Friday, January 30, 2009

"Fried Fridays: Let's Make A Deal!"....

Normally I would select some wacky or pathetic story to dissect and wrap up the work week in 'totally fried' style. However, earlier this week when I came across this story, I mused it would be a fine 'fried' story, but in a "who would a thunk it!" spin. It's wacky and packs a classic twist. Especially in this bleak and grim economic outlook, I just felt like putting it out there...

Specialized jobs carry certain risks; among others, when a specialist loses a job there is necessarily a limited number of options or positions that are available. They may well pay a good bit more, so smart people 'get while the gettin' is good' because the future is never guaranteed.

Sean McHugh came from a blue collar background in Cleveland, working hard all his life to get where he was. They had just bought their very first house, he, his 18-month old son, and his wife, pregnant with their second child. And then the proverbial rug was pulled out from under 'em...


Unless you've been asleep under a rock for a year, chances are you've heard about what a wonderful season the Detroit Lions had. They were perfect. They were consistent. They were perfectly consistent. Never in the history of the NFL had any team not won a single game in a single season.

0 and 16

(cue the cricket chirps...)

They were so low that word on the street was they had to look up to see the bottom of their cleats. They were the carp in the fishpond of professional football. I can't imagine what it was like to slug through practices each week only to get throttled each week in front of fans who were none too pleased with the team performances. For the sake of this article we won't touch the very real issue of an incompetent team owner who hogtied the head coach which had a helluva lot to do with their Mansion of Misery. Let's talk about Sean.

A fullback by trade-position, Sean had only been in the pros a few years. He had made the final cut for the Detroit Lions and was content and thankful to be there. Sure, his salary was only the league minimum, but even given the work involved a cool $520,000 isn't too shabby for a young family man. He was at peace - at least at as much peace as you can be when you play for the Lions.

Sadly, before the first official practice in September, Sean got the word to leave the field and go to the president's office. What seems like a simple action is a heavy and sombre one. If there is a "Green Mile" in football, that was it: called off the field and into the corporate office. It's never a good thing.

Fired. Let go. Sorry, he was told, but they needed his salary and position to give it to someone else with more experience and, well, he had to go. Ouch (among other choice words, I'm sure).

Set aside having just bought the first home, the family of 3 with one in the oven...that's hard enough. Getting cut in football happens. There may be other openings at other franchises, through injury or otherwise, you don't know. To his credit he maintained as positive an attitude as he could. With that said, the deepest dagger of all could not be ignored...

He wasn't deemed 'good enough' by the worst team in the NFL. That'll do wonders for your self image. Irony of the worst kind.

But how about irony of the best kind? Sometimes things are so bad they're actually...uh, wonderful?

It came in the form of a phone call from his agent just a few days after the death knell. A team was interested in him immediately, and wanted him to come and work out with them. They signed him and he was back in the gridiron business with little time lost. But there is one pertinent piece of information I meant to add, here, that I think you'll find interesting.

Sean will be playing in the Superbowl this Sunday. #49 for the Pittsburg Steelers, listed at tight end.

"Who'd a thunk it?" Who in their wildest dreams could have scripted such a juxtaposition? You're cut with a no-confidence vote by the worst team in football, and then quickly picked up by one of the top two teams and playing in the Superbowl four months later. That's "fried", but in a totally uplifting way, eh?

Never say never, y'all. You just never know...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Low key livin'...

I was waiting for workmen to arrive at some unknown hour yesterday, and found myself watching the birds feed...watching endlessly....mindlessly...

Black-capped Chickadee

I know enough to know that it's a wonderful thing to turn the brain and 'thinking' do something as simple as focus
on how you breathe...

White-breasted Nuthatch

And I found myself watching the birds for goodly amounts of time and having nothing more in my head than observing individual behaviors and coloration patterns. I didn't think about the lousy economy, the myriad social issues plaguing most locations, where my 'paycheck' will come from, why Blagojevich is an ego, I simply watched birds feed and felt 'one' with them.

Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco

Afterwards, guilt crept in. Why? I guess my patterning (like most people's ingraining) directed me to feel like it was a 'waste' to watch the birds and NOT tend to things I needed to right in front of me. But I knew better. I KNEW it was okay to turn the brain off and just watch the birds as long as I wanted...


So our brains work thusly. Do yourself a favor...if you do nothing else today, please spend even if but a few minutes just watching nature and NOT letting the brain toss in thoughts about all the things you need to tend to per work and home. Focus on your deeply or not you breathe....just 'be' with it, and 'be with' birds or whatever to still your is in that stillness that the answers to just about anything you seek come from within.

How easily we get caught up in the dramas, traumas and trials of Life, which are only because we choose for them to appear so.
Learn to appreciate 'stillness' and 'nothingness' in what you do and reap the peaceful rewards.

Feed, birds, feed. I'm sure I'll get my butt in gear soon enough, and the timing will be perfect just as it needs to be...and if the truth be told I still feel a little guilty! Practicing what we preach does not always come easily!

Writer's block, friends, sorry...

To the left is a link to flute-making blog I started and I did put a little something in there today, if that interests you...

Stay tuned, and thanks for checking in!

Monday, January 26, 2009

I took a 'lichen' to this...

Simple post today...I had seen this rather picturesque arrangement on an old cut stump in some woods, and figured it was worthy of closer inspection. Perception and perspective makes a big difference many click on pics to enlarge as we get closer in on some rather artsy patterns that Nature provides so perfectly...

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Fried Fridays: What's in a word..."

Words. One of the poorest forms of communication, in the greater 'spiritual' scope of things. Nonetheless, we use them to communicate as best we can in this earthly 2-legged life.

Some seem to do it with excess. It's one thing to have that neighbor who won't shut up when they talk about everything under the sun. We know 'em, we've listened to 'em, they're out there, plenty of 'em.

Throw in the modern era of cell phones and text messaging, and we open a whole new can of worms, cans of constant cacophonies as text messages are tapped out, sent, and instantaneously delivered. The only difference is that speaking words is free...text messages are not so free. Even with affordable 'unlimited' texting plans, there's a hidden price to be paid...


Meet Rebecca Strimpel. Before I begin, keep in mind this is not an isolated story - there are others, and this isn't the worst case I've heard about. Luckily the Strimpels bought an unlimited texting plan to save them from the potentially thousands of shocking, unexpected dollars. There was another video story I saw a couple of weeks ago, where mom got a 200-page bill with a statement exceeding $1,000...but I couldn't dig up that info in written form to run with it.

Still, this story follows the same ideology that garners a "Fried Fridays" classification. Texting isn't inherently bad...lots of positive things about that technology. But just like eating too much cheesecake on a daily basis will help you blow up like a house, so, too, texting to excess has deleterious effects.

For her part of the household bill, Rebecca sent and received a mere (drumroll, please) 33,989 text messages in just one month (well, technically a 33-day billing cycle). A paltry average of only 1,030 texts EACH DAY. One thousand plus every 24 hours. For the sake of crunching numbers, I'll assume she sleeps 8 hours per day, on average. 1,030 texts in 16 hours makes for a frog hair over 64 texts an hour sent and/or received EVERY DAY.

Gimme a royal break...

In some respects you could wrap up the story a la Porky Pig, "Th-th-th-th-that's all, folks!" and call it a silly, stupid day. Imagine the family angst for those without a text plan like the one I mentioned video snippet in that story showed the teen texting her girlfriend who was...get this...sitting beside her on the same couch as they watched TV. That's totally "fried" in about every way imaginable.

The idiocy of the 'bigger picture' is overwhelming. This isn't about me not understanding modern culture. This is about my half-century of experience seeing a sad situation for what it is: a further dumbing of America. I refer to 'dumbing' here as anything that makes people unaware of what's going on around them...a pseudo-blindness that takes an individual out of the present moment and makes them perfectly oblivious to what is happening under their very nose.

