after a very dry summer, we're getting wet

Until last Thursday, 24 September 2015, I had received only 0.35" of rain since the month began. By the end of the month, that total was 7.00".

And the rain continues: 3.02" so far in October and they are predicting a lot more for this weekend. In fact, 0.21" of that total has fallen over the past hour.

The Shining Rock Riverfest was postponed again, this time until next spring, they say. So I have a couple more paid days off, and that's nice. I needed a vacation and a piecemeal one works almost better than a continuous one.

Earlier this week my vacation began with a train ride. Dad and Velma took Karl and me on the Smoky Mountain Express, a day trip through the Nantahala National Forest. It was a rainy day, of course, but it was nice to get away with the family for a change.

That was on Tuesday, which is part of my usual weekend. I went back to work for two nights and then I had requested two nights off so that I could attend the Riverfest, which has been canceled due to potential flooding (it is right on the Pigeon River, and this end of the county is supposed to get heavy rains). But it's OK that I have nothing to do today.

Although, I was looking forward to seeing some live music and I had asked my nice lady to come along. I guess I don't need to deep-clean the house now.


four years ago today, Lisa and I arrived in Haywood County together

And we quickly knew that we would soon be living here full-time.

Two and a half months later, we had rented the house that we soon named Château Cruso.

And here at le Château, Rocko and I remain. Some of Lisa's ashes were sprinkled in important places around the property, most were cast from the peak of the Devil's Courthouse. Some still remain here in a little bottle on my bookshelf.

I see no reason that I would ever leave this area, at least not yet. And if I did leave, I would miss it terribly.


Jeb's quote would be funny if it weren't so terribly, tragically wrong

I didn't listen to the Republican debates, but I did hear about them on NPR today.

The one quote that stands out was from J.E. "Jeb" Bush.

"One thing I know about my brother," Bush said, referring to former president George W. Bush, "he kept us safe!"

I don't agree with that, not at all. The largest terrorist attack in our nation's history took place on George W. Bush's inattentive watch, killing thousands of people and causing billions of dollars in physical and economic damage. A month before that attack, W casually dismissed a report ominously (and, it turns out, accurately) titled, "Al-Qaeda determined to strike in U.S." with an easy, "OK, you've covered your ass now."

W was warned by the Clinton administration about the threat posed by al-Qaeda. The Bush administration erroneously believed that they, the neo-cons, were "the grown-ups" and America suffered mightily for their hubris.


congratulations, Republicans!

Your sage decision to deny reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank has created jobs!

In Europe.

Jobs that used to be in South Carolina, USA.

Back in June, General Electric's chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, said that he would move jobs out of the United States if the Ex-Im Bank was not re-approved. Republican lawmakers did not, it would seems, take this threat seriously. Those senators included South Carolina's own Senator Jeff Duncan.

And then today I hear on NPR that GE is moving hundreds of jobs out of South Carolina, as they promised, and sending them out of the country entirely, also as promised.

This is a good time to remind faithful readers that whenever a modern Republican - especially John Boehner - uses the phrase "job-killing" to describe anything, said thing is bound to be an economic bonanza and should therefore be supported fully. I don't know if Boehner actually used his favorite phrase to describe the Ex-Im Bank, but it seems like something he'd do.


Shining Rock Riverfest

... did not happen yesterday.

Months ago, I requested yesterday off from work. The Shining Rock Riverfest was scheduled for that day, according to the local newspaper, and I didn't want to miss it this year.

Some time after that newspaper was published, the event was rescheduled from 12 September to 03 October; I did not get the news and never bothered to check to see if anything had changed until after I got home from work yesterday morning. One look at the Shining Rock Riverfest FB page told me all I needed to know; I had a day off and evidently no plans.

But that was OK, because I really needed a day off and did not have the energy to spare for fun.

I'll try again to take the day off in October. They give me five vacation days per year but I rarely use them.


Rembrandt van Rijn and Dutch Golden Age paintings

I was reading an article at The History Blog about a Rembrandt painting and happened to notice the date of the painting, c. 1630-31.

