Those of you who have read this blog for any length of time have probably noticed a shortage of uncivil comments. That's because this blog frowns on ad hominum remarks, unless made by this blogger, of course. The main focus of this blog is on facts and on improving the quality of life.
This approach seems to be popular with most readers, but it leaves some irate commenters feeling that they have not had a chance to be heard. Well, there is a solution. There is now a place where those whose comments are not being posted here can say what is really on their minds.
The Blue Ridge Muse, owned and operated by good friend Doug Thompson has some of the most spectacular photography and provocative articles of any blog in the area.
He is also a public-spirited blogger who hosts an unmoderated comment section where conflicting views are discussed with no holds barred. So, if you ever feel that you are not getting all of the story here, visit the Blue Ridge Muse.
If you like excitement, arguments, and an insight into the hidden stories of Floyd with your morning coffee, you can get it all there, hot and steaming right out of the tap.
Genial host Doug keeps the discussion from getting out of hand, but just barely. So, if you want to kick start your day with a little excitement, visit the Blue Ridge Muse.
We looked out at this surreal scene this morning and my first thought was "That's what the inside of my head feels like!
Gretchen was not amused. After caring for me during my five days of illness, she succumbed today and is down with a fever.
We have been doing our best to stay focused these last several days, but it is really getting to be a chore.
After taking this shot, I managed to split and stack enough firewood to carry us through the next few days and then slept for a few hours until I felt ready to tackle paying bills and other chores.
By then Gretchen was rested enough to spend a few hours in a phone conference.
We spent the rest of the day alternating between sleeping and trying to keep our lives on schedule. This is hard to do because we find our thoughts wandering and we keep checking with each other to make sure that chores are really done.
"Did I take my medicine?"
"I'm not sure."
I know we are not alone in this effort to get through illness, but we are trying to
avoid contact with people until we can be sure that we will not be sharing whatever it is that we have. Our neighboring friends have offered to help us several times and we really appreciate it, but this is one of the few times I've felt it would be an unkindness to expose them to this debilitating and distracting illness.
Later in the afternoon, the rain started and has continued for about 8 hours. My hope is that all will be gone by the weekend and we can enjoy some quiet time in the sun on our back deck.
We hope that you are holding up through these stormy days of early Spring and that we can all get out soon to enjoy some good weather.
To get the full effect of what it felt like looking out into our back yard, please continue reading past the jump.
I enjoy working in the early hours of the morning because the house is still and the world outside is dark and still asleep. I can work away on untested ideas without having to respond to the phone or to break for visitors. Once I am at work, there is enough high priority work to fill every minute available, so untested ideas which need uninterrupted time for contemplation get kept for quieter hours.
Then again, as I write this, I hear a low crooning behind me and our female cat Buffy the Slayer scuttles across the room with a hapless mouse or mole dangling from her jaws. It is hard to tell because she is moving fast and is trying to hide it from my view. She has just returned from a brief foray into the rainy night with her first catch of the day.
She no longer brings her prizes for me to view because I invariably pick them up and hurl them into the outside darkness before they drip on the rug.
Now she merely croons to let me know her hunt was successful and then she disappears into one of the back rooms to snack on her prey. With luck, we will discover the little carcass before it begins to get ripe.
We notice an interesting pattern in the daily behavior of our little huntress. She has several places where she spends time observing mice and mole activity but cannot get close enough to capture anything. Later she will go out the door and return with prey in a matter of minutes.
Well, it's 6:15am now and my email alert is going off. Time to get on with the business of the day.
The first thing is to discover where Buffy left her early morning treat... UPDATE: A well-chewed half-mouse was lying inside the bedroom and I disposed of it. Buffy had already gone outside in search of another one.
When you are invited to a barbecue in Northern Virginia, the hospitality can be quite frankly overwhelming.
We went up North to attend a friend's wedding and were invited to a barbecue put on by her next-door neighbors, Jack and Joanne.
About 40 of us trooped into Jack and Joanne's house cheerfully expecting fried chicken and fixin's and were greeted by a "barbecue" to end all barbecues.
