Friday, May 31, 2002

Life after Work

I am experiencing an out of body (at least out of work-role) experience, having been professionally moribund for almost a month now. I can see myself suspended, out of time (the 8-5 type), enveloped by a warm feeling of ownership of my body and my life that I eagerly repossess in this new dimension. I see a bright light, and it is the sun rising over my own ridge. Not merely a prod to hasten me off to work, sunrise is a wonderfully slow, unfolding and complete phenomenon, a celebration of the dawn of life on the other side of work. This altered state is a temporary one, all the more to be savored and remembered when this blissful purgatory passes and I return to the rank and file of daily commuters, my senses more dull, expectations lowered, and creative juices flowing slowly or not at all.

During this wonderful this-worldly interlude:

I am hearing bird songs...really hearing...that have fallen on drudgery-deafened ears...until now. (Yesterday, I recognized a familiar call but could not place it. Got out the binocs, spent a half hour being still and aware, and discovered THREE different scarlet tanagers making those raspy squawks from separate territories. What a beautiful creature..that would have remained just another background noise, when in work-mode).

I find that I really DO like this place we live more than I had remembered. It is more than a motel between workdays, more than an expensive pen for the dog while we are working our lives away and not 'at home'. Makes me relish the idea of retirement someday. But not yet.

Work will enter my life again, and I will be both happy and sad about that.

Our days are so short. It is good to have this near-life experience, at home, in a healthy if unemployed body.

Missing comments

For all of you who posted comments on "Fragments" (Curt), they are missing because I cut and pasted commenting code from another blog, not realizing that it was taylored only for the OTHER blog, not "Fragments", and was showing up as comments for the wrong weblog. No big problem, it just offended my sense of attention to detail. Yawn.


Thursday, May 30, 2002

That's alot of drumstick.

Now, that's a lot of drumstick!

Our elderly cat fantasizes over the neighbor's visiting peacock.

Sounds okay?

Please click on this link to hear a sound clip of whippoorwills and toads singing on a May evening on Goose Creek. Let me know via comments 1) if the file takes a long time to download and 2) sucessfully called up a wav player on your computer.



Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Mommas don't let your babies grow up to read Narnia.

This is for real.

"Although Narnia has survived countless perils, the Chronicles themselves are now endangered. On one front they face the dubious honor of corporate marketing. On another literary voices have begun to denounce them as racist and sexist works. What's in progress is a struggle of sorts for the soul of children's fantasy literature".

The chief detractor seems to have a competing mythology of his own...more up to date, instilling more modern values. His trilogy is called "Dark Materials". Hmmm.

"The plots of His Dark Materials are driven by the premise that God is evil—a celestial impostor who pretends to have created the universe and who so intensely hates flesh and blood that he wants people to live a repressed, joyless existence followed by hell, even for the righteous. Christian illusions about God are to blame for all the world's miseries; Christianity is "a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all," one character declares. The protagonists in the books strive to acquire ancient, mysterious objects they can use to bring about God's death. Along the way children are tortured and murdered, often with Church approval".

Harry Potter displaces Aslan. Stop the world, I wanna get off.

Ergonomic Guidelines for arranging a Computer Workstation - 10 steps for users

Back when I was a physical therapist (maybe I still am, dunno yet), I used to see so many folks with neck, shoulder, arm, and hand problems that were caused by or exacerbated by overuse or misuse of their upper body while at computer workstations.

These kinds of musculoskeletal problems are much easier to prevent than to fix. In the end the cost-benefit equation is skewed strongly in favor of spending a little time, perhaps a comparatively small amount of money, to nip these cumulative problems in the bud.

This article from Cornell Ergonomics department is a good starting place. Consider printing the Cornell worksheet for your supervisor or Human Resources manager. Write me with questions.

Monday, May 27, 2002

Nuclear Chicken

"The world is now facing the most dangerous nuclear confrontation since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Yet in the West there is little media attention to this enormous threat, and almost no public interest or concern. The crisis over Kashmir might as well be on Jupiter. The discovery of the body of a long-missing female intern in Washington has totally eclipsed news of a possible nuclear war in South Asia that could kill tens of millions and contaminate the entire globe with clouds of radioactive dust".

