Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thurvey 6/28/2012 . . .too hot for black robes, but our opinions matter too.

Thursday. Survey. Thurvey.   Answer any, all, or just give a totally unresponsive answer, which is totally acceptable during an election year.  Type your responses or non-responses in the comment box below, including your name if you wish to claim your opinion, click the "publish as" drop down menu and choose "anonymous,"  click on publish, and your done.  If the comment box does not appear, simply click on "comments" below this post.  Show the Supreme Court that you don't have to wear a black robe to publish important opinions this week . . .

#1   National Geographic conducted a survey about which presidential candidate would best handle an invasion of extra-terrestrials.  Steven Colbert suggested a survey of which candidate would you prefer during a zombie uprising.  What "Survivor" or even stranger kind of test would you like to see the candidates face in order to test their readiness to lead?

#2  Yesterday's post concerned drinking the Kool-Aid.  No matter your political bent, or perhaps in other areas of interest, it is common to be frustrated by others who you feel have accepted a load of horse puckey as the gospel truth without giving their ridiculous belief any thought.  What flavor of metaphorical Kool-Aid drives you nuts, political or otherwise?

#3  What is your favorite non-metaphorical Kool-Aid memory?

#4   The State of Alabama was ranked number one in another bad way this week.  The lung cancer rate among Alabama women is the highest in the nation.  On the positive side, two of Alabama's beaches were ranked as among the top five cleanest beaches in the country.  And, the State ranked high in reading improvement nationwide.  In your opinion, at what is Alabama  among the best in the country?  The worst?
Be creative.  This question is only open to Alabama residents.  If you live in another state, tell us about your home.

#5    With temperatures in triple digits the next few days many of us will prefer air conditioned pastimes.  What book or movie do you want to see this summer?  What have you read or seen that you recommend? Any other cool entertainment venues or events around your neighborhood that you would recommend?

#6  The Supreme Court issued decisions  this week that addressed corporate campaign contributions, appropriate punishments for juvenile felony offenders, immigration, water rights, and are scheduled to publish the opinion on the Affordable Health Care Act today. (Interestingly, three of these are directly related to Alabama).  What is your general impression of the Supreme Court, if you have an impression at all?  In which decision this week were,or are, you most interested ?  What prior decision of the Court interests you the most?

#7  What question of your own do you want answered this week?


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Election Kool-Aid Mustache Test (apologies to Tom Wolfe)

There is an epidemic in our country.  At least it appears to be at first glance. A mysterious skin disorder which manifests itself with discoloration, mostly red or blue, directly above the upper lip and below the nose.  It may seem like a disease.  But it's more like an addiction.

We are drinking the kool-aid, and loving it.

If you read this blog much, you know which flavor I would prefer.  But this post is not about the flavor.  It's about the mindless addiction.

I love Kool-Aid.  It is sweet. It is convenient.  It is cheap. It makes me feel good to drink it.  It has almost  no nutritional value, full of empty calories.  It fills me up, leaving less room for less tasty things like vegetables.  And that frosty dancing pitcher with the smiling face must be a great guy. Too bad he's not real.

When I was young grown-ups would give me Kool-Aid.  It made me feel good.  It made me want to make them happy.  I was more likely to do what they asked, to not cause them any trouble, to behave.  After all, they controlled the Kool-Aid.

There are a lot of flavors of Kool-Aid these days. 

They are all convenient, cheap, full of empty calories and fill us up so there is less room for more nutritional less tasty things, and make us feel good.

Kool-Aid is almost like candy to a kid.  And you know how we all learned to not trust a stranger who comes up and, with a smiling face, offers us candy.  We were taught to run the other way, yelling.  

We were taught that because the stranger offering us candy wasn't interested in making us happy.  He was interested in what he might get from us, or do to us, even if it hurt us.

But the candy was tempting . . . to a child.

But we are not children, though we are acting like it.  We cannot be sustained by sugary-sweet, convenient, cheap offerings of those who mix up the concoctions and hand them out, hoping to make us feel good, to do what they want, to not cause them any trouble.

Growing up is hard.  The healthiest vegetables are an acquired taste (I still have trouble with beets).  Balanced meals take time to prepare.  It takes a lot more work.