First came the baked brie with a glaze of nuts and sugar in a phyllo crust. Then came the hot spinach Parmesan dip and homemade bruschetta. I almost foundered at this point due to overindulgence, but I determinedly stayed on my feet and wended my way into the dining room where a long table was spread with everything from moussaka, to chicken, to baked ham.
I cautioned myself, "Take a little bit of everything" and steadied myself for a cruise around the table. The food was amazing, but I was strong and was able to restrain myself to only two helpings.
I watched with admiration as Joanne continued to pull food out of the ovens as her guests swirled around her and her husband Jack entertained this vast crowd of strangers as though we had all been friends for years. And so it was, because these wonderful people became our friends and will occupy a special place in our hearts for years to come because of their generosity and gracious welcome.
I was so taken with the ease with which they took us in and made us feel welcome that I almost overlooked the dessert room. Several fruit cobblers, an ice cream cake, and slow-cranked ice cream awaited us in a glass-walled breakfast room off the kitchen.
Jack and Joanne made this wedding rehearsal night even more of a special occasion.
Oh, that milking machine photo at the top? That stood in the corner of their living room. Joanne put it there to remind her of her early life on a farm.
When sickness strikes one member of a group, it can bring out protective attitudes in other group members who normally exhibit only hostile behavior. This picture, by Amy Thompson, captures a unique moment in the Thompson household.
Cats, like people, compete for social status within a group and often show aggression towards those who threaten their position in the group. This can change when one of the cats in a groups falls ill.
Tonight Dr Jekyll, normally one of the most aggressive cats in the Thompson household, took on the role of nursing Loki, who has been exhibiting signs of feline epilepsy.
Jekyll licked Loki awake, then walked him to the litter box where he stood guard. Then he stood guard while the kitten fed from the community feeding station. Normally the kitten is pushed out of the way by the larger cats, including Jekyll, so this new behavior by Jekyll was highly unusual, to say the least.
Loki has had several brief seizures since we arrived. At first we thought they might be nightmares, because they usually occurred when he was sleeping, sometimes even when he was purring. When it happened, he would shake uncontrollably for almost a minute and then collapse in a semi-conscious state with irregular breathing and trembling. He recovered each time after we comforted him. The other cats were in attendance during some of these attacks, so it may have been evident to them that the kitten was unwell.
Doug and Amy will be taking Loki to see the vet as soon as possible, but it is a good sign, to me at least, that he is getting special attention from another cat as well.
We have seen for ourselves how our cats will become especially protective of us whenever we get sick or injured, but this is the first time I had seen an aggressive cat become protective of another.
I hope you are all well during this holiday season and if you are not, I hope that you are receiving the same love and attention that we are able to give Loki. It is a difficult time when you are sick or injured. Having a friend or loved one to look after you is the best that you can ask for.
Be well and take care of each other. May we all start the new year in good health and a good state of mind.
This picturesque scene marks the beginning of white-knuckle driving season. I have a finished project to deliver tomorrow and the driveway is a real challenge when it is covered with snow. I made a delivery today, but only because I was able to use a friend's four-wheel-drive pickup.
Later, I drove to the Post Office in our sure-footed Subaru, but I could picture myself skating all over in the two-wheel-drive Dodge Van. It is a powerful and stable vehicle, but when it breaks loose on a slippery road, the big fifteen-passenger van is positively scary. That great mass of moving metal and no traction!
I have a lot of hauling to do for the move to Floyd and a few inches of snow typically renders the van useless. Our move deadline is only two weeks away and the van must be useable, so I started thinking about snow tires. I need more traction for the van. This was at 3:30 pm today.
I have delayed solving this problem for at least a year and I am now up against the stops. The heavy mixture of snow and rain coming down steadily has finally jacked up my necessity level to the point where I feel compelled to do something about my van so it will be useful during the winter.
Fortunately, I have a friend, Gerry, who is a fount of information on all sorts of useful things. I called him as I negotiated slippery roads on my way back from the Post Office. Gerry steered me to a guy named Rodney who worked in Campbell's, a local tire store I had never heard of before.
