Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand

And Eternity in an Hour."

- William Blake

This last 'weekend wildflowers' is about the non-flowers, per se. Though they are just coming out, Jack-In-The-Pulpit can be found for a fairly wide timeline span. All plant parts contain calcium oxalate, which causes a significant burning sensation if not swelling in the throat and tongue area. Pretty toxic stuff. Native Americans purportedly used a root preparation for sore eyes; other uses were for bronchitis, rheumatism, snakebites...and even to induce sterility, of all things.

This Solomon's Seal is only just starting to create the pre-flower buds. I'll be posting its blooms soon, assuming I catch it in time. Another week, another set of blooms, so it seems...

When ferns begin to unfurl, they're called "fiddleheads" and for good reason...they look just like heads of violins/fiddles/scrolls. In fact, they are quite edible at this is a link for some (apparently) good eatin': FIDDLEHEAD RECIPES. However, I'm afraid I'm not well-versed in fern identification...

...although I am quite 'frond' of them...

Continuing with the theme of "I have no idea what this is", this was a neat picture that somehow reminded me of the Loch Ness Monster rearing its head out of the water. Be it the ferns or this plant member, I love the texture of the hairy stalks...

This morning happens to be a freeze/frost concern for many Foothills and mountain locations...duration of sub-freezing temps will be key. Hope my plant buddies fare well so I can bring you more pics as I can get to them. Hopefully this will be our last scrape with Mr. Frost.

If you don't know who he is, you don't know Jack...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Weekend wildflowers: the non-white ones...

(click pics to enlarge)

While white is a common early flower color, there are plenty of other hues to be spied. Some, like the Yellow Mandarin below, make you do a double take because the flowers blend in color-wise with the foliage...and thought it doesn't 'look' it, this is a member of the Lily family. There is a far less common Mandarin that is whitish with purple dots called Nodding Mandarin. Intriguing, this one...

I do a pretty good job of killing some house plants, mainly because I forget to water at times. Next is the Large Bellwort, a droopy flower with droopy leaves reminiscent of lacking turgor pressure. The Cherokee made a poultice from the upper sections of the plant to treat rheumatic pains and sore muscles. I also love how the stem appears to go through the base of the leaf...

You saw the Canadian White Violet in yesterday's post...this is the Smooth Yellow Violet that has been in bloom for a few weeks now. Violets can be hard to identify as the over-20 different genera can hybridize locally.

The overcast conditions aided a lot of the photos, like this Wood Violet that glows a gorgeous lilac color. In general, the flowers are quite edible and full of vitamins and even salicylic acid, often used as a garnish and on salads...

In stark contrast, spectrum- and safety-wise, is the royally vibrant Dwarf Larkspur whose deep blue-purple blooms can be seen and identified long before getting to them. However, it's poisonous to animals and humans if ingested, containing the toxic alkaloids delphinine and ajacine...

While toxic in some forms, this non-showy flower belongs to a member of the Buttercup family: Blue Cohosh. Medicinal uses ranged largely in 'female' health issues; it should not be equated or confused with the similarly named but unrelated and safer Black Cohosh.

Tomorrow, I'll wrap up with a few other botanical items. Enjoy this beautiful calm weather in place the rest of the week!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend wildflowers: the white ones...

(click on pics to enlarge)

There is so much about Spring to fall in love with, and wildflowers often top that magical list. I found a sheltered slope away from the masses that was jam packed with a wonderful variety of blooms. I'd already missed the Bloodroot and Cut-leaved Toothworts from the prior week, thanks to rains, and with those blooms gone came in a host of new blooms.

At least I didn't get rained out this week...overcast conditions actually can make for nice smooth lighting, as long as it isn't too dark and forcing me to use a higher ISO speed which can be a bit grainy at times. Ah, the beauty of digital, instantaneously switching settings and getting immediate feedback if it's good to use or good to trash. I give you my survivors!

Mind you, while I taught high school biology for 9 years, I am no professional botanist. In fact, I'd forgotten a lot of wildflower identification that I knew so well years ago when I did volunteer work for The Nature Conservancy here in western NC. So bear with me...a chance I misidentified one or some...and enjoy the pure beauty of these creations up close.

Up first is the Erect Trilium...Trilium are appropriately named because the leaf and petal parts come in 3's. I've had more contact with the large white grandiflora varietal, and have enjoyed seeing Wake Robin and Painted varietals, as well. But I'm not sure I've seen this one, erectum, identified by the large maroon part in the flower's center.

