Sunday, February 27, 2011

Homo evolutis

Carolyn replaced our flannel winter sheets with summer percales after hanging them in the sun all day yesterday; only one thing smells better in bed than sun kisses sheets.
"We have already started to evolve from Homo sapiens (a conscious hominid) into Homo evolutis: Homo evolutis is a hominid that directly and deliberately controls the evolution of its own and other species."
I was browsing the Amazon Kindle book store when I ran across this little gem titled Homo Evolutis*. It's available only in Kindle format, 58 pages long, and is a precursor to the full edition which has yet to be published. The e-book gives us a preview of our own evolutionary next step, from Homo sapiens into Homo evoloutis and tells it in layman terms and with lucid insights and humor. When talking about how microbes will play a huge role in our next evolutionary step, the authors—Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans—say:
"Some societies, and certainly some mothers, are more obsessed by cleanliness than others.
Too much cleanliness can be harmful.
Which may be one reason why, because of the original diversity exposure of gut colonization, some developed world tourists are far more prone to serious bouts of Montezma's Revenge, Delhi Belly, Turkey Trots, Cairo Cramps, Dakar Dash, Rangoon Run, Trotsky's ..."

If you have a Kindle or Kindle reader software on your PC or other device, at $2.99 it is a worthwhile read.
I just finished my second reading of The Mill on the River Utrata from the book Jola sent me. It is one of the better and subtle comparison and contrast stories I've read in a long time. The author, Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, handles this polarized story very well. I will read it once more and ad sticky notes.
Yesterday I spotted a couple of possible photo ops in downtown JC, but today it rains and I will have to delay my effort.
Have a good week ... don't read or watch any news reports.
*©2010 by the authors

Friday, February 25, 2011

Name That Rat!

Mark wants to know what he should name his squirrel neighbor at his new house. Squirrel naming is such a personal thing; one must establish a rapport with the wild child; observe his habits and tendencies and then with his input, decide on a suitable moniker. My first one was Fuzzy Britches. I've had a pair of siblings called Jake and Elwood although Jake turned out to be a girl. Jake lost part of her tail in a run-in with a cat; I wrote a comment to Tammy about her. I had a runt named Shorty and a male with some red squirrel in him called Chester the Molester; he would screw anything and was named after a perverted Hustler comic character. Another was named Squirrel S Buck, after author Pearl S Buck. Another was Fatty Squirrelbuckle named after a famous silent movie comedian. Another was Momma; she seemed to be perpetually pregnant, and one of her kids was Little Bit; he would sit beside my chair and take peanuts from my fingers. Shorty II was a normal sized squirrel who had lost half its tail. Then there was Fatty, the boss-hoss of the squirrel neighborhood. She and Little Bit would come inside the house to eat but never at the same time. They always made a peanut mess on the floor and even peed on the carpet a time or two, but it was no big deal; Carolyn cleaned up after them.

A few months back I wrote about buying a new coffee maker. Carolyn decided she wanted a percolator so I ordered one from; It was the type that could be used with or without paper filters. She decided to use filters and we kept noticing the coffee was weak; at least I noticed it. We bought all kinds of different coffees and even upped the number of scoops from the recommended eight on up to eleven, but the joe was still watery. Yesterday, she finally decided on a new tactic; do away with the filters and go from a fine grind to a medium grind. Man, that was the strongest fresh coffee I ever drank; I could feel the hair growing on my chest. Today, she did the same thing with no filter and cut back on the scoops of beans to nine; it was perfect. Now I have my Colombian and a whole new outlook on life; I am an addict. I suppose I should grow a mullet.
Have a good weekend, dear ones.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday's child

