Monday, December 28, 2009

All Across North Carolina

Tonight, all across this great state, including here in this little paradise that is Valdese, people are huddled around whatever their primary source of heat may be.

Some are saying, "See, I knowed they warnt no dad-burned global warmin' ".

Others are saying, "WTF???????"

'Cause it's really cold.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stuff Around The House #15 - The Kitchen Door

The kitchen door opens to the inside and allows egress (I've always wanted to use that word) to the deck. It's on the sunny side of the house so even on the coldest days we can open it and sun shining thru the glass storm door heats up a small area. The dog and cat love it.

This picture was taken thru the glass the door, with some plants in the back ground. Patti Anne took it, I thought it was interesting, fly swatter and all.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow removal efforts in Valdese

Valdese is generally a warm weather type of place. Even the winters are mild. Even today, though the place is still blanketed in several inches of snow it made it to the low 40s. That's the problem. It should be making it to the 50s with 60s not out of the question, and the lows should be above freezing.

This is what should have happened. It snowed - it always snows at least once a year - then the next day it warms up and the snow is gone. That's the way it should be, and until this year, that's the way it was.

The first snowfall of the year was the biggest snowfall I've seen in my time in NC. And it's not going away.

We don't have a snow shovel. We have a shovel with a flat edge that can do a passable job, but it's not a real snow shovel. Its very good that we have 4 wheel drive, or we would not be able to get out to South Avenue.

Ahhhh, beautiful South Avenue - its like Alfred Hitchcock's concept of an Art Nouveau postcard. Everything looks benign, but there's just a tinge of creepiness about the place and you can't quite put your finger on it. You wonder, what's really happening in all those houses?

Anyway Valdese's snow removal efforts would cost the mayor of a large northern city an election. They have not invested heavily in snow removal equipment, which I suppose is a responsible non-investment around here, most times.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Comfort of Language

It's snowing in North Carolina today. It's snowing hard & it's not supposed to stop for awhile. We're good citizens, we pay our taxes (thanks Patti Anne), why do we deserve this?

We went to the post office early today, and the roads were beginning to be covered with slush. I had to put the truck in 4 wheel drive to get out of the driveway, and you had to be careful when you walked.

It's the Christmas season & the post office is a busy place these days. We had to park further away from the front door than usual.

An elderly woman had parked in front of us and was out of her car. When I got out she called me over to her. She asked me if I would take a package up to the counter for her - it was already paid & had an online label on it. I'm very familiar with online labels, since I've printed off about a thousand of them. She was afraid she would slip and fall, and with good reason. That short walk to the post office door was pretty treacherous.

So I went up to the counter and waited for a few minutes while people in front of me did whatever they had to do. I gave the package to the woman behind the counter and explained that an elderly woman had given it to me & why. She replied, "Yes, I've heard it's getting slick out".

Now why would I think about that? It sounds so natural to me, but yet I still think about it. Its because I've lived so many years in the northern realms of the lower 48. Up north, they would have said slippery instead of slick. It would have been duly noted with greater or lesser degrees of mirth, up north, if a person said something like "its slick out".

I can see it now. "Is that really the way youse guys talk?"

Its funny how accents and a choice of words can make a person feel at home. It was, and is, very, very slick out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Wonder What They Were Thinking

I frequently walk my dog up to the cemetery - and in the back at the top of the hill is the old section. It gets me thinking, and not just about my physical mortality.

A little history: Valdese, NC was founded by a group of Waldensians from the Italian Alps in 1893. The Waldensians were a religious group founded in the 12th century (I think), by a man named Peter Waldo. Actually people werent too strict about names back then, so his last name changed from time to time. The Latinized version of his name was Valdese. This movement existed in central Europe, and had very radical ideas for the time - namely that the Bible should be written in the spoken language of the people, and they did not recognize the authority of the Pope. In other words, they were protestants, tho they didn't know it. For centuries they were persecuted.

Skip to 1870 or so, when the King of Italy decides he's going to stop hunting these people down and killing them. They're mountain people (and you know how they are) and they've managed to survive for centuries - but after the active persecutions stops, the population explodes. There's not enough land. So some way, some how, some leaders began to organize groups to settle in different countries. Some went to South America, but in 1893 a group came to Burke County, North Carolina, a few miles east of Morganton, and established a community.

In the cemetery, you see a lot of graves of people born in the 1860s - that makes them the right age to start out on an adventure like this, late 20s, early 30s, when they'd be at their strongest. There are lots of gaves with people born in the late 1890s - the first generation born in America. The oldest grave I've seen was of a woman born in 1832 - she would have been in her 60s by the time she came over. The original settlers each have a small plaque by their headstone.

They came from the Italian Alps, up near France, but I don't think they spoke Italian, or French either for that matter. There's lots of languages floating around Europe that most people in the USA aren't aware of. They certainly didn't speak English.

They had names like Guigou, Martinat, Tron, Pascal, Grill, Bounous, Ribet, Parise, Pons, Roderet, Jacumin, Garrou, Micol, Meytre, Bigotto, Refour, Vinay and many others. They built a big church on what is now Main Street, and affiliated themselves with the Presbyterians. It's not easy starting a colony of sorts, but they managed and the town still exists.

But I wonder what they thought was going to happen to them, or if they cared. Did they think they were going to keep their culture & their language? Did they think they were going to raise their children the way they were raised back in the old country? They did not immigrate a family at a time, they came over as a group, and built a community as a group. Did they think they would not be assimilated, that the surrounding culture would not overrun it? Did they not realize that they'd just jumped in to the great "melting pot" of late 19th century America?

Well, the Waldensian culture no longer exists here. It's not forgotten - there are reminders all over town. There are signs, there is a museum, the large church, a "Trail of Faith" exhibition consisting of several buildings and structures that represent important events in Waldensian history. There are lots of people around with the names, direct descendants of the founders. There are a couple of festivals during the year. There's a play that's performed every year by the community theater. There's a mural on a wall. Some of their original buildings & houses still exist. There's the street names in town. But the culture that the original settlers brought with them in 1893 and lived with on a daily basis is long gone. It's not forgotten, but it's gone. No one speaks the language anymore.

I just wonder if the original people who came over realized that was going to happen.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Just a might more English

This is #16 in my never ending series on English as I learned it growing up.

Today we'll examine a secondary usage of the word "might". Here's a good example from a song called "The Devil's Right Hand" by Steve Earle:

"....shoots as fast as lighting but she loads a might slow........."

The song is in reference to a pistol, and the complaint is that it's hard to load, so it has its limitations in a gun fight. Just so you know.

That is a tried & true, honorable, and (to me and mine) a very familiar usage of the word "might". You could have said "it loads a bit slowly", or "a little slow", and you would have expressed an idea in the same general realm, but would not be the same.

The usage of "might" this way almost always include an "a" before it, and more importantly, the usage is almost always an understatement, irony or out right sarcasm, used to make a point.

If someone describes someone as "a might peckish...." that would be a good person to avoid, either on a specific topic or in general, depending on the context. Unless you seek out conflict.

Maybe I'll discuss peckish later.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cat Worries

This is Snowchief the Cat back in 2007, soaking up some sun, hanging out on our University of Kentucky floor mat I won at a family reunion auction. He's lost quite a bit of weight since then.

Snowchief is around 18 years old, give or take. I brought him and a brother home one day back in April 1992 - a woman at work had rescued some kittens who had been living under her deck, and I took a couple of them. He was a young kitten, I could have put him in my shirt pocket. He grew to be a good sized cat.

He still has a appetite, still uses his litter box, still seeks out the sun and other warm spots, still jumps on chairs, is still quite affectionate. But I'm worried about him. Even though he eats, he vomits a lot. He is much thinner than he used to be, and is not quite as sure footed. He looks like an old cat. I can feel his bones pressing against his skin when I pet him. It's been a long time since he attacked my toes. I don't think he's in pain, but I don't think he's well, either.

Animals die, I know that, and Snowchief is old. I've never had a pet as long as I've had Snowchief though, so I'm really dreading it. I don't want him to suffer, but I'm not sure how I'd know if he is.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Because I can't think of anything to write.

First, before I offer any explanation for the picture to the left, I need to let everyone know that the Mr. T gadget is gone. I never really warmed up to it, and it looked like it was getting ready to die anyway. Apparently I'm a gadget killer. I'll be surprised if I ever mention Mr. T in this blog again.

Ok. I'm in one of those situations where I cant think of anything to write, but I want to write something. I feel the urge. I feel the need. Usually when this happens I'll post one of my "stuff around the house" posts, but that requires that I take a picture of something, and I don't FEEL like it. I'm in a lazy, unmotivated, uninspired mood.

