Friday, July 31, 2009

What's in a name? More that you might think.

My recent trip to Kentucky reminded me that I haven't had one of my famous English lessons in a while.  This lesson will discuss  an alternate use of the word "name", a use I heard a lot as a child, and which I still hear now and then.

Name can be a verb - to name something.   Something can also have a name - I think that's a using it as a noun, but don't quote me.  

But "name" has another use, which seem to be completely un-mainstream, but yet it's very familiar to me.  

Back home, name can also mean to bring something up for discussion, or talk about something, or words to that effect.

Here's an example:

"Did you know that Hiram went and traded for a new huntin' dog?"
"Why no, I saw him in town right in front of the rexall drug store and he never named it".

Hmmmm.  Another example's in order.

"Did you ask ol' Reuben where his wife up and went?"                                                                           "Naw, he never named it so I didn't either."

So anyway, using "name" in this way is perfectly legitimate.   Feel free.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Favorite Reunion Picture

We took lots of pictures at the reunion we had last weekend.  This is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon.

Last weekend we took a quick trip to Kentucky, to my family reunion, but this post is not about that.  

We got back in the mid-afternoon - one of the good things about the trip to/from Western North Carolina to Eastern Kentucky being that it's not really all that far.  Far enough to get you tired, but not far enough to kill you.  So we were tired.

As a result of the fatique, we decided to go to one of Valdese's finer eating establishments, McDonald's, and grab a bite.  This is what this post is about.  The 3 odd things that happened while grabbing a bite at McDonald's.

I don't really like to talk to people that much, so I hung back while Patti Anne placed the orders. I did get the cups and get the drinks while we were waiting for the food (I'm partial to the Number 4, btw, 'cause I don't really like cheese, and it's the one thing you get get without cheese), and this is where the first odd thing happened.  I got the ice & drinks for both of us, but I could not get the lids, straws & napkins because apparently another customer had decided to take up residence in that area.  I watched with amazement and curiosity as he took an unbelievably long time fiddling around with everything.   Looking at the straws, puttering around with various size plastic lids, and I'm not sure what else.  So I waited.  When he finally was done, another customer who had been getting some drinks moved right in, so I had to wait for that person.  But this person took the normal amount of time, then I was able to get my lids, straws and napkins. There is a rythm of getting stuff done at McDonald's - everybody has been there so often they know what it is.  Mr. Orange tank top and blue shorts (you know who you are) upset that rythm. He was completely out of sync.  The anti-Justin Timberlake. 

This leads to the 2nd odd thing.   I now have gotten all the stuff I need to have a satisfying soft drink experience at McDonald's, and I turn around but my way is blocked by 3 older people who seem to think they're standing in their own kitchen.  I looked over at Patti Anne, she looked at me, so near, yet so far.   They were standing there looking at the menu discussing what it was they wanted, trying to decide.   I never understand that.  The thing about McDonald's is that they pretty much have whatever they had yesterday, or last week, or last year.  It doesn't change very much, that's the whole idea.  McDonald's invented this stuff, they're pretty good at it.  There's no need to stand around taking up all the available space scratching your balls trying to figure out what's good.  It's the same as it ever was.  Several people just barged through them, but they were elderly, I couldn't bring myself to.  I just waited until they finally realized that nothing had changed since the last time they were here and they moved up to the counter & ordered.  

I can't believe I used the phrase "scratching your balls".  That's not like me.  I think I used it just to do something unexpected.

The third odd thing was really kind of nice.  Patti Anne volunteered to get refills after I asked her to, because I wanted a refill, but I didn't think I could brave the drink machines again.   While I'm waiting, a little boy, maybe 8 years old, comes out of the bathroom and as he walks past me he stops and says, "That's a very nice shirt you have on".   I was caught completely off guard.  So I said, "Why, thank you, that's a nice shirt you have on too".  And I wasn't just saying that, it was.  It was a yellow t-shirt with a very cool design on it.  The little boy said, "Thank you, my Daddy made it for me."  And he was off.  It left me with a smile.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

3rd Road Dog Man

One thing I do sometimes is read local papers online, from places I've never been and probably never will be.  I think I need to expand that little hobby - it's interesting to see what's going on in Brownsville, Texas or Modesto, California.