I am slowly easing back to normal; the shingles bout almost whipped me as I was recovering from prostatitis. I am yet to completely get over the malady; sill some pain in my neck and a lot of irritation and itching. In the midst of all that, three people I have known for many years--two I've known all my life--either died or are dieing. My cousin is in hospice with cancer; she was never a great friend of mine but she and my mother were close because they were first cousins and lived in the same community most of their lives. Actually a lot of things had me very distracted and deep in an emotional whirlpool. But, here I am!
I finally got access to some of my old photos from scanned negatives and a lot of other files I had on an external harddrive. The electronics that operated the unit went bad, but I was able to remove the HD and put it in a another external mount. Windows refuses to recognize the disc partitions because it was on a network drive. As I write this, I am on my Ubuntu Linux machine which recognizes about anything you an throw at it and I am backing the files to another disk.
Like an old man with prostate problems, the sky is steadily drizzling. It is the first rain we've had in several weeks; this area is still under drought conditions and forest fire warnings have been in place for at least two weeks. If the warm weather keeps coming, the grass will be quickly greening and winter bellies will be pushing lawnmowers over neighboring yards.
When it rains, it pours! Carolyn just phoned to let me know she was looking to lose another job at the end of March; the financial institution is planning to close a branch she has been cleaning for 12 years.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rampant Republicanism and Dismemberment of the American Constitution

Following is an excerpt from the blog of Robert Reich; dated 02/17/11:

The Distortion of the Constitution

The third part of the Republican strategy is being played out in the Supreme Court. It has politicized the Court more than at any time in recent memory.

Last year a majority of the justices determined that corporations have a right under the First Amendment to provide unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission is among the most patently political and legally grotesque decisions of our highest court – ranking right up there with Bush vs. Gore and Dred Scott.

Among those who voted in the affirmative were Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Both have become active strategists in the Republican party.

A month ago, for example, Antonin Scalia met in a closed-door session with Michele Bachman’s Tea Party caucus – something no justice concerned about maintaining the appearance of impartiality would ever have done.

Both Thomas and Scalia have participated in political retreats organized and hosted by multi-billionaire financier Charles Koch, a major contributor to the Tea Party and other conservative organizations, and a crusader for ending all limits on money in politics. (Not incidentally, Thomas’s wife is the founder of Liberty Central, a Tea Party organization that has been receiving unlimited corporate contributions due to the Citizens United decision. On his obligatory financial disclosure filings, Thomas has repeatedly failed to list her sources of income over the last twenty years, nor even to include his own four-day retreats courtesy of Charles Koch.)

Some time this year or next, the Supreme Court will be asked to consider whether the nation’s new healthcare law is constitutional. Watch your wallets.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Night train outta this town ...

I will now take a sabbatical; I am emotionally and physically drained and I need to catch up on my politickin' and preachin'. Happy trails to you until we meet again ...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Peppers and presidents

Carolyn is threatening to make potato salad; she wants to garnish it with slices from a green pepper pod, but one pod is $1.44 at Wal-Mart therefore the salad will be a bit plain and pepperless if and when she makes it. She hasn't felt like cooking a meal since she found out she was losing the big job at the end of this month; some depression is expected in her situation.
I had intended today to go out on my first photo shoot of the year but Ashley called and asked Carolyn to take her to a maternity clothing store, so here I sit at home alone trying to think of something to blog about. Have finger; must type!
It is a near-perfect day for shooting; the temps are mild, the sky is high-overcast and very good for catching colors at best natural saturation. I intended to go into Jonesborough just after churches dismissed at noon and then back to what remains of downtown JC.
I still haven't heard a robin sing this year, but they are beginning to fight over territory so the songs will soon be sung.
Tomorrow is a holiday in the U.S. of A.; Presidents Day. It was originally set to honor President Washington and then they added Lincoln, but is now proclaimed to honor all U.S. presidents, even Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. It makes me sick that those two are remembered for anything except for dismembering our sacred Constitution. I can give Reagan a bit of credit for his Star Wars bluff that that helped bring an end to the Soviet empire, but Bush has no redeeming values.
I downloaded the Barnes & Noble nook reader for both the Droid and PC; it is not quite as polished as the Kindle reader but works well enough. I can open most e-reader files (Kindle excluded), Adobe .pdf, and normal text files with the nook software. I even put all my own stories and memoirs on the Droid, just in case I need to do some high-quality reading. I also downloaded The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest for the Nook. It is the final of the Stieg Larsson trilogy crime novels about the trials and tribulations of Lisbeth Salander. I like the lending feature of the Nook; I can lend my books to friends who have Nook readers and they have two weeks to read them.
I am about done with Shelfari; they have tied themselves to and it is causing me quite a problem. I have no qualms about the marriage of the two, but the fact I have an ongoing account with Shelfari plus a closed account with them has created a headache. Shelfari wants all their members to use an Amazon login which automatically ties the Shelfari and Amazon accounts together. The problem is that Amazon keeps linking to my closed Shelfari account instead of the one I now use. I can find no way to delete the closed account; it is merely "Deactivated". I use my main Gmail account for Amazon and my Yahoo account for Shelfari and any changes I try to make just re-activates my closed account, leaving me stuck in the twilight zone. I am now looking for a new online book club.
The photo is an oldie, but then, so am I.
Have a fun week, my friends.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I never felt-more like singin the blues ..."