The video article per the Strimpel teen was even more disturbing as she talked about hiding her phone in her large open purse during class so she could continue texting without the teacher being aware of it. Texters of America, here my words: You can NOT be 'on your game' in an academic environment if you are constantly texting and diverting your attention. It's impossible. It ain't gonna happen, no way, no how. And it's astonishing to hear the number of people that do it say they can do both successfully, for they fool themselves in a sad way. (note: I was a science teacher for 9 years, so I speak from experience per my concern for a student's ability to pay attention and focus in class.)

In many respects it can become an its worst it can kill. Texting while driving is no less a no-no than drinking and driving.

Better step off my soap box before this becomes an all, be wary of how much 'cheesecake' you put in your brain and body. You CAN have too much of a good thing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Time for some meltin'...

My normal 25-minute trip to work took 50 minutes, thanks in large part to very icy roads ill plowed and prepped and unusual amounts of traffic on the roads. There are idiot drivers on the best of days, and, sadly, they're out there in the worst of days, too. Had someone pull out right in front of me when there was no car anywhere behind me...all they had to do was wait a grand total of 12 seconds and they would have had all the space in the world. No, they just had to pull out right then and there, and while I didn't hit them or slide into a ditch, suffice it to say I got to see that thoroughfare from some unusual angles for a limited time. Thank you, behemoth black Envoy for your foresight...

Crazy-busy day at the station, as you can imagine...made more complicated by the snow reaching the coast and the Raleigh office once again realizing their limitations with one keywall. Below, I've posted snow totals as gathered by the National Weather Service office in Raleigh as that region brought home the bacon in totals. I understand that these amounts in and of themselves are unimpressive in many regions of the country, but here in the South they stymie most of 'life', especially in the Coastal Plain all the way over to the beaches.

Just a little AM/PM comparison shot showing the melting in much of the western Piedmont where snow amounts were limited to the 1-3" range, ending early, and lots of afternoon sun...

7:40 am

4:45 pm

At the end of my shift came a phone call from my SC agent that said the Tuesday shoot was well behind schedule and asked if I was flexible to wait one more day for my part. Alas, the world of acting can be quite unpredictable, and luckily I was free to delay traveling a day. Fine with me, as I was tired from yesterday, and welcomed plopping down for the evening instead of driving to Greenville. Always nice not to have to rush to get your ducks in a row, eh?!

I just cut and paste the whole list of snow totals...from the GSP office I'd add to that the 8" reports from Avery County (ski country) and 3" from SE Charlotte, and from the Blacksburg office add in the earlier reports of up to 6" in Ashe County. Not everyone got snow, mind you...the N and NW Triad portions picked up only 1/2" if that, but for all practical purposes this was a coast to coast storm, now long gone off the coast.


BURLINGTON 2.0 400 PM 1/20
MEBANE 2.0 900 AM 1/20 SPOTTER
MEBANE 1.5 856 AM 1/20

ANSONVILLE 4.0 953 AM 1/20
WADESBORO 4.0 953 AM 1/20

PITTSBORO 7.0 1147 AM 1/20
PITTSBORO 5.0 1030 AM 1/20
BEAR CREEK 4.0 854 AM 1/20
BYNUM 4.0 952 AM 1/20
SILER CITY 4.0 952 AM 1/20
SILER CITY 3.0 1103 AM 1/20 1 W

FAYETTEVILLE 4.0 500 PM 1/20
SPRING LAKE 2.8 825 AM 1/20
FAYETTEVILLE 2.0 919 AM 1/20

WELCOME 0.5 1200 PM 1/20

DURHAM 2.0 747 AM 1/20 2 SW
DURHAM 2.0 855 AM 1/20
DURHAM 2.0 830 AM 1/20
ROUGEMONT 1.0 856 AM 1/20

TARBORO 0.5 910 AM 1/20


LOUISBURG 6.0 1124 AM 1/20
BUNN 3.0 900 AM 1/20

BUTNER 3.0 910 AM 1/20
BUTNER 3.0 928 AM 1/20
OXFORD 2.5 910 AM 1/20
OXFORD 2.5 928 AM 1/20
BUTNER 2.0 801 AM 1/20

STOKESDALE 0.4 930 AM 1/20

LITTLETON 3.5 945 AM 1/20

BUNNLEVEL 6.5 330 PM 1/20
ANGIER 5.5 100 PM 1/20
DUNN 3.0 905 AM 1/20

RAEFORD 5.0 600 PM 1/20

CLAYTON 7.0 415 PM 1/20 5.7 SSE
CLAYTON 7.0 304 PM 1/20
CLAYTON 5.0 1130 AM 1/20
SMITHFIELD 5.0 1231 PM 1/20 6 N
ARCHERS LODGE 2.0 830 AM 1/20