Now, what happens when you read these headlines and stories is that things are out of context. Local areas have names & pronounciations for streets, locations & businesses that no one would ever dream of - it's how they tell who belongs there and who doesnt.

For example, almost no one who is not from central Maryland will know the correct pronounciation of the town of Taneytown.  And with that distinctive Maryland accent, it's pronounciation by people who have lived there all their lives is even different from those of us who have learned it's not pronounced with a long 'a'.  If you're not from there, they know it as soon as you say the name of the town, even if you try hard to get it right.

As far as streets are concerned, they can be named anything, for any reason.  In Washington, DC, they're named after states, letters, and numbers.  In Detroit, some of them are named after how many miles they are from some point.  In my time in Hickory, NC, I never could learn my way around town using street names.  I had to use landmarks because there seems to be no rational or logical explanation for why streets are named as they are.  None that modern humans can understand anyway.   

Here's an example: I am on Google Earth looking down from on high at the 4-way intersection of 16th St NE, 8th St Dr NE, and 21st Ave NE in Hickory, NC.  If you're on 16th St NE and want to stay on that street, you have to turn right at the intersection (or left if you're coming the other way).  Just off 16th St NE there is 20th Ave Ct NE, and just off 8th St Dr NE, there is 20th Ave LN NE.   So where is 20th Ave NE?  Well, as far as I can figure, it's a little road that ends at 13th St NE, just a block over from 8th Str Dr NE, and goes down to somewhere else.  I don't want to think about it.

Anyway, to the point of this post. (Finally). I've lived in so many different places that I'm completely open to (wich isn't to say I don't have an opinion about) the local names assigned to towns, streets, and areas.  

So, when I read the following headline in the online version of the Modesto Bee, "3rd Road Dog Man Charged With Theft", it didn't phase me.   I thought "3rd Road" was a very functional & minimalist name to give to a street, very California, and I was very interested to find out what a "Dog Man" was and what it was that he stole.  What would a Dog Man covet?  Dog Man really caught my attention.  

I know nothing about Modesto.  I've never been there.  I looked on Google Earth to see eactly where it is - looks like you go to San Francisco and head east.   Anyway, I had not been following any of their local news or stories.  Things that are important in Modesto don't seem to gain much hearing in Valdese.  

I had to read the article before I realized that 3rd Road wasn't a name of a street, and there is no such thing as a Dog Man, which is too bad.  Apparently "Road Dog" is the name of a bike shop (I assume motorcycles), and a couple of employees had been arrested for a crime, and then they arrested a 3rd one.  Simple explanation.    There's no "3rd Road", there's no "Dog Man".

Sometimes I wished I didn't read any further than the headlines.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Three Things

First thing.  I'm thinking about shutting down the Valdese Dog blog, and just putting my stuff about Pickles the dog in this blog.  Haven't decided yet. 

Second thing.   We do eBay stuff, mostly postcards, antique photos and stuff like that.  Since the beginning of this blog I've had a link out in the sidebar to the eBay store.  It said "Our eBay Store". That was it, very muted, just there.   I didn't want this blog to be about eBay or anything of that nature (tho I'm apparently not adverse to writing several long articles in a row about it, if the mood strikes me).  But I suppose there's nothing wrong with a little advertising, so for what it's worth it's there.  If you click on the picture you will go to our store.  It really seems to work, so be warned. 

I'll change the picture every so often, probably once a week or so, 'cause I get bored. 

Third thing.  I have way too many labels.  I have to do something about that.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Well, Eugene.