And it is hard to grow up and realize that the folks giving us the sweet things may have selfish motives that are not good for us at all.

But the hardest part of all is that  a Kool-Aid mustache is obvious to everyone except the one who wears it.

Unless he takes a good look in the mirror.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Supreme pizza legal work . . .(and Week in Preview Haiku)

Week in Preview Haiku:
                                         Arizona law
                                         (2)(b) or not (2)(b) hmm,
                                         Health Care Act Thursday

The decision by the U. S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. U. S. was released today.  I invite you to click on the link  and read the opinion of the court, if you wish.

Here's how it came out.  It was all struck down except one provision.

To put it simply, which is a real favor to those of you who are not still riveted to the opinion link, the Supremes said what was obvious from the beginning of this litigation.  Immigration issues are the jurisdiction of the Federal, not the the State governments.  State governments cannot dabble in anything immigration "pre-empted" by the Federal government.

The news reports are not really correct in what they are saying about the provision that remains.  Section (2)(b) requires that Arizona law enforcement officers check the legal status of persons otherwise legally stopped or detained if he or she has reason to believe the person might be illegal.  Provision (2)(b) was allowed to stand only because it's application has not been addressed by the State of Arizona Court system.  The Supreme Court said that it believes there is a way that  provision (2)(b) could be applied in a limited way to pass constitutional muster, and there are ways that it could be applied which would require that it to be reviewed again and possibly struck down.

And it is limited.  A law enforcement officer can ask for documentation of someone he or she has legally stopped otherwise and has reason to believe the detainee is an undocumented immigrant.  The detainee cannot be detained simply for the purpose of checking legal status.  That's pretty much it.

I learned something I was supposed to know but didn't.

It is not criminal to remain in the country illegally.  It is a civil offense.

Because that is true, most of Alabama's immigration law looks dead in the water, since it creates crimes based on legal status and otherwise interferes in the federal sphere of immigration regulation.   We'll see if the 11th Circuit agrees.

The Supreme Court also entered a decision in Miller v. Alabama.   The court prohibited mandatory sentences of life without parole for offenders of juvenile age.  Period.

Hallelujah.  Seriously.  Thank you Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Initiative, Montgomery, Alabama, who argued the case to the U. S. Supreme Court.  And won.

Alabama law, courts and government will be directly affected by these decisions, both of which are contrary to our State government's position.

Is there anything to be learned here? How can we reduce Alabama's increased playing time at the Supreme Court?

.Quit writing ridiculous laws.

Like this one.  From Tennessee, thank goodness.

 Don't show it to an Alabama legislator.  We don't want a special session.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

And I will give you rest . . .

I just finished one of my favorite spiritual disciplines, the one to which I am most committed. If I had a denomination of my own it would probably be a sacrament.

The Sunday nap.

Even God rested on the Sabbath after that first six day work week.   And Jesus often slipped away by Himself to pray . . .at least that's what He must have told His disciples, since that is what is in the gospels.  I imagine He lay his  Head down for a few minutes from time to time and enjoyed a snooze, after praying of course, even if he had no particular place to lay His head. Apparently Jesus had a knack for the nap.  In today's lectionary reading from Mark 4 He was napping  in a boat during a storm which was strong enough to scare a bunch of tough career fishermen. He seemed a little cranky when His disciples woke him up.  (according to Matt Smith of Taylorville UMC, services at 9 and 11 every Sunday, just off Highway 69, Tuscaloosa,  in his sermon this morning)

I had to look a little harder to find evidence of the Holy Spirit's endorsement of this discipline.  I had to take a few liberties, but I found it in the story of Pentecost in Acts 2:3:

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest . . ." 

Who am I to argue with a unanimous endorsement by the Holy Trinity?

Consequently then, my Sunday nap is a Constitutional Right, a Holy exercise of my religion, which should not be abridged as I pursue my happiness in slumber.

As many spiritual practitioners will tell you, sometimes it is helpful to have a particular place to exercise spiritual disciplines.  A desk in a back room for study. A chair on the deck for prayer.

I nap religiously on my sofa.

