Friday, November 28, 2008

There's always the weather.

I suppose when I can't think of anything else to write I can fall back on the weather. I needed a jacket when I walked the dog this morning - but I could feel that it was warmer, the air was heavier, and it smelled like rain. It has looked all day like it might rain, but it's held off so far. This afternoon when I made my sojourn to the post office, I didn't need a jacket.

I suppose weather bores people to tears sometimes. But without weather, I would not got into one of my pondering spells about something absolutely meaningless, as I am want to do. All too frequently, apparently.

A few days ago it rained. After it stopped raining, and the ground was still wet, I noticed about a millon dog paw prints on the front porch. And that got me thinking about the relationship between dog paws and people feet. Specifically, since dogs have 4 feet, it stands to reason that they would take twice as many steps as humans. Or does it, does careful observation support that hypothesis? Because, it looked to me like there were hundreds of dog paw prints on that porch, all caused by one dog - Pickles T. Dog. So I observed a little closer, and noticed that frequently, the dog only seems to be standing still, she's actually moving her feet around. Sometimes she moves her front paws and not her back, sometimes her back and not her front. But I think she takes way more than twice as many steps as a normal human does. So, the fact that she has 4 paws compared to a human's two feet, does not mean she only takes twice as many steps as a human. I think it's probably 50 to 60 times as many.

So this little tidbit added to the knowledge of humanity would not have been possible without the weather. It had rained and I had noticed paw prints.

I realize this is not much new knowledge, and perhaps not important, but if you had the proper scientific instruments you could measure it, and add it to the weight of knowledge in the Great Library of Alexandria, which unfortunately doesn't exist any more.

And if you've read this far, I have to wonder about ya.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stuff around the house #8: Christmas Cactus


I don't know why this plant is blooming - I wouldn't know how to make it bloom if I tried. Patti Anne might know, but I sure don't.


Anyway, we brought this guy in when the weather started getting cooler, and put him on a stand on top of our microwave in the corner of the kitchen. It started blooming and it's blooming like crazy.


We (and by we I mean Patti Anne) havent done anything to the plant except water it, and turn it occasionally.


I mostly look at it and wonder how this can be. I don't know how long it will continue to bloom, but it sure its pretty while it lasts.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A note on the weather

It should be at least in the mid-60's (F.) this time of year (I think that's about 18-20 C.). Instead its setting record lows in North Carolina, getting down way below freezing tonight. Not just a little - a lot. I just want to let the whole planet know, or at least the miniscule portion of it that checks in on this blog ever now and again, that I don't like it. But still, I walk the dog.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I'm fascinated by Saskatoon

First, as always, a caveat. I don't really know what I'm talking about. As long as everyone understands that, we're ok.

I became fascinated with Saskatoon when I was 11 years old, because I had read a couple of books by Farley Mowat. Farley Mowat is a Canadian author who writes mostly non-fiction - in fact for all I know he writes only non-fiction. Even these two books I read, which were nominally fiction, had a basis in reality. Anyway they were very funny stories about a dog and the setting was Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and I fell in love with what I thought I knew about the place.

Farley Mowat's Saskatoon was a pleasant place. Everybody was neighborly, and he had this really great dog. Everybody seemed to like each other and was happy. I envisioned it as this small town, somewhat bigger than Hindman, Kentucky (pop < 1,000), not quite as big as Hazard, Kentucky (pop around 7,000), and far more pleasant than either. I imagined nice houses, nice tree lined streets, an easy going, secure way of life.

When my father was in the Air Force we were stationed at Glasgow AFB, Montana for awhile. There can be few places in the USA that are more in the middle of nowhere than Glasgow AFB was. But, it was close to Canada, and one weekend we took a trip up there. I thought, this is my big chance to finally see Saskatoon, but it wasn't to be. Saskatchewan is a big place, and even though Saskatoon is in the south central part of the province, it's about 7,000 miles north of the Montana border. I exaggerate. But not much. But seriously, driving from Glasgow to Saskatoon would have been about like driving from Glasgow to Denver, Colorado. Maybe. So we ended up visiting Regina, and Moosejaw, which were nice places, but I was disappointed at not making it to Saskatoon. I still havent, and I expect I never will.

Of course the Saskatoon of my fantasy and the Saskatoon of reality are two different beasts. In reality, Saskatoon is the largest city in Saskatchewan, I think there are over 200,000 people living there. To my way of thinking, it's a pretty big place, a lot bigger than the village I thought it was. I would have been quite disillusioned to have driven into a city that size.

Of course, that wasn't Farley Mowat's fault. I never once remember him mentioning the size of the place in those two books. It was just me - I read them, enjoyed them immensely and filled in a lot of details of that world in my own mind, which had been forged by my own experiences.