As I like to do, moving in close opens up another world at which to marvel. Below is Star Chickweed, whose bloom is about 1/2" wide. What looks like 10 petals is actually 5 deeply cleaved ones, FYI.

White blooms dominate the adorned woodlands at the moment, and to see a stand of white Canadian Violets adds to the overall pristine appearance. There were yellow and purple violets, too, which I'll post tomorrow in Part 2...but I took a fancy to these white beauties.

It's like an artist dipped a fine brush into an indigo ink well and drew out the radiating lines...

I was lucky enough to have this winged wonder pause long enough on a violet while I moved the camera in very closely for a couple of close-ups...while the underside of its wings looks more dusky, the top sides were as white as the violets...and it had plenty to feast on while blending in perfectly.

Tomorrow I'll post the non-white flowers from the weekend...assuming my hard drive will behave itself and quit glitching like it did this morning!

Friday, April 25, 2008

"Fried Fridays: What's for dinner?"

Depends on where you live, of my life I've been known to leave doors unlocked if not open, for various reasons. Maybe to let fresh air in, maybe stepping out for only 10 minutes, maybe to leave the back door open so Mercy can go in and out at will on a pleasant day. Clearly, such trusting maneuvers depend greatly on where you live and the clientele around you.

As you know, I love and am humbled by my 253K car, but I used to joke that I always leave the doors unlocked and windows down in hopes someone would steal it and I could get an insurance claim. Just joking, of course (about the insurance claim part)...but I'm pretty confident a very weathered '99 Ford Escort wagon isn't on some crack-jacker's Top-10 list of grabs.

Speaking of open doors, our management is always stressing they have an open door policy. Hmmmm...


Pinellas County, like a lot of other populous Florida counties, is a prime area for retirement living...salubrious weather (excepting hurricanes), and pleasant warm temperatures most of the year. To save on A/C bills, open doors and ceiling fans can cool nicely, so that makes sense.

Meet 69 year-old retiree Sandra Frosti. It was late last Monday night that in her kitchen there arose such a clatter she got up to see just what was the matter. And what before her wondering eyes did appear?....oh just this:

(AP Photos/Pinellas County Sheriff's Office)

All 8 feet and 8 inches of him, her.

Because news reports are designed to be public-friendly cupcakes, they can often leave you with more questions than answers when you read (or hear) their limited verbage. Apparently Ms. Frosti heard a noise, got up to investigate, more than likely freaked at the hunk of reptile on her kitchen floor, and called 911.

"There's an alligator in my kitchen!", is the only quote that made press. I'm sure we could fill in the blanks with more...

What got me was the reported answer from the dispatcher who suggested she might be looking at an iguana instead. An iguana. Unless the caller had horrendous communication skills, I would think she made it clear the animal's size before her.

And so the Pinellas sherriff's office dispatched officers who quickly realized she, in fact, had a rare and record-sized Guatamalan Nightshade iguana in her house and immediately called Ripley's Believe It Or Not for verification...ok, ya got me. It was just a gator, a big ol' bigger-than-me gator.

A member of the order Crocodilia, this Alligator mississippiensis, was definitely on the prowl. No 'left turn at Albuquerque' loss of bearings. Detectives fairly quickly traced what actually transpired.

It first broke through the back screen door.
Entered the house through an open sliding glass door.
Made its way through the living room.
Mosied on down the hallway.
Entered the kitchen.
Made noise. Made gator growls.
Woke up Frosti, the sleeping woman.
911 call placed.
Secret iguana identity almost revealed.
Police arrived and verified there was a problem.
Trapper called.
Gator removed.
News outlets spread the story in usual frenzy.
Wins "Fried Friday's" award.

One big question is why? Why would a gator do that? There was one tidbit of insightful information that one news version entered: there was a family cat that apparently had a little cat door to go in and out and, well, probably provided a good bit of motivation for the ample reptile. No worries, everyone was safe and unharmed, save for the gator's cut from a broken plate that fell in the trapping process.

But I wonder. Could it have been thirsty and needing to replace its electrolytes? Maybe it wanted some Gatorade.

Or maybe Sandra had cooked up a nice brisket in a 'crock' pot.

We may never know...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Some things to ponder...

A man was walking by a construction site, and saw three brick masons hard at work. He went up to the first one and asked him what he was doing.

"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm laying brick!"

He went on down to the next mason and repeated his question.

