlands State Park.

I don't think the weather could have been better scripted. There, just above 4,500 feet in elevation, temperatures were warm enough (easily) for my typical t-shirt and shorts, though I did tie a jacket around my waist as the breezes atop the outcrops were a bit cooling for the light sweat I worked up.

Cobalt blue skies abounded, as did other people taking advantage of the hiking trails sprouting out from Massie Gap. And the color...oh, my, these pictures don't even do it justice. At just a frog hair below 'peak', the display was breath-taking. Don't forget: you can click on the pics to enlarge for a better view.

I was moving too slowly to say I was horsing around, there, but Grayson is known for it's wild yet tame ponies that were introduced and allowed to have free 'rein' of the well-grassed slopes
Once a year the ponies are rounded up and given health checks, innoculations, etc., and if need be a few colts may be auctioned off to keep the herd properly sized. While people are known to approach them and feed them, the park frowns on it...even though they were docile, I like to respectfully let all animals 'do their thing' and take pictures from afar with my telephoto lens. The youngster above was most content in the warming sunshine, and soon followed mom and dad in the prior shot as they headed off to graze another area.

Mount Rogers is the highest peak in VA, and Grayson Highlands was originally named a part of that park; however, in 1965 it was converted into a state park, where the Mount Rogers region is now a National Recreation Area. Regardless, it's a continuum of preserved wildness for all to enjoy - and so I did.

Alas, it's back to the civilized world to try and squeeze 36 hours of intended effort into a 24 hour day, to check emails and answer messages, to get back to my helping clear out a house for renovations, to making flutes for the other October shows...but first things first: sharing these images with you to give you a beautiful start to your week.

Friday, October 03, 2008

"Fried Fridays: Stupidity times two..."

As hard as it is, I'm steering clear of the myriad political stories worthy of a Fried Friday honor. Not only that, this will be the first Friday that I'm selecting two stupid wire stories because, well, they just go together...

Like peanut butter and jelly...

Like lightning bugs and mason jars...

Like 'Obama' and NY Times crossword puzzles...

And to temporarily confuse you a bit, while the stories go together, each is a story of what should NEVER go together...


Talk about things that go together, how about July 4th and fireworks? Yep, a classic.

How about transporting illegal fireworks down on the floorboard of your car? Uh, okay and, uh...

Oh yeah, and how about transporting said fireworks and smoking cigarettes at the same time?

Better yet, how about having some red hot ash from a nice deep drag set off said fireworks while you're driving?

A man, apparently perfecting his stupidity for 28 years, was arrested last weekend after the fire department arrived to put out his car on fire in the middle of the road. A passenger was seen tossing out what fireworks they could before abandoning the car.

Luckily, no one was injured. Unluckily, theoretically, anyway, he's still able to procreate...


Enter today's second winner for a cerebral shortage...which started with another type of shortage we've gotten used to here in portions of NC: gasoline.

Seems that early last Sunday morning (read 'after midnight Saturday'), a man went to get in his SUV only to discover his tank was empty. Unrelated to our NC issue from Ike, of course...he just didn't pay attention to his gauge. Clue #1...

He and a female accomplice took a hose and empty gas can and went to siphon gas from a nearby van. Not a van of anyone they knew. I am assuming the hose and gas can came from his thirsty SUV as those items just don't materialize at 2am...just thinking out loud, here...

Depending on the amount of street lights, it's usually pretty dark at that time of the day. He was able to get the gas trickling out into the can, but it was too dark to effectively see how much he was getting in the can.

To return to today's theme, flashlights go perfectly with darkness when you need to see. So do campfires.

However, a BIC lighter does NOT go perfectly with darkness when there is gasoline right next to it.

I'm going to take a wild guess and assume there was no gas left in the container after the explosion...


Hope you have a blast this weekend...just make it the 'good' kind of blast, okay?... ;-)