TROY 4.0 600 PM 1/20

ROBBINS 4.0 900 AM 1/20
VASS 4.0 115 PM 1/20 2 E
ABERDEEN 3.0 908 AM 1/20 5 SW
CARTHAGE 3.0 900 AM 1/20

NASHVILLE 4.0 913 AM 1/20 7 SW
ROCKY MOUNT 3.0 911 AM 1/20

HILLSBOROUGH 1.0 856 AM 1/20

SEAGROVE 4.0 100 PM 1/20

ROCKINGHAM 3.0 923 AM 1/20

CLINTON 3.0 255 PM 1/20
GARLAND 2.0 252 PM 1/20
HARRELLS 2.0 248 PM 1/20
IVANHOE 2.0 239 PM 1/20
NEWTON GROVE 2.0 945 AM 1/20

LAURINBURG 3.5 1218 PM 1/20
LAUREL HILL 2.5 1217 PM 1/20

BADIN 3.5 945 AM 1/20 3-4 INCHES

HENDERSON 3.0 925 AM 1/20

RALEIGH 7.0 125 PM 1/20 8 S
RALEIGH 6.6 106 PM 1/20
CARY 6.5 330 PM 1/20 SPOTTER
APEX 6.0 153 PM 1/20
FUQUAY-VARINA 6.0 1230 PM 1/20
FUQUAY-VARINA 6.0 600 PM 1/20
RALEIGH 6.0 1127 AM 1/20 15 N
RALEIGH 5.8 1128 AM 1/20
RALEIGH 4.7 936 AM 1/20 2 MILE S OF NCSU
CARY 4.5 1005 AM 1/20
RALEIGH 4.0 937 AM 1/20 10 NE
RALEIGH 4.0 1230 PM 1/20 5 N
GARNER 3.0 830 AM 1/20
ZEBULON 3.0 827 AM 1/20

ARCOLA 3.0 929 AM 1/20
WARRENTON 3.0 925 AM 1/20
WISE 2.5 925 AM 1/20

GOLDSBORO 5.0 917 AM 1/20 4-6 INCHES
PIKEVILLE 3.0 1147 AM 1/20

WILSON 5.5 307 PM 1/20

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Just a little closer...

We interrupt this blog posting for a minor update thanks to crystallized water...I'll be filling in for the News 14 Triad weathers starting at 10a, and then have to hoof it down to Greenville, SC for an all-day acting gig Wednesday. In this capacity I am actually "now"casting as opposed to forecasting, hence my not posting weather models and thoughts and such. I'll put up a totals map when one becomes available...heaviest of snow is falling in the eastern Piedmont at this time. This is what it looked like early in the AM when Mercy decided she really didn't want to go outside afterall...wimp...

And now on with today's pre-written blog...

With what I use my current photography for (computer and projection purposes) you can easily get by with smaller-sized images that still look's when you go to the print stage that things change, and you need lots of megapixels to make a great enlargement.

My Canon has the ability to shoot RAW images, which are massive in size and can be greatly manipulated for post-production purposes (as long as you know whattheheck you're doing in Photoshop, for example). I just never bothered with RAW as I've not been gunning for the printing stage; however, I thought I'd experiment with my suet feeder friends and see how much more I can capitalize on getting really detailed images of the winged ones.

There is still the 'battle' of ISO selection and the 'noise' trade-off, with needing to freeze the birds or catch them unusually still...all while shooting through a pane of glass and trying to get the focus spot-on...with a super-telephoto zoom, there is very little distance in the plane of focus at many apertures, hence you shoot scads of shots in hoping there are a couple of goodies in there.

