woo hoo

I'm back at the Clyde store five nights per week. Excellent.



I got a call from my boss in Clyde this afternoon, asking if I would be able to work tonight. I knew why (more about that later) so I gladly agreed.

The guy who works at that store four nights per week walked out this morning. He received a well-deserved write-up and quit on the spot. He's quit before; somehow he always comes back.

I certainly hope he doesn't come back this time. He's been alienating and belittling customers, which reflects badly on the store; he's been screwing up his paperwork and otherwise creating extra work for the rest of us.

Sure, it would have been nice to sleep tonight, but I don't get paid to sleep. I'll take a nap now and I'll have a bigger paycheck next week.

feeling better, more or less

Better, except for the new hernia.

It was only a matter of time. I knew that. All DeKing men get hernias, eventually. What bothers me is that I got it from blowing my nose. My dang allergies caused a hernia. It's uncomfortable as hell and it's adversely affecting my active lifestyle.

I went in for my mental health reassessment on Monday. They can't give me meds yet, but I'm back in the system and updated, I have a medication appointment in five weeks, and I'm on the cancellation list so I might get in sooner.

A couple of days ago I found a bright red crayfish in one of the smaller creeks behind my house. It looked like it had been boiled, but evidently that is its natural color. The species is Cambarus carolinus aka the red burrowing crayfish.



not again

Well, I let myself run out of antidepressants again -- because I'm a fool. At least I weaned myself off of them, to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

I called the place where I have been going for my mental health services for the last two years, and they said that I had been removed from the system because I hadn't contacted them for over six months. But, the doctor gave me a year's refills on my medication and said "come back next year." That was in February, 2013; "next year" means February, 2014, doesn't it? Why would I have contacted them within six months?

They are very busy today, so they will be looking into the situation and will call me back. In the meantime I asked them for a phone number for local mental crisis care, just in case.

I'm already irritable. Suicidal ideations won't be far behind. I need my meds.


radio radio

I found a new NPR station that comes in (relatively) clearly on my home radio, and it has real NPR talk programming for most of the day. The station is WEPR in Greenville, SC.

A few months ago I was rearranging furniture and I pulled the wooden Emerson radio/turntable/cassette/CD player out of the corner, setting it on top of a small bookcase on the south wall of the living room. It was able to get a lot of stations that I don't care about, but the wealth of public radio around here doesn't penetrate very well to my part of Cruso, nestled as it is in a narrow river valley at about 3080 ft elevation with mountains from 4000 to 6000 feet on both sides.

For a long time I listened to WCQS in Asheville, but they play classical music from 9 AM until 3 PM and go back to it at 7 PM. And so I listened to a lot of podcasts during the day, or streamed WFSU in Tallahassee on my laptop.

A few weeks ago, I was having trouble with the reception and fiddled with the tuner. I found NPR on another station, and it came in even clearer than Asheville. At first I thought it might just be a repeater for Asheville's signal, but then I noticed a difference in programming and heard the call sign. It was coming from Greenville, South Carolina; the signal has to come over the Pisgah Ridge section of the Blue Ridge parkway, which is situated at 5000 feet and is only a couple of miles away as the crow flies. This is counterintuitive to me, since it seems that there is a much clearer line of sight to Johnson City from my house. But I'll take what I can get.

When I'm in the car I listen to WETS in Johnson City, TN. It doesn't come in at all here at the house, but when I head down the road it's the clearest station - until I get close to Clyde, where the road gets all twisty, up-and-downy, and even has one tight switchback. There the Tennessee signal gets weak and peters out.

Last year I gave my annual donation to WFSU, but now I have real radio at home without burning up my download allowance with streaming. It looks like I'm going to have to give to the Greenville station next year.