I wasn’t surprised to run across yesterday’s Polish blues video; last year I found an impromptu Hungarian band playing Dixieland. I am not a student of music, much of it I can no longer hear anyway and I definitely ain’t no Mozart. However, I have done a bit of reading on American music and its roots and have come to the conclusion there is only one true genre of music solely belonging to America and that is Dixieland. It is a mixture of African, European, Creole, Cajun, blues, country, hillbilly, jazz, classical, and about everything else one can think of. A few experts say blues is totally an American slave phenomena,, born in the cotton fields of the old south, but it has been traced back to African native peoples. Some folks think bluegrass is an American invention dreamed up by Bill Monroe but it is in reality old-time hilbilly music that has been taught to wear a nice suit of clothes. Even my hillbilly music was brought here from the hills of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales and later tempered with German and other European influences.
Today, I am playing geeky-nerdy; updating my Linux Ubuntu systems to the latest release. A major release will be coming in April, and everything has to be up-to-date before I can install it. I am writing this on Ubuntu as the updates are downloading. If there is a hippie operating system in the world of computers, it is Linux; Mac is for Apple junkies and elitists, Microsoft Windows is for everyday computing, and Linux is for those among us who want to or need to be different. Mac and Windows are expensive to buy and properly maintain, whereas Linux is free, secure, and pretty well carefree. Windows and Mac demand huge resources of memory and hard-drive space and only the latest hardware will operate well or at all with them; Linux can be run from a low-capacity thumbdrive on just about any Intel or AMD type computer, which these days, is nearly all of them. My Droid “smartphone” uses Google’s version of Linux OS.
I am reading the The Mill
on the River Utrata
, the final of four stories in the book Jola sent me; it seems it will be as good as the rest of them. I will report on it as soon as I have absorbed it. I also downloaded the Kindle edition of Enslaved By Ducks which Tammy recommended, and I bought the second of Stieg Larsson’s novels about the doings of his young female hero, Salander, titled The Girl Who Played With Fire.
Have a stupendous weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I managed to get a few minutes of porch sitting in yesterday; temps were mild and the sun was warm but a westerly breeze made extended enjoyment impossible. The photo scene is one reason I no longer mind moving from this location; five years ago this easterly view was all pasture for cows and horses, groundhogs and rabbits. The field and clump of trees directly behind our house will probably be next to succumb to the developer's mechanical destroyers. The island of trees shelters an old shed beneath which the groundhog has a home. The tiny tangle of trees and vines is also a daytime bedding spot for deer and we have seen many rabbit families come and go over the years. It was once our paradise. I have allowed the possum grape vines to do their thing and fill the trees with their sheltering tangles. The fence row along our back yard has also become a part of nature, offering quick and plentiful shelter to the small birds and critters that use the feeders and bird baths. When spring leaves begin to appear, the view of the field gradually becomes cloaked to our view from the porch, as does much of the southerly mountain tops. Thankfully, it also blinds us to the new condos, some of which are still under construction.
Have a Thursday, my friends.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Spring 2007
The photo was made on May 7. 2007. The ruddy leaves on the trees are not new spring growth, but are the results of a heavy freeze. March of that year was much warmer than usual, and by month’s end we had several days in the 80° range (27°C). Maple and other trees bloomed and began making leaves, as did apple trees and everything was looking good for a beautiful spring. Unwise people already had vegetable gardens in the ground and the area was rife with early spring flowers. In mid-March, the Siberian Express paid a final visit with the coldest temps of the entire winter, at nighttime falling to -0° (-18C) and daytime highs ranged from the low teens to mid-twenties for several days. We are having a bit of the same early spring-like weather again this year and many plants that did not die out in 2007 have yet to fully recover. The only advice I have is don’t plant your taters until the last new moon of March and even that is no guarantee of success in our changing climate.
It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain----
Have a great Wednesday, y'all!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bits & pieces

