Since the attacks in France last Friday, Presidents Obama and Hollande have both said things that reminded me of a post I wrote last January, entitled "observations".

In that post, I opined that the ongoing struggle against Islamic extremists "is starting to look like another World War", and both Obama and Hollande have made statements that tend to support that theory.

Sometimes being right isn't all that fun after all.


the smell of hunting season

Occasionally, while hiking around the local mountains, I will smell something growing that evokes memories.

Last week or so, Rocko and I were hiking somewhere near here when I smelled Hunting Season. Probably pheasant season.

Yesterday I figured out what that smell was: it is a plant. The ones I found were shrublike but they look like they could be trees when they get older. I brought a couple of leaves home to make sure that they were what I smelled, and they still smell like hunting season to me.

I don't know yet what exactly the plant is, but here is a picture of one of the leaves:

This leaf smells like hunting season. It was growing at Graveyard Fields.
We were hiking at Graveyard Fields, the most heavily visited site on our section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The cloud cover was low, below 5,000 feet, and we were above that elevation. We were not only hiking in the rain; we were hiking within the raincloud.

Nobody else was on the trail, at least none that we encountered. There were only about four cars in the parking area. A couple of days ago, the parking area was filled to overflowing, but it was sunny.

We got soaked but we had a good time. It really is a pretty place but, as I often say, it is usually too crowded for my taste.


opening day

Black bear hunting season opened today in Western North Carolina, and there should be a number of successful hunters near the Château this year.

At all significant access point to the Shining Rock Wilderness and adjacent public lands, there have been signs up for months now: "No Camping in the Graveyard Fields area", "all campers must store their food in approved bear-proof canisters" and variations on the theme, "keep yer eyes peeled fer bears, brother!"

Rocko and I haven't seen any bears this year, but we didn't do much hiking this summer. And, with bear season open, we need to be careful where we do hike for a while.

Rocko is a good sized dog, about 75 or 80 pounds, and black. All of my favorite jackets, sweatshirts and coats are black. And so, when it is black bear hunting season, I try to stay out of the deep woods. We might look like a mama bear and her cub to a sufficiently nearsighted and/or drunken hunter.

The barking hound who lives down by the creek next door finally had a chance to get out today. How he could be in shape to run after bears all day, after spending a year in an 8' by 12' cage, I don't know; but I am glad he was able to get out and run in the woods for a change.

Yeah, they hunt big game with dogs around here. I don't approve, but it's not my decision to make.


the kayakers are back

And the kayakers are happy. Lots of cars with kayaks on their roofs have been going past my house lately.

But they probably won't be running this stretch of the Pigeon River's West Fork:

Garden of the Gods, Haywood County, North Carolina
It is called the Garden of the Gods, at least by kayakers, and only a select few have even attempted it. There is a video on Vimeo, made a few years ago, featuring a couple of guys who dragged their kayaks up through the rhododendron and/or mountain laurel thickets and rode back down. They survived with smiles on their faces and, I imagine, a lot of adrenaline pumping. (After watching that video again, I notice that the water wasn't as high when they made that run as it was last week, when I took the picture above.)


some thoughts about the House Freedom Caucus

Here in Western North Carolina, we have the dubious distinction of having the Right Reprehensible Mark Meadows (R-Anarchy) as our House member.

Meadows is a pivotal member of the House Freedom Caucus, which has some interesting ideas.

Interesting, that is, if you are an academic whose field of study encompasses the way political parties can fall apart. For the rest of us, this is a terrifying exercise in reality, brought to us by a caucus that denies reality.

The Freedom Caucus is free, all right. Free from wisdom, free from the understanding of history, free from the desire to govern effectively, free from worries about the majority of Americans.

They are also largely free from accountability thanks to a synergistic stew of GOP-engineered gerrymandering and the Citizens United decision.

On one subject, I do agree with that odious Caucus: John Boehner had to go.

I suspect we disagree again once the prospect of filling the Speakership role is addressed. I would like to see Nancy Pelosi holding the gavel again, but the Freedom Caucus surely disagrees.

Pelosi, after all, is sane, and sanity just doesn't fly in the Freedom Caucus.

Paul Ryan has denied three times that he will accept the job (Biblical foreshadowing?), saying that he does not want to spend as much time away from his young family as would be required if he became Speaker. That I can accept and respect. On the other hand, also he says that he likes his job on the House Ways and Means Committee and believes that he is doing good there. I really don't think he's been doing very well heading the Ways and Means Committee; his budgets always suck (I think that's the technical term), and whether or not he likes the job, it may not be the one he should have.

[Ed. note: I corrected the name of Paul Ryan's committee on 2015-10-10.]


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.