I'd prefer to donate locally, but I really don't listen to WCQS in Asheville or WNCW in Spindale enough to justify it. If WCQS went to the standard NPR format, I'd gladly give to them. But I listen almost 24 hours a day (the radio usually stays on as I sleep), and if I have to get up to change the station at 9 AM five days a week, that's not the right station for me. Not if I have a better option, and especially not when I don't have push-button tuning and station memory. My radio is proudly analog in its user interface, with a potentiometer whose knob you twist to find stations.



Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net

another season gone

Rocko and I have been spending a lot of time in the woods and by the creek lately.

Yesterday we climbed up the mountain across the street. We got a lot higher than we have in the past, and even found running water for Rocko eventually. I think that it is the source for the creek that runs down the south and east boundaries of my property. Nothing else up there is running right now; the various springs that Rocko and I investigated were only damp.
Topographic map of my immediate environment. My house is the orange dot in the center of the picture.

Rocko has really taken to the woods and can read the surroundings well. He found a steep creekbed (everything is steep up there) and went grubbing around in it, looking for water. When we took a break, I let him have a liter of my water. I had brought two one-liter bottles of water and gladly let him have one. That helped him enough that we were able to continue up for a while, where we did find that treasured water source.

Some day we'll make it to the peak. Maybe not this season; the undergrowth is starting to green up and it's going to take us a few more attempts to get up there. The multiflora roses peter out at about 3500 feet, it seems, so once we get past that point we'll mostly worry about bears and snakes. The roses are the biggest obstacle at lower altitudes. I call them "pricker bushes" as a generic term, because there are some other nastier prickers and thorns up there. "Prickers" is a good and simple term that Rocko can understand.

I am constantly reminded to "trust the dog" when it comes to finding your way through tough undergrowth. Rocko is great in the woods. He's learned how to be a dog since we' moved to the mountains. A wordless gesture to him will send him finding the way through or, failing that, around a difficult area. If he comes back out and starts to head around, I have learned to believe him.

A couple of days ago we were up on the mountain, not too far up, when we came upon and grove that I immediately dubbed "Mirkwood." There wasn't much visibility; twigs and vines kept jumping out at me, catching my coat or collar or hat. It was spooky. I tracked down Rocko. He was in a sheltered area covered with small vinelike plants, and he had a bone. A big bone. A really big bone.

My best estimate is that it is the tibia of a black bear. It has a pivot joint at each end (no ball or socket), was 11.5" in length and weighed 230g when I got it home. Rocko had already chewed off a gram or so of material on the trip down the mountain. He kept wanting to stop and chew on it, but I was concerned that the sound of crunching bone might draw in a bear that was still hungry from hibernation, especially in Mirkwood.


calvin and hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes at GoComics.com

correspondence with my state representative, Michele Presnell (R)

Last week I heard that our local misRepresentative at the state level, Michele Presnell, was touting her adherence to the promises she had made prior to being elected. She is a Tea Party tool and, unlike many of the recently elected TP loons, she has a good chance of losing her seat this fall.

I decided to send her an email letting her know what I thought of her first year, which I believe consisted of six weeks of open session. She sent a brief reply, and today I wrote back.

Full transcript below.

>>On Mar 14, 2014, at 1:43 AM, "Jay DeKing" wrote:

>> I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your Tea Party
compatriots for showing us all just what you stand for, and what you
will do when you are allowed to hold the reins of power.
>> I thank you because now we know why you were denied a majority for over
a century. At first it was because you were the Party of Lincoln, hated
in the South. Nowadays it is because you are extremists who do
everything you can to benefit the rich and the corporations at the
expense of the poor and (what used to be) the middle class.

>>To read your newsletters and your website, one would think that all was
well and that the noxious legislation you passed during the last session
was all sweetness and light, good for everybody. Too bad your
communications don't reflect reality.
>> You are, like the vast majority of your legislative "accomplishments", a
noxious and toxic group, you Republicans of the 21st Century. You wear a
smile while you slide the knife in the public's collective back.
>> Thank you again for showing us just what and who you stand for, so that
we can defeat you in 2014 and take our state back for the people.