More robins in the area surrounding our house this morning; an automatic high for me. Shouldn’t be too long until the gold finches return and begin their spring color change. I love finches and siskins; they are so sociable. Small flocks of them perch in trees around the yard and twitter gossip amongst themselves; when I’m in the yard, I always have a feeling they are talking about me. Blue jays also talk with each other, and a time or two I have been the victim of their derisive catcalls.
My first high school principal has died; Hoyle Bingham, age 84, of Johnson City passed away Sunday. He was a good man with piercing eyes, straight, black hair, and much common sense. For the years he was in charge of Jonesboro High School, I managed to stay under his radar and away from his punishment. I have fond memories of him although I detested my boring High School years. He was also voluntarily in charge of maintenance on a seven mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail and founder of the Mid Appalachian Hiking Club.
If you watch and listen to the above video, you will know more about me than I will ever express with my own words. My everyday speech is very similar in all ways to that of the gentleman whom opens this video.
Have a twitterful Tuesday, my dear ones.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Seeing robins in our and neighborhood yards everyday. Temps this week supposed to go into 60s (+15.5c). I now feel well enough for Carolyn and I to drive around a bit and look at some house rental possibilities.

We looked at a few places to rent but nothing exciting; we may have to go the apartment route. The only thing about apartments is most these days are on two levels and that means many steps and I don’t know how much more knee-wear I can stand. I am not in a hurry to move, but Carolyn wants to get it over with. I would rather look around for something that comes closest to satisfying our needs.

Man, it is pleasant shirt-sleeve weather outdoors; nearly 60°. The tit in the pic was peter-peter-petering as I got out of the car back at home. Between calling for a mate and eating my sunflower seeds, his day seemed complete. There were females around but were paying him no attention. There was a buck and two does in the field behind the house, and the groundhog is still with us. He or she is still using the same den from when we moved here 16 years ago except one year she had to move out while a fox and her kits temporarily took up squatter’s rights in the shed over her head.

Have a good worsh day, my friends!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I am once more out of bed …  for a few minutes at least. The prescribed drug and calamine lotion seem to be helping. Most of the lesions are beginning to crust over and no new ones have appeared since yesterday.
Once more and with all my heart, I appreciate and dote (new English word for Jola) upon each of your well-wishes, good vibes, and comments. I hope I am a mirror who reflects your light.
Getting a bit tired now; will be back later if possible; I hate riding the bed all the time.
May the song of the morning robin thrill your heart each day.


