Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Orangutan and the Hound


What lovely weather we are having in the Carolinas! Setting aside the tornadic weather last Sunday, of course. While the mornings start chilly, the afternoons are far from shabby, and March is heading out like a fluffy lamb.


It's not like I'm loaded with free time on my hands, but I'm throwing this out there for those of you that are fluties and those that are into portable media....I am going to begin creating podcasts, MP3 files you can download and take with you to listen to whenever and wherever.

While I know I want to make them for my UglyBoyFlutes.com site, I was also thinking about making a version available for this blog, maybe starting with the Fried Fridays since they are perfect for audio-only candidates.

So I throw that thought out there and would appreciate any feedback anyone has for me. Would you prefer them to be really short, or limited to X number of minutes? Fluties can suggest topics...I know one will be on the steps I took to create a particular song, where I talk and play the pieces as they came together...I'll discuss types of wood and which are my favorite and which you can keep away from me (!)...and such topics. Per this blog, I think I may go back some and make them for just Fried Fridays, maybe throwing in a special one like yesterday's post worth listening to or sharing.

Mull, mull, mull. Which reminds me of Molly's little name that seems to come out of my mouth: Mol-Mol. Which reminds me she gets her spaying stitches out tomorrow. Which reminds me she gets to ditch that useful but horrid Elizabethan Collar. Which reminds me I took it off a few days ago since she simply doesn't bother the incision. Which reminds me to not let the vet know about this blog post...

My dear friend Dave recently sent a link to a most wonderful video from National Geographic, a beautiful story between an ol' hound dog and a precocious orangutan. Not only is it worthy of passing on, but at the bottom of the linked page is a link to "Other Wisdom" wherein I found some very worthy material. I end this post with a thought-provoking video on "The Wounded Healer" that I found on that page. Enjoy.

Orangutan and the Hound (click on the phrase for link)

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ya don't have to look far....


Whether we need it or not, everything is closer to us than we think. While this holds true for things like happiness and things positive, it is also for things decidedly not. Eternal balance, the Yin and Yang, are omnipresent...so it is with great caution and high awareness that we make the choice of what we look at and focus on. Sticking your head in the sand to ignore any part of that balance will not be in anyone's best interest, as would obsessing about, say, something negative, as that draws it closer and closer to reality with such focused attention. We create our own realities, whether we're aware of it or not...and the basis lies within that powerful freedom of choice as to how we act and react to 'things'.


I say all that because of the recent tragic death of a 15 year-old freshman in Massachussetts I read about yesterday. Cute girl, whose family just moved here from Ireland....and tormented this school year by a group of 9 students in particular (male and female) with merciless bullying and taunting, including rape...and supposedly most of that occurring at school and on-line.

She killed herself.

Senseless death is just that, senseless. Where did these kids get the idea it was okay to behave this way? Where were the school administrators? Where were all the parents? Who heard the incessant cries for help and did nothing? Who is so out of touch with their kids they have no idea they're acting like criminals and misusing the internet? Have you ever been in a situation where someone is doing something so badly that you needed to stand up and speak out...and did you?

My years at Woodberry Forest School taught me many things, including some very hard lessons. Serving on both disciplinary and honor committees, I had to make tough choices on someone's potentially life-changing actions, whether they were disciplined or expelled...and that meant that in my daily life as a student, if I saw illegal or rule-breaking behavior, I was obligated to report it.

Many here call that snitching. I call it doing the right thing. Many calling it ratting on your friends. I call those people cowards not interested in the greater good of our society. Somewhere along the line we've lost our backbone for standing tall and speaking out honorably, and replaced it with either an 'amoebic silence' or some trumped-up chest-beating bravado seen in the political arena with bad-boy and bad-girl behavior. And I'm not talking just the 'out-shouting' politicians, but citizens that exhibit boorish behavior that's basically laced with bigotry and racism. And don't get me started on the ultra-right wing Christian Conservative militia groups that are on a 'godly' mission to cause death and destruction and somehow label it as 'good and right'. Those FBI raids shed light on just how close to us true terrorism is in our country.

In the 7th grade I crossed the 6' and 200-pound mark. Safe to say I wasn't bullied, and in fact stepped in to protect those that were. I've never tolerated mean people, and won't. I don't tolerate rude behavior, bigots, racists and those that mistreat animals. At a time when our nation desperately needs to pull together, there is that powerful 'opposite' force of those pushing their selfish 'My Way or the Highway' attitude. Where are all the people that can think ahead of the curve and see our Oneness instead of our perceived Separateness?

