Monday, June 30, 2008

Blast from the past...


Good ol' Jiminy Cricket.

"I'm no fool, no sirree!
I'm gonna live to be 93,
I play safe for you and me
'Cause I'm no fool!"

I remember well those educational films I saw at Clubview Elementary School in Columbus, Georgia. He always sang the above refrain as part of his messages to warn us about exposed electrical lines, staying away from dangerous traffic, strangers, and objects that could hurt you, etc. Just one of those indelible marks up in one of my cerebral cortex folds.

Found a few of those "oldies" you might have fun watching (about 8 minutes each):

I'm No Fool (with Fire)

I'm No Fool (Having Fun)

I'm No Fool (With a Bicycle)

This weekend I was on the deck one late afternoon (before one of the many storms blew through!), and along came...well, not a cricket, and not Jiminy, but this tee-tiny member of the grasshopper family making his way down the deck. As a photographer, it's always interesting to see how much difference the background color can make in a picture (the bright of the sky vs. the green of the foliage). Click on pics to enlarge.

This morning I figured I'd add a couple of nature quotes to give us all a little food for thought. Society is geared toward bigger, better, faster, harder...when in fact just the opposite can be overwhelmingly beautiful and fulfilling. There is an undeniable completeness in simplicity.



Enjoy the beauty of the day.

Friday, June 27, 2008

"Fried Fridays: Crying over spilled....oil"


Accountability.


One of several words in the English language that, in real-world practice, is not only overlooked but purposefully avoided by some people and institutions. It's one thing to point a finger and blame someone or some group for some travesty or misfortune; it's quite another for a person or group to run away from a clear responsibility to save their own hide, usually a financial one.

Throw in the murky mix of politics, lobbyists, and everything obtuse, and you get....

DATELINE: WASHINGTON D.C.

Rewind to March 24, 1989.

On that fateful day, the Exxon ship "Valdez", en route from Valdez, AK to Los Angeles, CA, ran aground on Bligh Reef. We're talking 10.9 million gallons of raw crude oil, over 20% of the ship's load, spilling into the then-pristine coastal waters of Alaska and contaminating over 1,100 miles of non-continuous coastline. 8 of 11 oil holds were damaged on the ship. At the most intense stage of clean-up, there were 1,400 vessels, 11,000 personnel, and 85 aircraft working their damndest to contain what to date is the largest and worst oil spill in U.S. waters.

It was no 'accident'; rather, it was a 'consequence' that resulted from lapses in judgment. Court records revealed that Captain Hazelwood took the ship out of the navigation channel to avoid ice bergs, then passed off navigation duties to lesser ranking and overworked personnel while he retired to his cabin (and later found intoxicated)...it makes this tragedy smell all the worse. The impromptu ship handlers did not return the ship to it's proper shipping channel once icebergs were cleared, per supposed orders; the result was, as they say, history. A painful history.

Setting aside the sweeping environmental costs, the future shipping and tourism costs were enormous to the residents of the Valdez region. "Catastrophic" doesn't even begin to cover the cost of lost livelihoods and property, of families effectively destroyed, of dreams crushed.

Most of us have no idea how powerful political lobbying is. I would hope with the publicity of the Iraq war and the myriad side issues that most at least have an inkling of how powerful the oil industry is interwoven in U.S. politics. Hard to believe that here in 2008, this now 19 year-old case is still in the courts, assessing damage issues thanks to repeals by Exxon, mostly.

Harder, more, to believe that just this past Wednesday the Supreme court overturned the prior decision that Exxon pay the 33,000 people and related governments $2.5 billion in punitive damages...they cut it to only actual clean-up costs of $507.5 million. Lose a livelihood. Lose a family. Lose a town. Lose Life. Here's your $15,000 per person for all that pain and suffering.

$15,000 per person. That's it.

For me, this issue goes so very far beyond an oil spill. It represents the very core of what is out of whack about our legal and political systems here in the United States. Of special note is the ruthlessness of the oil industry and lobbying that continue to roll in wild record-setting profits at our expense. Some parts are fried, alright.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A tribute: George Carlin (1937-2008)

The comedic community at large lost a milepost this past Sunday. George Carlin passed away, age 71, due to heart failure. From his more memorable moments, like opening the Saturday Night Live series in 1975 to his later famous-infamous "7 words you can't say on TV", he carved many a channel in the brain of society, the latter of which led to a Supreme Court decision based on his diatribe...

Most people I've talked to either hated him or loved him...not much of a middle ground out there. For those that hated him, he could be crass, vulgar, irreverent, and very coarse. Definitely not for kids. And yet those very same attributes created adoration in those that appreciated his championing the fight for uniqueness, the demolition of the status quo ideology, the right to stand up and say "I disagree!", all while speaking truth through his form of humor. All I can say is he often made me laugh in the privacy of my own home.