"War fever is overcoming caution. A wrong move, new attack, or even a mistake, could plunge 20% of humankind into disaster".

Chicken? Why do we think this is just going to go away and leave us alone? CLICK! We'll just change chanels to something more pleasant and civilized. Ah! The SoloFlex commercial...that's better.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Nature's Lace

I have waited for just the right moment to get the best lighting, calm winds, and dew or raindrops on the maidenhair ferns over in the meadow.

After a frog-choker of a storm this afternoon, the sun peaked out just before disappearing over the ridge. I knew I had only a few minutes to get the shot. I rushed through the rain-swollen creek, and zig-zagged my way through the dense undergrowth to where the slope meets the bottomland, lush with maidenhair ferns.

I was so intent on catching the light, I tripped over a branch and fell full into the stinging nettle. I got water all over my lens cover. And the ferns had been burned by the hard late-season freeze. Bummer.

Sometimes it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

Overjoyed by snakes!

During the years of DDT usage, these familiar reptiles of childhood memory largely disappeared.

I had not seen one for literally 30 years. Yesterday, at first thinking it was just a snake-looking stand of grass across the drive, I almost walked past it. Seeing an old friend, I whooped like I had won the lottery! One of the most non-aggressive of snakes, I didn't hesitate to pick it up, and it merely wound itself around my wrist like an emerald bracelet.

Didn't look closely enough to tell if it was a smooth green snake, or the more uncommon rough greensnake. Apologize for borrowing an image off the web, we were leaving to be somewhere, and I didn't take a picture for myself. I WILL next time! I'm just happy to see this critter again after so many years...what a jewel!

Americans: Wake up and smell the Ho-Hos!

Lawyers are going to get fat, while we lose our assets!

Regarding the recent WORLD HEALTH DAY last month (I missed it, somehow): "The CDC probably felt it had to do something. A recent report from the surgeon general tells us what we already knew if we'd spent any time at a shopping mall: as a nation, we're pushing maximum density. Headlines called it "an epidemic of obesity," and the report certainly threw around some epidemic-sized numbers. Sixty-one percent of adults are overweight or obese, and the number of obese children has tripled in the last 20 years. Underneath the eye-popping statistics was an even scarier assertion: All that extra padding is costing us a lot of money".

"$117 billion, to be exact, is the surgeon general's estimate for the cost of healthcare and lost wages from obesity-related illness. And that doesn't include any money spent at The Forgotten Woman or Jenny Craig".

Okay, let me see if I have this straight: If I get fat, I can sue the perveyors of calories. What recourse do I have if, say, I get too much sun? Am I EVER responsible?

Wrap your gums around a super-sized Big Mac meal, and if you order a diet soda and no dessert, chalk up 1,200 calories and 63 grams of fat. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Here's a thought: I am legally responsible if I serve a drunk person another drink. Imagine that we extended this protection to foods.

"Would you like the baked potato or the rice pilaf with that".
"I'll have the potato".
"Er, I'm sorry mam, I'm going to have to ask you to stand and take the obesity test (food counterpart of the sobriety test. Waiter reaches in his back pocket for fat calipers). "Fat fold measures 14 inches, I'm must inform you that you are legally FAT. If I serve you the potato, we will both end up in violation of the Adipose Allowance".

Friends don't let friends eat Ho-Hos.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Epitaph for Hemlock

My first memory of Hemlocks is clear. As a third-year biology student, I was finally starting to distinguish one tree from another. At the same time, I was developing an eye for shape and form, texture and light as a novice photographer. The first time I was impressed by Hemlocks, individually and for the role they play in forest ecology and aesthetics, was in the Sipsey Wildnerness area in northern Alabama. Hemlocks are the most shade-tolerant of trees, so can grow in mature forests, in between other giants, especially white pines. It retains its lower branches, that are drooping, frond-like, with dark, dark needles often shading mountain streams. Hemlock boughs host many a northern bird species, like black throated blue warblers.

My grandchildren will never see Hemlocks as I have known them. The disappearance of the species from the Eastern deciduous forest is almost certain.