Yet, somehow in all that 'darkness' are buried blessings and beacons of 'lightness' that hopefully translate into personal growth and awareness...the proverbial passing of the spark to get a fire going (and might I add the kind of fire that warms and casts a golden glow, not the kind that destroys).

Life gives you a big DingleSnorf. It's what it is, a DingleSnorf...but how you look at it, how you perceive it, and how you react/deal with is where important Life-forming growth can occur...or not. Choose who you want to be in any given moment and BE that person. Wanna have a pity party and trust no one? Your call. Wanna look for the nuggets of gold in the hearts of others, in the eyes of a stranger, and in the infinite beauty of a flower? It's a simple choice.

But you make it, and define yourself in the process.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quick post of flutes

(NOTE: Blogger has been misbehaving badly with today's photos, and I even tried to write a new entry and reload them all...none of them would show up! So bear with this temporary trouble and check back if you are having trouble viewing pics)


It'll take me a while to transfer this to the website, but thought I'd pass along some new 'kids' to fellow fluties out there...finishing up flutes takes a looooong time, but these are well on their way to singing full-time. Most have no blocks designed for them yet, another time-consumer...but this is the first serious batch of new flutes coming out since last fall. As always, click on pics to enlarge...text with pics should answer most questions!
















Friday, March 26, 2010

"Fried Fridays: Oz's Tin Man sang it best...."


"If I only had a brain...."

Good fodder for this Friday morning...so good I've got to highlight a brace of stories in which the criminals share one thing in common: a seriously underutilized brain.

Our first chap simply wanted to reach out and touch someone....

DATELINE: OREM, UTAH

John White looks like he's in his early 20s....earrings in both ears, wavy golden locks cut straight across the forehead, which would look like an ancient Greek if it were but black as coal.  His newish looking Ralph Lauren t-shirt made for a nice little mugshot.

John's mistake wasn't stealing two cell phones from a convenience store, though that was mistake enough.  His mistake wasn't possessing the marijuana police found with the two stolen phones, though it certainly didn't help matters.

John's first big mistake was....he got lost.  He was trying to find a particular address and, unlike many males, he actually flagged someone down to ask them for directions.

Only that person was THE investigating officer called in to handle the very convenience store theft John committed.  What are the odds of that happening?  Pretty good when you consider John had committed a second significant brain flattulation...

You see, John was close to his destination...so how was it the investigating officer just happened to be there, as well?  John had accidentally left behind the address written on a slip of paper.  The officer immediately recognized our first award-winning miscreant and, well, the rest is history.

Our blog of Brainless Wonders continues with a pair that will leave you saying, "What were they thinking?"....

DATELINE: FAIRFIELD, CONNECTICUT

Meet 27 year-old Albert Bailey and his unnamed 16 year-old sidekick.  They needed and/or wanted some quick cash, and what better and easier way to accomplish that than to go rob a bank.

Leisure-style.

We are SUCH a society of laziness at times, aren't we.  It's one thing to work smarter, not harder, but if one is not careful he or she can cut one too many corners.

Honestly, when I read this I was speechless...

Albert phoned in his robbery request for a bag of cash.

(cue cricket chirps loud enough to override the cricket laughter)

The Dynamic-less Duo pulled into the bank parking lot 10 minutes later to pick up their kinda sorta drive-through booty and....I know you'll find this hard to believe...the police were there waiting for  'em.

Please tell me they were high on drugs or something....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NOW it's getting dangerous....

Please, I pretty much turn a deaf ear to any news that 'the markets' are getting stronger, that bailed-out banks are turning good profits again, and that the economy is stabilizing.  A willful deaf ear, I'll admit.

Many banks continue to play dirty pool of sorts...I watched an expose last night on ABC (that you can watch HERE, though it may take a bit to load) where a 'disguised' high-level executive told his 'truth' about what really was going on in banks high up....the pressure execs were put under to try and force unneeded financial products on consumers because the more cards and accounts they had, the better the chance to make healthy fees off of them....how 'the top' purposefully put a lid on any efforts to ammend mortgages of homeowners in dire straits, heretofore long-term, excellent customers.  If you don't have time to watch it now, I strongly urge you to watch it later.  It's very unsettling.

Just as I know it's incorrect to lump all banks into one box, I also know that the box of dirty pool players is quite a full one.  But that's not my seriously deep concern this morning...