Looks like a long, slow recovery. I am still getting new blisters and all the old ones have now formed into one massive sore extending from the nape of my neck, across the shoulder, down and into the arm pit and half-way across my chest, all on the left side. Medicine: Famciclovir. Of course, my insurance did not cover it. Thanks, my friends for you comments and caring; I will answer them when I feel better.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Little things in a big world

Not a heck of a lot going on today. I finished reading the story The Birch Grove and it has turned out to be one of the better short stories I've read. The story is about estranged brothers, Stanislaw (Stas) and Boleslaw and takes place in the forests of Poland between the World Wars. Stas could be described as a gad-about, a jet-setter of his era. Much traveled over Europe, he is well educated and used to a good life totally different from his brother's, who is a woodsman and a forestry supervisor. Stanislaw is just out of a sanatorium, and is suffering from a terminal disease, most likely cancer; he is still healthy enough to live more or less normally. He has come home to be near family when his time comes. But wait! Soon there is a woman involved! You will have to read the story to find out more; it is well worth it. Thanks, Jola.
Another huge piece of life's puzzle fell into place last night. Carolyn phoned from work and told me the church she has been cleaning for five years didn't want her back; it was her most profitable job. Seems like they lost a lot of membership and had to find someone who would do the job much cheaper than Carolyn. For some months we have been planning on leaving our house of 16 years and finding something to rent which is a lot easier on our budget. This has put us on the fast track and we now need to be out of here as soon as warm weather comes instead of September as has been planned; I did want to have one more season of porch sitting but as of now it seems impossible. I hope whomever ends up with the house loves critters; I will leave a bird feeder hanging to give them a hint.
Wednesday already?! Have a good one!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Light-up the cigars!

Its gonna be a boy!

Monday, February 07, 2011

“Play it once, Sam. For old times’ sake.”

A foggy evening around smoke-filled night club on a back street of no particular town somewhere in the world. Anywhere; it makes no difference. Hollywood actors and actresses, some old and long gone to their graves and some not so old and very alive mingle here. In a corner, a small orchestra dressed in all white suits is getting down on hot jazz and swing. A few patrons make a halfhearted effort to dance in the small open space between the band and the bar. Two and four-chaired tables closely surround the dancers as if awaiting their turn to spin around the floor. Similar tables fade into the gloom toward the back of the high-ceiling room, each lighted with a candle in a clear glass. The huge candelabra is lighted only by the flickering glow from below. It is a time of reunion as stars of the present day are somewhat cowed by the mere presence and high stature of those who preceded them. For the most part, the veterans from the past ignore the new faces of big screen glamour. Many of the quiet partiers sit at the long, leather and brass accented mahogany bar; ripples of blue cigar smoke and clouds of gray tobacco smoke mingle and curl about their heads. Scotch and soda seem to be the popular drink; only Arnold was drinking beer. Some of the old-timers, both women and men, wear hats and clothing from the periods of of their fame. Let’s look in and listen to the various snippets of conversation surging and waning up and down the bar …

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
“There’s no place like home.”
“What a dump.”
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
“That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.”
“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”
“If you build it, he will come.”
“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

“I’ll be back.”
“You talkin’ to me?”
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“It’s okay, I wouldn’t remember me either.”

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
“Say ‘hello’ to my little friend!”
“Either he’s dead, or my watch has stopped.”
“The son of a bitch stole my watch!”

“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
“As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
“I’ll have what she’s having.”
“I have nipples, Greg, would you milk me?”
“You can’t handle the truth!”

“I’ll be back!”
“Heaven can wait.”

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
“Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t you forget it. You’re going to get back on that horse, and I’m going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we’re gonna go, go, go!”
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“I wish I were a woman of 36, dressed in black satin with a string of pearls!”
“Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

“You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
“I want to be alone.”
“I’m king of the world!”

“Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.”
“Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”
“Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?”
“Tell me, I would like to know – what did my blood taste like?”

“Go ahead, make my day”
“Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.”
“A toast, Jedediah: to Love on my own terms.”

“I’ll be back.”
“May the Force be with you.”

“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”
“I may go back to hating you. It was more fun.”

“Hello, boys, I’m Baaaack!”
“Here’s Johnny!”
“Wait till they get a load of me!”