Some of you may know that Albert Einstein (yep, THE one) got a D in high school math once...I guess I've always loved the 'unexpected' from people of brilliance, even if I don't fully understand them. I DO understand that societal standards determine virtually nothing of a person's actual impact on society as a whole...which is a bunch of lofty words that simply say be 'genuine'...be your 'authentic self'...be 'true' to yourself. George was. And still is.

Look, the guy was a misfit from the get-go...he left school in the ninth grade, got kicked out of the Air Force...in fact, he got kicked out of three schools...got kicked out of the choir and the altar boys as well as summer camp. He was smoking pot at 13 in the early 1950's, and in his own words he was always a lawbreaker and a kind of outlaw rebel. And yet...and yet he rocked the industry and society as a whole with his unabashed approach to his craft, which he considered his very Life...comedy.

And so I pulled together some of his more 'tame' quotes for you...and what better way to begin than with part of his routine as "Al Sleet, the Hippy Dippy Weatherman"...

----------------------------------

Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.

As a matter of principle, I never attend the first annual anything.

Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.

I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.

If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.

I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.


It's never just a game when you're winning.

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.

When someone asks you, A penny for your thoughts, and you put your two cents in, what happens to the other penny?

I don't have hobbies; hobbies cost money. Interests are quite free.

One can never know for sure what a deserted area looks like.

Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town.

I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don't have as many people who believe it.

"I am" is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that "I do" is the longest sentence?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Gone to the dogs..."

Mercy just got her summer cut yesterday...I'm beginning to think that, outside the temporary separation anxiety, she rather likes the cooler feel! I also just happened to run across one of those mass emails from 4 years ago I'd saved, full of cute "dog" quotes, some of which I know well, some new ones...figured you might like to read over them yourself - enjoy!

-----------------------------------------

The reason a dog has so many friends is

that he wags his tail instead of his tongue.

-Anonymous


Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive

evidence that you are wonderful.

-Ann Landers


If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when

I die I want to go where they went.

-Will Rogers


There is no psychiatrist in the world

like a puppy licking your face.

-Ben Williams


A dog is the only thing on earth that

loves you more than he loves

himself.

-Josh Billings


The average dog is a nicer person

than the average person.

-Andy Rooney


We give dogs time we can spare, space we

can spare and love we can spare.

And in return, dogs give us their all.

It's the best deal man has ever made.

-M. Acklam


Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies,

quite unlike people, who are incapable of

pure love and always have to mix love and hate.

-Sigmund Freud


I wonder if other dogs think poodles are

members of a weird religious cult.

-Rita Rudner


A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance,

and to turn around three times

before lying down.

-Robert Benchley


Anybody who doesn't know what

soap tastes like never washed a dog.

-Franklin P. Jones


If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is

that certain dogs I have known will go to

heaven, and very, very few persons.

-James Thurber


If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise.

-Unknown


My dog is worried about the economy

because Alpo is up to $3.00 a can.

That's almost $21.00 in dog money.

-Joe Weinstein


Ever consider what our dogs must think of us?

I mean, here we come back from a grocery store

with the most amazing haul -- chicken, pork, half a cow.

They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!

-Anne Tyler


Women and cats will do as they please, and men

and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.

-Robert A. Heinlein


If you pick up a starving dog and make him

prosperous, he will not bite you; that is

the principal difference between a dog and a man.

-Mark Twain


You can say any foolish thing to a dog,

and the dog will give you a look that says,

'Wow, you're right! I never would've thought of that!'

- Dave Barry


Dogs are not our whole life,

but they make our lives whole.

-Roger Caras


If you think dogs can't count, try putting

three dog biscuits in your pocket and

then give him only two of them.

-Phil Pastoret

Monday, June 23, 2008

"WEATHER"

Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.

- Anonymous

(given to me by Bailey Baker, a 2nd grader this past year - thanks!)

Happy summer, y'all! Came in officially Friday evening, and so our first weekend of summer it was not the beach-perfect type of conditions. For such an unstable air mass as we had overhead this past weekend, it's not surprising we had a sprinkling of rather strong storms throughout the Triad, as well as North Carolina as a whole. Things should be quieting down a bit as the week goes on...