So I just grabbed a picture off my computer. I've had this picture for a long time, stuck in a folder along with other pictures of that ilk. I have no idea where it came from, how I came to possess it, or what it means, or if there somebody out there who actually created it and cares. I just thought it was interesting, and frequently that's the only reason I need to snag something and stick it in a folder, knowing that months later I'll probably look at it & think about it again.

Sometimes I make up histories for & motivations behind stuff like this, but I haven't for this one. I just like to look at it every now and then. I like the colors.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mr. T Gadget

On Dec 3 I posted a old joke I heard about what Mr. "T" might say if he were the Pope.

Today I came across a gadget of Mr T quotes. Co-incidence? I think not. So I thought I'd try it out, at least for a little while.

I notice that most of my gadgets tend to die. They just up and die.

I'm not convinced this is a good idea anyway. With that fact in mind, coupled with the fact that these gadgets seem to be unreliable, I'd say the chances of it being around long term are slim.

But until that day I stuck it on the side bar.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cold Weather Dog Walking

It was a cold morning in Western North Carolina. Heavy frost, and below freezing. Any water left over from yesterday's rains were frozen. For the first time this year I pulled out a heavy coat to take old Pickles on her morning walk.

You have to understand though - there's cold, then there's North Carolina cold. North Carolina cold is not that bad, especially if the wind isn't blowing. Even though it was cold, I could feel the warmth from the sun, and that held the possibility that the afternoon would be much warmer. Well, clouds appear to be moving in this afternoon and it still feels cold. Whatever. You want cold, head up to North Dakota.

Pickles and I walked up to the cemetery this morning, and I'm pleased to report that valiant Valdese city workers (I assume) have removed a large and very dead possum from our walking route. This poor corpse hung around between the sidewalk and Praley Ave for a couple of weeks. I figured no one would get around to moving it until spring, because it was not on the road, was not directly in front of someone's yard, and no one was going to have to mow that strip of grass for the next few months. Well, I'm happy to report that I was wrong. The last thing I needed was for Pickles to start playing with a dead possum, so I'd take exceptional efforts to avoid it whenever we walked up that way. Dogs seem facinated with dead animals.

I noticed this morning that the mountains to the west of us are blanketed with snow. They are 3,000 to 4,000 feet in elevation. The south mountains - which are just outside our kitchen window, have no snow on them, but they aren't as high. We also don't have any snow, it looks like it didn't quite make it over the mountains.

Pickles liked her walk this morning. No complaints, not even about the cold. I on the other hand, was wishing I had some gloves & something to cover my ears. But it wasn't that bad.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The last word about eBay

This will be my last post about eBay in this blog. Heaven help me, but I've started a new blog to documents my thoughts in the eBay realm. I just decided to keep the eBay stuff out of "A Valdese Blog". Keep AVB pure, so to speak.  

The new blog is called A Valdese Store, and if you're interested in what goes on in our little eBay world, that's the place to find out.  It will include any comments or thoughts I have on eBay in general, posts highlighting things we have for sale, and anything else that may enter my mind about the day to day goings on involved. If you're not involved with selling a lot on eBay, you'd be amazed! Its very possible that Pickles the Dog will work her way into that blog too, since she comes along for our daily trip to the post office, and the trips to the post office are definitely eBay related.    

I stuck a link to the blog on the sidebar.

A Valdese Blog will continue to be dedicated to whatever odd thing I think about.  This can either be good or bad, depending on your standards.    I have a lot of fun with this little blog, and I'll keep at it as much as I ever did.  I appreciate all the people who drop & leave comments.  If the other blog doesn't work out, I'll end it and incorporate the eBay stuff back into this one.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

If Mr. "T" were the Pope: A repitition of a joke

If Mr. "T" were the Pope, he'd be Pope "T" the first, and he'd say "I pity the fool who thinks I'm fallible!"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wet Weather Dog Walking

It started raining early this morning, perhaps 4 AM or so, and did not stop until 6 or 7 this evening. I've never let a little rain get in the way of walking the dog, so I figured today should not be any different.  So about 8:30 this morning, I grabbed my trusty rain jacket, with hood, leashed up old Pickles (aka Gnarls Barkley), and we set out.   

It didn't seem too bad at first, but I keep forgetting about the trees.  Even though the leaves are finally gone, we have a bunch of very large trees around the house, and the branches alone can effect my perception of how hard its raining, or how cool or warm it is, depending on if it's cold or hot.  Or raining.

So anyway we headed out to South Avenue and walked toward Praley.   By the time we got to Praley, maybe 1/4th of a mile away, I began to have 2nd thoughts.   Pickles was soaked and would stop to shake every few steps then look at me like I was an idiot.  My jacket was keeping me dry - except everywhere it didn't reach, which was most places.   In those places I was soaked.

We turned left on Praley  & walked toward Pineburr.  Praley is a major street in this little town, so we were upon occasion passed by a vehicle.  I ignored the looks of disbelief of many of the drivers, and when an 18 wheeler came rolling down the hill we had to stop and look.  Pickles insists on stopping and looking at anything big or loud.   18 wheelers fit her definition of big and loud.

The more we walked, the harder it rained, so Pickles and I took a vote and decided to cut the walk a little short today.  We turned on Pineburr, went up Colonial, took a little short cut on Fox over to Orchard & back to South Avenue. 

Here's one thing I noticed.  I know where all the barking dogs live, but today not one of them came out to bark at us.  Not Lucky Bear, not Arnold Ziffel, and especially not that pack of dogs that live in back of a house on Fox.  

I reckon these are fair weather barkers.   I say, if you're going to take the trouble to bark at me when the sun is shining, you should also bark at me when its raining.   All I'm asking is consistency out of these mutts.  

Pickles had no complaints about getting back home.   She shook off, became a crazy dog for a minute or two then went to sleep.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Fabric of Society

If society were a bolt of linen, I wonder what its thread count would be. I wonder what its cost per yard and color would be. I wonder how long society would sit on the shelves before anyone would buy it, and what would they use it for once they did. And if it would fade.

Yep, I'm in that kind of mood. Its fabric of society time.

9 times out of 10, when I start one of these blog posts, I have no idea where its going to go. I'm sure that comes as no big surprise to anyone who's read even one of these. So I'm curious about where I'm heading with this and I'm writing the stupid thing.

I've made several incredibly obvious observations about the fabric of the society we live in. Nothing about atoms and dark matter - that's not obvious. But just about things. Starting with humans.

A normal healthy person has two arms & two legs (four limbs), two eyes, two ears, a nose with two nostrils. A dog has four legs (humans have four limbs), two eyes, two ears, a nose with two nostrils. So does a cat, and most other mammals. That cannot be an accident.

(For an exception to the nose rule, I suggest you read "Tobacco Road" by Erskine Caldwell).

Almost all people, in almost all cultures, wear clothes of some sort. I've seen pictures of very famous, intelligent, powerful people, and they were all sitting in a chair, wearing clothes. Just like I do.

People are generally sociable, sociable to the point they they use complicated bureaucracies called governments to arrange and regulate their societies, to create & enforce laws for the good of the whole, to allow the group to accomplish much more than a single individual, while at the same time allowing an individual to accomplish a lot within that framework. Lions have their own societal arrangements, as do dogs, cats, wolves, apes and on and on. Why is this? Human society is a lot more complex perhaps, but that's because we're more complex. We think abstractly, speak in languages, have the ability to grasp higher mathematics. But at a basic level, its down to the two ears, two eyes, one nose with two nostrils observation - at a basic level we arrange our society into groups, just like wolves, lions and gorillas.

I think about stuff like this off and on. Back when I was a systems engineer, I wondered how society ever got to the point that things were so abstract.

I'd wonder about things completely stupid, like why did society develop in such a way that I had to go to work everyday, fighting heavy traffic. How did money become little more than numbers on a computer screen.

How did money become, period.

I think this is about as much as I care to think about it for tonight - so this post went right here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I remember Ft. Hood.

Ft. Hood, Texas, was my first "permanent" duty assignment when I was in the Army. It took me 18 months to get there. Along the way I had been at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO., (loads of fun - basic training in Missouri in the middle of summer), advanced training at The Presidio of Monterey, California (beautiful place), more training at Goodfellow AFB, Texas (the only time I was ever stationed at an Air Force Base), still more training at Ft. Devens, Mass. (I detested the post & the environment, but the training I received there was quite interesting), then finally, Ft. Hood.

I started my duty at Ft Hood on a January day that had to be the coldest in recent memory. Actually, I was a day late reporting - I ran into snow and ice on my way, and finally had to give up any hope of getting there when I was supposed to. So I, a lowly SP4, had to make that dreaded call to the First Sgt. of the unit I was headed to, an exalted SGM, and explain my predicament. He was remarkably human about it and even explained to me that even tho I had direct orders to their unit, I had to report the reception area on the Main Post first. He even gave me directions from the main gate. He seemed ok, but now I realized that I was now on his radar. My first attempted at going about my job unnoticed had failed miserably.