"Earning a living," he replied as he cut his cement.

The man went on down to the third and again asked him what he was doing.

"Building a cathedral."


It's all about how you look at things, Life. Attitude. Perception. Thoughts and intentions. They go a long way, one way or the other, and each of us has the complete power to control them. The old saying said "you are what you eat", but much more importantly "you are what you think." If you think the world is out to get you, get ready, because the world will be out to get you. If you think you'll never have enough money, you'll never have enough money. Changing self-fulfilling prophecies begins with changing your thoughts and core beliefs. Answers come from within, not from somebody else.

The cartoon was just in the paper recently, and it made me chuckle. So many people search and wander outside of themselves for answers, inspirations, 'fixes', and whether by ignorance or fear don't go to the source. Takes a lot of courage sometimes to look deep within, doesn't it. I'm pretty sure we can all relate.

Some people will see a glass as half full.

Others will see a glass as half empty.

Moms see it as a sign that someone was too lazy to take the glass to the sink.

Take the time to look at today's elephants from all just might have the ol' proverbial light bulb go off...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just had to post this link...

It was a year ago I discovered and blogged about the annual masochistic cheese rolling competition across The Big Pond. Just saw this Yahoo! video link with great footage from this year's kamikaze runs...thought you'd get a kick out of it...


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's all about perspective...

Yet another fitful night's sleep thanks to whatever is in my throat and chest, and once again I got up well before the 1am alarm. Ugh. It's not as if I don't have a plate full of things to do at any given time, but some of my early AM weather models hadn't yet been published...and so I pulled up an old link to a fun website that is rather laden with brain teasers, puzzles, etc. I blogged with some optical illusions some time back, and this website has all that and much more.

Like the following:

How many days start with "T"?


Tuesday, Thursday, today, tomorrow.

The point of such puzzles is to actively work the of the most important things we can do to potentially ensure an active life well into our 'golden' years is to engage the brain. Crosswords, sudokus, Jumbles, reading, etc., all help to stimulate the brain. And it doesn't take much time to gain a salubrious edge, either, a daily regimen helping all the more.

How many legs does an elephant have if you call its trunk a leg?

Four. Just because you call the trunk a leg doesn't make it a leg. And if that elephant sits on your patio furniture, do you know what time it is?

Time to get new patio furniture.

Now for some optical fun...

Move your head toward, then away from the monitor to see the circles move...

Doesn't look like it, but the two rectangles are parralel to each other...

Stare at the red dot and watch the blue circle disappear...

All four horizontal lines are parallel...

Interesting gray dots above, eh?...

Amazing how the 'gears' appear to be slowly rotating...

There is the adage that says, "Things are not always as they seem." But it's not limited to just illusions...that wise advice applies to daily Life. We humans can be a very judgmental lot, and when we get into unpleasant or uncomfortable situations, our minds can take off and create dizzying mental scenarios that ill serve us. Not only are things not always as they seem, when it comes to negative, fearful thoughts they are rarely if ever what they seem.

A little heady way to end after puzzles, but it bears keeping tucked in your craw. It's been said (and rightly so) that "FEAR" stands for "False Evidence Appearing Real". Illusions are all around us...just takes a little time to recognize 'em.

Oh yeah, the puzzle site:


It's Two's-day!

More pictures in from the Boston twins, growing right on up. Hard to believe they'll be 1 in July, which doesn't seem that far away...only the distance to 'em does! Thanks for the pics, Sue and, uhm, er...William!

Yesterday was a good day in that I picked a car repair place that treated me fairly some time ago, so I went back with my race car sound. They came out, one guy crawled under the car, and they told me while they could fix it that I should just drive 100 yards to the Midas shop and save money, since they would have had to take it there themselves. Just good, honest people that shop.

Midas took it right in and identified the problem (pipe broke at the flex plate under the engine), and had it repaired in 1.5 hours while I walked around a shopping center. $129 was way under what I had anticipated, so it all worked out well...and I'll pull out of my neighborhood quietly this morning, like old times!
Brain is random this morning...found some old file images that I doctored up I thought you might enjoy...

One of our perks as Time-Warner employees is free cable and internet, which is arguably a significant I had to add that little twist to it!

Especially after long days of tedious work and deadlines, don't you just feel those urges to just sit and turn the brain off for hours? It's actually a healthy thing to do. Bears considering...