An exotic pest imported to this country from Asia and Japan 50 years ago, the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is an aphid that first appeared in the east, in Virginia about 20 years ago. It now is found in large portions of 12 eastern states. It was found in Cades Cove in the Smokies in mid May of this year, its boundary of infestation advancing about 15 miles every year. As it dies out, other non-native invaders, like the loathsome Tree of Heaven, will often take its place.

We were so happy to have Hemlocks gracing our ridge here on Goose Creek. The first year we saw these hillsides, the Hemlocks were deep green-black, and healthy. Now, balding, anemic and ashen, they are dying in place as the tiny wooly aphids suck the life out of their needles. Unlike chestnut, dead Hemlock wood is not tolerant of decay, and these old friends will rot at the base in a few years, fall making no sound, and be gone from all but memory.

And so it goes.

Map is current only to 1995.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Our old friend, Jack

Just before a storm today, the lighting was flat, winds calm, and it seemed like a good time for lying on one's belly, seeing the world from the ground, up.

This is a wonderfully graceful, Georgia O'Keef-ish kind of plantform, don't you think?

Art mimics nature. Aesthetics: a gift and enjoyment in which we are made in God's image?

Burden of Memory

I have not quite decided if it is a blessing or a curse. Generally, given a calendar date, I can recall, and all-too-often voice the rhetorical "do you know what we were doing this date, 15 years ago?". The family groans. Of course, nobody else but me knows, or seems to care that another X years have passed since said event. Somehow, for me, even bad memories help to bookmark this chaotic life, providing reference points, like landmark mountains and abysses on a map of temporal country recently or remotely passed through. Calendar memories are the longitude and latitude bearings that help me gauge the speed and direction of travel through this uncharted terraine called the present.

May 17, 1986. We had just recently returned from Gainesville, GA where I had interviewed for a teaching position at Gainesville Junior College. On or about May 17, I was faced with a dilemma: I was offered the teaching job, and a day later, learned I had been accepted to the PT Masters Program at University of Alabama/Birmingham. Choice: dig the same hole deeper (teaching), or look for treasure in a different hole. I was faced with one of the hardest choices I had ever made professionally. Now, I have been a therapist for 13 years, perhaps having found the bottom of this hole, with no treasure.

May 17, 1999. Ann has moved from Carolina, we are living, cramped, on five acres in a small cabin off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Having given up hope of finding our dreamed-of acreage in Floyd County, it falls into our lap. On May 20, 1999, we begin the most ardous project we have ever undertaken: the restoration of a 130-yr-old farmhouse that seems from the outside to be beyond repair, but exudes such a strong feeling of home and hope. We did not know if our vision was a blessed dream or a terrible nightmare. The backhoe came and pulled down the outhouse on a cold May morning, three years ago. We were on our way home, or creating a monster.

May 17, 2001. Nathan was an exchange student at Queens University in Belfast, NI. We had decided to travel to visit him (our first "vacation" ever) and had been in Ireland and Scotland for about a week, Ann, mom and I. I had been plagued off and on by rather minor sciatic pain, the results of overly-vigorous axe-swinging the week before the trip. On May 17, as we got in the taxi for the Belfast airport with the prospect of 20 hours of travel ahead of us, I had a severe exacerbation, and by the time we got to the airport, was in the most incredible pain I have ever known. Long story short: twenty hours of hell dealing with a lumbar disc herniation. I still have some numbness and weakness to remind me of this calendar bookmark.

May 17, 2002. Ann and I both ended our employment two weeks ago today. Ann has what promises to be a very compatible niche, maybe her best job ever (RIGHT!). I am in a state of utter metamorphosis, not knowing what lies before me, perhaps seeing an end to the sojourn as a therapist that started so many years ago. Only the vantage point of time future will tell what today's calendar landmark means in our fumbling journey through this terrible, wonderful landscape of time.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Please mail to our new address: Goose Creek, Bermuda

I am reading an interesting book, Corporation Nation. So I suppose this lowered my threshold for noticing this article out of the LA Times re "tax-motivated expatriation".