My unit was actually on West Fort Hood, just a few miles from the main post, close to an air field, where huge military planes regularly took off and landed. I was assigned a job within the platoon which was directly related to part of the training I had received at Ft. Devens. We were a corp asset (III Corp, specifically), which I guess meant that we were used wherever III Corp said we were needed. In large scale field exercises we were attached to 2nd Armor units, which I think gave a good indication of my fate should an actual combat scenario arise. For me, it never did.

I was at Ft. Hood for 15 months, then received orders to Augsburg, Germany. It was not part of a unit deployment, just individual orders. I remember going over to the Main Post and taking part in some processing - that was probably the building where the recent shooting took place, but I'm not sure. I can't even picture it in my mind.

Anyway, I remember lots of things and lots people at Ft. Hood, and this terrible event brought it all back to me. I wonder if any of them remember me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Valdese Noir

It was a gloomy day in Valdese, colder than it should have been. The mist and the moisture clung to your bones, the way packing peanuts cling to peanut butter.

It had been a quiet day in our office - too quiet. The kind of quiet that puts a person on edge, the kind of quiet that makes a person wonder. The kind of quiet that makes a dog curl up an inch from the heat of a space heater, sound asleep, then wake up and look out a window, desperately trying to find a reason to bark. The kind of quiet that creates a tension of its own, making a person wonder when the quietness will end, and worse, how, for quietness always, always, ends.

Patti tapped idly on her keyboard. Leo packaged up some the days sales. The dog decided it wasnt worth it and went back to sleep.

Suddenly the phone rang.

The phone. Of all the nefarious things to break the silence. The phone.

"I'm not home", Leo said, a Pavlovian reflex, as automatic as an M-16 or Moe poking Curly's eyes.

The phone rang again. Phones were bad news, bad luck, no good, not wanted. Nothing good ever came from a phone. Curse you, Alexander Graham Bell!

Leo shot Patti a glance, a hard glance, a tough glance, a glance with an edge, a glance that said "Please please please don't give me the phone, I don't like talking to disembodied voices, you never know what they're going to say, I beg of you, have mercy."

Patti picked up the phone, and held the receiver to her ear. Silence. No words. Just quiet. A quietness that made the edginess of the previous quietness seem a blessing. A quietness that extended much longer than it should have. A quietness that wouldn't end.

Patti hung up the phone, and began idly tapping her keyboard.

Leo gave Patti a look, a look which said, "Have you been a secret agent all these years and you just got a message from your handler? Is Le Carre for real? Are you going all Tom Clancy on me? Did you just enter a secret code on a website which will set in motion momentous events in Valdese?"

Patti, who knew the look well, said, "Just playing phone chicken. I don't say anything, then see how long it takes for them to hang up".

Leo cocked his head a little. The dog stretched and yawned, and fell back asleep. The quietness decended - slowly, surely, until the room was enveloped in it, overflowing with it, as surely as leaves fill up a gutter in autumn.

Things were normal again. Or were they?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

R. Ames Montgomery

I had never heard of R. Ames Montgomery, and in the annals of famous people, he's probably pretty far down on the list. But here he is, in a late 19th century photograph, made in Oxford, Ohio.

There is some interesting information written on the back, apparently by his own hand. He has written "Compliments of your friend R. Ames Montgomery, Miami University '93, Oxford, Ohio, home town Belle, Ohio." He also wrote Greek letters for Beta Thea Pi or Beta as it apparently is better known, so I assume he was a member of that fraternity.

I found this interesting. I googled his name and found out some more information. He was born in Indiana in 1870. He graduated from Miami University in 1893 - back in 1893 there was no need to distinguish Miami of Ohio from the now much larger & better known Miami in Florida. He also graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary in 1896 - so this was a well educated and presumably religious person. He served as a pastor for awhile, and then became president of Parsons College in Iowa in 1917. In 1922, he took over as president of Centre College in Danville, Ky, and things did not work out well. Apparently Dr. Montgomery was interested in advancing the already high education standards of the college. But it just so happened that in the 1920s, Centre College of Danville, Ky, was a national college football powerhouse. They had defeated Harvard in 1921 - today a good high school team might be able to beat Harvard, but back then that was quite a feat. In 1924, the team was considered one of the 3 best in the nation. Apparently the school's accreditation was being challenged, because more emphasis was being placed on football than education. Dr. Montgomery apparently wanted to shift the emphasis back to eduction, but the alumni and student body disagreed. They circulated a petition asking him to resign, and he did, in 1926.

After that, I don't know what happened to him. I saw a picture of him online in the 1920s - he looked pretty stern. That's how they were back then.

Looking back it's easy to see how Centre College had no chance of maintaining its status as a national football power for any length of time. As the popularity of the sport grew, the larger colleges, with access to tons more money, would dominate. Apparently in the world of the 1920s, that was not obvious.

Anyway, this picture is a small fraction of some one's life. Someone who did pretty well, all in all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Something odd in the eBay world.

Nothing odd in the application. Its working as well as normal. We've adjusted to all the changes they've made in the past few months and life goes on.

I've just been noticing a lot more interesting interactions with customers and potential customers recently. Of course this kind of stuff goes in cycles it seems, so it remains to be seen if it is a permanent state of affairs or not.

We got a message recently from someone informing us that we had described something incorrectly. It's not the first time - I learned very quickly a while back that collectors frequently know more about what they collect than the sellers they buy the stuff from. This gives them an advantage, and as a seller, we struggle to come up to speed on stuff. I don't mind someone telling us we're mistaken about something - frequently I'll attach the message to the item for the world to see. We're not alone in making mistakes - I see them all over eBay, from misspellings to incorrect pictures posted in the item description. In our most recent case, we misidentified something, and the person who informed us was a little rude about it. There's no need to be rude.

We got another message from a person questioning our price on a certain item. Not making an offer to purchase it at a lower price, but wondering why we had it priced so high. (So high being a whopping $2.99). So I responded, and for some reason explained my reasoning, but in reality why we give an item a certain price is nobody's business. It's an art/science/false hope/broken dreams type thing, with a bit of research thrown in for good measure. If someone wants to negotiate a price, that's cool. I always reserve the right not to change it, but I'm open for discussion. But this person came across as a little rude, and there is no need for that. Life's too short.

Another person questioned why shipping was so high for an item. I live in North Carolina, this person lives in Australia, and basically the reason why shipping was high is because I live in North Carolina and they live in Australia. We agreed to knock $2.00 off the shipping charge, and they proceeded to buy a bunch of stuff, so it worked out well. But guess what. We had the shipping exactly right before we took $2.00 off the price. This person did exactly what they should have tho, they expressed their concern before they made a purchase, they were very nice and everything was very pleasant. The person I was talking about in the paragraph before this one might want to make a note.

I dont mind people asking about shipping charges at all. I'll explain my reasoning for a certain shipping & handling charge until I'm blue in the face. My biggest priority is to not lose money on shipping. On low price items, messing up shipping charges is the quickest way on earth to lose money. On the other hand, I'm not out to gouge people on shipping either. I've been known to give partial refunds if I feel I've charged too much. And I'm a great fan of flat rate combined shipping, I do that whenever I can. Occasionally I'll offer free shipping on an item. After 3 years of doing this, I know what a fair shipping rate is and I don't buy from people who have excessive shipping costs. It boils down to this - if your shipping costs are out of line with reality, either too low or too high, you will not succeed.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

There just seems to be a lot more messages from people lately, and a lot of them are unusual, at least to me. I think this started with the guy from China who just wanted to buy some feedback.

It keeps things interesting. Our sales are picking up quite a bit, so maybe that's all it is.

I'm tired. I'll write more to you all later.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Robin Hoods

Ok, I have 30 minutes, so I have to make this quick. Please, forgive any spelling or errors of logic which may occur because of this time constraint.

There are tons of "Robin Hood" books out there, written over a course of several centuries. I've read two of them, and I've noticed quite a difference.

The two I've read are by Howard Pyle, and Henry Gilbert. The Howard Pyle book dates from 1884, but the version I have comes from the 1950s. I believe this is the classic - the one most of the movies and such are based on. The Henry Gilbert book dates from 1912, I think, and I believe my copy is from the 1950s or 1960s. It has the same characters and I suppose the same basic plot outline as the Pyle book, but it tells the story in a very different way.