Foreclosures.  Bankrupticies. Business hiring mostly part-time positions, if that.  State and local governments on the brink of financial collapse.  All generate deeply troubling concerns.  Recently, however, even amidst the little glimmers of economic hope in the news, comes word of the type of collapse that is, to me, one of the most dangerous...not so much for what it is on the surface, but what it means as the shock-wave and domino-effect takes hold and goes through the roots...through the years to come.

Watching our school systems crumble.

It's bad enough there were serious enough issues with the declining quality of public education over the past few decades, but to see the (increasing) reports of "Death by Education" is a knell we do not want to hear...yet we're held seemingly powerless to stop it.

Kansas City school systems are considering closing or consolidating 21 of their 67 schools next year.  20% of Michigan City's schools are on the chopping block.  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is considering an 8-15% (some reports say an even 10%) across the board pay-cut for everyone; that or firing several hundred teachers, increasing class sizes and still possibly cutting pay (oh, and possibly creating 'combo' classes where K and 1 are put together, 2nd and 3rd, etc.).  Worst case scenario is CMS will face an $83 million budget shortfall next year. And those are just three little examples I highlighted in a tempestuous sea that spans the country.

Oh, glad to see that Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, got a total compensation package of $17.9 million for 2009.  Yeah, he took a big cut in salary and deferred on cash bonuses, but it is what it is: $18 million.

Also happened to dig up 2008 data for good ol' Goldman Sachs...one of THE ring-leaders of our world-affecting financial collapse paid out $4.82 BILLION in bonuses alone.

The 30-team NBA payroll total is close to $1,825,000,000.  Highest is the L.A. Lakers at over $91 million; lowest is the Portland Trailblazers at just under $56 million.  Average salary in 2007-2008 was just over $5.3 million.

IF you have a Master's Degree and teach for 23 years, your annual base pay in North Carolina will finally go a tad above the $50,0000 mark...that was before the proposed pay slashes ahead, of course. 

Just felt like throwing that in there.  Teachers have for decades gotten the short end of the pay and respect stick; not only have they gotten the short end of the stick, but the stick continues to be effectively ground down on a yearly basis.  What we as a society are witnessing is a severe erosion at the very foundation and fabric of our nation.  Innocent children are paying the price for the follies of adult fools, basically.

"What do you want to be when you grow up, Liza?  A teacher?"  Why would you, unless you were of such high moral calling that you would throw yourself into a profession that we're allowing to go to hell in a handbasket?  Of course, you could say that about any number of professions these days....

Back when the horse-hockey hit the fan a couple of years ago, I remarked that some areas of society need to be shielded from demise, namely public safety (police/fire/emergency) and education/schools.  When times get bad, some people get desperate, and you could argue an increased need for public safety and protection.  But to screw with a child's eduction is set in motion a snowball headed for a hell of sorts, with ramifications that will go years into the future.

"The North Carolina Education Lottery" is one of the biggest farces to come through The Old North State government the past few years.  Sounds great, doesn't it, that proceeds help out our education system?  Smoke and mirrors, it is...it was to supplement existing funding, but our elected leaders saw fit to find ways to funnel some of the funding and proceeds for non-education programs and departments.

Allowing our schools to be shuttered, teachers fired, and kids crammed into classrooms like sardines, and then underfunding everything from supplies to support services is a bad, bad, bad thing.  To say there are no other options is to say we haven't gotten tough enough in other areas.  

Just like the ol' bumper sticker says:

"It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."

And we sit here twiddling our thumbs acting surprised that our children perform so poorly when looking at academic performances of children around the globe...America's societal priorities are way out of whack.  Or maybe it's more accurate to say we are simply reaping what we sow, espousing belief in one thing but making and accepting willful choices that destroy those very beliefs in the process.

Hmmmmmmmm.....


Monday, March 22, 2010

"Ugly Boy...start your engine!"

(CLICK PICS TO ENLARGE)


It's been a slow train a-comin' since last fall when my router system died.  Any new flutes I've produced since then were from a group I'd glued up and planed down before the unfortunate demise.

But with the advent of 'warmer' and non-snowy weather, the new Freud system showed me it's 'stuff' late last week, what with it's hefty, powerful router motor cutting through wood like butter.  It is significantly easier to work with and overall will help me be more productive.  Thanks, Santa!!!


Below is the first graduating class from Freud High...there are 3 transfer students that really don't have anything to do with the router system, though, the 2 branch flutes (top) halved and ready to be hand-gouged, as well as the almost-completed branch flute you'll read about in a minute.