Good ol' Ambrose Bierce and his tongue in cheek definitions. I imagine many of you have seen this picture at some time or another...police training dogs have to pass many rigorous tests, of which this one surely must hit high on the self-control pain index.

Ambrose had many such sage-wry sayings, like these:

Circus, n. A place where horses, ponies and elephants are permitted to see men, women and children acting the fool.

Happiness, n. An agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of another.

Un-American, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.

Idiot, n. A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs has always been dominant and controlling.

I think I'll revisit Mr. Bierce in a future blog...too much for this post at the moment...stay tuned!

Monday, April 21, 2008


In the wink of an eye Sunday, I became a candidate to go car racin' in the Busch Series. OK, so I don't even have a V-6 to race with the Kings of the Round Track, but I sure have the throaty engine noise.

Seems as though my exhaust manifold (or something very close to it) gave up it's ghost as I headed out on errands late in the morning Sunday...and now I get to experience the joy of firing up my buggy in the neighborhood at 2am, and feeling the embarrassment of my car's obnoxious brattle when I accelerate.

The noise was so loud that at one red light a bunch of guys came running up to my car, jacked up the right side of my car, put on new tires, did the same to the left, while someone topped off my gas tank and passed me a bottle of water through my window...

My morning's work is cut out for me now, of course. There are myriad other things I'd like to be doing with my money than paying high prices for parts and labor, but as I like to say, "It is what it is." Gotta get it fixed, and so I will. No sense wasting energy being bothered about it - many better things are out there aplenty to put my mind's energy to.

Been battling something in my upper respiratory tract since Friday...head and sinuses are crystal clear, but something is really draining in the back of the throat. I had great plans to get a lot done this weekend and have, for instance, a neat blog for you today. Alas, given feeling a little punk as well as all the showers around, I'll have to postpone my wonderful world of wildlfowers blog posts until next week, more than likely.

Right now I have to get to the racetrack for my practice laps...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Charleston: "Of ghosts and earthquakes..."

(click on pics to enlarge)

Think 'earthquake' and you think
California, the San Andreas Fault
, maybe the Pacific "Ring of Fire". But you don't think Charleston, SC in the sleepy, flat Southeast coast well away from mountains and geologic/tectonic plate boundaries.

Just short of
10pm on August 31, 1886, a rare and signi
ficant quake struck the bustling harbor city, estimated to have been between 6.6 and 7.3 on the Richter scale. Damage was extensive, and worsened by the sandy soil which underwent liquefaction, making some areas instant quicksand.

Isoseismal map of 1886 Charleston earthquake
(basically how far out tremors reached and at what intensity)

I've included some post-quake images I ran across...interesting to note that some buildings withstood well the tremors, while others crumbled from inferior masonry techniques. The epicenter was very close to
Charleston, with effects felt far and wide in the eastern U.S.

Medical College of SC

Hayne Street

Goose Creek church

Market Street

St. Michael's church (note cracks on side)

Police station, Broad and Meeting Streets

Today, you can see examples of how some buildings were saved from demolition by employing gargantuan bolts...metal rods extended through a house and literally bolted on the outside, as seen below:

And what would Charleston be without talking about its 'haints', as country folks call 'em. Ghosts. More hauntings and sightings around Charleston than flies on a Serengeti Wildebeest (how's that for random?).

First, do you know the difference between a 'cemetery' and a 'graveyard'?

If a church yard was used for burial, it became a 'graveyard'. If bodies were interred on property not attached to a church property, it was considered a 'cemetery'. I suppose some consider this a dead issue...

Circular Congregational Church and graveyard
(est. 1681, rebuilt in 1891 )

Oldest graves date back to 1695 at 'above' church
(repositioned graves made for packed headstones)

The older headstones used skulls with angel wings
(known as 'Death Angels')

Slightly more contemporary designs
made them more alien-like...

From the skull motif, they evolved
into cartoonish human forms...

Slowly the figures became more 'truthful'...

Story has it that this headstone of a former church minister was one of the first to have a realistically carved version of the deceased..note the hourglass (left) representing our human life, and the skull (right) still representing the Death Angel....

Even though I took part in a 10pm 'ghost walk' tour one night, no apparition appeared in front of the 20 or so tour groups walking around trying to find a quiet space to parlay ghostly tales...and wouldn't you know it the very next morning I was walking down a local street and just happened to snap a quick picture, barely capturing the fleeting banshee as it appeared...!


Now, go enjoy a BOO-tiful spring day!