The first chapter in each book is titled "How Robin Became An Outlaw" or words to that effect. That's about the only thing the chapters have in common. In the Pyle book, Robin is a teenager (I think) , and he is basically goaded and embarrassed by some of the king's foresters, and kills one of the King's deer right in front of them, just to prove he was a good shot. Thus he became an outlaw, and this happens right at the beginning of the story. In the Gilbert book, Robin is a few years older (say 24 or so) and would never be so rash. He has "outlaw" tendencies with a strong social conscious, but he doesn't become one until he kills a knight who was bothering the maid Marian. (I think). This doesnt occur until pretty deep into the chapter, and before the chapter is over, Robin is leading what amounts to a slave revolt.

So, in the Gilbert book, people get killed, sometimes in quite personal and gruesome ways. An arrow to the throat, a knife plunged into a chest, people burned alive, that kind of stuff. The characters seem to have a lot more depth to them, and the language is harder to understand (even though its over 20 years newer than the Pyle book).

They both are historical fiction of a sort - starting out near the end of Henry II's reign. He dies and Richard the Lion Heart becomes king and immediately takes off on a Crusade to the Holy Land, leaving the the kingdom to his brother John, who was not a nice person, apparently. (Personally I doubt that Richard was a nice guy too, but that's just me) . In Gilbert's book there is still an "institutional" memory so to speak, of the good old days before the Normans, the days of Edward the Confessor, when many of the present day serfs may have had land holding ancestors, land confiscated by William the Conqueror & his son, Willaim Rufus. It gives a pretty brutal picture of what a Feudal society was like. I eat this stuff up. I love it. I love the history and the language.

The Pyle book ends with Richard's return and Robin swears fealty to him. The Gilbert book ends with Robin's death - by the hands of one of the Sheriff of Nottingham's daughters - long after the sheriff was "removed" from office. Robin & Marian were married, but she had died earlier from a plague of some sort.

They're both good. I prefer the Gilbert version.

Made it with a minute to spare, including an impromtu interruption to take to dog out for a short constitutional.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Abraham Lincoln vs. A Valdese Blogger

Abraham Lincoln said: For those who like this kind of book, this is the kind of book they will like.

A Valdese Blogger said: An item isn't sold until it sells.

I don't think I need to draw a map here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Cemetery in Kentucky

This is part of the cemetery near Hindman, Kentucky where my mother is buried. Her grave is a little behind where I took the picture.

The cemetery has been around awhile, but it is still fairly new as far as I'm concerned. I can remember when there was a house here, and corn and stuff like that. This is place is prime bottom land. Mom probably passed this place 10,000 times in her life, and I'm sure I've driven by it hundreds of times. Most of that time it was a farm, or at the very least it had very large gardens. But now it's a cemetery and my mother is buried there. Who knew.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Strange Things.

I've noticed odd things, especially on the side-bar of this blog. My weather widget went away. I provided it as a convenience to all the multitudes who sit around and wonder what the weather in Valdese, NC is, and suddenly it is nowhere to be found. Now, I have a clock underneath the title for the weather display, which has to be confusing. The script for it is still there, it just isn't displaying. It's been that way for some time, I was just using the systems engineer's tried and true method of dealing with problems - ignoring it and seeing if it corrects itself. Apparently, not this time.

Also, I stuck a counter on the blog, and that too has ceased to function.

Also, for the longest time I could not see the icons (avatars?) of whoever was following this blog. Now I can. So in this instance ignoring the problem seems to have worked.

I mainly use firefox and/or opera and sometimes they have different issues.

So I don't know what's going on. Eventually I'll take some sort of action and see if I can't get things working again. No need to rush.

In the mean time - a beautiful fall day here in the mid south. Sunny, hardly a cloud in the sky. Warm enough most of the day to walk around without a jacket, but it's cooling off quite nicely (sarcasm here, I don't like cold) this evening.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Stuff Around The House #14

This is number 14 in my never ending series of stuff around the house. These are some objects placed on a shelf behind where I sit when working on the computer. Some of the stuff was put there on purpose, other things just ended up there. The Russian on the box means "bird" - it had a metal windup bird in it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I received an award

I received an award from Heather the other day.  Its the first award anyone's given me and I was caught off guard.  I appreciate it, but still I stared at it for awhile.  And thought about it for awhile longer. This is what I do, even if it does not come out in whatever I write.  I tend to think about things.  Not important things so much, just things.

So anyway, if I understand correctly (a big if), I'm supposed to list 7 things about myself and pass it on.  I don't know about passing it on - I mean who am I to give someone an award?  Most blogs I read are a lot more involved & require a lot more work & insight than mine does.   I don't feel qualified, so I may pass on that part of it.   (Pass on passing it on.  I was reading this over and that struck me as humorous).

But anyway - here's 7 things about me anyone who reads this may or may not know.

1)  I am 6 feet 2 1/2 inches tall, more or less.  For the rest of the world that's 1.88 meters, give or take, I reckon.  I'm going on what a conversion program tells me, I'm not fluent in metric.  I have basic conversational abilities in metric, I could go into a metric restaurant & get something to eat, find my way around a metric town without too much problem, buy some metric groceries perhaps, but I'd have problems with metric dialects or regionalisms.  I know miles per gallon pretty well, but kilometers per liter just freaks me out.   At any rate,  I'm  taller than average, but not freakishly so....1.88 meters sounds small to me, but I'm sure that's just my provincialism showing through.

2) I spent 7 interesting years in the US Army.  Looking back on it, I had a complete disconnect between what my job was, and the extreme amount of danger the tactical portion of it could have placed me in, given the right conditions.  Being young & inexperienced probably had something to do with that.

3) I'm conflicted about whether I'm a dog person or a cat person.  I have one of each.  And even though Pickles the Dog gets more words in this blog than does Snowchief the Cat, Snowchief has been around for about 17 years now, and is much more affectionate than Pickles.   Pickles is more "needy" than Snowchief, but that's only because Snowchief couldn't give a flying you know what about what you think about anything.  He's a cat.

4) In 1990 I bought an entry level Saab 900 3-door hatchback, and proceeded to put over 250,000 miles on it during the next ten years.   I miss that ol' Saab.

5)  I have a sense of humor, sometimes it shows.

6)  My favorite book is "Life: A User's Manual" by Georges Perec.  Its translated from French into English, and I feel a bit lesser for the fact that I cannot speak or read French.  I hate depending on translators, 'cause you have to depend on them for all the nuances & cultural references and stuff.   I have tons of trouble with Kafka, more than any other author on earth just about.  I just have trouble following his stories and logic, and I've always blamed myself, my own limitations.  But what if its the translator, not me?  Yeah, that's the ticket.   Dumb ol' translators.

7)  I'm married to Patti Anne, sometimes referred to as Miss Patti.    

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pickles & Me Walking Home

Just a lazy Sunday afternoon in Valdese.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's A Recipe - But For What?

I came across this old postcard that had a recipe on back, but since both the sender & receiver knew what it was for, the sender did not think to enliven later generations.   It's postmarked Boston, Mass., Sep 7, 1934, and the front is a picture of Jamaica Pond in Brookline, MA.   It was sent to an address is Belmont, MA.  Click on the picture to make it larger (at least that works for me).  

I'll transcribe it here so maybe someone can figure out what it means.   It'd be cool to try to reproduce it.  Perhaps.  

Here goes:

You forgot the recipe on Thursday evening & I am writing it along.

half cup of butter; one cup of sugar, two cups flour sifted twice, two teaspoons baking powder, two teaspoons vanilla, half cup milk scant(?), salt, three eggs, the whites beaten stiff and added last.  Bake in 350 F. for one hour.

I think it's a cake of some kind, but I'm not positive.  And if it is, I'm not sure what flavor it would end up being, but most likely some form of vanilla.  I'm also not sure what the word after "milk" is. 

I liked the interesting turn of phrases in it - "I am writing it along", instead of I am sending it along.   And "Bake in" instead of bake at.

Anyway, this is a 75 year old recipe for something, with no need to mention how much salt was required.  In I think a lot of stuff in this recipe is "assumed".  No need to explain something that everybody would know.  

Chalk up another one for postcards.  

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cigarette Smoke

I've bought 2 semi-large lots of items this month, from two different sellers,  one about 15 CDVs and another 52 Cabinet Cards. I paid more than I really wanted to for these items, but they looked like good quality items, and I felt that I could probably make a profit on them.

They both came saturated with cigarette smoke.   I cannot resell these items when they smell this way.  There are ways to get the cigarette smell out of paper items, but it takes awhile, and I'm not sure that it's ever 100%.  In the mean time I've got some really nice inventory that I dont feel I can sell for awhile.

Add two sellers to the list of sellers I will not buy from again.  I think my list is up to 4 now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flu Shot

Got my seasonal flu shot today - at the lovely Food Lion Supermarket - a place where at least 1/4 of the people are insane 1/2 the time.   I don't really like going in there, but at least I wasn't buying groceries.   In the aisles, between the shelves, amongst the rows of food is where most of the insane things in Food Lion happen & I avoided that.