There are 3 flutes in the middle that still have electrical tape on the ends...putting end caps on flutes would be a piece of cake with epoxy, except for one little thing that makes all the difference in the world:  it is MUCH harder to cut and achieve a true flat surface that is 90-degrees to the flute body.  You would think that as I slowly drop the chop saw that it would do the trick, but it doesn't always do that...I'm talking very minor gaps and imperfections, but it takes a lot of effort to do it 'right'.

Those end-capped flutes are with my more premium woods.  The top one is figured Myrtle with Claro Walnut endcaps; next is Quilted Maple with figured Sapele caps, followed by Curly Maple with figured Sapele caps.


Those 3 along with the bottom 2 are all 1" bore flutes, and most likely will fall very close to mid F in key.  The Yellowheart flute (take a guess!) and one below it are 7/8" bore and will more than likely be G/Ab.  On the far right are 2 round-bore flutes with a 1/2" bore, and most likely will fall more towards high E.  But you do see one next to those that is already prepped for finishing...

I had always been meaning to go by the large warehouse of a Habitat for Humanity resale store in Asheville. While very close to the prestigious Biltmore Village, it's off on an industrial side road, with a rutted, muddy-when-wet parking lot across the street.  The hillside by the parking lot is full of young 'trash' trees of various species, unkempt from years of neglect in a no-owner's zone of sorts.  The day I went by I saw some pruned branches litering the edge...and noticed many were naturally hollow and very light.  Now you know why I carry a small handsaw in the back of the car...


I have reason to believe the hollowed branches were younger shoots of Royal Paulownia, and while I've never done it before, I dug through long drill bits and cleaned out the bore by hand, inserting a cork to divide the 2 flute chambers, and opting for a teak soundboard insert as the wood was stringy and wouldn't shave flat.  The upshot is this is a bored flute and hasn't been split in half and glued...and to add to the character the bark is perfectly intact.  It's a sweet high D flute that will need to have good finish coats on it so the bark is sealed on, but it's almost ready to roll.

I will be deterred by other projects and auditions for the next couple of days, but it feels good to have the ball rolling again, and the mental cobwebs blown out from months of negotiating these woodworking steps.  Amen for spring!


Friday, March 19, 2010

"Fried Fridays: Kiss THIS.....!"


"Why don't you kiss,
Kiss this!
And I don't mean on
My rosy red lips...!"

- Aaron Tippin

Older country song, that one...cute and catchy.  Spring officially comes in this weekend, and with spring comes lightened spirits, new vegetation, and mating songbirds.  Love is in the air, for sure.

It's also in the law books...

DATELINE: DUBAI

Not sure how our society would split in a yes/no poll on PDA.  You know, 'public display of affection.'  Holding hands, kissing, full-fledged making out...it can manifest itself in many ways.

And it's gone on as long as time itself has, I'm pretty sure.  Person A has life-altering chemical reaction to Person B, with a mutually electric return stimulus, and the rest is history.

Dubai is a Shangrila of sorts, a resort-like atmosphere with year-round sunny days and tax-free earnings.  Foreign residents far outnumber native Emiratis, which is not necessarily a problem, save for the austere, conservative Muslim laws that govern the Gulf Arab emirate.

Alcohol is illegal.  Kissing and touching in public is illegal.  Tying your pet Cape Buffalo to a public parking meter is also probably illegal, though I couldn't verify that.  Fact is, the touchy-feely thing might play well in Peoria, but never in Dubai...not in public.

An Emirate mother complained to the police that a young (foreign) couple was kissing and touching each other intimately in public, with the assistance of some alcohol apparently.  What made it worse was that.....get ready, this is a biggee...the mother's child saw it, too.  Scarred for life for witnessing wicked Western ways.

This actually happened in November when the couple was arrested, since then filing legal motions to stave off the anticipated one month of jail time for such a tawdry offense, to be followed with a guaranteed deportation.

The laws in Dubai seem bizarre to us, just like any country's laws that subjugate women or other unconscionable actions.  To think you can spend a month in prison and be deported for doing something so 'tame' boggles the mind.  Fries it, actually.

Guess it goes to prove the old adage of advice:  When in Rome, do as the Romans do. 

Uh, scratch that.  I think there were historical periods when they did a lot more than just kissing publicly, come to think about it...


Thursday, March 18, 2010

A draining task...

(click on pics to enlarge)

Lake Junaluska (~30 minutes west of Asheville, NC) has been drained for some dredging and clean-up work....and if you've ever been there you'll realize how foreign these pictures look.


There are two kinda sorta parts to the lake, the shallowest being the part along the highway to Maggie Valley (where these pics were taken).  The other half, where the dam is located, has the deeper part and some semblance of a lake, still...with a lot of shoreline showing.