But last everning, Sunday, several strong storms passed through our area, and dropped some locally heavy, flooding rain and hail. The above radar grab from home was close to 345pm Sunday, and showing only one set of the severe thunderstorm warnings, as more followed. Below are just a few examples of the storm reports made to the National Weather Service:

0730 PM     FLASH FLOOD  GREENSBORO          36.08N 79.83W
06/22/2008 GUILFORD NC LAW ENFORCEMENT

NUMEROUS REPORTS OF FLOODING IN GREENSBORO. FLOODING
REPORTED AT THE I-40 AND I-85 SPLIT AS WELL AS ALONG
HIGHWAY 85...HIGHWAY 29 AT BESSEMER DR AND WENDOVER AT
CRIDLAND ROAD.

0647 PM HAIL 1 WSW GREENSBORO 36.08N 79.84W
06/22/2008 E0.88 INCH GUILFORD NC TRAINED SPOTTER

NICKEL SIZE HAIL REPORTED NEAR WEST MARKET STREET AND
WEST WENDOVER AVE.

0706 PM HAIL 1 SE GREENSBORO 36.07N 79.82W
06/22/2008 E0.88 INCH GUILFORD NC TRAINED SPOTTER

NICKEL SIZE HAIL REPORTED ON THE SOUTHEAST SIDE OF
GREENSBORO.

0344 PM HAIL 5 ESE BURLINGTON 36.07N 79.35W
06/22/2008 E1.00 INCH ALAMANCE NC PUBLIC

QUARTER SIZE HAIL REPORTED ALONG JIMMIE KERR ROAD... NEAR
I-85/I-40.

Above is a storm total map showing the area of
intense rainfall responsible for much of
the flash flooding...

...and this image will give you a headache trying to
find county boundaries and regional locations and
determine the doppler estimated rainfall in
certain places...! (remember you can click
on all pics to enlarge for easier viewing)



Yep, lots o' storm reports came in from across the
Carolinas
and myriad other states. Click on the
image above and it will
take you to the website
that details the reports
by type and location.
Same set-up again for later today, Monday...but it
looks like all
calms down storm-wise by Tuesday and
stays that way through Friday. Right on cue, storm
chances return for next weekend, at least at
this early peek.

Having very odd formatting issues with Blogger
this morning, so will quit fighting the beast and
let you get on with your day - make it a good one!




Friday, June 20, 2008

"Fried Fridays: A monument to the end..."

For the uninitiated, I created these "Fried Friday" blogs for a very good reason. For those that work a 'normal' job and hours Monday through Friday, we are all rather 'fried' when Friday rolls around. And given I work in the news industry, I see a lot of strange, funny, stupid, zany, and just plain, well, 'fried' news stories come across the desk. Hence my tribute every Friday sharing with you a story that is unique, to say the least. It goes without saying that the choices are many...


This week, I wanted to bring to light the waste of taxpayers money occurring right now on a 1/2 mile stretch of road outside of my subdivision. A major widening and straightening project is underway, and there was much hoopla and signs and phone messages from the police department alerting us to the road being closed Monday June 16 through July 17, and for everyone to pick alternate routes for getting around. Monday came, the road was open. "Tomorrow it will close" one sign holder said. Tuesday came, and 90% of the equipment disappeared.

I can't verify the information as it was passed on from the public information officer to our traffic specialist at News 14, but the short version is the contractor got fed up with NC DOT's delays upon delays and went to another project to work. They're supposed to resume after July 4th. Still waiting for the investigators to dig their teeth into that one. Until then, should we get some heavy rain, it will be a sea of mud down in the floodplain they've cut into. It's definitely 'fried'.

Ah, but this week's winner will go to a monument....a substantial bronze monument whose 3 cherubs were supposedly inspired by the 15th century Rennaissance artist Sandro Botticelli...

DATELINE: Zheleznovodsk, Russia

It's a modest spa town in southern Russia, right in the Caucasus Mountains. Don't know much about it, myself, but apparently the Mashuk Akva-Term Sanatorium is rather well known, and a favored destination for spa-goers.

And so this past Wednesday they had a festive party and press event for the unveiling of this angelic monument, with the 3 classical cherubs hoisting over their backs...

...an enema.

A giant 800-pound bronze enema syringe bulb (aka 'clyster), to be more precise.

Alexander Kharchenko, the Russian spa's director, says it's the world's first monument to enema treatment. I can believe that. He says it's the only monument like it in Russia. I can believe that. If he were to go so far as to say it's the first one like it in the world, I'd believe that, too, though such a theme might have a made a good prop in "Animal House".

Yeah, I'm sure Botticelli would be proud that his inspired angels are a part of history. Just not quite the vision of Atlas holding up the earth...






Cheers! Have a great weekend, y'all!

(Reuters/AP photos)

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Couldn't resist posting this...came attached in an email yesterday. Sorry, no blog entry today - flat ran out of time. But I'll be back tomorrow with my weekly "Fried Fridays" winner for one of the more bizarre, zany news stories of the past week!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Summertime...."