So anyway, this is the seasonal shot, and as far as I know there is very little if any seasonal flu going around right now.  Swine flu is another story, there's quite a bit of that about, but there's no vaccine available for it yet, at least not in these parts.  

When I was standing in line, I noticed that almost everybody else in line was older than I am. That made me feel good.  And when I got to the table, they didn't even ask if I had medicare, which made me feel better, since I'm nowhere near old enough to qualify for medicare.   Not even close. Closer than I was last year I guess, but still, not close.  

So, I'm protected against something, for awhile at least. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I need a haircut

I looked at myself in the mirror today. It's unusual for me to look at myself in a mirror - I tend to avoid mirrors, and not because of any supernatural reason, like being a vampire. I'm not. I just prefer not to look at my reflection if I can help it. So I may be standing in front of a mirror for some reason, but make no assumption that I'm looking at myself.

But yesterday (or the day before, I can't remember) I shaved, and I looked in the mirror then. I looked and I thought, goodness, my hair's getting long. I need a haircut. Society demands it.

I personally have nothing against haircuts. In fact I've been mulling over the possibility of getting one for almost a month now - don't want to rush into things. When I do get a haircut, I'm usually satisfied with, or at the very least ambivalent about the results. I never ask for my hair back, even if it doesnt turn out the way I like it.

But I don't like getting haircuts. I despise the act, in fact. Its all the socialization involved, sometimes the people cutting your hair want to talk, and normally I'd prefer not to. I'm also not that happy with strange people so close to my face, especially with sharp objects. I feel the awkwardness of leaving tips, never really knowing if I'm leaving too much or not enough. And there are other intangibles involved - the biggest one being that once you get a haircut, everybody knows it. I'd prefer not to give people a reason to notice me too much - and a fresh haircut gives people a perfect excuse to start talking to you about things.

"Oh you look so much better with a haircut"

Hmmmm. What did I look like before? Anyway, I need a haircut. And before too much longer, I'll take a deep breath and go get one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Poem About Pickles the Dog, with apologies to Patti Anne, who thought of it.

Sung to the tune of Wayfarin' Stranger (the Emmylou Harris/Ricky Skaggs version).  Roughly.   And please forgive any inconsistencies - I don't spend a lot of time on this stuff.

Oh my name is Pickles Anne, I do not live in that trailer park,

If I did, I'd be Rover or Rambler, or maybe Spot, I'm glad I'm not.

Oh I love my view of the Mountains,  I love to chase that Snowchief Cat,

I love to sleep next to my window, and bark at squirrels and stuff like that.

Now the trailer park is tempting, with good things to sniff and smell,

With that road to run around in, and a nice doghouse to dwell.

But there aint no view of the mountains, and there aint no Snowchief Cat,

I like my name, I like my people, I think I'll stay right where I'm at.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Overheard in Valdese

"She's so uppity, she just HAS to do all her shopping at Wal-Mart."

Yep, Dollar General just doesn't cut it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Study in Scarlet - My first Sherlock Holmes Novel

I've seen Sherlock Holmes movies (Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce), and of course Sherlock is a cultural icon, but one of the holes in my education is I've never read, until now, anything written by Arthur Conan Doyle.   So I decided to fix that, and I started with "A Study in Scarlet", which I found to be interesting, on a couple of levels.

In part 1 of the novel, we meet the main characters.  Its told in the 1st person from the point of view of Dr. Watson, and this is their first meeting.   The good doctor gave a bit of his personal history, (recovering from wounds received in Afghanistan), and Holmes is introduced.  The plot spirals into a murder mystery, and at the end, Holmes captures the murderer.  This left me scratching my head because the author did not provide any clue whatsoever as to who the murderer was or how Holmes figured it out.

In part 2, something strange happens.  In stead of being told from the point of view of Dr. Watson, it's told in the 3rd person by some narrator off to the side (or perhaps in the sky).  Also, it takes place 30 years earlier, and the location moves from London to the American west.   For a page or two I was lost - then I understood.  Part 2 turned into a history of the murdered men, and of the murderer and his motivations,  and the murderer turned out to be the good guy.  It was a historical novel of sorts, with some historic figures, and was quite critical of Mormon society.   Whether it was valid or not, this part was very well written, & a very good story, I thought.   I suspect the criticisms reflect mainstream 19th century thought - especially about polygamy.  It would be interesting to research that.

Part 3 returns us to the 1st person & Dr. Watson, and most of this section is taken up by the murderer telling his story to the police, Holmes & Dr. Watson.  In other words, this is where the author tied up some (not all by far) of the loose ends.  This is every old western or detective show you've ever seen, where the bad guy sits around and confesses everything, just before the good guy is rescued.  In this case our murderer, who wasn't such a bad guy, was very ill and died within a day or two.

It wasn't hard to read, and the 2nd part of the book was very interesting.  And I'm still not sure what the title - A Study in Scarlet - had to do with anything.  But I miss things.

On to "The Hound of the Baskervilles" I reckon.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Five Different Thoughts

1.  I did not sleep well last night.  I'd have strange dreams, then wake up for awhile.   In one of my dreams I was talking to someone about a dream I'd actually had earlier that night.  I have no idea who this person was and the whole concept of discussing a dream within a dream makes my head spin.

2.  I've never read a Sherlock Holmes story before, and I decided I'd change that.  So I found an anthology, and began reading, starting, believe it or not, with the introduction.   I'm midway thru the first novel, "A Study in Scarlet", and I have to admit, I'm baffled.   Jefferson Hope appeared out of nowhere, as the murderer.

3.  I seem to get a kick out of very poorly translated jokes - especially the one about slapping Steven Spielberg.   There are more than their fair share of those out there.  I think the reason is because humor is very difficult to translate from language to language.  I remember once when I was in Germany, finding myself quite by accident at a Christian Democrat rally in Augsburg.  I thought it was a beer tent at some sort of small fest, and went in and sat down & ordered some festchicken & a beer.  The speaker was telling a joke, in which the characters were Helmut Schmidt, and Helmut Kohl - one was a member of the Social Democrats & the other a member of the Christian Democrats (think Democrats & Republicans, except more extreme).   I could actually follow the joke right up to the punch line & the whole tent exploded.  But I didn't understand - because the punch line was probably a pun or some cultural reference I had no clue about.   I also came very close to winning a lottery drawing that night, and apparently it was a big deal, the people at the table were very excited when they saw my numbers, something I never would have bought except at their urging in the first place.   I suspect if I had won, that information may have made its way to the SGM & the battalion commander.   I'm not sure how that could have been good.

4. Yesterday as I walked the dog, it was very sunny and the mountains to the west of us towered over a low bank of clouds.  Today as I walked the dog, it was overcast, and the mountains were perfectly visible.  I'm trying to decide which I prefer.

5. I'm planning my mowing the grass end game.  If I do this right, I can probably get away with mowing it only one more time.   I have to think strategically.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How Do They Do That?

I'll read anything.  It's my nature, for some reason.  So the other night I picked up this book that I brought back from my weekend in Kentucky, and started reading it.  It's called "How Do They Do That?"  Or at least I think that's what its called.  The book is upstairs right now, and to be honest, I don't care enough to make absolutely sure that's the title.  I also do not know who wrote it.

So this book has essays of various length answering questions that perhaps most people have not thought about in awhile.  Like, how do they measure the distance between the earth and the sun? How do they build subways under cities?  How do they stuff all that shaving cream into a can?  I flew through most of it last night.

This book reinforced something I already knew about myself, and that is, I pretty much don't care. I never have, for the most part.   When I get in a car, I want it to start and take me where I want to go.  I don't have the least interest in how it does it.   I have never been mechanically inclined, I've never wanted to physically build anything, I've never cared how an engine worked. Even as a young child that stuff BORED ME TO TEARS!!!  

Instead I'd read Robin Hood and wonder what it must have been like to live in the middle ages, amongst the winding cobblestone streets and castles and crap.   Or what would it have been like to be an assistant to the Doge of Venice, especially the blind one, plowing through the halls of San Marco's in the service of some 16th or 17th century bureaucracy, eating whatever they ate for lunch on the warm late winter days in the Plaza.   Of course I know that living in those time periods would most likely have sentenced me to a short and brutal life - I know that now anyway.  When I was young, it seemed like a lot more fun than airplanes.

My general apathy to the way things work may seem a strange quality for someone who worked so many years as a computer systems engineer.   As an SE it was my job to figure out how things worked, so I could fix or modify them, or heaven forbid, create things out of thin air.  And it was not easy, it was complicated, difficult, abstract, computer junk, the kind of job where it did no good to try to picture a solution in your mind, unless you can think easily in multi-demensional type tables and such.  I can't.  You just made your peace with the world and accepted that the computer could deal with it.