And here are 3 that go a little further than earlier posted pictures. As always, click on pics to enlarge 'em:

White-breasted Nuthatch

Carolina Wren

Downy Woodpecker (male)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Turn your brains on, folks...

A good friend Rita sent this email to me and said 'this would be a great blog story if Snopes verifies it'. Classic case of having to eat crow, this one. A link to the Snopes article will follow, which gives a more complete version of the back-and-forth correspondence...however, this email version is basically correct, excepting the very last part (more on that later):

Luke AFB (Air Force Base) is west of Phoenix and is rapidly being surrounded by civilization that complains about the noise from the base and its planes, forgetting that it was there long before they were. A certain lieutenant colonel at Luke AFB deserves a big pat on the back. Apparently, an individual who lives somewhere near Luke AFB wrote the local paper complaining about a group of F-16s that disturbed his/her day at the mall. When that individual read the response from a Luke AFB officer, it must have stung quite a bit.

The complaint (made to the local paper):

'Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base: Whom do we thank for the morning air show?

Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11 A.M, a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet. Imagine our good fortune!

Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns early bird special?

Any response would be appreciated.

(the letter was signed for publication in the paper)

The response that appeared shortly thereafter:

Regarding 'A wake-up call from Luke's jets' On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four- ship fly by of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt. Jeremy Fresques. Capt Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May 30, Memorial Day.

At 9 a. m. on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend.

Based on the letter writer's recount of the fly by, and because of the jet noise, I'm sure you didn't hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son's flag on behalf of the President of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured..

A four-ship fly by is a display of respect the Air Force gives to those who give their lives in defense of freedom. We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects.

The letter writer asks, 'Whom do we thank for the morning air show? The 56th Fighter Wing will make the call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.

Only 2 defining forces have ever offered to die for you....Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

Lt. Col. Grant L. Rosensteel, Jr. USAF

And so I began my snooping. I'm all for good stories properly reported...I will say that, regardless of your beliefs, when a story ends with a "Jesus" based quote, it raises flags in the veracity department, and for good reason.

I went to , which I've recommended we ALL do when we receive stories we feel led to believe in and pass on. The truth shall set you free, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Or the blasphemy will make you look like one of the idiot masses. Take your pic.

The story is TRUE. Click HERE to read the actual full correspondence of Author to Response #1 to Response #2 to Recantation #1 by said author. As I suspected, the "Jesus-died-for-your-sins" portion was added by someone with a personal agenda and NOT part of the authentic dialogue.

Be that as it may, it all only goes to prove that 'things' are RARELY as we perceive them to be, and we would do well to stop our immediate 'mind-talk' and think through what 'reality' could well hold. This entry isn't to support military issues or buy into one thought or the is simply a wonderful exercise to practice elevated spiritual NOT play the gossip game and to stand true for our individual truth that we have found it to be...not because someone said it is 'so', but because we have come to 'know' it is 'so'...

Do your part! Aho!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


"Thank you, God! I thought I'd frozen it off!"

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Fried Fridays: Mistaken Identity"

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. I gravitate toward the strange, funny, stupid, zany, and just plain, well, 'fried' news stories come across my desk. Hence my tribute every Friday of sharing with you a story that is unique, to say the least. It goes without saying that the choices are often many...

These are desperate times. Mind you, there have been even more desperate times, and on an individual basis there are always desperate times, regardless. Not 'irregardless'...that's a classic pet peeve of many...

Desperate times drive people to do things they would not normally do...or give even bolder license to the miscreants who will take desperate measures no matter what the times.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..."

Apologies to Dickens. There always have been, and there will always be, those that steal from others, for myriad reasons and rationalizations. Some don't intend to hurt people, others do. There have been 'gentlemen' thieves, as well as outright thugs.

And then there was a fellow who did not do all of his homework....


We don't know his name, simply that it was a heavy-set male in his mid 30s...I've left ethnicity out because A) I've grown sick and tired of political correctness, and B) it doesn't matter anyway.