Lately I've been reading histories of the early colonial period of what became the United States, mostly because of my family links to the early years of New Amsterdam. My family, as I have noted before in this blog, was definitely here by 1638. And so it dawned on me that my family members might have dressed and worn facial hair in the styles to be found in Dutch Golden Age paintings.

And so that's what I'm doing this afternoon, while the laundry washes and dries: looking at Rembrandt paintings. Not my usual thing, art.

Mt. Gleason

If Denali means "the Great One", would the right wing be happier if we just named it Mt. Gleason?

In fact, that is my own private name for Denali now. Mt. Gleason, the Great One himself. Yup.



The U.S. Department of the Interior has issued an order restoring Mt. Denali's native name.

The mountain had been named Mt. McKinley in 1917, but President McKinley had nothing to do with Alaska or the mountain. In fact, the best thing that came out of the McKinley administration was Theodore Roosevelt.

The only people who have a problem with restoring the Denali name are Ohio Republicans (McKinley was from Ohio) and, of course, the people who think everything Obama does is wrong.



Dang, here I am, my 53rd birthday, still alive. Who woulda thunk it?

My health and appearance are pretty good for my age. Few people would guess from looking at me that I am even 50.

Yes, I have a hernia that I have learned to live with. Sure, my eyes are getting worse. OK, I have a lesion that is probably some kind of skin cancer and there is a joint in my right shoulder (not the ball-and-socket) that may be slightly arthritic.

And of course I have chronic pancreatitis, which has me trying to figure out what I can eat without becoming ill for days at a stretch.

But I'm alive and sober. Happy birthday to me.


the recharging effect of a good weekend

My weekend ends in a few hours.

Rocko and I went around the block twice this week. On Monday we took the trip, then on Tuesday I was bored so we went toward Canton. I needed to pick up my prescription refill and I wanted to wash the car. I recently replaced the rear brake pads and there was still brake dust that I wanted gone.

When we got to town, I remembered the car wash but forgot the prescriptions. On the way home I decided to head up Lake Logan Road again rather than turning left toward Cruso. It worked out well; we explored a section of the West Fork of the Pigeon that we hadn't stopped at before. The water had an odd milky cast to it, not the usual crystal-clear mountain water I am accustomed to seeing; Rocko didn't like drinking it. That particular stretch of the river is downstream from the fish hatchery, which probably has something to do with it.

By the time we reached the Blue Ridge Parkway at about a mile's elevation, we were inside rain clouds. All of the overlooks were overlooking grey nothingness. The fog (cloud) was so dense that I pulled over at an overlook for a while. I was worried about being rear-ended by someone because I was going pretty slowly. We wandered around for about 15 minutes, watching other cars go by slowly. There was a long line - maybe 10 vehicles - who drove by close together. I told Rocko that it looked like somebody traveling at a sane speed for conditions was being followed by a bunch of fools, and I was glad that they passed us by.

Soon it started raining hard and we jumped into the car and headed off again. Torrential rain continued until we reached the bottom of the hill on Route 276, at the Big East Fork trailhead. A couple of miles away at home, we had received 0.21". Not a torrent, but appreciated nonetheless.

It was a good weekend. We got to play in the water, see the wilderness, and escape civilization for a while. I feel rested.


weather information sources

Since turning off the television about 28 months ago, I've found more accurate weather forecasting online.

I used to default to The Weather Channel as my "background noise" channel, the one I had on the TV when I was busy around the house and didn't want to get tied down by a plot line (or when nothing else that interested me was on any other channels). When I turned off the TV, the Weather Channel website became my default weather outlet.

(The Weather Channel, on cable/satellite TV, doesn't have good local weather for the Asheville area during their Weather on the 8's segments, so it really isn't the great resource that it can be in places like Rochester NY or Tampa FL. Going online tremendously improved my home forecasting ability.)

The Weather Channel website's radar is good, and I still use it a lot, but their pages are full of clickbait video links that eat up bandwidth (if you do click on them) and are never as "OMG" as the links would have you believe. Their hourly forecasts are passably accurate for Canton, but I live 10 miles south of town, in very different geographic conditions, separated from the forecast location by numerous mountains. Weather systems tend to travel west-to-east here and I'm less than a mile east of a 6000-ft-high (3000 ft prominence) north-south mountain ridge. Canton is situated on an east-west river valley, relatively open to the weather compared to my place.