And so on into the morning hours … the voices gently quieten as today’s stars gather up their egos and  leave, promising to “do this again sometime”. The old heroes, heroines, and villains linger on as does a piano player from the departed orchestra. Eventually, the room empties as the ghosts from the past again fade into Nirvana leaving only soft echos of themselves to warm the bar stools until daybreak when they too unhurriedly slip away. One lone figure remains seated at the end of the bar,  smoke curling from a forgotten cigarette loosely held between manicured fingers. A faraway look haunts his eyes; what is he seeing; what are his memories? Soon, bright sunlight spears through cracks in the boarded windows and the bygone actor’s lips curl into a sad smile as he tranquilly fades into his memories, leaving only wisps of smoke from the dieing ember of his cigarette. One final echo accompanies his departure …
"Here's looking at you, kid."

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Robins, netbooks, and brats


I haven't seen any more robins since January 31, but Carolyn and Vicki  have each seen a few more. Patience Ken, patience.
The weather is mild but is due to bring on some more winter later on in the week. We are gaining nearly two minutes of daylight each day. Daylight Savings Time in Canada and USA will begin March 13 and I would be happy if it started today.
My cousin brought over a couple of non-functioning computers for me to see if I could get them going. The big laptop is beyond anything I want to tackle; I feel it is completely burned out. The little netbook was savable; it had a bunch Russian rootkit viruses. JJ and I were able to reinstall the Windows OS and it is now fine except all saved data was lost. The machine did not have usable virus protection and the firewall was turned off all because the malicious programs took complete control of the PC. For $80, the company that made the mess offered to send a key number to turn off their malware.
The pic is of my granddaughter made nearly three weeks ago; she says the soon to be spoiled brat is beginning to move around.
Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Another winter Saturday

Internet Explorer 9 will soon be released to public in final format; Google just came out with v. 9 of their Chrome browser which is based on their Chromium browser for Linux. FireFox 4 is still in Beta and is still not as fast as IE9 or Chrome 9 which are the fastest browsers I've ever used; I am writing this blog on the latest Firefox Beta. It seems stable so far, but I haven't tried it on any really "secure" sites like banks, etc. Some of my plugins do not work with the new FireFox, one being my Google Translator.
Hope you enjoy the new Megashot videos; Maggie has a couple of photos included and I have one. Results videos for contest levels one and two will be out soon.
Today began with partly sunny skies and I had hopes of getting out for some shooting, but now the light is foundering under a ceiling of heavy grayness.
For $5 I purchased the Kindle version of Stieg Larssons first sequel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; its title is The Girl Who Played With Fire. Reviews have it as being better than the first book. I will begin reading it sometime after I read and absorb Jola's superb The Birch Grove story. The author, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, is definitely not predictable in his writing.
I did Chris's taxes last evening and have another person's to do today. Fortunately they are simple EZ forms ... if anything to do with the U.S. tax code can be considered simple.

Megashot January 2011, Yellows & Greens Category Winners Level 3

Internet Explorer 9 will soon be released to public in final format; Google just came out with v. 9 of their Chrome browser which is based on their Chromium browser for Linux. FireFox 4 is still in Beta and is still not as fast as IE9 or Chrome 9 which are the fastest browsers I’ve ever used; I am writing this blog on the latest Firefox Beta. It seems stable so far, but I haven’t tried it on any really “secure” sites like banks, etc. Some of my plugins do not work with the new FireFox, one being my Google Translator.
Hope you enjoy the new Megashot videos; Maggie has a couple of photos included and I have one. Results videos for contest levels one and two will be out soon.
Today began with partly sunny skies and I had hopes of getting out for some shooting, but now the light is floundering under a ceiling of heavy grayness.
For $5 I purchased the Kindle version of Stieg Larssons first sequel to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; its title is The Girl Who Played With Fire. Reviews have it as being better than the first book. I will begin reading it sometime after I read and absorb Jola’s superb The Birch Grove story. The author, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, is definitely not predictable in his writing.
I did Chris’s taxes last evening and have another person’s to do today. Fortunately they are simple EZ forms … if anything to do with the U.S. tax code can be considered simple.
Thanks to Kevin for the music via Twitter.

