I met a nice lady

After almost two and a half years, I think I'm ready for another relationship.

There is a nice little lady - she makes me feel tall, and I'm only 5'6" - who comes into my store around midnight every other Thursday. That's when her paycheck hits the bank, so she comes into get cash from the ATM and do a little shopping.

The first time I saw her I thought she was simply adorable. Over the months we have chatted at the cash register and she has really grown on me. About 5 years my junior, she works as a med tech in the next county, on the second shift, so we both have odd sleep schedules.

A couple of weeks ago I found her on Facebook and send a friend request, after which I avoided Facebook until she came into the store five days later and told me that she had accepted it. I reacted with surprise and joy; she said, "you didn't see it?" and I responded, "I've been scared to look!" She gave a funny laugh that made me think that she might be interested in me too.

Last week she came in and said that her schedule had changed and she would have the next five days off from work. "Any plans?" I asked, and she said no. "Hit me up on Facebook," she said with a smile as she went out the door.

And so I did.

After a couple of Facebook messages, I gave her my phone number so we could be in better contact.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon together at a park in Waynesville. Her son, in his early 20's I suppose, goes there because there is a skate park next door but she has to drive him. I brought Rocko and we just hung out by the creek and talked until dusk. Rocko was, as usual, the best dog in the world, even with all the people going past on the walking trail with their own dogs.

Annette (my new lady friend) had a leaky tire on her car, which we noticed had lost a lot of air while we were talking. I asked if she had a spare, and she said "I sure hope so!" Her car is a Saturn Vue, and the spare is hidden under a couple of panels in the trunk area. I had to dig out the owner's manual to figure out how to liberate it, but we got it out and I changed her tire.

I have to work a bit to avoid comparing Annette to Lisa, at least in her presence, as a gesture of respect, but I can't help seeing parallels and contrasts.

Lisa and I also met in a park for our first date. Both Lisa and Annette are intelligent women (although I'd be unlikely to be with an unintelligent woman). Lisa was the tallest girl in Haywood County, whereas Annette is one of the shortest.

And now I'm done comparing and contrasting.

I hope that this new relationship goes beyond friendship, but I don't want to be pushy. Speaking of pushy, Rocko is telling me that we need to go outside for a while. Always trust the dog, I say.


happy vernal equinox 2015, y'all

At 6:45 PM EDT today we enter the Spring, or vernal, season.

After a rather cold winter, wherein the ground was frozen unusually late, the daffodils have exploded all at once rather than piecemeal as they tend to do here. The mountainsides are gradually acquiring hints of green.

Rocko and I climbed Sam Knob on Wednesday; it is a fairly easy hike and a good way to start the climbing season. There were a lot of people on the mountain that day, which is why I usually head out a lot earlier than we did that day. "Get out there before it gets hot and before the crowds show up" is my hiking motto.


this is a big year for solar system exploration

We will be visiting our best-known dwarf planets, Ceres and Pluto, for the first time this year. (Ed. note: I believe they prefer to be called "little planets".)

The Dawn spacecraft arrived at Ceres today. You can read more at NASA's Dawn Blog. I've added that blog to my Recommended Reading list (in the right-hand sidebar) so it should bubble back up the list as new entries are posted.


the new Chevrolet ... "Bolt"?

Who gives the final OK for automobile model names?

There is an article at GasBuddy.com about Chevrolet's latest electric car. Most of the comments from readers criticized the car's value and range. I didn't read the article; I couldn't get past the headline: "After the Volt...along comes GM's Bolt"

Technical and bang-for-your-buck shortcomings aside, the first image that comes to mind for me when I see or hear the word "bolt" is, well, a bolt, as in the common threaded fastener by that name.

A big rusty bolt.

That's what came to mind when I saw the title of the article, and I thought, "why, oh why would they give a car a lame name like that? Is the article from the Onion? Is it an SNL skit?"

Of course, I'm sure they probably mean to evoke speed and agility, i.e. the verb "to bolt," but what I get is a sensation of weight and possibly a rusty orange hue.

Maybe I'm in the linguistic minority here, but I rarely hear "bolt" used as a verb. Once in a while. But not often. Once in the past year, to be precise, and I can't tell you when I last heard it prior to that.


it has been an interesting eleven years

On or about this date in 2004, I lost my job at General Dynamics because my attendance problems had gotten out of hand. That, of course, was because I had started drinking again on 03 January 2003 and that had quickly spiraled out of control.

It has been a long, strange and nearly fatal trip from then to now. I won't go through the details here, but this blog's archives go back to November 2002 and I wrote about a lot of it as it happened.

Just yesterday, I was feeling especially grateful. My new Pocket Fisherman™ arrived the day before (thank you, Dad) and I had been tossing the practice plug around the house, which was a lot of fun. As I lay in bed before work, I thought about how much has changed in my life since that day in February eleven years ago.