Lately I have been partial to AccuWeather's Minute-By-Minute™ forecast. If you plug in your address, it will give you pretty accurate precipitation forecasts for the next couple of hours - accurate, believe it or not, down to the minute that the rain will start and stop. I've been checking this on our summer pop-up storms and it's pretty accurate for 15 or 30 minutes out. Cold Mountain, Shining Rock and the rest of the Great Balsam range make forecasts any further out sketchy, at best. They are able to magnify or destroy storms in minutes.

Rather than typing in my entire address at the AccuWeather link above, I just enter "Shotgun Cove, 28716" in the search box and I get information for my next-door neighbor's house, which is maybe 600 feet up the road.

Accuweather's radar isn't as helpful, however, for area overviews. Quite often it will not show all of the precipitation. For the big picture, I go back to the Weather Channel. Their radar seems to be more sensitive and while it occasionally tells me that it is raining when nothing is reaching the ground, at least it will generally show me precipitation when it really is raining lightly. Accuweather misses the lightest rain.



Savage Chickens

a quiet weekend at work, and for me on mine

The cops must be doing their jobs. The crazies were not out this weekend. It was nice.

My weekend started at 7 AM on Monday. So far it has been pretty good. A ride around the block with Rocko yesterday that included fishing with my energetic home-grown worms; rock-hopping in places, usually inaccessible, made available thanks to drought and the resulting skinny rivers; eating fresh blueberries and blackberries on the crest of the Blue Ridge, and bringing some home as well. It was a good day and we slept well last night.

Today I've been working with my plants, both potted and in-the-ground. The strawberries needed water and a little weeding. A friend gave me cuttings of several plants last weekend; jade plant, something else similar to jade, and a seedling from some large houseplant. I have been potting them in the containers left over from my strawberries, using as soil the almost-pure worm castings that pile up under the dead leaves beneath my front windows.

I'm also slowly creating a begonia farm. My biggest one is leggy and I hate to just compost the healthy ends, so they go into vases until they start to set root. Then I pot them. I'm going to have to give some away. This is probably how I ended up with a begonia myself. I even put some in my garden a while back, right there in the dirt, even though they won't survive the winter. Why not? Let them live free for a little while. Maybe I'll dig them up in the fall and bring them in, maybe not.

All right, I'm getting back off of the computer. Things to do and worms to see, don't you know.


things are getting hot

The cops are putting some resources into the drug problem in and around my store.

If recent history can be taken as a guide, this weekend should be another wild one. It is my payday, and seems to be likewise for a number of dopers. Meth and heroin are both problems in our little mountain home; meth is the worst.

A town cop told me yesterday that several people had been arrested at the store earlier in the day, and when I clocked out and headed home this morning, the chief of the town police was riding with a K-9 officer from the county.

I pointed out to another cop, a few days ago, that they need to have a female deputy who can search the female suspects' bras.

The very worst (looking) addict of those who have been hanging around even had syringes (plural) visible in her bra while she was in the store one day last weekend. She was confronted but pleaded diabetes. I have to say that I don't know any diabetics who use a spoon and cotton to draw the insulin up into the needle. Somebody's been shooting up in the ladies' room, and she always seems to be around when the evidence appears. So far, the cops have not been able to find her with anything.


they say that first impressions are the most important

I hear that Tom Brady doesn't want to be remembered as "that Deflategate guy", which is too bad, since I had never heard of him before that little misunderstanding. When Deflategate hit the news, I said to myself, "Tom who?"

And so, my first impression was of a guy caught in a cheating scandal.

Nicely done, Mr. Brady. You go now, play with your abnormally soft balls and ooh! oh no, you are going to get fewer millions showered upon you over the next few weeks.

So sad.

So soft.

So cry me a river.


Lisa tied a leather string around my wrist

She has been gone almost three years, and the string finally broke this morning.

And with the string goes my last excuse for staying single. I've been in touch with my nice lady again, last week, and now I feel completely free to pursue a relationship. Not that it will be any easier now than it was before, but my last daily physical contact with Lisa is gone.