I immediately call the place and speak to Rodney, who is an alert and helpful guy. I describe my problem and he suggests an off-road tire called a Buckshot Mudder which he says has an aggressive tread pattern. It sounds good to me and I like the name and the price. I am still slippy-sliding around and it's getting darker, so I order these off-road tires and a set of aftermarket wheels. Rodney said I could pick up the tires in less than an hour.
I make it home, fire up the Dodge B3500, cross my fingers and head out into the storm in search of new tires. After a bit of a struggle and another call to Gerry for directions, I find Campbell Tires and pull into the parking lot at 4:30 pm.
I walk into an office/showroom which is filled with unshaven guys with camo jackets and trucker hats. They are all waiting for service and they snicker to themselves as I walk up to the counter. I look around and count at least 8 guys waiting and see that only 45 minutes until closing time. The guy behind the counter doesn't look very helpful either.
While I'm standing there trying to figure out what has gone wrong, a stocky dynamo of a guy comes bursting in from the shop area outside. He smiles and calls out, "I've got your tires already mounted! I'll put them on next, after I take care of the purple pickup truck that's ahead of you."
I smile and thank him and head for the door to put my van next in line. The office is strangely silent. I didn't even bother to look at anyone. I could feel the confusion welling up as I left.
Ten minutes later, Rodney tapped on my window and I slid gratefully into the service bay. He replaced my rear tires with the Buckshot Mudders in less than ten minutes. As you can see, they have a seriously aggressive tread design.
As I left, he explained that the guys in the showroom don't usually call ahead. They bring their trucks in and then they spend a good deal of time picking out tires in the showroom. Tire shopping is a big production for them and they bring friends along to assist in the process.
As I pulled out of the lot, I could see that he was right. The purple pickup that was ahead of me was still up on jacks, waiting for the owner to decide what tires to buy.
When I got home and charged into my backlog of tasks, I was reminded that there is a road less traveled. Buffy sleeps serenely on top of my desk, oblivious to the sound and fury of our preparations for the move to Floyd. This was shot earlier, but her position today is much the same.
I hope that you, too, can take time from your busy schedules to stretch out and enjoy a few peaceful moments
The Children of the Internet will introduce change into our society in ways we cannot easily predict because they are bypassing traditional sources of information.
A culture controls change if it can restrict the flow of information. As long as a child only learns skills, attitudes, and fears from its extended family, that child is protected from the corrupting (and civilizing) effect of "outside ideas".
The child of such a culture can be raised to regard all outside the group as inferior or as enemies to be slain or subjugated. By the time the child is old enough to see that these "inferiors" have superior technology and lifestyles, it can be so warped that its only recourse is to destroy that which it cannot emulate.
The internet, with its overwhelming abundance of information, incredible beauty, and skillfully delivered lies, presents a challenge to any culture, even an advanced and open-minded one. The internet, even in its present limited form, presents the ultimate threat to closed cultures. The open flow of information exposes many lies that these cultures use to keep their citizens under control.
In the past, children would not be immersed in cultures outside their immediate environment until they were at least 12 years old. Today, five-year-olds are finding out that Mom, Dad and other authority figures really do not know what they are talking about. This places greater importance than ever on telling your children the truth.
When women of a closed and degraded culture see that intelligent, strong women of other cultures can excel in business and in war, it stirs up the kind of ideas that despots really hate! When races deemed inferior by some, can see that others of their race are worshipped as popular heroes, it tends to break down the mindset that caste systems rely on to survive.
Children given free access to the Internet may not easily unlearn lessons of hatred and bigotry, but they will quickly spot when the "truths" they have been taught bear little relationship to reality. This is true whether they live on the eastern seaboard of the US, in the heart of Los Angeles, or on the outskirts of Baghdad.
I feel that access to unlimited information will eventually result in children selecting the best parts of many cultures and synthesizing their own, to the shock and horror of those who insist on acting as "guardians of culture".
Some of the recent extreme fashion trends coming out of Japan may be a harbinger of things to come. Fashion may be a leading indicator of change because it is so visible. I think the real changes will be those that we cannot readily see because they represent new ways of thinking and dealing with people.
I hesitate to predict anything more specific other than this: those who cannot embrace change will go down fighting as they are rendered irrelevant. :)