Lesson in the Burley barn

Do you remember the turning points in your life; certain things or people which caused you to rethink and redirect your future self? Maybe it was a historical event like the assassination of President Kennedy or possibly more personal such as when you found out that yes, you can become old and infirm. I have one from my mid-teens that I shall always remember as influencing the course of my life. It all came about on a cool Saturday morning when I was hired by a local farmer to help “pull” tobacco. Pulling tobacco means that people would pull the cured leaves off the stalks and sort them by color or location on the stalk. In East Tennessee, growers cultivated a type of tobacco known as Kentucky Burley which is a favorite of cigarette manufacturers. Burley is planted in late springtime and harvested in late summer or early autumn. Field hands work in pairs with one person cutting the stalks just above the ground and the other person “spearing” each stalk onto a metal-tipped tobacco stick which holds from four to six stalks. When the first stick is full, the worker removes the spear tip, leans the filled stick against his hip as the cutter picks up another stick from the ground, and hands him more stalks to fill it. When he has two full sticks, he props them against each other and they remain standing until a truck or farm tractor and trailer comes by to pick them up. Because there was but little help to be had on the farms, most of the cutting was done of the mornings and the plants were allowed to wilt in the hot sun. If the weather was supposed to be fair the next day, most times they would cut all day or until the patch was all cut and then haul it to the barn the next day. Wilting made the plants handle with without as much chance of breaking the fragile leaves. After the tobacco air cured in a drafty barn for two-to-three months, it was usually ready for market. The last thing we had to do was the above mentioned pulling, grading, tying, and packing it onto baskets ready to haul to a warehouse. Before that could be done, the leaves must come into “case”, meaning they had to have enough moisture in them to resist crumbling when handled; they were very dry from curing and could quickly turn to powder. We worked at grading tables where someone would bring us tobacco stalks to strip and gather the tied ones we had ready. If you know what a skunk smells like, you know what greeted us when we opened the barn doors that morning. The air was heavy with cool mist and each droplet smelled as if it had absorbed the entire output of a full grown, loaded for action skunk. For some reason known only to the critter and whatever it was he was punishing, the interior of the barn was well covered with stink. We left the doors open to allow the fragrance to moderate a bit, but we had to get to work soon before the Burley went out of case when the air dried out. When we finally began our chore, the old farmhand across the table from me said something about the “polecat” smell being so strong. In my school science class, it hadn’t been long since we had talked about the difference in a skunk and a polecat; polecats live in Europe and stink, but are of no relation to the American skunk which smells even worse. I offhandedly remarked that what had actually been in the barn was a skunk and not a polecat because polecats lived across the ocean. I phrased it something like this: “They ain’t no polecats around here; we have skunks instead.” The old fellow gave me a sideways look and said, “My daddy said they are polecats and my granddaddy said they are polecats”. He then hit me with the clincher, “There are no polecats around here,” he said. I was taken aback and when I opened my mouth to ask what he meant, he spit a shot of tobacco juice against the barn planks and repeated, “There are no polecats around here; you were supposed to say ‘there are no polecats around here’”. You see boy, all the education in the world ain’t no good if it muddies the facts. The fact is, we call ‘em polecats and all the perfume in Paris ain’t going to make them smell like they are from across the seas or from next door.” In one swift blow to my ego, the man had corrected my grammar and set my head straight about how things were in the real world. I was chastised and a bit embarrassed, but the day went on without any animosity between us and my lifetime philosophy of “we are who we are” was set that day. I never correct anyone about their grammar or little else since that stinky Saturday morning. Well, maybe I do correct some people about their politics and chide them about religion, but I don’t take myself for granted when doing so. I think I will eventually expand this story to cover the entire local tobacco raising process from the time the soil is first turned in late autumn until the leaf is sold at market and the money is spent; after all, tobacco was the main cash crop for our farm families until it fell out of favor because of reduced tobacco usage by Americans.
Have a Mary Poppins weekend, my friends.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