I took advantage of collecting some of the driftwood branches that I thought might make good branch flutes...nice to be able to pick and choose like that.  Not all branches make good flute material, not by a long shot.


As I drove one of the windy roads along the lakeshore, a special treat caught my eye...


It was a storm-damaged gnarly old, old maple tree, and now all you woodworkers get to drool.....keep in mind a large limb ripped down in a recent snow, so the surface is really rough (and the limb material long-gone, for good reason...)


Even as rough as the surface is, just LOOK at the intense curly maple wood that's in that wonderful tree!  I can only imagine a lot of that tree's wood would turn out to be some of the highest grade figured maple out there...


Guess I've never seen a raw exposed tear in a tree and seen such beautiful figuring all at the same time...


...which is why I carry a saw in the back of the car.  Ya never know when you might have the opportunity to take something damaged and turn it into beautiful art/instruments.


As I said earlier, whatever fell off was long-gone, and not even any good scraps were left.  *SIGH*  But it sure is fun to think I might one day find such a treasure someone would let me have.
 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Whatever's Day.....


Once upon a time, in a make-believe land far far away, there was a holiday that caused much consternation to some, namely those of Irish descent that had a fetish for propriety that was, well, just plain vapid.  Keep in mind this is 'make-believe', so don't think that a news professional wrote this memo to fellow workers a little over a week ago...(wink, wink)

"Hi all,

In the next few days, I'm sure many of us will be writing a story about St. Patrick and all of the events surrounding this day.  This is just my annual reminder for us to write and say St. Patrick, not St. Patty's, Paddy's or any other version of the name.  Many Irish find this offensive (and often write me lots of emails when we say it incorrectly).    We don't call Christmas, X-Mas, or Martin Luther King, Marty....so please call St. Patrick by his full and actual name. 

Thanks for saving me a lot of messages in my inbox.

Signed,
(make-believe person)"

I'll start by digressing and challenge the assertion that "many" find it offensive...and to remind this (make-believe) author that it's Martin Luther King, JR. day, since he or she is into the prim and proper... 

I was even told this same (make-believe) person asked a meteorologist to not use the dancing leprechaun icon on the 7-day outlook as it was 'incorrect' and 'offensive'...

I happened to be working 'someplace' last Friday and thanks to a bad technical issue spent some time with the head IT guru solving the issue.  He's full Irish, in every way.  At some random point, I asked him about the 'St. Patrick' vs. 'St. Paddy' idea and he immediately guffawed that the (make- believe) memo was a total crock of you-know-what.

I don't doubt the (make-believe) person got some emails, but I'm personally sick and tired of squeaky wheels getting all the grease.  I'm all for things proper and non-offensive, but there is a limit to allowed zealousness in my book.  For this (make-believe) person to put out this (make-believe) email, it should open the legitimate door for a like-rebuttal...but, oh no, one dare not challenge a manager.

I'm Scotch-Irish, so a bit of a mongrel to Irish purists, I'm sure....but I've talked with MANY Irish who are not in the least bothered by references like Paddy and such..after all, it is THE most common name, and a legitimate derivation.  Even "Patrick" is an Anglicized version of the Irish vernacular "Padraig", from which Paddy naturally derived.  It leaves me wondering if it's Nationalist toes that were being stepped on or religious ones...the latter which tend to be highly intolerant on myriad levels.

So, just musing over the weird taste in my mouth from that (make-believe) memo.  The day's almost over, and my green shirt will go in the dirty clothes bin, even though I didn't go anywhere in public today.  C'est la guerre.

Big thing is in the morrow Miss Molly will be going in for her spaying.  I know all will be fine, but ya still worry when one of your 'kids' goes in for anything dealing with anesthesia.  Maybe it will calm her chewing habit some...I can only hope!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Woke up with this in my head....


No, not congestion...this song.  Many moons ago Spike Lee did a movie on some a capella groups, and it began with a cool song by an earlier quartet grouping of Rockapella, who has since changed many members over the years.  They've done Folger's commercials, provided songs on "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego", and much more.

Anyhooo, if you're feeling like a zombie this morning, you're in luck....here is Rockapella performing "Zombie Jamboree from the start of that movie...sound is a tad off the video, but you can deal with it...as you move with the zombies!






Friday, March 12, 2010

Pondering, Musing, Mulling....


(NOTE: Pulling the ol' early AM weather shift for News 14 Triad this morning, so don't have the time to do my 'normal' Fried Fridays segment.  I started pre-writing this post yesterday to save time.  Who knows, maybe I'll write a 'Silly Saturday' story to make it up, since there are some really whacked stories out there this week...)