...setting up shop on the sunny island couldn't be easier. A company "moving" to Bermuda doesn't actually have to move. It doesn't even have to have an office or hold any meetings there. It just needs a P.O. box and someone to pick up the mail. Or it could just let the mail pile up and forget about having someone pick it up. There's another cost savings. This kind of paper relocation saved $400million last year for Tyco International, a New Hampshire-based manufacturer. And Ingersoll-Rand, a U.S. company that made the jackhammers that helped chisel Mt. Rushmore, avoids paying a U.S. tax bill of more than $40million a year by slipping into its Bermuda shorts.

But the tax savings don't stop there. Many companies that move to Bermuda also open a corporate beachhead in that Wall Street of the Caribbean--Barbados--where, thanks to the alchemy of modern accounting and a sweetheart tax treaty, profits earned in the U.S. can be shipped abroad and transformed into a tax write-off.

And the benefits of this offshore shell game extend well beyond a corporation's bottom line. Formerly red, white and blue companies now sporting a Bermuda tan are also suddenly and conveniently immune to judgments against them in U.S. courts, less accountable to their shareholders, who are unable to file class-action suits, and freed from a whole host of annoying government regulations.

So, duh!? When do we change our address?

Unfortunately, this tax dodge is not available to you and me--only to corporations. Just try telling the folks at the IRS that you're planning to relocate to Bermuda and would like to sign up for the zero tax rate and see how long it is before they stop laughing.

Despite the billions being lost to these offshore tax havens, however, the Bush administration has shown little ardor for closing the loopholes. On the other hand, it seems very keen on ensuring that those receiving noncorporate welfare work for every dollar they get. The president doesn't want anybody getting a free ride from the government without accepting the responsibility that comes with it. At least anybody who's not a CEO.

And this is legal? Leaves little doubt (wink-wink) about WHO makes the law!

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Morning Walk ~ Mid-May

During this rare time when are both away from work, Ann and I can take morning walks together, unhurried and full of celebration of God's creation, our senses, and time free from want.

Pictures will let us remember. Times won't always be this kind to us.

It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature!

Last week we read about rats fitted with brain implants that could be robotically controlled to seek out injured and dying in the rubble of future "domestic events".

Now bees are being trained to "sniff" for explosives, eventually for drugs, maybe even your perfume or specific body a swarm of tiny bloodhounds.

Bees appear even better able than dogs to detect particular odours, and roam large distances from the hive in search of food.

Scientists already know that their behaviour can be conditioned by rewards such as sugar-water.

Combining the scent of the sugar solution with tiny residues of TNT means that bees associate the "molecular trail" of TNT with food.

When a bee carrying this information returns to the hive, it will pass the knowledge of the scent and its location to thousands of other bees.

This new control over nature is not without its limitations:.

"However, bees are pretty damn lazy, really. If there is something else more tempting on offer, they will go for that instead. They will go for the nearest source of food.

"Perhaps they could genetically engineer the bees so that when they find a landmine, they are heavy enough to set it off as well!"

This may give a whole new meaning to the "birds and the bees". Seriously, consider the implications of our ability to wed programmed nanocomputers, global positioning technology, and living organisms. Will there be ethical decisions ahead for us in the future? Or in the AGE OF TERRORISM, do the ends justify ANY means?

Monday, May 13, 2002

The Last American Man
by Elizabeth Gilbert

So....I have been wondering what I will do with myself, says Fred, now that I am unencumbered by the W-word. Mayhaps I will read this book, then apprentice to Mr. Conway down in Triplett, NC, and learn how to live off groundhog meat and nettle soup here on Goose Creek...

The book seems as much worth buying and reading for the writing as for the unique subject matter. I had thought about getting this one for our peripatetic son, Nathan. But, given his prediliction for eccentric travels, I may need to rethink, lest we wake up one morning to the announcement that he will, indeed, be living off mice like Farley Mowat, somewhere on the Nova Scotia coast!