It makes me sad, losing that leather string. By the time I noticed that it was gone, it was too late to find it. It came off at work some time early this morning and probably ended up in a trash can.

Rocko and I went down to the river a little while ago and I just sat on a rock, thinking of Lisa and softly singing Pink Floyd's song, "Wish You Were Here." Pink Floyd was Lisa's favorite band.

Later we'll probably go up to the Devils Courthouse, sit where we poured out Lisa's ashes, and cry a bit.


madness, bookended with humor

The crazies were out this weekend and, according to the local police, they weren't just at my store.

I have noticed lately that every other Friday - my payday, as it happens - the meth addicts are partying harder than they normally do. This weekend was the worst yet. I wondered where all the cops were, and they later told me that they were busy all over with similar madness.

One of the meth-heads won almost $3K at our store on Thursday, and I'm sure she hasn't slept yet. She was there during the day on Friday, and for most of that night. She was back in the store before noon on Sunday; when I arrived at 11 PM she was still there. She didn't leave until the cops ran her off, a few minutes before 7 AM.

Over the several days that she was around, she kept locking herself in the one-hole ladies' room for an hour or more at a time. When she came out, she would have fresh wounds on her face and arms from picking at her skin. Last night I went into the ladies' room to check the toilet paper, soap, etc. after she went back to the games, and while in there I looked into the trash can.

There were a number of pieces of folded tinfoil with some kind of burnt residue, and there was a hypodermic needle in an otherwise empty cigarette pack. I brought the trash can out and told our local cop to look inside. He told me to save it, and he'd consult his chief about getting a biohazard bag for it.

Earlier in the day, I was told, there had been a lot of foot traffic coming into the store, back to that woman at the games, and back out. An incriminating conversation was overheard by a cop. But nothing concrete could be pinned on anybody.

As a recovering addict, I know the signs. These people - nice, polite people, believe it or not, despite their hyperactive states - were almost all high on methamphetamine and/or other hard drugs. The real problem for me and the police, so far, is that nobody has done anything blatantly illegal. They come in, they buy smokes, they buy gas, they buy munchies, they buy scratch-off lotto tickets, they gamble on the video games. They spend money, and Money is Good!

But they have been hanging around too much and for too long. When you are high on amphetamines, you do not sleep, so they have to keep busy. Lately they seem to have discovered that video gambling not only allows them to use some of that extra energy, it occasionally pays off well enough that you can go see your man for some more dope. Maybe even well enough to get a hotel room and have drugs delivered for a bender in a safe place.

I've seen that happen. Last winter one guy won several thousand dollars, got a room at the casino in Cherokee and brought along all his friends. He got good and high on something(s) and eventually passed out. When he awoke, his "friends" were gone, along with his couple-thousand remaining dollars, his drugs, and his car.

I joked to the cops, before leaving this morning, that this weekend our store was the "Clyde Casino and Meth Market." We both managed a sad chuckle.

The weekend wasn't all bad, though. On Friday night, amid all the madness, there was some entertainment; on Monday morning, as I drove off toward home, there was a light moment at a bend on a country road.

Friday's entertainment was the saga of a meth-head who couldn't get his motor scooter started. That wasn't the fun part. The fun part came when a woman with a subcompact sedan offered to help him get his scooter home. First they opened the comically small trunk, and Dog bless the boy, he actually lifted the front wheel up to the trunk and thought a while before seeing the futility of that operation.

Did they give up? No! The good samaritan lady opened the back door of her car. The subcompact car. You guessed it: they tried to get the scooter into the back seat. Again, only the front wheel would go, but they tried for a few minutes. It was truly comical, and they were laughing too by the end. Especially when he gave the scooter one more kick and the engine started, to everyone's relief.

And finally, as I left town on Monday morning on the country road that lets me escape from the four-lane road, I saw the cop from the store stopped in the road ahead. A cow ran out of the woods on one side of the road and down a gully on the other side. The cop got back in his car and we all headed off, in a slightly better mood, into the misty morning mountains.

Hola, Cuba! ¡Bienvenido de vuelta!

Welcome back, indeed. (I hope Google Translate didn't mangle my title line too severely.)

The Cuban flag is flying at their embassy in Washington, DC once again. This can only be a good thing for the Cuban people.