Eugene the dog went back to his previous owners.  Sigh.  That was always part of the deal, if we didnt feel it was working out, we could return him.
Well the pore ol' feller was terrified most of the time he was here.    He was afraid Pickles was going to eat him, I guess, and I can understand.  Eugene weighed 2 1/2 lbs, literally.  Pickles weighs 50-60 lbs,  and when she'd bound in Eugene's direction, it would terrify him.
But Pickles is generally a submissive dog, and little Eugene found that out very quickly.  Eugene managed to create his own defense perimeter, and it was impressive to watch.  He became like teeth with legs, and he backed Pickles off.  I was very impressed, and have a new respect for Chihuahuas.   I didn't realize something that looked so delicate could be so ferocious.
However, Eugene wasn't eating much at all, and scarier, wasn't drinking.   He'd had a very serious episode several months ago, when he became too dehydrated - the little guy almost died. So we were worried.
Eugene would do better in a house without other pets, and probably without small children too. This is a dog who would be happy to sleep in your lap for hours.  In fact that's what he did as I did my eBay stuff in the mornings - he'd lay in my lap and sleep while I worked on the computer, ever now and then waking up and looking around or changing positions.   I liked Eugene a lot.
Maybe we didn't give it enough time, but it didn't seem that things were going to get better.   And the dog seemed to be scared most of the time.
I like the little dog an awful lot, and I feel bad about it, like a failure of sorts.   He may end up staying with his owners, or they may find another home for him, I'm not sure.   He's a good little huge eared dog.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Beware of a BBQ!!

When you go over to a friends house for a BBQ, you'll never know what you'll come home with. We came home with a Chihuahua.  Yep, Eugene the Dog is now being not so seamlessly integrated with the likes of Pickles the Dog and Snowchief the Cat.  Not to mention Mr. & Mrs. Valdese Blogger.

It was not planned.  The offer was made & we accepted - we've known Eugene since shortly after he was born.  He's just over a year old now.

So it was after dark when we got home.   Pickles & Eugene were introduced on the front porch. It was a very loud introduction - and set dogs off for blocks, at least.   Old Black, a neighbor's dog, just added to the confusion by waddling over from his house to see what was going on, barking his 2 cents worth.

Eugene spent the night in his little crate up in our bed room, Pickles spent the night in her usual location.   Snowchief the cat, who usually insists on his 1/3rd of the bed, did not come up stairs last night.    It was a confusing and unsettling time for all the animals and humans in the house.

Eugene is T-I-N-Y!!!!!  With a capital "T".  He's even small for a Chihuahua.  Pickles weighs in the neighborhood of 60 lbs.  

So, they've spent a lot of time standing not too far from each other and barking.  I finally began remembering some of my dog whisperer shows I watched, and began letting both of them know that neither of them were in charge of this "pack".  Eugene responds very well to a little hiss and a tap on the shoulder.   Pickles sits and lays down on command, and that really helps. 

The problem is Pickles wants to check Eugene out.   Eugene, tho very small, is surprisingly "persuasive" - he's backed Pickles up more than once.  Pickles is rough and tumble, wants to play, and this scares Eugene.   Eugene finds a good place to defend, like a chair, and defends it quite convincingly.  And he's such a little guy.  Pickles, part hound that she is, howls.  It gets very loud.

As the day has gone on there has been some improvement, hopefully over time they will sort things out and things will settle down.  If anyone has any suggestions on how to speed this along, I'd welcome it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Beautiful Mind: The Movie, The Book

I saw the movie several years ago.  I walked into it not knowing anything about it - I didn't even know who John Nash was.  I just finished reading the book by Sylvia Nasar a few days ago.

The movie (directed by Ron Howard) was entertaining, about a mathmatical genius from West Virginia who ends up in Princeton, and does great work, but becomes physcotic.  Movies are visual by nature, so it concentrated on the illness & the visual hallucinations, as opposed to other sensory halluncinations.  That's only natural.   Eventually he began to recover, and the hallucinations never quite went away, but he ignored them.  He won a Nobel prize in economics for some work he did before he became ill.