>> Regards,
>> Jay DeKing

On 03/14/2014 05:12 PM, Rep. Michele Presnell wrote:
> So you like to pay more taxes, you think it is ok to have our elections
with fraud involved, you like many undue regulations , and killing babies
is ok with you.
> We just don't agree. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in sending an email
to me. Michele

[My reply:]
On this we can agree: We certainly don't agree about much of anything.

1) You didn't lower my taxes, at least not the state income tax. You lowered it for the wealthy and well-to-do. My tax rate is unchanged. And, since you asked, yes I do like to pay taxes. I use my taxes to buy civilization. Currently, taxes in the U.S. are at a historic low. You probably don't believe that, but it's true. Our budget problems are not primarily caused by overspending, we are presently undertaxed. Yes, really. It's a Republican problem. Cut taxes but put things like wars on the credit card. I was furious at George W. Bush when he cut my taxes in 2001; I was earning decent money then, about $100k that year. I didn't need a tax cut. And Bush went on to tank the economy with tax cuts and wars. We've been getting tax cuts for over a dozen years now, and once taxes are this low, cutting them further helps nobody but the wealthy and actively hurts everybody else. I don't expect you to understand. This is a little deep for a Tea Partier to grasp.

2) What voter fraud? Provide concrete examples (other than Republicans who got caught trying to prove that on-site voter fraud is possible).

What you really need to look at in the area of potential fraud is the software and hardware companies who provide voting services; I don't recall any mention of that in your unconstitutional abridgement-of-rights bill.

In-person fraud is so rare as to be considered non-existent. All your new voting regulations did is make it harder for honest citizens to cast their ballots. You represent a remote, primarily rural district that is home to a lot of elderly and disabled individuals, many of whom live many miles away from their voting precincts. Your new regulations (I thought you didn't like those pesky things?) make it harder on those disadvantaged folks, many of whom doubtless voted for you in the last election.

3) Regulations are necessary because people are prone to do the wrong thing far too often (especially when they think nobody will catch them) and corporations are run by people. In fact, Mitt Romney claimed that "corporations are people, my friend," and therefore, logically, corporations - or "corporate people" - are just as infallible as "human people".

Were you around during the 1960's, when pollution of the air, land and water was so bad? I was. Do you think that the hand of God came down and cleaned up that mess, and curtailed the production of more of a mess? Sorry, no, that was actually Richard Nixon and the EPA that got the ball rolling on cleaning up our great Nation. No more burning rivers.

The Dan [River, site of a recent coal ash spill] looks pretty nasty though. Might want to talk to the Governor about his buddies at Duke [Energy]. Oh, but wait, we don't want to hamper their business model with excessive regulations, do we?

Perhaps a slap on the wrist and a stern word will correct all of the polluting corporate "people".

4) You are a fanatic on the subject of abortion. You ignore real medical need and impose unreasonable restrictions in the guise of compassion, attached (in a most cowardly manner) to completely unrelated legislation rather than on their own.

5) You didn't mention this, but I thought I would: you actually passed a bill that made it illegal to raise the minimum wage above the Federal level. There is no moral basis for that ridiculous slap in the face of the working class - the majority of your constituency. But they don't give you as much money as the Tea Party, do they? And the Tea Partiers who really are working class have no idea that they are voting against their own interests. They are lied to by Fox and Beck and Rush and refuse to believe the truth.

Representative Presnell, I will concede one thing to you. You really are following the agenda that you promised prior to the election. And those promises were precisely why I have always opposed you.

On a personal level, I wish you well. As a citizen, I pray for North Carolina if you are re-elected.

Good day,

Jay DeKing


woo-hoo, it's Saturday

Yeah, I forgot it was Saturday until after our morning walk. Again.

And, just like déjà vu all over again, I was immediately elevated to a more cheerful mood.