So, maybe I should become a Sherlock Holmes scholar in my spare time.  Except old Sherlock was very good at chemistry, very good at figuring out how things worked.  

One question that HAS  always puzzled me though, is when builders build a building (say that fast) how to they keep it straight?  This is technology that has existed for thousands of years, but I don't have a clue how they get it right, how they keep the building from leaning.  There's lots of stuff like that I don't know.  I could write a book.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A little dishonesty

Sigh.  I had this situation on eBay last week, and it involved a little dishonesty.  

A buyer won an auction for a postcard - a very inexpensive item.  The card only cost $.99, and since the buyer lived in China (People's Republic of), I charged a flat rate $1.50 shipping & handling, so the total cost for the item was $2.49.   The auction ended & I sent an invoice for the total amount.

After I sent the invoice I noticed I had a message in my inbox from this buyer.  He said he was from China and had decided to open an eBay store.  Although is grammar was not great, it was crystal clear what he wanted.  He wanted to pay me only the $.99 - in return I could keep the card (he didn't really want it), and I would give him positive feedback.  In other words he wanted buy a positive feedback from me.

I had three immediate thoughts:  1) this is dishonest 2) this is irritating (just pay me the stupid $2.49 & I'll give you feedback & send the card) & 3) if I do this I'm just as dishonest, and whats worse, should he get caught and it was found I knowingly participated, eBay could shut down my account.

I did not respond, but I did check his feedback - it was only 4 at the time.  eBay requires new users to achieve a certain positive feedback score before they can do certain things - such as open a store and start selling.  I'm not sure what the exact requirements are, I'm way beyond that point in my eBay "career".

This was Thursday (Sept 24th), on Friday I took a weekend trip to Kentucky (more on that later, maybe).  At some point I received another message from this buyer, saying that if I insisted on charging the s&h that he wanted to cancel the transaction.   I checked his feedback, and it was up to "21".  I looked at some of the items he'd bought, and they were all $.99.   I have no way of knowing if he just bought their feedback, or if they actually sent him the items.

I still didn't respond.  I could have easily cancelled the transaction, and that would have been that.  I would have lost the final value fee eBay charges, but we're not talking big bucks here.  

So on the way back from Kentucky Patti Anne and I discussed what we should do, and somewhere between Kentucky & Tennessee (perhaps in Virginia?)  we decided to report it to eBay, instead of simply cancelling the transaction.   Good ol' eBay.  

Sunday evening I did some research and found that artificially increasing your feedback score is indeed a policy violation, it can lead to all kinds of sanctions up to & including shutting down your account, and there is a specific mechanism for reporting it.  So for the first time in my life, I reported what I thought was a policy violation, and included copies of the emails that I had received.   I received a form letter back thanking me, then today received another letter from an actual person who thanked me again and said this was being investigated.  eBay will not tell you the results of the investigation.

However, that user-id is no longer a registered user on eBay, so I think I know the results.

I did not like doing this.  It did not make me feel good.  I've never done it before.  But frankly, I didn't want anything to do with this person.  


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Lightbox

It started raining here on Tuesday the 15th, and didn't completely stop until yesterday.    Well, I lived awhile in Germany & I remember there were times when it would rain for weeks, so a week shouldn't seem so bad.  But this is North Carolina, and I'm no longer used to weeks long deluges.   Apparently it's still not over, but it is winding down.  And further south, in Georgia, it's much, much worse. 

The week long rain also forced my hand, forced me to do something that I had avoided doing for a couple of years.   It made me realize that I cant count on natural light to take my pictures for my eBay listings.  I didn't realize how much I did depend on it, until there wasn't enough for a long period of time.   I cannot use a flash to take these pictures - most of the time they reflect & obscure the subject.   I cannot use regular lights, because it casts a yellowish glow which the camera picks up.  Sometimes I can fiddle around with photo editing and get it looking pretty close to normal, but the more you have to do that the worse it is.   Also, if there is not enough light, all the photo editing that I have available to me will not do any good.   The item will not look normal.

For 8 straight days now, there has not been enough light, and there probably won't be tomorrow. It makes it hard to add new items, something I'm used to doing everyday.  So, I thought a lightbox may be in order, and I found the cheapest one I could that I thought would do the job & placed an order.  It arrived yesterday, in a very large UPS truck, down the very same driveway the post office won't come down in their much smaller vehicles because they say there's no place to turn around.  Right.

You can actually build a simple lightbox fairly easily, but you have to get special light bulbs.  The kind that don't emit yellow light I suppose.  I'm not very good at building things - even simple things.

So I practiced a little last night, and used it for real this morning.   It's a simple, portable contraption, came with 2 lamps and terrible instructions.   And I'm finding that there are a lot of permutations.  For example, there are 4 backgrounds - white, red, blue and black, so the first choice is, which one to use.  Each of these backgrounds have 2 sides, one is kind of flat, and the other is a little reflective - you can use either side, so there's another choice.  And then there is the placement of the lamps, how the light is cast and/or reflected.  

If I were a mathematician, I'd figure out how many possibilities there were for each picture.  If I were methodical, I'd keep notebook entries for each picture I took of an item, then determine which of the possible permutations was best.   If I were a frog and had wings, my tail wouldn't bump the ground.

So, I just play around, and I manage, and as time goes on I'll get better at using it.   It has potential, I got some good pictures this morning.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

When is a quote just something you say?

I had a dental appointment the other day & I picked up a copy of Time magazine while in the waiting room.   I opened it up and found myself reading the "quotes" of the week.  This brought back a flood of memories and aggravations.

Memories, because it's the first time I've read a Time magazine in a long time.  Aggravations because I never did like their quotes.  It's the worst section of the magazine.

In my mind a quote or quotation should illustrate a broad truth, with no further explanation needed.   Here's one:  "You'll keep growing until you stop".  No greater truth than that, on more than one level.  You don't need to know anything else about it.  

Your typical "Time" quote is something like this:  "It's a security issue".   Then that statement is followed by several sentences explaining who said it, why he/she said it, the circumstances surrounding it,  a brief history of whatever it was referring to, and on and on.  

In my opinion that's not a quote.  It's just something somebody said, and I'm not sure what warrants its printing in a national news magazine.  That section of the magazine should be called "Some things some people said this week".   You can quote me on that.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Facebook & Twitter

I've been on Facebook for less than a week now, and on twitter since yesterday.  I don't really know what I'm doing yet, but already I've made contact with a person I havent seen in 25 years or so.    

Not sure how it will work out - especially twitter, we shall see.  In the mean time, I have a little button if anyone wants to follow whatever I post.   Looking back on the things I've posted so far, it seems  incredibly boring.  Sheesh.  

I've learned that you have to give things time tho, so I'll give it awhile.  We shall see.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Difference Between Cats and Humans

One of the differences between cats and humans is in the way they solve a problem.
For example, lets take a simple problem, getting from point A to point B.   Frequently there's lots of different ways to get from one point to another, and a straight line is not always the easiest or more efficient.  Sometimes the best roads go around the mountain, not over it.   As humans, we'd analyze our options, perhaps very quickly, but we'd do it, and make a decision base on whatever parameter was most important to us.  It could be speed, distance, safety, who knows.
Cats on the other hand, will walk right across your face in the middle of the night when you're trying to sleep.
That's right Snowchief, I'm talking about you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In case you don't want to read the book......

This is a postscript from yesterday's post.

There is a very good movie about the Civil War in North Carolina, specifically the mountains.  It's called "Cold Mountain", and is about a deserter's attempt to get home, trying to avoid the "Home Guard" and unorganized bands of fighters supporting one side or the other.   There's good music in it too, as well as academy award winning stars.   Well worth a rental.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bushwhackers: The Civil War in North Carolina: The Mountains

I just finished reading this book by William Trotter, and it was just full of details and things I'd never hear of before - the biggest one being a little place in Madison County, high in the mountains close to Tennessee, called Shelton Laurel.  More on that in a sec.

I don't like book reviews.  I don't really care to read them and I especially don't like writing them. I think that's because in my mind I can never get it quite right.  I never express myself to my satisfaction.  And the reason for that is not because I'm not capable, but because it takes a lot of effort and work, and I just don't want to do it.  It's not easy to express thoughts clearly.  I want to read the book and enjoy it, sometimes learn something, and that's about it.  But I do feel the urge to put down some thoughts about what I read sometimes, and it's one of the reasons I have this little blog.  But it won't be good enough.  

Anyway, I already knew some of the history.  I knew, for example, that the central and southern Appalachian Mountain folk did not develop what is thought of as a "Southern Culture".  I already knew that many people in the southern Mountains, especially the poorer ones, were as likely to support the Union as they were the Confederacy.  I knew that a person living in the mountains of North Carolina probably had more in common with a person living in the Mountains of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee & Pennsylvania etc, than he would have with a person living in the North Carolina piedmont, and the coastal area would have been a different universe.   The mountains are divided between several states, but it is a culturally similar region, and culturally quite different from the rest of the state they were a part of.   This is stuff I already knew.