In the weather world, especially, an oft asked question is 'do you think man is creating global warming with CO2 emissions, etc.?  In fact, a friend recently posted such a question to a select group of us, this after a record cold and snowy winter...how could there be warming when there is so much cold and snow?

Keep in mind this issue is global and long-term, not limited to one season.  And even though the overall effect would be 'warming', it also means wilder swings in weather patterns...so you would have the really cold with the really hot, overall setting a warming trend.

Even at that it's debatable, of course.  I didn't respond immediately to my friend's question, but a fellow meteorologist did by saying,

"I think we have some affect on the climate, but to what degree is still uncertain even with the millions of dollars of research spent on the subject of global warming. I believe at this point, to say that global warming is strictly man-made is a big stretch-the research certainly has shown many holes. Environmental stewardship benefits everyone, and I think that should be our focus for generations to come.

Cleaning up the environment by reducing CO2 emissions, and our dependancy on coal and oil should be a priority regardless of the global warming debate. The problem now is that too much has been invested into the whole issue that stopping one side or the other from continuing to press on will be nearly impossible. Let's just move on and stop wasting tax payers money on what should be an obvious choice... reduce, reuse and recycle!"

I happened to be at the computer when the email came in and I quickly responded thus:

"I second that emotion, Jason...whether or not we're warming the atmosphere is but a smaller issue to our rampant degradation of the planet in general, air as well as land and water. THAT needs to be the focus, to drastically increase stewardship and use political tools in addition to societal ones to minimize harmful environmental impacts.

But that means people, nations, and parties have to agree to compromise and work together...and judging by the way we're heading just within our own U.S. government, it's no wonder those prospects look so depressing..."

I grew up big in the student council world starting in junior high...any and all leadership classes and workshops dealt with what it was to be a leader...and while you have to have a vision you believe in and follow; yet you have to sell it to others, and you have to understand that you aren't God and that you have to COMPROMISE to see things move ahead.

Sadly, that's what I see SO little of in our government, yea, among individual citizens, absolutely hell-bent on seeing their ideology win out over someone else's, giving nary an inch of conciliatory turf.  That, to me, is pitifully, pitifully sad and heart-breaking. This I tell you:  We as a nation and society and democracy will get NOWHERE as long as we choose polarizing over compromising.  NOWHERE.  Some think it's all and good to stand for your beliefs, but not at the risk of destroying social and political fabric.  We have to wisely pick and choose our battles, and it seems waaaaaaay too many are dropping that aspect of 'wisdom' altogether...

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

One story that caught my eye Thursday is a northern Mississippi School district that has canceled Senior Prom altogether.  Threw the baby out with the bathwater they did, the whole shooting match.  Seems like the 'adults' in control of the Itawamba School District took issue with a student who challenged the rule that prom dates have to be of the opposite sex.  A same-sex couple wanted to go to the prom, with one of the ladies wearing a tux.  They challenged the law on the basis of constitutional rights, and the ACLU got involved.

So the board's answer was to just stop the whole shootin' match instead of dealing with a topic and situation worthy of consideration and...here's that word again...compromise.  At least some other creative solution than ruining a huge event for everyone involved.

You don't have to agree or support or like same-sex couples and issues...but I really thought we as a great society were getting past such neanderthalic mindsets, sticking instead to baseless archaic rules created from manipulated religious roots.  At this moment I'm thinking of many same-sex couples I know well...and if this world had more like them (in terms of loving, kind, committed, philanthropic, giving, peaceful beings), we would have a far better place in which to truly live.  FAR better.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

MMmmmmmeow?!


"Of all God's creatures,
there is only one
that cannot be made
the slave of the leash.
That one is the cat.
If man could be
crossed with a cat
it would improve man,
but it would
deteriorate the cat."

     -   Mark Twain

I'm a boogie woogie kind of piano man, and I remember the title of one old, old song called "Kitten on the Keys".  Click on the title and go to a page that plays that 1921 creation, if'n ya want to tap your toes a bit! (Note: if you don't have Quicktime installed on your computer, I don't think it will work...sorry!)

An early morning email from a pet food company had a little story about Nora the piano cat...which led me to search for this 'amazing' cat that has put out her own CD.  OK, take it with a grain of salt...found a YouTube video of her in action...would have liked to see her really go at it for a period of time, but the video is full of jump cuts which tells me Nora has a limited attention span when it comes to tickling the ivories.