He went to rob a small bank branch office in early January 2009 around 1pm.
Yet another case of the ol' showing-a-revolver-and-demanding-money routine, passed down through the ages.

"Give me your money!" was most likely the line of spoken words. There was just one wee little problem, though.

It wasn't a bank.

Or at least it hadn't been a bank branch location for the past 4 months.

Yep, ol' get-rich-quick schemer had not realized that the former Farmer's Bank branch had since become a collection center for water bills. Ooooooh, now there's a money maker.

"We really don't have any money", was quoted the employee held at gunpoint.

"I KNOW you have money. You're a bank!", was quoted the robber.

Guess again, Sherlock.

"I'll take 'Unobservant Idiots' for $600, Alex..."

The news story went on to say the robber then looked around, realized it was NOT a bank anymore, and left without anything. At least he didn't do something really stupid like fire his gun out of frustration...

And so he wins this week's "Fried Fridays" award...while still 'on the loose', something tells me that even with his mental faculties fully engaged, he'll be caught soon enough...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

American Idol update...

In this AM's blog I wrote about an alum from my college singing group that has 'made it to Hollywood': Anoop Desai.

Here is a link...scroll down to the in-page video of Anoop's audition!


Mish-mash of stuff...

Not lead in any particular direction today, per blogging ideas. Be prepared for random thoughts...

Not thrilled with incoming cold, but looking at this morning's surface observations in Minnesota, I feel much warmer. The warmest I found 4am (there) was minus 11.

I took out in the dark to walk Mercy in an area we know well as I've got some early morning errands to run, Better to have the ol' girl 'empty' as opposed to 'full', if you know what I mean. And so I pull out onto the main road only to have a stopped school bus in the opposite lane. At that location it picks up 2 kids that live across the street.

First one kid came out...then we sat...and sat a little more...and then the second one came waddling down the driveway with only a sweatshirt on. 24 degrees. A parent let him out of the house with just a sweatshirt. Struck me as a screw loose somewhere, but I digress.

I was listening to NPR radio this morning and they interviewed Mark Mathes, a former TV weatherman who was a mixed bag of 'issues' , to say the least. From a professional meteorologist standpoint, he was nothing short of a total idiot that demeaned the profession...yet, to many viewers, his wackiness and unpredictability bordered on legal at times. Station management saw $$$ signs as it made for entertaining TV, setting aside anything of true moral fiber. If you were lucky he'd actually mention something about weather. Drugs and alcohol got the best of him over the years, and after being fired from the Charlotte FOX station is back after a long hiatus, this time as a sober AM news host at the same station.

He gave a sage quote worthy of mulling over:

"Religion is for people scared of Hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there."

In my animal cracker blog a couple of days ago, I wrote the little poem that a friend would introduce a song with when I sang with University of North Carolina's "Clef Hangers" way back early in the group's history. They've since gone on to become quite well-known and, well, darn good at what they do with a capella.

There is a group list of Clef alums and we get postings from time to time...and earlier this week one was a semi-cryptic note to keep our eyes out for two Clef Hangers alums that graduated last year as they might be on national TV. They drove to Kansas City, MO last year to try out for this year's American Idol. At least one got through to Hollywood...

He showed up in the second hour of last night's show (yes, believe it or not, I stayed up that late!). He's from India (I think) and came in wearing his self-admitted 'preppy' button down shirt and shorts. You couldn't forget his name either: Anoop. Anoop Desai And so the judges' banter went with "Anoop-dog" like Snoop-dog, made jokes about his college major studying BBQ, and his unassuming dress (for someone really wanting to be the next American Idol)...and then the ol' boy opened his mouth with a Boyz-2-Men song.

As Paula Abdul said first afterwards, "I was NOT expecting that from you...!". Echoed by all, he was through with ease as he has a wonderful, smooth, controlled voice. I hope and trust we'll see more of him...he's certainly accomplished on the stage and with the Clefs, so he has that experience going with him. They only briefly showed his friend and fellow Clef classmate that went with him (Brandon Jackson Baird), and did not say whether he made it through or not. Hmmmmm.