However, the book brought home the anarchy and cruelty of the war in the mountains - where the war was mainly a guerilla affair, where it was very personal, and the person you killed, or whose barn you burned, or the person who stole your horses, who raped your daughter or wife, was probably a person you had known all your life.  A person who's children you played with when you were a child.  It was very dangerous to pick a side, and equally dangerous, virtually impossible, to be neutral.

There is one incident described which seems very modern, but which has probably happened in every war ever fought.  I can't remember the year, but it was winter time, and the people of Shelton Laurel (who were predominately Unionists) were starving.   A group of them raided a location in the town of Marshall, which I believe is the County Seat of Madison County, and stole salt and other supplies.  Salt was absolutely vital to preserving meat, and it was basically all going to the war effort.   In addition to stealing salt, they raided the house of the Colonel of the 64th North Carolina, a regular Confederate Army unit stationed in Tennessee (just across the border).   This put in action a series of events which lead to the 64th marching from Tennessee across the mountains (and believe me, it is very rugged now, imagine what it was like in the 1860s), to Shelton Laurel on a punitive raid.   It was a very hard march, in brutal winter time conditions, and as the 64th North Carolina got deeper and deeper into the mountains, they found the people becoming more and more hostile.  They took sniper fire from people they could not see, had no idea where they were.   A couple people were killed, several wounded.   They suffered frostbite.   Trotter wrote that there was just enough physical exhaustion mixed with moments of mortal terror to keep the marchers from ever relaxing.  

Shelton Laurel was not an easy place to get to, but they got there, and of course, by the time they got there, they were exhausted and very angry.  The people who had committed the deed that sent them there in the first place were long gone, deep in the mountains somewhere & never found.   Members of the unit basically tortured the women who were left (and probably raped a few, though no one wrote about that) to get them to tell where the raiders had gone.   They rounded up all the men & boys they could find, about a dozen or so who for the most part were too old, too sick or too young to be fighters, lead them a couple of miles out of the village and killed them.   They tried to bury them, but the ground was frozen so hard they could only dig the shallowest of graves, and all the bodies were found the next day.

As I was reading this I remember thinking: Vietnam.   It sounded very familiar to things that sometimes happened there.  But why pick just Vietnam?  It certainly happened in Europe during the World Wars - WWII has hundreds of documented instances where things like that happened. It probably happened in Napoleon's time.  It certainly happened in the religious wars of the 17th century.  It happened during the Crusades.   It happened on the British Isles, in all those wars between England and Scotland.  It happened during the Arab invasions of Europe in the 8th century.  This certainly happened when the Visigoth's (or Vandals or whoever they were) sacked Rome, and when Rome conquered Gaul.  It happened in the mountains of North Carolina in the 19th century - hundreds of times. It has always happened, and will continue to happen whenever wars are fought.  

So.  I find that interesting. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Apparently We've Been Discovered In Sweden

We sell stuff on eBay.   A few days ago we sent our first item to Sweden this year, and tomorrow, we'll send off the 3rd item in a week. The first couple of items were postcards, and that's no issue mailing wise.  We send out hundreds of them monthly, a sizable number go to Canada, Europe & Asia, and we've got it down pat.   But, we sell things other than postcards, and the item we'll package up and send off to Sweden tomorrow is a pair of women's eyeglasses.  They're very vintage, very cool, and very nice.  You know the type, from the 1950s, look kind of like a cat's eyes, thick plastic with a little bit of gold thrown in.   A little guady, probably expensive and stylish in their day & very interesting.

I always worry about sending packages overseas.  Postcards are no problem - we package them up securely, mail them in a regular envelope and they'll get to France as quickly as they'll get to California.   But packages are a different story.  I once sent a pretty nifty Porsche key ring set to South Korea. It took so long that the buyer & I both assumed it was lost and I refunded his money.   It apparently showed up a week later (about 6 weeks after I sent it) and he was honest and kind enough to refund my refund.

So this will be a package, going first class international (I'd much prefer priority, but it's very expensive overseas), and I don't know how long it will take to get there.   I don't know if it will be subject to extra tarriffs, or customs handling because it is a package.  And it's a bit fragile, so it'll have to be packaged carefully.   And I really hope I charged enough for shipping - the easiest way to lose money on eBay is through shipping charges.

It'll be fine.  We've never really had a problem.  I just wonder about this little spike in sales to Sweden.   Interesting.  

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Oh by the way......I'm married.

Yes, to all the legions out there who may have been wondering, and who probably exist only in a corner of my brain, I'm married.  Patti Anne, the person to whom I am married, pointed out that I had never once mentioned in this blog that we're married.  She's probably right - I havent check to make absolutely sure, but I'm a good husband so I assume she's correct.   So I'm using this forum to officially "out" myself as a married man.  

Seriously, though, I never know how much to divulge about myself in this blog.  If any friends, acquaintances, or neighbors in my little town were to read it, and it's quite possible some have, they'd know who I was in an instance.  Pickles the Dog and I are a common sight traipsin'  about the neighborhood on our daily forays.  If any of my family were to read it, they'd know immediately who I was, just from the things I've written about.

But if someone from the next town over happened to be an avid reader of the blog, and I was to run into them on the street somewhere, they would not have a clue.  Even if I knocked them over and yelled Moo-Ha-Ha right in their face.  Even if I was to stand with one foot on their chest and poke a finger in the air, and hold on to a lapel with another hand and haughtily proclaim, "I am Jacques Bontecou! The greatest blogger in all of France!" they still would not know who I was.

I've not posted a good, absolutely recognizable picture of myself, and I've not used my name, or much other personal information that could be traced to my house, the vehicle that I drive, or my social security number, or other stuff like that.   If someone wanted to, I suppose they could find out this information - but that's the point.  They'd have to want to, they'd have to have a reason.  Anyone with a reason can find out a lot of information about anyone else.   

So anyway, I'm married to Patti Anne.   Just another in the shadowy world of flaming heterosexuals.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

English Lesson: Favor

This is another in a series of lessons concerning word usages I learned growing up, and still hear frequently back home, in the hills of eastern Kentucky. 

The word today is favor.

The standard English usage of the word is to indicate a preference for one thing over another.  

However, back home, and maybe other places too, it can have other meanings.

I've been told that I "favor" my mother.   The person who told me that did not mean that my mother was my favorite parent, he meant that I resembled or looked like my mother.  I've heard favor use that way all my life.

And here's another usage.

If a person injures his right leg and as a result walks with a limp, people might say he "favors" his right leg, which does not mean he prefers his right leg to his left leg.   What it means is that his right leg probably hurts right smart and he can't put all his weight on it.

If you've been following my English lessons, you know what right smart means.

Favor.  It's a good word.  Go forth and use it well.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

10 Observations About My Blogging Experience

I've been doing this for a while so I ought to be able to come up with 10 observations about Blogging.  I'm thinking these up as I type, so here goes.
1.  I have no problems with Entre-Card.  They can do what ever they want, I don't care.   I've visited more blogs than I would have without them, and certainly my blog has been seen by more people than it otherwise would have been.   
2. I'm not trying to make money by blogging.  If you don't believe me, take a look at my blog.
3.  Sexually suggestive pictures on the EC widget frequently irritate me.  Not because I have anything against sexually suggestive pictures on an EC widget, but because when I click on them, they usually link to a business oriented blog.  I find the false advertising irritating.
4.  I (almost always) read the blogs I drop on.  So if I've dropped on your blog & your latest entry has changed, I almost certainly read it.
5.  I've found I'm drawn to different types of blogs.  I like blogs people write about what's going on in their lives, because I'm drawn to the minutiae &  routines of it all, and the similarities and differences to what I've experienced.  I also like blogs about life in other countries - I've been exposed to a lot of different cultures in my life (some more than others), and it just seems natural that I'm drawn to it.  Also humor blogs, the occasional pet blog & writing blogs.
6.  Just because I drop on your blog, does not mean I agree with it or endorse it.  There  are people out there with very strong opinions about this or that, ESPECIALLY politics. No one should try to recruit me to the cause just because I dropped on a blog.  All a drop from me means is that (usually), I've read your latest & greatest post.  Don't draw any other conclusion than that.
7.  I rarely comment.  I suppose this is a failing of mine, and I should try to do better.  But I just don't comment very much.  I like receiving comments as much as the next person, so I should do better.
8.   To date, I haven't participated in any organized blogging activity.  This includes the well intentioned but mind boggling "Wordless Wednesday".  Nothing seems so odd to me as a Wordless Wednesday posting with a bunch of words describing the picture.  I see that over and over, and to me, it's just wrong.  Maybe I'm too much of a purist about such things.  Other than that, "Wordless Wednesday" is a concept that is actually quite attractive to me.  It appeals to my non-meticulous nature, I suppose.
9.  Blogging (like fiction writing, especially) usually tells us much more about the author than it does about the subject the author is writing about.  Frequently a lot more.  I'm not sure what this little observation means in my personal situation, other than it frightens me a little.  I just like to organize my thoughts and throw them out there for the world to mostly ignore.  I like to write, tho I'm not too good at it.  It's an outlet.
10.  I don't usually create lists.  I think this is the first list I've created since I've started this little blog.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Alaska" & "Mr. Spaceman" - a literary comparison. Of sorts.