However, I did find Nora featured in a "Catcerto" that was cute and nicely composed and edited...give it a second for the feline to get doing her thing as an orchestra plays to Nora's video interpretation of...something....

(note: Blogger's column width is cutting a little of the screen off on the right...you can double click on the screen below and go to the YouTube entry and actually enlarge to full screen)




Tuesday, March 09, 2010

New flute: "Spirit Horse" (mid F#)


Finally, here my latest creation, one I've named "Spirit Horse".  It's a closed end flute of Papua New Guinea Walnut, keyed to mid F# (F#4).  It's got a beautiful voice, if I do say so myself, but as I write I've not made a sound file of it yet.

(click on pics to enlarge)


I don't have any deep hidden meanings in any of the designs, although the thunderstorm on the forehead is just that. For me it represents the Thunderbeings, and the supercell storms of the Plains. To the Native Americans, the horse of the west wasn't on the scene until the early Spaniards brought them.  Once tamed, the horse transformed many tribal cultures, not only for transportation but also for hunting and certainly warfare.  Spiritually, the horse represents freedom and power, a spirit that cannot be broken.  It also represents safe passage into the 'new'.


When I finally decided to make a horse from the solid wood end, I immediately wanted it to look like it was at full gallop...I wanted that movement, that freedom, that unbridled spirit (literally and figuratively!)...and I had this abstract idea of color and designs instead of a 'normal' look, more representative of the Spirit/Dream world. (Too, it may have been a hold-over from painting the Hippie Flute!).  But what to do for the block?

I certainly didn't want a second horsehead...and a regular sweeping bird didn't seem to work.  I thought about an old style geometric block found on the oldest Plains flutes, but then I had this idea to stylize the mane flying in the wind...


I wasn't sure how to get the effect, but since I decided to keep the mane black, I knew I had some flat pieces of Ebony.  I chose a basic block for the base, angled for aesthetics...could have made it 100% Ebony, but it absorbs no moisture and makes a flute 'wet out' under the block where moist breath travels.  I cut four long rectangles of Ebony, and then used my oscillating drum sander to make the 'waves' for the flying mane, hitting the corners as well to round each over.  Too, I wanted a tad separation between the tips of each piece, so I sanded a little off the sides of each tail.  I actually made about 6 pieces, and then sat down and played with it like a puzzle.  I wanted each to look different and not be aligned in the same way...I thought that would be easy but it took some real manipulation to get the four pieces I liked in a precise order.  With a little glue and more sanding, the concept came to life.


I was orginally going to leave the Mahogany base natural, but the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea of reintroducing the turquoise, so I painted it.  While I had ideas for doing other ornamentation, once the block was finished, I had that feeling of peace that my new 'kid' was just as it needed to be.


"It's a bird...it's a plane...it's...."


...Medusa?


stay tuned later today.....

Friday, March 05, 2010

"Fried Fridays: Simmering, actually..."


Marketing.  It's all about marketing.

When times get tough, the tough get creative, and oftentimes that means creating a whole new way for people to look at your product...

DATELINE: PITTSFIELD, MASSACHUSSETTS

A mortuary is a mortuary is a mortuary.  Or is it?

I understand business has been pretty dead lately, increasing the stiff competition between funeral homes.  All of 'em now offer lay away plans, and pride themselves on being the last ones to ever let you down.

But at times like this, grave decisions have to be made to keep your business afloat.  You have to arise from the ashes lest you be buried with burdening debt.  It's not always an open and shut case, either.  On the outside you might look good to others, but inside is a whole 'nuther story.  It's hard to stay alive in these tough times, yet there is a strong need to keep a pulse of your community and potential clients.

So you create events you hope people will be dying to enjoy.

Nothing says 'Yummy!' quite like a chili cook-off competition at the Devanny-Condron Funeral Home.  I think it would be cute if they made some of the rooms to look like red caves, and have competitors dress in red tights and capes and call it "Chili that's hot as hell!", but something tells me some uptight folks wouldn't cotton to that.  Any way, that's only one of myriad efforts they're putting forth to get residents to understand what an integral part of the town a funeral home is.

(cue cricket chirps...)

They want people to understand they are the very center of community life.  Guess I'd always thought of them as the center of community death, but I digress.

Another thing they're going to take a stab at is a murder-mystery show.  Personally, I think Mrs. Thomas will do it in the Blue Chapel with a candlestick, but time will tell after the tickets sell.  I bet I know what brand of coffee they'll serve, though....Maxwell House.  Good to the last drop.