My hospitalized friend Gene had a rough go the first couple of weeks, then moved into a rehab room only to be moved back to ICU within 12 hours with more bleeding in the brain. Happy to report he was recently moved back out of ICU and into the stroke ward, and by his wife's most recent note may get moved to rehab later this afternoon. I'm going by there this morning and see if I can take a picture of the two so they can put on their convalescing website...which reminds me...

CaringBridge. Click the link to take you to the home page...their descriptor says it all:

"Free, personalized websites that support and connect loved ones during critical illness, treatment, and recovery."

Feel free to type in "genequidley" (no spaces) and see how he's doing, if you feel so led. Heretofore I'd not heard about such a site, but it is an easy way to update (auto sends update to all signed up for posts) instead of rolling scads of phone calls and emails. People are able to write notes to Gene, and Marilyn reads them all to him...a big help, no doubt. If you know of someone in a long-term or critical situation, let 'em know about this wonderful service.

Off to drill a few flute airway holes, take a shower, and join the throngs of cars on the roads. Stay warm, and if you ever want to feel warmer, you can click on this link to check the current weather conditions at the summit of Mt. Washington, NH: BRRRRRR.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"The Cold Hard Facts..."

And so pretty much all of us are cringing for the incoming frigid temperatures as well as the cha-ching of the heating bills climbing north. Luckily here in the Carolinas we're not going to complicate matters with any precipitation, though the higher elevations in the NC mountains have a bit of a problem...though it's only been an inch or so of snow, there will be little if any melting until the weekend, with icy roads ruling in many places. However...

Ashe County, NC snow depth 3/17/1960
NC DOT files

...that's an itty bitty drop in the bucket compared to the severe issues western NC had back in the late winter of 1960. For over a month snows averaged every other day, leading to emergency drops of food and fuel to many mountain locations, clearly locked down in the dangerously frozen conditions. Boone had 44" of measured snowfall, with significantly deeper drifts...and some locations measured up to 85-inches of snowfall. A bit too much of a good thing, eh?

In the winter of 1998-1999, Mount Baker in Washington recorded 1,140 inches of snow, which is a record that stands today for seasonal snowfall in the contiguous U.S. Can't you hear the rangers saying, "Alright honey, I have to go to work, now...see you in May!"

True or False: every U.S. state has experienced snowfall.

True. You can snow ski in Hawaii up on the higher volcanoes. While snows are pretty rare in Florida, their record for super-cold temperatures is extremely rare. Back in the winter of 1899, February to be exact, every state dropped below 0-degrees. Tallahassee, FL set a record low of minus 2 degrees, with highs below about killing some tender vegetation...

The coldest temperature recorded in the U.S. is minus 80 degrees in Prospect Creek, Alaska. I the "Lower 48" that record was set in February 1996 at Embarrass, Minnesota where it bottomed out at minus 64 degrees (fyi, all temps are Fahrenheit).

Our Tarheel record cold is frigidly impressive: minus 34 on Mount Mitchell (1/21/1985). That's also where the greatest 24-hour snowfall was recorded, 36 inches on 3/13/1993. I know there have been storms that have dropped 50-60 inches in the mountains, 60" being the unofficial record up at Newfound Gap in the Smokies (Swain County)...but the Mount Mitchell record brings up another nightmare in the weather world: The "Storm of the Century" in March 1993.

Tremendous damage was done up and down the eastern seaboard with heavy snow, ice, and hurricane force winds. Click on the link below to read about the gist of it on Wikipedia:


Stay warm and well!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Breaking News!..."

This just in...

How "animal crackers" are made:

"Birds do it and fly;
Bees do it and die;

Dogs do it and stick to it,
but if you get to it,
and can't do it,
call me and I'll do it
I'm used to it."