Well, not yet, though ask anybody around here and they'll tell you 'summer' has been here for a while already. Nice to have the heat break, and while not drastically cooler, it is more fresh, and the lower humidity is appreciated.

The 2008 Summer Solstice takes place this Friday at 7:29 pm (which in Universal time is 1 minute before midnight starting at the Prime Meridian). At the June solstice it's only 'summer' in the northern hemisphere, of course, as the southern pole is pointing away from the sun and they are in their 'winter' in the southern half of the earth.

The sun will never set at the north pole on that day, and the sun's rays will be directly overhead along the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5 degrees latitude north (and to further brush out the brain's cobwebs, the earth's axis has a 23.5 degree tilt).

With the our summer solstice, you might think we should have our hottest temperatures since we have the most hours of daylight and the most direct sun rays. Alas, there are myriad other factors at work to produce 'heat', not just the sun angle and duration, though that certainly factors in.

In meteorology, we use the term "Lag of the Maximum" which basically covers the delayed response to temperatures compared to the origin of stimulus. It can be as simple as a daily 'lag' or a broader scale seasonal 'lag'.

On a daily scale, solar energy comes to earth in shortwave form, get's absorbed at the surface (or reflected back in some cases), and then that energy is sent back out in longwave form. It's the longwave form that gives us heat (or not if there is much reflectivity)...the 'Greenhouse Effect', in essence...that effect goes, though, goes one step further to talk about factors that keep the longwave radiation from disappearing out into space,keeping them in our earthly 'house', warming it up, just like a good ol' greenhouse does.

On a more seasonal scale, all weather is driven by the sun, at the very base level. The varying temperatures created make for various pressure differences, which creates rising and descending air, creating major air currents which help form jet streams, which help drive storm systems and even major ocean currents, and then the whole mix of geography and land-vs-sea borders...and I'll just stop there with candy-coating of an extremely complex but fascinating interplay of major weather systems and climate regimes.

Returning to the solstice idea of longest day and most direct sun rays, on a seasonal scale it takes a good month or two for the resulting weather patterns to respond to that stimulus, hence our hottest temperatures can occur long after the June solstice. That's not to say you can't and won't have oven-like temperatures around or before the summer solstice....uh, I think what we recently experienced was a little proof in the pudding...it's just that, statistically, it's less common than heat waves later in the summer.

And so in unrelated fashion except for the title of the song, I give you two links to two superb video versions of the "Porgy and Bess" classic "Summertime". Ella is Ella, what can you say...and Fantasia's performance in her American Idol unveil was overflowing the Spirit and energy and talent all musicians dream of producing. There are many other wonderful performances - these are but two goodies. Enjoy!

ELLA FITZGERALD
Berlin 1968

FANTASIA BARRINO
American Idol

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"One for the ages..."

Growing up, I was always a large kid for my age, and ended up playing a lot of sports. Never super fast or quick, I was just big, and did okay at the sports I played. As I grew older, my quirk was I liked to play some sports, but I never was a 'watcher' of sports on TV. As I tell folks now, I'm a strange male in that I love to shop and never watch sports on TV.

Generally, that cup holds water. Backing up to Monday's 'stuff', it was one of those days where everything happened at once. All would be quiet, and then the phone would ring 3 times within 2 minutes, with 3 different people needing totally different information, etc., and I would tell 2 I'll call them back ASAP while I dealt with the first, and, well, we all have days like that. When it rains it pours, what can I say.

Monday was like that for me. Whatever transpired did so simultaneously. By 3:30pm or so, the dust was settling once again, and I was glad as it was nearing my last couple of hours where I gear down for sleep.

And so I just happened to find that the U.S. Open golf tournament had not been settled Sunday...that Tiger Woods had rallied to tie Rocco Mediate for the lead, which lead to a twosome-only 18-hole playoff on Monday. And at the time I saw this, they were on the final few holes. Neck and neck. Tit for tat. All the way through the 18th hole as each sank critical putts to send them into a sudden death playoff. I believe I heard the announcer say this is only the third one he had seen since the rule was put in place back in the '50s. 91 holes of regulation play to determine a winner.

Mediate, left, and Woods, right
(AP photo/Chris Carlson)

May I remind you I'm not a sports watcher...but this one was for the record books, all the way around the board. I was fascinated, I'll admit...to watch the underdog extraordinaire, Mediate, try to bring down the Goliath Woods as they went back to the course again for their sudden death face-off.