Saskatoon. I doubt I'll ever get over it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

English, again, so to speak

I've managed to catch the last two episodes of the Jeopardy Teen Tournament (yes, it's an exciting life I lead), and I've noticed a continuation of things I've noticed before. 1st, and I just need to get this out of the way because it is otherwise irrelevant, I don't like the way the announcer pronounces the word "tournament". I pronounce it "turn-nament", the announcer pronounces it "tour-nament", and it just grates on my nerves. Most likely the announcer is pronouncing it correctly, but still, there's no need to throw it in my face.

Ok. The important stuff. One of the contestants this year is a teenage girl from South Carolina, another from Annapolis, Maryland. Last year there was a boy from Lexington, Kentucky. These are all places I am more or less familiar with, and not one of those kids sounded anything like the places they supposedly come from. None of them had any kind of detectable accent. (Now understand, I'm just talking about the USA. To someone form Australia or Ireland, they probably sounded like they had very strong -if perhaps bland- accents). They spoke a very standard American English, and could have come from anywhere. I could detect no regionalisms in the way they spoke.

People in Lexington, Kentucky sound like I do, which is very close to the way people in Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina sound. People in the north western part of South Carolina sound just like people in the south western part of North Carolina (go figure). People closer to the coast of South Carolina sound distinctly strange - but the key word is distinct. They don't sound like they come from Nebraska. And people in Maryland are a language unto themselves. I lived in Maryland a long time, and I heard of lot of stuff like "Rosterstown Raid" (Reisterstown Road), and "Pitcher bane soot owen" (Put your bathing suit on).

So what are these kids hiding? Where are they really from? How does Jeopardy keep digging up kids (and grown-ups) who don't sound like they come from where they say they do?

I guarantee you if you were to take a stroll down main street in Valdese and say "howdy" to the first teenager you run into, that teenager will not sound like he or she comes from the mid-west. Unless for some reason that's where they actually come from - always possible, but not terribly likely.

I know I'm ranting about something that does not matter. Heaven help me, I can't help it. Sigh.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stuff Around The House # 7 - Glass Rabbit


This is a glass rabbit in a window sill. It no longer exists in this little space, as it has been moved.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Historic vs Historical

I have a degree in history. In fact I did graduate work in history, was a graduate assistant and everything. I've never used it in a professional capacity - can you imagine? But it has also never hurt to have it.

Anyway, one my minor irritations is people seem to think the words historic and historical mean the same thing, and they usually say historical. Obviously they're related but there is a difference.

Historic refers to an event, usually momentous. Historical refers to things that have happened in the past.

When you're talking about Barack Obama's election as president, that's historic. It's an event, something that will be remembered. 50 years from now, you can talk about it as a historical fact, something happened.

Buildings are usually historic. Documents are usually historical.

I'm not an expert in grammar. I'm no grammarian, nor even a grammaritician, and you'll have to forgive me, if in one of these little outbursts of mine, I commit grammarcide, or over grammarify things. I may have it wrong, in other words. But still, they are not interchangeable.

Oh, and don't never, ever, call me a history buff.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Tree Behind Our House


I took this picture a couple of days ago. This is a very beautiful autumn season.

Unofficially Surprised

Barack Obama has unofficially won the state of North Carolina, which makes me unofficially surprised. There are some provisional ballots to be counted, but he has a lead of about 13,000 votes, and they feel it's unlikely that lead will be overturned.

I believe the election is to be certified Dec 1., at which time it is "official" and I will become officially surprised.

History was no guide in this election. Its the first time NC's been won by a democrat in a presidential election since 1976, and the first time Indiana and Virginia have voted for a democrat since 1964, longer than most people on Planet Earth have been alive.

I don't know if this will last or not - there were a lot of things going on to cause it. But the fact that it happened at all is very, very interesting.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Amazing, isnt it?

There are some things that surprised me about this election. The fact that Obama won is not one of them, and the fact that I'm not surprised that an African-American has been elected president speaks volumes.

I'm dealing with a semi-nasty cold, the first one I've had in years, and I ran out of steam last night. I physically could not stay up, even though I wanted to. But, by the time I went to bed, the die was cast, I knew who was going to win.

The fact the Obama won Indiana and Virginia, and most likely North Carolina (tho 24 hrs later it's apparently still too close to call), is nothing short of amazing. Usually Indiana is called as quickly as Kentucky, and its for the Republicans. When it wasn't, that was the first indication something unique was going on. When hours went by without North Carolina or Virginia going Republican, that was also quite telling.

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson, from Texas, pushed through the voting rights act & civil rights act. In 1968, the deep south went for George Wallace - the last 3rd party candidate to win any electoral votes, and most of the time since the south has been solid Republican in presidential elections, with the exception perhaps of Florida. For Virginia & possibly North Carolina to go to Obama is amazing to me.