And, as in other spiritual disciplines, it is advisable to use such aides as may enhance the experience.  A desk with books, commentary and a Bible for study.  A candle or chime for centering prayer. A cup of coffee for almost any discipline.

A golf tournament on TV is the perfect aid for my discipline of slumber.  The occasional swoosh of the swing of the club, followed by the tap of the ball.  The quiet smattering of applause.  The dulcet tone of the announcer's voices.  It is perfect.

Not as perfect as the weather channel used to be.  I don't know who updated that cheesy weather channel soundtrack that was played constantly before they went to live programming, but I wish I had a copy of it. It was auditory Ambien.

But, we can get too much of a good thing.  A friend of mine offers a gentle criticism sometimes.  "We can't be so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good."

So, it is time to get up and get ready for the week to come. Refreshed and renewed.

As Jesus told his disciples who kept nodding off in the Garden of Gethsemane.

"The hour has come . . . let's go."

There you have it.  A one hour nap.

Almost a commandment.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Laurels and party hardy . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

Summer is here in Alabama, right on time.  Ninety degree days arrived as the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, came upon us.  In Europe, and other parts of the northern hemisphere, this natural phenomena that occurs as a result of the relationship of the earth's axis to the sun has been a wonderful excuse, for centuries, to have a big party, a throw down with ancient music and dancing, washing the face with the morning dew after a night of quaffing ale, and wearing fern blossom laurel crowns. Perhaps the washing of the face with morning dew was a natural result of passing out in the park after a night of quaffing ale, but that has not been documented scientifically, just anecdotally.  During "Midsummer", as with most holidays, the celebrations have been modernized, but paganism is not bound by time.  Thankfully. Cause when it seems there are few reasons to party, there is always the rising of the sun.

Caesar is known for sporting a leafy laurel crown. (don't think this is really a photograph of Caesar, but he had the look)  Not just during Midsummer parties.  Sort of like the ruby red or royal blue necktie of recent American presidents and potential successors.   I wonder if this is where the old adage "resting on your laurels" derives.  Perhaps the term used for a lame duck Caesar.  Laurels plucked during the Ides of March when the end of the term was near.  But I digress.

I shared a late lunch with a good friend this week.  We are dramatically different in our political views, which is good fodder for long discussions. We agree on what the world's problems are, but we have respectful disagreements about how to address them.   But then we talk about our children, or vacations, or yard work, or movies.  Turns out we really aren't so different after all.

 Most of the time our discussions end with a good-natured parting, " . . .enjoyed the talk, but we solved nothing . . ., see you tomorrow."  And we each walk out into the same world with the same problems.  But I feel better.

At this point it occurs to me that some of you may be put off by me being thankful that paganism is not bound by time.  I am a Christian after all, and paganism includes a variety of ancient religious practices, none of which arose from Christianity.  Of course, Christianity co-opted most of the pagan's really good festivals, even "Midsummer",   But, I am Christian, and do not endorse the practices of paganism that Jesus would not care for.  If my brothers and sisters are offended, I am sorry about that.

And, to be fair, I should apologize to the practicioners of pagan religions, because it may seem to you that I have ignorantly trivialized serious religious practices. Sorry about that.

But, sometimes you just have to find a reason to party. To celebrate something. To bring life back down to its basics. Its basic goodness.

Jesus said that it rains on the just and the unjust.  Bob Marley said "Some people feel the rain, others just get wet."

It rains on us all.

But, the sun also rises.(Apologies to King Solomon and Papa).

And shines on us all.

Since we're all here, I guess we're all invited.

Let's party.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thurvey 6/21/2012

The Thurvey rolls around every week, it seems like.  But it is critical to keep our fingers on the pulse of the people, even if it slows down considerably around the summer solstice. But since the days are among the longest of the year, there is plenty of time to ponder the Thurvey and share your thoughts with the universe . . .telepathically or via the internet by typing them in the comment box.

#1  Fast and Furious, the gun-walking operation in Mexico operated by the ATF, provides a good study in Civics and politics, from the tactic of gun-walking in another country, to the Congressional hearings, to the invocation of Executive privilege.  What concerns you most about Fast and Furious and what has followed?  Or if you are in a less serious mood, what is your favorite action movie of all time, in the genre of the Fast and Furious movies starring Vin Diesel et al?