I don't have a great job, but at least I have a stable job. I live in Paradise, with mountains and rivers and hiking trails and wildlife all around me. I have a good dog, good health and my days are mostly free for enjoying the bounty that surrounds me. I am alone for now, but I had four and a half years with a wonderful and intelligent woman.

Yeah, life is hard, but life is good too.


whad'ya know

An Amazon Kindle showed up in my mailbox today. If there are any Pocket Fishermen flying around out there, I'd take one of those too :)

Well, the Kindle is charging and it's time to put another load of laundry in the dryer. I'll play with my new toy later. Time to take Rocko up to "the top of the road", a.k.a. the Cold Mountain Overlook, where our road crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had a pair of new tires put on yesterday and had an alignment done, so it should be a smooth and sunny drive. The tires have nothing to do with the sunniness, to be sure, but they will make for a nice ride.


this looks like a good book

A Scientist in Wonderland, which is written about at Science-Based Medicine.

I've added it to my Amazon wish list for the day when I can afford it.

I was going to take a good nap after work yesterday morning

But then it started snowing, so I said, "let's go, Rocko, we're going up the mountain."

We climbed as close to the peak of "our" mountain as we could. At the summit there is a stone outcropping, maybe 50 feet high, that could be scaled in dry weather, but it was cold and wet yesterday so we had to be satisfied with our progress and turn back.

Here is a section of the topographical map of the area with a rough estimation of our path to the summit indicated in black. Cruso Road (Route 276) runs through the center of the picture; our house is indicated with an ellipse along the road, and the peak of the mountain is indicated with an ellipse in the upper-left corner.

(Map screencaptured from TopoQuest and annotated by me)
It was an easy enough climb, though quite steep (about 1000 feet vertical, less than a quarter mile horizontal), but there is nothing for Rocko to drink. Last year there was one spring about halfway up that was running well, but last year was a wet one. This year was drier and the spring, while running, had no pools that Rocko could drink from. I hadn't brought water, either, but kept my mouth moist with snow. Fortunately we completed the ascent and descent within about two hours so neither of us was terribly dehydrated afterward.

My new hiking boots did their job well. My feet stayed dry despite the snow and my steps were sure. Or, as sure as they could be with the thick layer of leaves on the steep slopes.



A couple of things I've thought about recently.

It came to me a few minutes ago that Amazon.com is the 21st century version of Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s catalog. I just heard a story on NPR's Marketplace telling how Amazon delivers all kinds of things to remote, roadless places in Alaska where there are no other shopping opportunities. The same type of service was the mainstay of the Sears catalog from the late 19th century well into the 20th.

Something I've been mulling for a while is that the growing fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and related terrorist organizations is starting to look like another World War.


band names

For some reason "Angela's Merkin" sounds, to me at least, like a really good name for a band.

It came to me out of the blue one day when I was trying to come up with an original-sounding name. The only problem is, I can't help laughing when I try to say it aloud.

What might be better is to spell it "Angela Smirkin" so the fans have an inside joke to share.


je suis Charlie

I hear that the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo has already sold out; 3 million copies were printed, rather than the usual 60K or so.

I've never read Charlie Hebdo and had never heard of it until the recent terrorist attacks, though it evidently has been in print for decades. From what I have heard, it is way out on the edge, an equal opportunity offender, and the assassins were offended by Charlie's depictions of Muhammad.

What Charlie Hebdo printed did not cause the attacks.

What caused the attacks was the mistaken belief, by a small group of extremists, that everybody in the world must conform to one religion's dictates.

Most Muslims don't believe that, of course, any more than most self-identified Christians believe the same things as the Westboro Baptist Church, yet right-wing types keep saying that all Muslims are guilty by association. And so, to take that logic down the Christian path, all Christians are guilty by association with people, places and events like the Crusades (many wars over hundreds of years), the Holocaust (the Nazis were nominally Christian), the KKK (Catholics excepted, of course), Jim Jones' church's mass suicide (actually a lot of mass suicides over the centuries, which is supposedly a sin that would send you to Hell anyway; hard to understand religious "logic" sometimes), slavery ... I could go on all day, really, citing every evil done in the belief that Jesus was smiling on it.

Personally, I self-excommunicated from the Christian faith in its entirety some time ago just because of that long and continuing association between bad people, bad actions, and a sense of religious entitlement or privilege among those who most loudly proclaim their Christianity - those who might benefit most from a thorough study of Matthew chapter 7 in their no doubt well-thumbed, ever-present, fancily-bound Bible with included concordance and zippered weather-resistant case.

To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, Christ's message is a good one; it's too bad the people who call themselves his followers don't actually follow his teachings. The same could be said of Muhammad.


it's my anniversary

Today marks seven years without a drink.