It was a lot harder to read the book than it was to sit through the movie, which I suppose, is the way it should be.   I have only very basic math training, and I found it difficult to follow some of the concepts discussed.  The book, quite rightly, spent a lot of time discussing Nash's accomplishments before he became ill, and these accomplishment were quite profound.  Who knows what would have happened if he'd had those 25 years of illness back.  The movie seem to spend more time on the illness - at least what I remember of it.

Some part of the book was spent on the nature of schizophrenia, and if Nash's case was typical or not.  Short answer - nobody's sure.  He was 30, when the symptoms exploded, which is late for the disease.  And he was eventually able to come out of it and control it (mostly by recognizing & ignoring the symptoms), and no one is quite sure if that is something people do or not either.  

The book is much more detailed than the movie, both about the math and the illness.   It would have been impossible for the movie to have that level of detail and still tell an interesting story.

So, the movie is intertaining.  The book I found interesting & very good, but not easy to read.   Lot of larger than average pages, each containing a lot of words, and a lot of math. 

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Valdese Blogger's Favorite Recipe For Soup in 10 Easy Steps

1. Go to the grocery store.

2. Purchase a some soup in a microwavable container.  I'm partial to tomato, but any kind is ok.

3. When you get home, place the container on the counter.  While holding the container with one hand, firmly pull the plastic top off with the other.  Set it aside.

4.  Carefully pull the metal lid off with the flip top ring & discard.  You will most likely splatter some soup on the counter & your fingers.  Don't worry about it.  As long as you didn't cut yourself, it doesn't matter.

5.  Place the plastic top back on the container of soup. Make sure it's snug.

6.  Place the container in the microwave.

7.  Heat on high for 90 - 120 seconds.  Experience will let you know which is best.

8.  When it's done remove from microwave.  

9.  Take the whole thing to the couch, and turn on the television.  You can add crackers to taste.  

10.  Enjoy.

And now you know where I'm coming from.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A little reverse engineering, Scarecrow?

Certain words and phrases irritate me.  I'm not sure why that is and I guess I may have to pay for some therapy if I really wanted to find out, so chances are I'll just have to live without knowing.   But I digress.

I started hearing the term "Reverse Engineering", roughly about 12 years after I began my second career as a programmer analyst/systems engineer/information analyst (and roughly 3 years before I ended said career).   I had never really heard the term before, at least not used in everyday language.  But then suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, I began to hear it all the time, from my co-workers who (like me) spent way too much time in cubes all day long, fighting with programs and systems.

During this period I transfered across the country (with the same company), and when I got to my new location over 1,000 miles a way and a world apart local culture wise, I still heard it.  As in, "if you can't figure it out just reverse engineer it".   That helped a lot, by the way.   A piece of advice on my very first day in a project I didn't really have a clue about.   I suspect the person who gave me that advice didn't know anything about it either.

People all over the country were using the term like they knew what it meant.

And I was wondering what book or TV show or memo I missed that suddenly required everyone to use this term in any situation.

To me, in my life as a PA/SE/IA, I assumed what people meant was they had some result (usually not good), and didn't know how they got it, so they were going to see if they could figure it out. In other words, de-bugging.  That was my assumption anyway, me of the missed "reverse engineering in everyday speech" memo.  No one corrected me, but then why would they?  They didn't know what it was either.

So anyway, I don't hear that term very much anymore, it's not current amongst the Valdese citizenry.  That could be because there just arent any good IT jobs in Valdese.

I think the next time I go downtown, I'll see if I can work it into a conversation.  

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Until today

The last few days, until today, we've had what passes for cool weather in North Carolina in the summer time.   I think it stayed in the 80's, and there seemed to be a breeze blowing.  This gave the illusion of lower than normal humidity, especially if you're sitting in the shade.  If you were to grab a person from out west and plunk them on our front porch in Valdese, they would beg to differ about the humidity situation.  But it's all relative.  All in what you're used to. 

Anyway, we (and I include Pickles the goofy dog) manage to engage in our favorite past time of sitting on the porch and watching the birds every afternoon.