If you're celebrating your 50th anniversary, you get a free ride in their funeral limo.  Now THERE'S a real treat for your long-lasting love, the opportunity to see what it looks and feels like before your next ride...

You see, a spokesperson for the funeral home wants to reshape the public's perception to one of understanding how a funeral home can be a place for happier occasions, too.  That way, when they're actually holding a wake, there will a better sense of comfort now that the community has experienced happier times there.

I promise you, I can't make this stuff up.

They're on a roll, though.  The Ether, er, uh Easter Bunny will make an appearance there as they have a little holiday egg hunt fun ('There's a special egg in one of the caskets, Timmy! Go find it!).  Speaking of which, they might want to make little baskets in the shape of caskets, to really drive the point home how much fun they had.  

An art walk is in the offing...I wonder if they'll have a silent auction?  Will it be open to all mediums?  Maybe they'll do like other towns do...like in Cherokee, NC there are a dozen large bear sculptures that local artists were hired to paint, or the traveling theme-painted cows....they could do the same thing with basic pine caskets, to add a little color to Pittsfield's wintry cityscape.

Of all their ideas, I think I like this one best: monthly birthday cakes to the Pittsfield Senior Center. Have your cake and buy a plot for it, too. Granted, it's a nice gesture, BUT....


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

S-NO!-W and mo'...


If a picture paints a thousand words, I'm not sure a lot of them can be printed here....the above graphic is from the GSP NWS office from the storm that just blew through, showing the forecast numbers.  Actual amounts were higher in some mountain locations, some above 12", but that graphic isn't out yet. Temps held above freezing and helped many Piedmont locations see only limited accumulations. 

Only counties covered by GSP NWS are shown, but sure enough there was a secondary 'hot spot' that did dump where one model I like predicted it would (east of Union County's 4.4 on the right) toward Rockingham.

Thankfully, the going forecast is for a warming trend to crank up in a couple of days, something long overdue and much anticipated...

Chapter 7 is now posted in my "Milepost 50" blog.  It's a rambling verbal tour as I don my acting hat  and talk about that insane world, how I got my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card, and other interesting tid-bits.  The joy is definitely in the journey, not in the destination!


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cold, hard facts...

Got a press release from Grandfather Mountain staff about the weather records shattered this past month, February 2010.  With the negative NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) in full swing this winter, the mountains of western NC have been continually hit with NW winds, which means cold and wrap-around snows.  Reading some of these numbers might make some of you feel warmer and better...

(FYI, for those not familiar with Grandfather, it's between Boone and Linville, NC, and noted for it's mile-high swinging bridge.  Their official weather station is by that bridge near the gift shop. Check it out.)

While February is the shorty with 28 days (this year), the weather station could be reached only 61% of the time to be checked...that's only 17 days.  Personnel couldn't get up there for 11 days last month.

The persistent cold has been noteworthy throughout much of the East this winter.  The average high 2/2010 was 29.31 degrees F, which is a whopping 8.1 degrees below average.  The average low 2/2010 was 16.38 degrees F, a noticeable drop from average by 5.35 degrees.  The coldest recording was a frigid 1 degree, but that pales in comparison to the record February low of minus 19 set back on 2/25/67.

Two ways to look at winter precipitation: snowfall, and melted/liquid values.  Per the liquid equivalent, it was a wet month for sure, totaling 7.32".  The 54-year average is 4.74", so 2/2010 was 54% above average.  Good for the mountain springs and foliage to come, no doubt.

In terms of the frozen stuff, this winter's running total is 81.5" of recorded snow, which normally at the end of February is but 38.08".  In February alone there was 39.1" of snow, far above the 54-year average of 13.90".  Snowfall was 181% above the norm...but keep in mind that over those 11 days where no one could reach the station, there was approximately 15" of snow that was not officially recorded and part of the above numbers.  Wow.

Lastly, the wintry winds did howl, as well, as expected at such high, bare elevations...that's why that mile-high bridge does some serious swingin'.  I've seen higher numbers from there, but winds did exceed 60mph nine times, with the highest 3-second gust on 2/11 clocked at 95.5 mph...just 0.5mph away from a Category 2 hurricane.

Now, dontcha feel better about this winter already?  Yeah, whatever...

Incoming winter storm later today may give a nice little dumping in a more unusual location from Darlington, SC north-ish to Wadesboro, NC and over to Rockingham, NC.  For various reasons my accumulation models paint a hotspot of sorts in that area for a good half-foot of snow, not a normal occurrence in that area.  We shall see...

Stay warm, all y'all!  March Madness is in full swing, and I ain't even talkin' college hoops, yet!