I had set a calendar alarm on my phone, to go off at 7 AM this morning - just as I was getting off work for my weekend. I chose that time because the woman who comes in at 7 AM, allowing me to leave, is in recovery as well and I wanted to share the news with her. Her demon of choice was opioid pills and I think she has about four years clean.

Seven years seem to have passed so quickly, yet so slowly. Tallahassee was a long time ago. I still look at the Tallahassee mug shots every day, but I see fewer and fewer familiar faces.


an obsessive survey- and test-taker's dream assignment

I received a postcard in the mail today.

"Congratulations! Your household has been selected to take part in a one week Nielsen TV Ratings viewing survey!

"In a few short days you will receive a phone call from us to explain this exciting opportunity. It is very important that your household is included in our survey. For our survey to be accurate, all types of households need to be represented."

OK, fair enough. Two things, though: a) The phone number they are probably going to try to call would be my land line, which I shut off in March 2013, and 2) I haven't watched TV at home since I canceled the satellite service in April 2013.

It may well be that they do have an interest in an empty tally sheet, showing no television watching whatsoever for what ever week they choose to survey, and I'd be more than pleased to acquaint them with my TV (non-)viewing habits.

Yesterday morning (Thursday, 08 January 2015) the low temperature was a chilling -1.7℉ at about 8 AM, but after local sunrise (when the sun crested the mountain) the temperature started to increase - as it is wont to do - and it kept climbing even after sunset. The high temperature for the day was overnight, all the way up to 34.7℉ by a quarter to 1 AM. After that it started falling again, bottoming out at 23.7℉ at about 8:15 AM this morning.

It was a year and a day prior to that, 07 January 2014, when we had that's season's coldest temperatures: -4.0℉ at my house. Pipes froze and burst both at the store and in the pump house next door to my house.


Mark Twain's grave site vandalized

A plaque depicting Samuel Clemens' face has been stolen from his grave site in Elmira, New York.  [From The History Blog]

From late January until the end of August 2000 I lived in Elmira at a halfway house. During my stay there, I did a lot of exploring on my bicycle and eventually made my way up to the cemetery where Samuel Clemens and his family lie at rest, overlooking the valley.

The stone that was vandalized is quite tall and, according to the linked article, whomever stole the plaque would have needed a ladder.

I do hope they find the plaque, but already they are making plans to replace it if necessary.


crazy cat

We all have our jobs around here, and most of a cat's job cannot be done by either Rocko or me. It's time to hire one on.

The mole population in my yard has exploded in the year since both my cat and my rat snake disappeared. I've known for a while that I need another cat; no snake has come along to take the place of ol' Ratty.

A friend of mine said that one of my co-workers might have a cat to spare.

I asked Shelly, my co-worker, if she had any cats to get rid of. It turns out that she finally got all of her cats fixed, so there won't be any more litters, but there is a male "crazy cat" that she "wouldn't really miss" if he found another home.

At first I wasn't sure if I wanted a crazy cat, but I looked at Lisa's picture and talked about it. "Remember what Jack was like," she responded, "he was feral when you came along. You turned him into Gentleman Jack. You are a cat whisperer. You can handle a crazy cat."

And of course Lisa (and my subconscious mind) is right. We described Jack as "feral" when I first joined the family, and I gradually tamed him - through his Catholic phase, where I needed to bless his food with "holy water" before he would eat as I sat by his side, into the Rocko years, and finally to the Pigeon River valley of North Carolina, where he truly became Gentleman Jack.

Shelly says that the crazy cat is a good mouser, which is essential, and she wanted me to promise that I won't force the cat to stay out in the coldest weather. "No, no, the cat won't be forced to stay outside," I said. It's important that the cat be happy outdoors and not need a litter box, but the cat would certainly be welcome indoors.


low oil prices

On Christmas Eve, my car's tank was down to the half-full mark. I topped off the tank for less than $14.00.

I've been ruminating on Saudi Arabia's decision to allow oil prices to plummet, and a couple of things come to mind.

First, low prices for crude mean less money for ISIS*, which allows the Saudis to do some harm to the loonies without overt military action.

Second, the U.S. has "drilled, baby, drilled" its way to the top of the oil-export market. Low prices for crude are already making production from some American oil formations unprofitable**, at least for now.

And, the thing that inspired me to write this today, low oil prices hurt Vladimir Putin. Surely the Saudi royal family sees that Putin is a dangerous factor for instability amongst his neighbors, and the Middle East is only a couple of blocks away. If Russia gets bitten as a side effect of Saudi oil policy, even if that is not the original intent, it likely would not cause the Saudis to shed a tear.

Gas is going for $2.30/gallon at the station down the road from my house. Premium is selling for $2.70 there, and diesel is finally below $3 at $2.99.

*When ISIS first hit the news, a regular customer at work asked if I was secretly with ISIS. "No," I said, "I'm with Osiris."

**And I see that as a good thing. Save some for later, eh?

rudy giuliani needs to shut up

That is all.