Here are some birds we know of that we've seen on our property:  doves, blue birds, cardinals, crows, purple martins, brown thrasher (we think), robins, hawks (one caught some little mouse like animal almost right in front of us the other day), finches, mocking birds, at least 3 kinds of woodpeckers, a heron (believe it or not), blue jay, barn swallows, flocks of black birds that arent crows but we dont know what they are, we heard an owl once after dark (didn't see it).  There are probably others, neither of us are bird experts by any stretch.   For the most part these are just your normal every day blue collar working birds.

They make a ton of noise during the day.  It's nice to have them around.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


It's been a long time since I wrote a story.  A very long time.  I'm trying to remember the plots of some of the stories I wrote.  Please excuse the spelling.  I'm using this stupid browser that'll tell me I've mispelled a word, but won't give me the correct spelling of it.  I can't find the dictionary, so I give up.

Anyway, I wrote a story in which the central character was a woman, with 2 children an a small dog, who's husband was on a business trip.  She gets up, has to get ready for work and get the kids fed and off to school, but the dog starts going crazy.  She opens the door to to see what's going on, and finds a big ol' snake right at her front door.  How she deals with it is the story.  

I wrote another story about a make up artist who worked in theater in DC, getting the actors ready, make up wise.  He concocted this elaborate and really strange plan to rob a Denny's in Eldersburg, Maryland.   The planning was extremely detailed, from the disguise he was going to have, to the time and sequence of the stop light at the intersection outside the restaurant, to perfered and alternate routes, both coming and going, and everything timed to the second.  He sits in the lot, watches the light turn red, gets out of the car and begins the robbery.   Everything goes like clockwork, until he approaches a table and notices a co-worker sitting at it, quite scared.  It was his boss, as a matter of fact, and she happened to be there having dinner with her sister.  Just one of those random things you can't plan for.   What happens next is a large part of the story.  I didn't really like this one, I thought it could have been better.  As elaborate as I tried to make it, I'd still read it and didn't quite believe it.

I wrote another one about a lady who had a nervous breakdown at an airport.  It's told in the first person from 4 different point of views - hers, her husband's (who had just been promoted and transferred), a supervisor behind the ticket counter, and a baggage handler, who had to load & retrieve the couple's checked baggage.  I think this one was the longest story I ever wrote.  It had chapters.

My favorite story was one about a struggling writer and his muse.  The writer's muse happened to be an old woman who lived on the top of a hill in West Virginia, and communicated with him telepathicaly.  She was a professional muse, not only to this writer, but to others as well, and she also acted in the capacity of a personal 'inner critic' to some other writers.  But she was never both the the same person, and to this writer, she was just a muse.  Well, her musin' was getting erratic and the writer was having problems.  He's try to get some specific info, for example, and all he'd get back would be an image of old woman in glowing robes standing in the corner of a yard pointing up toward the sky.  He was having trouble dealing with that, so he decided to pay her a visit.   He didn't know exactly where to go, but he got pretty close before the road ran out and he had to walk.  She lived way back in the hills.  Anyway, she makes him shuck some corn & string some green beans while they sit on the front porch and talk.  Then they have supper, she sits down, and suddenly dies.   He contacts the proper authorities & leaves, but very shortly he begins to hear voices.   Voices begging for ideas and inspirations.  To his horror, he realizes he's become the muse, her powers have been transferred to him, and it is something he's completely unprepared for.

I once wrote another story that was based on a punchline of a joke I heard.

I created two characters, Thad and Deanna, and put them in all kinds of situations.  Sometimes they were old,  sometimes young, sometimes they didn't know each other etc etc etc.  I have no idea where I came up with those names.

I once made up a poem and created my very own pun,  about a laundromat in hell, which was not responsible for "lost, damaged, or stolen souls".  

It actually takes a lot of work and time to write a story.  No matter how quickly an idea comes, fleshing it out takes energy.   It's hard to create believable characters and situations.  It takes a lot of time and effort.

These days, I mostly do eBay stuff, sit on the porch and listen to birds, and read.   More about that later.