Life goes on.

During the past month I've finished reading two books:  Alaska by James A. Michener, and Mr. Spaceman by Robert Olen Butler.  I've been thinking about their similarities and differences.  

Alaska is a big book - literally.   It measures 9.5 X 6.5 X 2 inches, has 868 pages, and weighs 3 pounds, 1.9 ounces.   It has a dust jacket, with a large picture of James Michner on the back, looking very no-nonsense in his plaid shirt.

Mr. Spaceman is much smaller.  It measures 9.25 X 6.25 X .75 inches, has 223 pages, and weighs 1 pound, 1.3 ounces. Also, the printing is much larger, so it has much less than 1/4th the total words that "Alaska" has.  It too has a dust jacket, but with a small picture of Robert Olen Butler on the back inside flap, who looks for all the world like he got beat up a lot in school.  The back has quotes from various newspaper book reviews.

Alaska is an epic, starting with continental drift & the movement of continental plates.  It is told through literally 100 characters or more, not all of them human.   This is a historical novel, and covers the history of Alaska (fictionally of course), in pretty great detail, especially from the time of the Russians until statehood and beyond.  All of the characters, whether Athapascan, Chuckchis, Ttlingit, Eskimo, Siberian, Russian, British, Canadian, American, or even Mastadon or Salmon, are brave, strong, hard-driven, adventurous goal oriented people.  Not all the goals were admirable or good, but the characters (good and evil) knew what they wanted and they strove for it.   There is not a tremendous amount of introspection in this book.

Mr. Spaceman, on the other hand, is a book full of introspection.  It is approaching the year 2000, and the main character is an alien who has been orbiting earth undetected for many years.   The alien abducts people, then gets their stories while they're in sort of a trance. Afterwards he sends them on their merry way.   The book opens with the abduction of a bus load of tourists.  The alien's name is Desi, a name given to him by his wife, Edna.  Yep, the alien married one of his abductees.   Edna, who is from Alabama,  acts as sort of a social director on the spacecraft, making sure the abductees have some good southern home cooking.  The spaceman gathers their thoughts and stories in order to draw conclusions about the human race and prepare him for his mission, which is to make himself known to humanity.   This mission and the fact that he's pretty much alone in this fills him with all kinds of angst.   Anyway, he decides to complete his mission as the clock counts down to New Years day in 2000, at Jackson Square in New Orleans.   Thousands of people witness his appearance, then pretty much ignore him - they were too busy partying.  Not quite the response he was expecting.  So he sent his spacecraft away, told his species not to bother for another couple centuries or so, and became one with the street performers.  He continued putting people in trances and getting their stories.

These books are as different as can be.  

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Off to Kentucky

My mother is very ill & I'm off to Kentucky for a few days.   See you all later....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Large Spiderweb (or why we don't cut down a dead tree)

Near end of our property, close to the road, a tree stands all alone, apparently dead.   It shows no sign of falling down & we've not touched it.  The birds like it, squirrels use it to get away from Pickles the dog, and it just looks interesting.
A couple of days ago I noticed a huge spiderweb hanging from one of its limbs.   I finally got around to taking a picture of it this morning.  It was covered with dew and showed up well.  This is a close up of the center, just a small portion of it.  This web must be about 4 feet wide and 5 feet or more from top to bottom and could easily snag a blue jay or a small dog.  It looks delicate, but it survived a storm we had last night so it must have some strength.
Anyway, this spiderweb is just the latest in a series of interesting things that go on in this dead tree, so we'll just leave it alone.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

George Washington in Paris

A long time ago I was in the US Army, stationed at Augsburg, Germany.   One long break (we worked 6 days on, 2 days off, rotating shift - so one of the breaks was longer than the other two), a group of us went to Paris.  We were just walking along from one place to another when we were shocked to run into a statue of George Washington.  None of us had any idea that such a thing existed in Paris.  We were really quite young.  I was just thinking about that.
I stole this picture off the web somewhere.  I know I took my own pictures of it, but this was long before digital cameras and I have no idea where they might be.   Anway.  George Washington in Paris.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My picture of the Cone Mansion, in the moutains above Blowing Rock, North Carolina

This is the Cone Mansion, in the mountains high above Blowing Rock, NC.  What a beautiful place to visit on a hot summer day - easily 15 degrees cooler than Valdese.  For some reason this view of the mansion suited me, fire hydrant an all.

It apparently was "Bring your horse to the mansion" day.  There was a group of 40 or so horses and riders preparing to go riding on the mansion grounds.   I belive the grounds has 25 miles or so of paths and tracks to ride & hike.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Just a quick picture of Pickles the Dog

Just a quick picture of Ol' Pickles, who is almost a good dog. She's a Bluetick Coonhound/Black Lab mix, with a personality (and most of her markings) leaning toward the Bluetick.   This dog can go from a deep sleep to full out barking in about 1.5 seconds.  It's amazing.  She's friendly, but a very good watch dog.  
I need to amend a statement in the paragraph above.  As coincidence would have it, she has just proved that she can go from deep sleep to full out barking pretty much instantly.  Some sort of ani-mule must be prowling our night time yard.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

When all else fails, post a picture!

Since I couldn't think of anything to write, I thought I'd post this picture.  Years ago,  I did a lot of laundry in this laundromat.  It's in a strip mall just off Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie, Maryland, a mile or so south of the DMV.  A delightfully beautiful place if you've never experience beauty and have low standards of delightfulness.

This is the laundromat which was the inspiration for "Hell's Laundromat", my universally acclaimed 4-line poem (at least in one very small alternate universe that existed mainly at the tip of one of my fingernails.  You had to get down to the molecular level to find it, but it was worth the effort).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Just a little sedated

It's one of those summer stormy afternoons.  Pickles the Dog has found a nice place to wait out the thunder and lightening - in the hallway, away from windows, her nose sticking around the corner so she can keep an eye on us. 

I survived a colonoscopy this morning.  I don't mean to make light of it, it's a big deal.  The prep for it is no fun at all.  I hadn't had anything solid to eat since Sunday morning, and even then not much.  And Monday night was loads of fun, when I got to take a bunch of laxatives and mix 238 ml of Miralax with 64 fl. Oz. of Gatorade and drink it all.  I think it's neat how we mix systems of measurement so easily in this country.  Where else but America would instructions tell you to mix 238 ml of anything with 64 Oz. of anything else?  Anyway, the expected results of that concoction occurred.  And occurred.   I only managed to get 60 Oz or so of the Gatorade down, because I thought I was going to throw up.  So I just stopped, and it seemed to work fine.  It will be a long, long time before I have anything lemon-lime again.

This morning we drove to the Medical Specialties center in Hickory, and I have no complaints. Everyone seemed friendly and re-assuring, courteous and quite professional, always helpful to someone who like me is basically a-feared of the whole process. One thing I noticed, as I looked around the waiting room, was there was lots of people there who did not seem to be feeling good. I can understand why.  It was easy to see who were patients, and who was there to drive them home.

I was sedated for the procedure.  And that was interesting.   I could feel myself loosing consciousness, and there was nothing I could do about it.  As a game, I decided to see how long I could stay conscious through sheer will power.  A few seconds, and I dont think will power played a role.  I was out, then suddenly I was in a whole different room with people making me wake up and sit up and get up and put my clothes on and drink a pepsi and get out of there.   Not really.  Well, sort of. It probably seemed a lot faster to me than it really was, because I was moving very slowly.

I'm convinced this screening can be a life saver.

A few years back one of my uncles died much too young from colon cancer.  I keep thinking that if he had been screened when he was my age, he'd probably be alive now.   Anyway I'm good for another 10 years, so they say.  They said they'd send a reminder out to me about 8 years from now, which I think is so cool.  They might have been joking tho, 'cause things were going over my head for awhile.  It's been over 6 hours now, and I can still feel the drug a bit.  I don't know if that is normal or not.   

But its over with, and a beautiful morning has tuned into a beautiful stormy afternoon.  I think I'll sleep well tonight.