Rocco had a bad tee-off into a trap, then had to drop a ball on the subsequent shot, only to run too far past the hole to insure a score-tying putt to Tiger's well-placed shots. Game over, Tiger won, Mediate played honorably.

In short, just an odd thing that for all the myriad things I needed to take care of and do, here was this rather rare instance of a golfing duel going far above and beyond the norm to decide the winner. Kind of nice to just sit and watch and take it all in. Mercy enjoyed her constant petting, too (it was in the low 90s outside, so she preferred the A/C to the heat!).

Sometimes it's good to just pull the plug and go with the flow, to quit trying to force actions that aren't happening naturally. That's what I decided to do. What I didn't get to yesterday will be there today, no doubt, and I'll decide then what to do. So much of our daily stress in lives comes from fighting the 'current' of Life's flow and trying to force our will and desire upon the Universal time-line...it never works well and not worth the wasted effort when all is said and done. Not that I always choose to remember that, but it's always 'there' as a silent, deep, river.

Can't pass up the opportunity to pass along a little humor, since that is my default in life. Golf humor, to be more appropriate. Even if you've heard this one before, smile and laugh even if but for a second...

----------------------------

A Hole In One

As a young man, Norton was an exceptional golfer. At the age of 26, however, he decided to become a priest, and joined a rather peculiar order. He took the usual vows of poverty,chastity, but his order also required that he quit golf and never play again. This was particularly difficult for Norton, but he agreed and was finally ordained a priest.

One Sunday morning, the Reverend Father Norton woke up and realizing it was an exceptionally beautiful and sunny early spring day, decided he just had to play golf.

So... he told the Associate Pastor that he was feeling sick and convinced him to say Mass for him that day.

As soon as the Associate Pastor left the room, Father Norton headed out of town to a golf course about forty miles away. This way he knew he wouldn't accidentally meet anyone he knew from his parish.


Setting up on the first tee, he was alone. After all, it was Sunday morning and everyone else was in church!


At about this time, Saint Peter leaned over to the Lord while looking down from the heavens and exclaimed, "You're not going to let him get away with this, are you?"


The Lord sighed, and said, "No, I guess not.


"Just then Father Norton hit the ball and it shot straight towards the pin, dropping just short of it, rolled up and fell into the hole.
It was a 420 yard hole in one!

St. Peter was astonished. He looked at the Lord and asked, "Why did you let him do that?"


The Lord smiled and replied,"Who is he going to tell?"


FORE!!!!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

A cute story...

Of my many ideas I'd like to follow through on sometime is writing a book or two...and one would be a collecting of short stories and musings, based on real-life situations I've run across...situations that are humorous or striking in some sense, even if in a simplistic way, that speak to the human spirit, sense of community, etc.

I dug this one out of the files, a story I'd recollected in preparing it for an audition. Thought you might get a chuckle out of it too...

------------------------------

For this morning’s FINAL THOUGHT, I mused back on a conversation I overheard while traveling through South Carolina’s Low Country, over 20 years ago.

Don’t recall the sleepy little town on a back highway, only that it was big enough to have fast-food restaurant…but just one. It was a weekday morning around 9:30am when I decided to go inside, get a biscuit and some coffee, and grab the morning paper just to take a breather. I love to travel that way, taking the road less traveled and at an unfrenetic pace.

And so I commanded a table by a window with only 2 other people in my dining area that looked they had been sitting there for quite some time. I suppose their morning rush of die-hard patrons had already come and gone…all 12 of ‘em by the looks of things.

The elderly gentleman closest to me a couple of tables away would alternate between slowly stirring his coffee and then looking through the large windows at some distance...and I’m not sure if he was actually looking at anything or just reflecting inside his head.

His elderly ‘friend’ was about 4 tables away had his back to the windows and was turned at a slight angle…and so was the setting for these two acquaintances as they eventually exchanged a very slow and drawn out, pause-filled conversation that I've heard many a time in the sleepy South...in a hurry to go absolutely nowhere.

(after some time of silence)

"How’s Mary doin’…she out of the hospital yet?"

(pause)

"Yep, last I heard she was doin’ better. Thought I’d go by later today and take her a pie or somethin’…"

(pause)

"Went to that new Food Lion they put in south of town…pretty nice…."

(pause)

"Ain’t been yet, but I aim to…"

(bigger pause, and more coffee stirring…)

"Did you figure out why your transmission was slippin'?"

(pause)

"Don't really know...Burtons flushed it out and it seems to be workin' okay now..."

(...and then came the clincher for me…)


"You gone and voted this mornin’?"

(pause)

"Nope, ain’t had no time to yet."


I thought I was going to snort the coffee out of my nose.

May all your priorities today be so carefully chosen today!