Now, I'm not saying I was in a bad mood before that. Far from it. I had a good night at work, Rocko and I had a good walk, and I was feeling pretty good. But Saturday radio! Weekend Edition, Car Talk (Click and Clack retired, so the show is all repeats, but it's still good), Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Prairie Home Companion - all long-time favorites of mine. (Sorry, too lazy to turn them thar show titles into links. It's Saturday.)

Spring is springing here. The daffodils have been blooming for a few days, the dang multiflora roses in the woods are starting to put out their first leaves, some of the wild grasses are starting to sprout and, on warmer days, insects are making an appearance. I've taken to reminding Rocko to watch out for snakes now and then when we're in the woods. They'll be out soon, as the days warm.


feeling better

Man, I was in a hateful mood yesterday. I slept for about 16 hours, mostly straight through, and I feel much better today.

One thing really set me off this morning, though. School was cancelled for all of Haywood County today. Again. Most of the county got in inch or less of snow. They're already having Saturday school to make up for all of the snow days they've already had. A few were easily justifiable; most were not.

I have a suggestion for Haywood County Schools:  start your school year in the Spring. Continue through summer and fall. Hold graduation in December. Close for the winter, instead of the summer.


oh boy, my weekend is here

I'm in a really bad mood and am more than ready for a couple of days off. Today would have been my mother's 72nd birthday. I don't think that has anything to do with my mood, though.

Last night I worked my ass off, doing my usual 8-hours-worth-of-work-in-4-hours thing. I have to get most everything done by 3 AM, because that's when I start cooking. By 4 AM, when I finish cooking, the morning rush begins so I am not free to run around the store getting things done. I am supposed to get two 15-minute breaks during the night but most of the time I can't justify that to myself. I might get 10 minutes of down time all night long.

At my other job, I have to try to stretch less than 4 hours' worth of work over 8 hours. And there are far fewer customers at that store, so nearly every night drags; I have time to go out for a smoke (though I rarely do), eat, and read the paper, with time to spare. I'd rather be too busy than bored.

Yesterday I finally applied for insurance through healthcare.gov and, because I am a user of tobacco, I will have to pay a little bit: $67/month, to be exact. That's roughly what I was paying for medical insurance at my first job, 33 years ago, that was less comprehensive than what I have now. Not bad, thanks to the subsidy for low-income individuals. A rather high deductible, $5,000 or $6,000, but all I need on a regular basis is refills of my generic medication and that's covered. Free doctor visits and free generic prescriptions.

It strikes me as rather humorous that I, a staunch supporter of the Affordable Care Act, would have waited to long to sign up; too bad there's no medical treatment for procrastination.


pleasant surprises

I work an odd schedule: 10:30 PM until 7:00 AM, Friday through Tuesday.

And so when I get home from "my Monday" (aka Friday night/Saturday morning) I often forget that it is Saturday.

This morning, after our walk and time spent at the creek, I came in and gave Rocko his after-walk cookie. Glancing at the clock, I said, "Good, there's still 45 minutes of real radio [i.e. NPR's Morning Edition] before the classical music comes on!" But no! It's Saturday, and there's good radio all day long.

This happens almost every week (forgetting that it is Saturday until I turn on the radio), and it always cheers me up.


over the hump

The season is well on its way to changing.

Today I saw my first-of-the-year robin, vulture, juvenile salamander and wee crawdad. The daffodils broke the surface a few weeks back, and a faint green tint can be seen on the mountains in the right light.

[Addendum, 2014-03-07]
It started snowing at about 6 PM, and by this morning we had 1.5" of heavy wet snow. The temperature never fell quite to freezing. Rocko and I went down to the creek anyway and got good and wet. My gloves and parka needed washing anyway.


Pentagon cuts

Chuck Hagel announced significant cuts to the proposed Pentagon budget today.