From Booklist
Eustace Conway discovered nature's wonders as a boy growing up in South Carolina during the 1960s. Miserable at home, a born perfectionist and fanatic, he took to the woods and developed wilderness skills unknown to most modern Americans. By the time he finished high school and moved into a teepee (his abode for 17 years), he was convinced that only encounters with "the high art and godliness of nature" could help save American society from its catastrophically wasteful habits and soul-deadening trivial pursuits. Conway is not alone in his beliefs, but he is unique in his maniacal drive to proselytize, and, ironically enough, he's taken his teaching mission to such extremes by attempting to create an Appalachian wilderness utopia that it's impossible for him to live the very life he champions. Tough, shrewd, gifted, vigorous, and contradictory, Conway, who set a world record crossing the continent on horseback in 103 days, both enlightens and confounds all who know him. Gilbert, a top-notch journalist and fiction writer, braids keen and provocative observations about the American frontier, the myth of the mountain man, and the peculiar state of contemporary America with its "profound alienation" from nature into her spirited and canny portrait, ultimately concluding that Conway's magnetism is due in part to his embodying society's most urgent conundrums. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Saturday, May 11, 2002

Carcass Redemption Program ~ Redux

Now Buster is a mild mannered, home-schooled kind of a dog. 'Cept Buster don't like groundhogs. It was not pretty. The boy can be sort of violent, it turns out. In this case, however, he has my permission to abuse as many whistlepigs as he can sneak up on. It's them or my garden! Besides, unlike me, he has no compunctions or guilt about wasting the wildlife.

Thanks, Martin Roth, for linking to Fragments from Floyd in your Christian Weblogs List.


Tuesday, May 07, 2002

September 11: Beside still waters

image and poem by Fred First

Thank you, Lord, that in this week of turmoil,
You have given me the blessing of this quiet moment
To remember that beauty still exists just out my door,
And that I can know fidelity and goodness, constancy and wholeness
Even as my country strikes out against the Evil Empire
Of the human soul, prepared once again, blindly,
to extract an eye for an eye.

Quiet my heart in these green pastures.
Beside these still waters teach me
the economy and wisdom of the flowers in this field,
Even in the shadow of Death.

Thank you, Father, for the solace in the morning mist
For knowing the comforting steadfastness of this beast,
My silent and guileless companion.
Though I fear, we stand without words
in peaceful communion
Surrounded by the works of Your Hand
Content to be still
And know.

Kill da Wabbit! Kill da Wabbit!

All of a sudden there has been an explosion of rabbits up behind the house. Same thing happened last year: no rabbits, then LOTS of rabbits, especially over near the first-year garden area. The electric fence was an aggravation to them, perhaps, but not an impediment. I couldn't let all that bending and clawing and hoeing go up in rabbit-fodder. So, I shot a couple. Now I remember what that feels like.

I got another one this morning. It wasn't a clean shot, so I ended its pain with a second. When I came back for it a half hour later, it was still making those pitiful rabbit noises, twitching, wild-eyed, dying slowly, and certainly suffering.

If I killed more frequently, would it feel better doing it? If the rabbit offered to attack me or threatened my children, would I feel better about it? If I killed enough rabbits or felt sufficiently threatened by another creature of any stripe, could I go hunting them to 'protect my interest', kill-or-be-killed, and sleep well at night?

Is there a 'Just War', even against rabbits?

Sunday, May 05, 2002

Why did the Jenin Investigation fall apart? It was a Palestinian HOAX!

"A massacre is the deliberate mass murder of the defenseless. The "Jenin massacre" is more than a fiction. It is a hoax. "Palestinian Authority allegations," reported the Boston Globe (April 29), ". . . appear to be crumbling under the weight of eyewitness accounts from Palestinian fighters who participated in the battle and camp residents who remained in their homes until the final hours of the fighting. . . . All said they were allowed to surrender or evacuate."....

...."Take Jenin. What was the real story? That hand-to-hand, door-to-door combat, in an intensely built-up shantytown, among dozens of houses booby-trapped by Palestinian fighters, should have yielded somewhere between seven and 21 scattered civilian casualties is nothing less than astonishing. It testifies to the extraordinary scrupulousness of the Israeli army, which lost 23 soldiers in the battle, precisely because it did not want to cause the civilian casualties that come with aerial bombardment, as has happened everywhere from Grozny to Kabul. And yet Israel was investigated precisely for defending itself against massacres that warrant no investigation".