#2  As in all presidential elections, the names of previous Presidents are thrown about as positive and negative examples of leadership, but the image presented not necessarily based on reality.  For instance, the President that actually cut taxes, slashed regulation on business and stood up to Congress on pork barrel spending was Jimmy Carter.  Ronald Reagan's most celebrated achievement was his role in the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Ironically, the method he used was spending so much money on defense, tripling the national debt, that the Soviets spent themselves out of existence trying to keep up.  Which prior president do you admire most and why?

#3   A friend recently sent out an email pointing out that the national murder rate has decreased significantly with the simultaneous increase in gun sales, in support of his position on 2nd amendment rights.  I responded that the murder rate has decreased during the Obama presidency, another reason to re-elect the President.  Statistics can be handy, if misleading.   Do you pay attention to all the statistics presented on the news?  Do you trust them at all? Do you ever fact-check them?  Have you found any statistics  that were misleading?  If you don't trust statistics, what do you trust in making decisions about government officials and programs performance?

#4  What are the best qualities (be serious) in the presidential candidate that you do not support?

#5  What is your preferred flavor of home-made ice cream?  Crank or electric? Recipe?  If you don't like ice cream, what is your favorite summer treat?

#6  What question do you want answered this week?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

That's what made America great . . .

That's what made America great . . .

I have heard the phrase a million times and I have said it about that many times, a few times seriously, and many times in jest. But I wonder if as the generations pass we are losing what really made America great. (For those of you rebels out there, yes, I am making the assumption that America is great. I believe it is. Not perfect, but great)

The United States has only been around for two centuries and change.


That is what made America great. A straining for the future, for something different, something better, even if, especially if, it seemed, it involved some risk. Even if things had never been done this way before.

It is hard to imagine a more radical change in a form of government than from the monarch of Great Britain to the Constitutional Democracy hammered out by those bold representatives of the States that became United as a result of their meeting in Philadelphia. 

Freedom of speech, ideas and religion, even speech in opposition to the government. Expansion of the right to vote to all citizens over a long, sometimes difficult path. Exploration of new frontiers, first westward to the Pacific, and ultimately to the moon and beyond. Creation of an economic system that provided the capital for explosive growth and economic opportunity, as well as mind-boggling technological advancement. Education for all. Security for the elderly. Medical insurance for the poor. Protections for the ones who labor. Equality under the law.

And so much more.

All were advancements, meaning that none of the changes came from returning to the way things were in a past time, or even staying the way they were in the present moment. The status quo represented failure. If you stood still you were left behind.

Because it was believed that while things may be better than they were, they were surely not as good as they could be. So things were changed.

Is the United States as good as it can get?

No. Of course not. But it seems to me we act that way. We have lost something.

We have lost our path.

Or perhaps we haven't lost it.  We have just sat down on it, looking backward at the familiar path behind us. A path cleared with risk, creativity and sweat. A path that wasn't a path at all until we tramped across it.  But looking back it looks easy, it looks clear and straight.  It becomes broader as more were allowed to join in the journey.  The obstacles that once blocked it are gone. It would be so easy to backtrack. It would be easy to sit down. It would be easy to rest and look at the view, to be satisfied in how far we have come.

So, is this as good as we get?  Is this where we sit down?  Is this where the path stops?

A path is not a destination.

Until we quit moving. Until we sit down. Until it becomes our final resting place.



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thurvey 6/14/2012

The Thurvey that has received more hits than any other in history was published a few months ago as "a leaner, cleaner Thurvey."  But, as is the unfortunate plight of most institutions, the resulting success generated indulgence and bloating.  So, in a spirit of austerity, we have made cut-backs on word count once again.  You, on the other hand, will not be asked to sacrifice.  You are encouraged to be verbose if you wish. . . the comment box will expand.

#1 On the subject of indulgence and bloating, how are you attacking the extra pounds now that bathing suit season is upon us?

#2  We are still several months away from the Presidential elections, but, if you voted today, what are the four most important things to you in your decision? Prioritize.