If they are going to reduce their spending - and really, they should, we spend as much as the next, what, 24 countries, most of whom are allies - then troop strength is a logical place to look, and indeed that's a big part of the cuts. Pre-WWII troop levels is what the news story says. Conservatives will howl, as they are wont to do, about "gutting the military" and "leaving us defenseless", but damn it, we spend too much on our military.

Two aircraft are being retired, too: the U-2 spy plane and the A-10 Warthog attack beast.

Lockheed U-2 [Image from Wikipedia]
I can understand retiring the U-2. It has served well for longer than I've been alive but we have myriad satellites with ultra-high-resolution cameras now, we have drones; the U-2 has been largely rendered redundant. Flying it puts not only valuable hardware but also valuable lives at risk.

Fairchild Republic A-10 [Image from Wikipedia]
 But the Warthog? Aww, man, that's such a cool weapon of mass destruction. I wouldn't want to see one of those coming at me with Gatling gun a-blazin'. And I'm not sure they have a drone that can spew testosterone like the A-10. Yet.


snow day

Clay Bennett
After I cleaned off my car and dug out the driveway, I headed up to Frank's with Rocko for a cup of hot chocolate. I had only seen highway department plows and a road grader go by my house for at least the five hours that I had been paying attention, so I wondered about the condition of the roads.

All in all it wasn't too bad. Slow, yes; snowy, slushy, icy or just wet, but constantly changing as we traveled. The road is quite twisty as it follows the narrow river valley between the mountains, providing lots of opportunities for snow to accumulate from the wind. But it was nothing I didn't deal with all the time in NY, except that most roads up where I learned to drive are relatively straight and level compared to anything you find around here.

It got up to about 35℉ for an hour or so, so the snow got heavy and wet, but it's cooling off again. I'm glad I cleaned out the driveway while the snow still had some fluffiness to it.

eight inches, baby

Heck yeah! Eight inches, baby! Big snow. Good stuff.

I can't understand why the only vehicles I've seen on the road today are snowplows (and one road grader). OK, yeah, I really can, but I want to go out just so I can say I did. Probably won't, but I am going to dig my car out. I don't need to go anywhere until tomorrow night but if it warms up a little this snow will be a heavy mess.

Of course I don't have a snow shovel, just a square garden shovel, so I don't want to have to hurry.


woo-hoo, snow

Yesterday we got 2.25" of snow at my house between 8 AM and 2 PM.

Another half-inch fell by the time I took a core and melted it; 0.38" of melt from 2.8" of snow. That's pretty heavy and wet. I made a snowman yesterday morning since the snow was ideal for it.

Rocko didn't know what I was doing at first. I was bent over, rolling an increasingly enormous snowball around, peeling the snow right down to the grass. Once in a while I'd stop and smooth down the sphere, making it more round. Rocko just got more excited.

When the ball reached about 20" in diameter I paused to rest. Rocko started charging at the ball, grinning maniacally, tongue flapping as he ran. Over and over he made his passes, "counting coup" with his shoulder time and again like warrior on a horse, until he killed the snowball. It broke into several large pieces from the repeated strikes.

I took the largest fragment and started rolling again. This time I made it a little bit smaller than last time and set it up in the front yard. I warned Rocko off and made two more balls, each a little smaller than the last.

With bits of tree bark for eyes, a twig for a stern mouth, sculpted nose & goatee, and sticks for arms, he's still standing out there, gesturing to whomever stops to "get outta here!" (Either that, or "they went thataway!")

I christened him "the ghost of Pasco da Gama, the little-known brother of explorer Vasco da Gama" and came up with a quick character history: "he made it all the way to and over the Blue Ridge but was killed by the Cherokee during a harsh winter here in Cruso and now haunts the snows near Cold Mountain." Works for me.

The snow was wet when it fell yesterday, the temperature having risen to just about freezing as the precipitation began. It froze to the tree branches and is still there. Everything is white, the field below me and every tree on every mountain around me. It's wonderful. More snow is forecast, especially tomorrow. And since tonight is my Friday, it can snow all it wants.