Maul of America

This rant is from Orion magazine. Right on! Some excerpts from James Kunstler's article, below.

"The United States possesses less than five percent of the remaining global oil reserve, while we burn about twenty-five percent of the oil produced in the world. More than half of our oil is imported, almost a quarter of it from the Persian Gulf. According to research recently done by Harper's magazine, we import $19 billion worth of crude oil from the region each year, and spend another $55 billion of taxpayer money annually "safeguarding oil supplies" there. Over seventy percent of the remaining world oil reserve lies under the soil of the Islamic nations of Asia, from the red sea to Indonesia"....

"We have to reorganize commerce in this country on a more local and multi-layered basis. Industrial-strength agriculture based on oil "inputs," and featuring the 3000-mile caesar salad, will not survive. We are going to have to grow more food closer to the places where we live. Giant central schools serviced by yellow bus fleets will soon be history. A cars-and-trucks-only transportation system is going to leave Americans stranded in the near future, and I wouldn't be bullish on commuting forty miles a day"....

"Alternative fuels are not going to solve these problems, at least not in a way that would allow us to carry on our current program. I wish my fellow ex-hippies and environmentalist friends would give a little less of their time to projects like hybrid vehicles and concentrate instead on the walkable community side of the equation. That is where the big payoff in conservation lies for this nation. It would accomplish three things. It would put the development money where it belongs, in civic environments, including existing towns and cities. It would give us a chance to develop economic systems and relations that had a reasonably sustainable future. And it would provide places worth caring about as an alternative to the demoralizing fiasco of places like the suburban wasteland between Fort Worth and Dallas."

...or between Blacksburg and Christiansburg?


Santa? Are you listening?


Explanations about the origin, purpose, and destiny of man are inherently philosophical and the answers always require faith. Neutrality is not an option. The question is never "will we have faith?" It is always "what will we have faith in?"


Saturday, May 04, 2002

Meanwhile...back on Earth

Do you think the Powder River Basin Project is the best use for TRILLIONS of gallons of water? Not only does this project USE water, it makes it useless by salinization. This was of interest to me because my daughter and her family just relocated to Wyoming...the center of the storm. The undertaking involves the following:

The proposal for 51,444 wells – the largest natural gas project ever studied and sanctioned by BLM – will result in:

17,000 miles of new roads – enough to drive from Los Angeles to New York nearly six times.
20,000 miles of new pipelines and 5,300 miles of above-ground power lines – long enough to circle the globe

Over 200,000 acres of soils and vegetation that will be stripped bare.

Depending on the alternative, 500 to 1,200 surface discharge facilities for the water.

From 1,800 up to 4,000 infiltration waste pits to handle produced water.

The disposal of 1.4 trillion gallons of water over the project’s life – over 4 million acre feet; enough water for 16 million people, or all the residents of Wyoming for 30 years.

How long will we wait to get serious about alternative energy sources? Maybe the sun and wind just don't have the right ownership to become commodities?

The Great Celestial Summit Meeting

Planet Alignment Peaks Sunday and Monday: "The long-awaited gathering of the five naked-eye planets reaches its peak May 5-6 in the western evening sky. In a single glance you'll be able to see all five planets, a feat not possible again for decades. Further, three of the five planets will crowd into a small spot in the sky, making for a very distinctive formation -- officially dubbed a "planetary trio" -- that is sure to thrill skywatchers."

From now through May 10, an official trio will be readily visible low in the west-northwest sky for about two hours after sunset. The three planets are Venus (magnitude -3.9), Saturn (+0.1) and Mars (+1.6). The circle will be at its smallest (2.7 degrees) at 9 p.m. EDT on May 6.

Be sure to check out the view after sundown on May 5 to find Venus, Saturn and Mars forming a nearly perfect, and visually striking equilateral triangle, with each side of the triangle measuring roughly 2.5 degrees in length.

Now just consider: what if you had NOT been checking back to this weblog several times every day? Would have missed this one, mayhaps?


Thursday, May 02, 2002

Don't miss the latest Hubble images that extend our vision of the 'heavens'. The object itself, the science, the beauty and the meaning of this...are worthy of awe.

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet." PSALMS 8