I had a stupendous blog planned for today, but I don’t have time to finish it. I had to go to Social Security office with Carolyn, got my shot which I was late getting … again, and we have to go back out to post office and two banks. I am also cleared by S.S. to go to work for Carolyn’s company; hope I can get one of those Golden Parachute deals from her. Juggling money from one bank to the next and then back again–if any is left–should be considered an art form or maybe an Olympic sport. Carolyn’s last surviving close relative other than a couple of first cousins, is apparently dieing. Her uncle is 92 years old and has advanced Alzheimer’s.
Seems like democracy is trying to break out in the mid-east and the U.S. didn’t have to start a war for it to happen … Imagine …
Have a thoughtful Thursday, my friends.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Lend me your e-book!

Most big-city libraries are now lending e-books as are many smaller ones. All you have to do is obtain a library card, download a special program on which to read the book via your e-reader, and then go online to check the library's e-stacks for something to read. Libraries must purchase e-books just like they do hardbacks, and of course the most popular ones will be in demand for weeks or months; sometimes you must wait awhile to get the book you want. Borrow it, read it, and after two weeks it vanishes from your reader; no late fees. There is one glaring exception to all of this; the ubiquitous Amazon Kindle reader is proprietary therefore you can read only content from their site; all other popular e-book readers will display loaned library books and most other e-reader formats with the exception of Kindle's. I am awaiting my chance to get a B&N Nook reader; a Sony would also be nice and may be the best of the bunch, but like everything else from that company, it is overpriced. The Droid is fine, except it does not display full pages on the small screen; it takes thousands of screen touches to read an entire novel.
Later Dudes and Dudettes!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Boring photography post

Why is Megashot teaching Photoshop instead of photography? I am asking myself that question but you may chime in with an answer if you like. Same as on Flickr, there are many people on Megashot—some are experienced "photographers"—whom do not have a clue about making photographs. Their idea of photography is to get a shot and get it into Photoshop as quickly as possible where the "real" photography takes place. "Bull's ear, Catnip!"* It would be nice if everyone whom has aspirations of becoming a photographer knew at least the basics, like what happens inside the camera when a photo is made, and if they do not have a concept of basics, they are missing out on how to make their shots better, so much so that Photoshop will be used only for mundane tasks like cropping, sharpening, and minor color adjustments. Photos are created by varying amounts of light and when the light passes through the lens, it  goes through a hole, either one of a set size or one that is made variable by the user and the hole is called the aperture. This aperture controls how much light goes to the shutter and the shutter controls how much of that light strikes the film or sensor. As I said, the aperture is a more-or-less round hole and although it does not control the focus on the object being photographed, it does do much to control the apparent focus in front of and behind the object. The aperture causes each photo to be made up of many small circles and if you are not already confused, the small circles are called "circles of confusion". The larger the circles the more the more out of focus the object and its surroundings seem to be. Once focus on the object is established, we can modify the out of focus areas in front of and behind it to make a more pleasing photo. Sometimes we may want a completely blurred background (nowadays called a bokeh for some obscure reason) and at other times we may want certain background objects to partially or completely in focus. I keep saying background because for most purposes, we do not want blurred or out of focus objects in the foreground because they detract from the main object instead of complimenting it, although not always. A little knowledge about how to control factors like depth of field and depth of focus can make a so-so shot into a wall-hanger. It all boils down to whether a person wants to be a good photographer or a good Photoshop user. I personally prefer both with emphasis on knowing how to shoot and having a reason for shooting everything the way I want it to begin with. To answer the question of why, Photoshop takes precedence over knowing how to shoot because it can cover up many of the mistakes that are made by not knowing how a photograph is supposed to be made; ignorance is bliss to the lazy person whom considers himself a photographer. Besides, it seems everyone in this digital era needs a Wow! factor without having to work for it. If it has a mistake, make its color so bright it will blind the eye to imperfections.
Have a Tuesday, my friends; I have begun our personal taxes and am already stressed. Phooey!
*Quote by Jerry Reed and oft repeated by my missing friend, Bro Hill.


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