In North Carolina I thought Elizabeth Dole would probably win re-election to the Senate. This was not because I support Elizabeth Dole, but because I was somewhat cynical. It's a conservative southern state. Kay Hagan didn't focus as much on what she's accomplished or wanted to do as on Dole's short comings, real or exaggerated. Dole fired back, big time. Kay Hagan apparently accepted a campaign donation from a group called "Godless America" or something. They basically want to take God out of public life - off the money, out of the pledge of allegiance, etc. In the last week of the campaign Dole ran an ad which pretty much called Kay Hagan an atheist (apparently she's not), while at the same time using pagan terminology and images, thus mixing the metaphors so to speak. For example, Godless America didnt just donate money, "they held a secret ceremony in her honor". The images of Hagan in the ad made her look like she was taking part in a witches coven, and you could supply your own stereotypes. At the end there was a picture of Kay Hagan with a woman's voice over saying "There is no God". People were meant to think that was her voice, but it wasn't.

That is about as nasty as I've seen campaigning get. Hagan has filed a defamation of character law-suit, though personally I doubt much will come of it. In the USA public figures are pretty much free game for anything anyone says about them, and both parties are public figures.

Personally, I found the ad insulting. I thought it was the equivalent of a "White People Wake Up" ad straight out of the 1950's. Apparently it didnt sit well with much of the rest of the state either, which surprised the cynic in me. North Carolina is bible-belt country. In the little town of Valdese, I can think of 8 churches without even trying, some of them quite large, and there may be more than that. Religion is important to a lot of people in this state & it is socially conservative.

I think the ad would have been much more effective if it just stated the facts. It's completely legitimate to point out who a campaign accepts money from, and to question a campaign's judgment in accepting money from a certain group, or to try to tie them to that group somehow. But Dole chose to distort things a bit and go over the top, and apparently it didnt work. Or at least it didn't change anybody's mind. So Elizabeth Dole lost, and I find that amazing.

Ok, the county I lived in voted 60% for McCain, 40% for Obama. So the signs on my dog walking route did a pretty good job in predicting the local county vote, at least. I'll have to remember that. 3 out of 5 were McCain signs.

As for me, I'm glad Obama won, and I'm glad Dole lost. And this will probably be the last I have to say about it. I don't really like politics that much.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A beautiful morning

It was beautiful this morning when I walked the dog. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the trees fill everything with bright yellows and reds. The mountains were wonderful to look at. Ah but the forecast is for rain, and rain it shall. Now it is overcast, gray, kind of a dingy day.

I'm glad I voted early, for I am ill. Scratchy throat, cough, head-ache, aches & pains. It didn't keep me from walking the dog, and it would not have kept me from voting, but I'm happy I've already done it. For the last couple of days I've run out of energy as the day progresses, so there's no telling.

I've noticed that there is a gray and white cat living under the deck. I've seen it around before and startled it a couple of times. (In return, it startled me) I'm not sure if it's feral, but it will not let anyone close to it. So I left it some food & water, which may be a mistake. It'll probably bring me some little critter it killed and leave it by the kitchen door in exchange. I could live without that.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Stuff Around The House #6 - shadows on a table


This is number six in my probably never ending series of stuff around the house. I have a fairly liberal interpretation of "stuff".

This is just a shadow, light coming thru a window filtered by a plant, creating a small design on our dining room table.

Light is a funny thing. It's like it plays games with you sometimes - a little taunting here I am, see if you can see me hide & seek kind of game. If you don't see it, it's as if it were never there, because it's very fleeting.

It will never be repeated exactly.

The earth rotates and shifts on its axis, so the angle the sun stikes the window everday will be ever so slightly different. Or perhaps someone will have bumped the table and nudged it to a slightly different position (that's right Pickles the Dog, I'm talking about you). Or there may be clouds tomorrow. Or someone could move the plant slightly. There are tons of variables that make the light you see right this instant, so fleeting, and so unique.

So, I took a picture & posted it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My last update on the signs

Well, I have to do something to occupy my mind when I'm walking the dog. But this is the final, latest and greatest, end all and be all of the signs.

Ok, to recap. First there was one McCain sign & one Obama sign, just a couple of doors from each other down on Praley. Then an Obama sign popped up on South Avenue, but two more McCain signs showed up on Pineburr, while the McCain sign on Praley was missing.

Ok, a couple of days ago, the house with the Obama sign sprouted another Obama sign, so it had one close to the road, and another close to the house. The McCain sign that went missing showed up again, but this time near the house and not near the road.

Today, I noticed that the Obama sign near the road (at the house with two Obama signs) was no longer there, but the one near the house was.

Sheesh. Maybe there is some political sign shenanigans going on by the good citizens of Valdese.

Anyway. The way it stands now, on my dog walking route, there are 3 signs for McCain, and 2 for Obama. By the way, the Obama sign on Praley has been there for a couple of months at least. The other signs showed up much more recently.

What's it all mean? Beats me.