#3  The Birmingham News, Huntsville Times, and Mobile Press Register announced they will no longer be daily newspapers as of October, supposedly increasing their attention to their website. Will this affect you?  What news source do you depend on for facts?

#4  The U. S. is using drones (unmanned planes) to spy and kill in other countries.  They are stationed all over our country (some very close by).  How do you feel about the increased use of drones?  If you had your own drone, how would you use it?

#5  What question do you want answered this week?


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Swimming classes . . .

I was on a flight to Europe a couple of years ago.  Most of the flights to Europe from the U. S. do not fly directly East, but rather head northeast, over Maine, Newfoundland, across the Northern Atlantic, close to Greenland and Iceland and then southeastward to the destination city.  I pass my time on such flights checking the vital flight statistics in multiple languages on the little TV screens. Altitude, airspeed, distance and time from departure point, distance to destination point, temperature, in both Metric and English, Celsius and Fahrenheit.

I also pass the time looking out the window, if there is sufficient light to see anything.  Some flights let you see what is below on the little TV screen, which I think is very cool.

But even cooler, in fact, downright frigid, is the water below for most of the northern flight, which is deep, deep blue dotted with white chunks of ice.

Before take-off the flight attendants give their speeches about seat belts, not smoking  or disengaging the smoke alarm in the toilet, and the necessity of being brutally selfish with oxygen masks. And then they talk about flotation devices, in the event the plane goes down while over the Atlantic.

On domestic flights no one listens to the flotation device speech, because the chances of crashing in a large body of water are slim.  But on a trans-Atlantic flight, it's time to listen.

So I did.

"For our guests in coach, in the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. Just pull hard enough to rip them off the frame, and it might work . . ."

And to our guests in first class, you will find a coast guard approved life jacket under your seat . . an attendant will be available to assist you in putting it on if you are not used to doing things like that for yourself."

At first I was  angry.  The folks in first class would be  getting strapped into their fine U. S. government approved life jackets while the rest of us were still pounding on our seat frames trying to loosen them up.

So, as usual, first class would exit the plane first. Into the  icy cold, deadly frigid waters.

I smiled.  Not because I took any pleasure in the thought of first class passengers hitting the deadly cold waters.  Okay, maybe just a little because of that.  Don't judge me.

No, I smiled mostly because the whole charade was ridiculous.  If we survived the fall, none of us would survive in the arctic waters for more than a few minutes, no matter the status of our flotation device.

No matter the class.



Monday, June 11, 2012

Week in Preview Haiku . . . and boats

The Week in Preview Haiku:

Greece, Spain, Italy,
Mediterranean flood,
Bail. Their boat is ours.

Feel free to contribute your own haiku in the comment box. We are not strict observers of the art. Just try to follow the 5-7-5 pattern.  Now on to other different, but related matters.

Boats and ships make for pithy sayings. . A rising tide raises all ships. This ship is sinking fast.  A ship without a rudder. Don't rock the boat. Not all his oars are in the water . . .

Yesterday's post talked about the future of a house divided.

We've got to decide if we, as Americans, are in the same boat or not.  Perhaps we should combine our metaphors and call it a houseboat divided.

The thing about being in the same boat is, that while there will be many opinions of what course to take, and and at what speed, ultimately, one course must be chosen.  That can be tough, being in close quarters, drifting perilously, while passionate sincere voices declare what is certainly the correct course to take.

On the other hand, the more voices there are, the better the chance that the correct course will be spoken. If only it can be heard above the shouts of all the other voices.

Or survive being tossed out of the boat.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday sermon . . . a house divided

Rev. Matt Smith (of Taylorville United Methodist Church fame)  preached on the third chapter of  Mark this morning. As usual, he gave me something to chew on for the rest of the day, and I don't mean a granola bar with the coffee in his office.  Verses 24 and 25 are familiar:

24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

If you are not familiar with Jesus' words in Mark, you may remember the phrase from Abraham Lincoln's famous "House Divided" speech at the Illinois Republican Convention of 1858 as he kicked off his bid for the U. S. Senate, in which he intimated that the continuation of the institution of slavery in the United States pursuant to the Dred Scott decision was a Democratic Party conspiracy.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.