The above was our line (Barry Saunder's line, to be exact!) in the "Clef Hangers" at UNC-Chapel Hill before we sang a Cole Porter classic
"Let's Do It! Let's Fall In Love"...
(link to unique song version on YouTube)

The above is just a little picture humor from an industrial sized bag of animal crackers I bought last weekend...which led me to dig up some trivia related to those tasty minions....


Q. What are the 17 different types of animals that can be found in a box of animal crackers today?

A. Tigers, cougars, camels, rhinoceros, kangaroos, hippopotami, bison, lions, hyenas, zebras, elephants, sheep, bears, gorillas, monkeys, seals, and giraffes.

Q. How many animals (total) have been used in animal crackers over the years?

A. 54.

Factoid: Many people might say the string around the little box is to pull the circus train around, but it isn't. Barnum's animal crackers have been around since 1902 and that string was used to hang the box as a Christmas decoration!

Factoid: More then 40 million little circus train boxes are sold each year. United States companies make them and then export them to seventeen different countries around the world.

Factoid: 72% of people bite the heads off first when eating animal crackers (okay, I made that one up!)

Q. How many animal crackers are in a box?

A. There are approximately twenty-two animal crackers in a box of Barnum's animal crackers.

5 other factoids about Animal Crackers:
  1. April 18 is National Animal Cracker Day
  2. Originated in England
  3. First made there in 1876.
  4. Popular Brands are Barnum's, Stauffer's, and Austin
  5. 37 different varieties made since 1902


Monday, January 12, 2009

Mo' Birdies...

Even with less than desirable weather conditions this past weekend, I felt like investing more hours just sitting and waiting for birds to come feed. I sometimes stopped and asked myself why I was going through all this trouble since I was doing it for pleasure (and had plenty of other worthwhile things to do)...and that's just it, it brings me pleasure to 'be' with the winged-ones and to challenge myself technically and aesthetically to try and get decent pictures under trying circumstances (i.e. shooting through glass, light rain at times, fast-moving birds and trying to keep the ISO fast enough to stop motion yet low enough to minimize 'grain' (aka 'noise').

You end up watching behaviors unique to the species...the squabbles between individuals...species mixing side by side...and how they scatter like 'haints' when a hawk is seen close by. And so I present to you new species that I didn't run in a prior photo blog last week (well, for the most part).

I'm starting with a pic of the Hairy Woodpecker female as it happened to come out so sharp, and she posed on the feeder she doesn't feed on (notice how she's using her tail for added balance)...remember you can click on any picture to enlarge it for a better view...

Hairy Woodpecker (female)

In that same earlier post, I mentioned the almost identical but smaller Downy Woodpeckers didn't come around, but they did this weekend...

Downy Woodpecker (female)

This angle for the male barely shows his red on the back of his head, but it was the better of my final pics...

Downy Woodpecker (male)

I compressed the pics from the earlier post and put them side by side for comparison. While there are more subtle differences between the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers like beak size, you can loosely say the Hairy is a Downy on steroids as they do look similar except for size:


Purple Finches were showing up more than they have up 'til now...

Purple Finch (male)

I just love the little up-flipping tail of the Carolina Wren...of course, I didn't choose the pic with the tell-tale tail as I liked this one for something a little different!

Carolina Wren

It's a bit comical to have all these little birds flit in and out to feed before and then see the feeder totter when the much larger Doves come and snack. We refer to doves often as 'doves of peace', and among other reasons they truly are very, very peaceful birds...

Mourning Dove

Pine Siskins are abundant through the winter, and their tell-tale sign amongst their tans and browns is the slight yellowish-green splash on their wings...

Pine Siskin

...and the Siskins are known for their love of sunflower seeds...that feeder is presently not in a good photographic position, but this trio was eating some I'd spread out on the railing...

Pine Siskins

This is another year-round resident, the Dark-eyed Junco, found from the heights of Mount Mitchell to the Carolina Coast....

Dark-eyed Junco

Though I showed the Tufted Titmouse in the earlier blog, I just had to add this cute one with a mouthful...

Tufted Titmouse


Happy Monday, all y'all! Get ready for some cold stuff later this week! You can bet these kids will be even more fluffed than usual and eating to beat the band!