I think we all understand the basic message of Jesus as it applies to humanity, and the application of the message by Lincoln to the American institution of slavery and the future of the Union.

We should understand it more, here in the United States, than any time since the Civil War.  We seem divided about everything.

Jesus and Abe (again, Lincoln, not Abraham) each made a point that is often missed as we get stuck on the issue of division.  Jesus said that in order to get to the root of the problem, it would be necessary to "enter the strong man's house" and tie him up.  In other words, we, like Jesus, must confront, face to face, hand to hand, heart to heart, that which divides us and struggle with it.  Abe was not quite so cryptic, as he began his speech, "If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it."

We cannot address or repair the division without attempting to understand what divides us.  And perhaps it may be even more important to first search for and affirm that which unites us.

But it seems that we have almost gotten to the point where it is dangerous to admit unity in anything, other than in shallow platitudes, lest we lose some advantage to those who might disagree with us.

Jesus would have us admit unity in our humanity. Division was not mentioned in the story of creation, except for the waters from the land.  Then there was that awful matter of separation of Adam and Eve from the garden.  But that was the doing of man, not God. Biblically, division was generally used as a time-out for misbehaving children . . .a punishment.

Lincoln would have us remember our unity as Americans. The speech is amazingly technically wonky by today's standards at the State  party level.  But for purposes of this speech, freedom is that which unites us as countrymen.

We have lost our courage.  We stand outside the house of the strong man that divides us, whether you wish to define that in spiritual, or metaphorical terms, and shout, shouting from all sides, north, south, east and west, louder and louder.  Sometimes we even throw our pathetic rocks, doing nothing to the strong man in his strong house.  We don't even care about that anymore.  We are more intent in hitting the crowd that screams from the other side of the house.  If we silence them, then maybe our voice alone will be heard. Maybe our voice will prevail.

But the strong man in the strong house is not disturbed.

The strong man is strengthened.

Because, his only threat is our unity.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Deep thoughts . . . or just the coconut oil?

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

The morning walk is done and the oatmeal is on the stove, fortified by a teaspoon of coconut oil which, according to current urban legend, is supposed to make be smarter, faster, stronger . . . and make my coat shiny. I'll let you know how it goes after a fair test, unless I improve so much that I can no longer just sit around and post on my blog.

I don't know if it's just the coconut oil talking, but the walk produced deep thoughts this morning.

Cat, the feral feline that I am attempting to befriend (see last Saturday's post), now graces my picnic table to eat the cat food I put out for him every day.  He was standing on the table, eating away, as I came out of the house to start walking this morning.   The scrape of the wooden kitchen door sent Cat leaping from the top of the table and hitting the ground running in full cat stride before pulling up at the edge of the woods, turning to watch me with suspicion from afar.  I walk laps along a path close to my house.  Each lap is 3/8 of a mile, and takes me away from the house for a little while.  As I was coming back toward the house at the end of the first lap I noticed Cat was back up on the picnic table, nervously gorging himself on Meow Mix, pausing only briefly to look over his shoulder to make sure no enemy was sneaking up on him.  He saw me coming up the hill toward him and once again bolted for the edge of the woods.  I walked six laps.  The first four laps Cat was eating on the table until he saw me, then he ran.  He wasn't there the last two laps.  Every morning and evening I make a big production out of putting cat food out for Cat.  I say the universal cat whisper "kitty, kitty, kitty . . ." in a falsetto voice, not so quietly that Cat can't hear it if he is close by, but not so loudly as to be annoying.  I rattle the Meow Mix bag vigorously as I open it.   Then I pour the dry cat food into the metal pan, holding the bag about a foot above the pan, so that the dry nuggets of nutrition bang loudly as the plate is filled.   The dinner bell has been rung.  I have done this for a week.  And still Cat, who sees and hears me perform this ritual for him every day, whom I have never hurt or even raised my voice toward, seems to tolerate me only for the food that I give him, and then only at several arms length.  I wonder what happened to Cat before we met that makes him so suspicious of somebody like me?

With the whole Cat thing weighing heavily on me as I plodded along, I heard a noise ahead of me, up in the limbs of a pine tree that arch over my path.  I thought it was a squirrel.  But it was a pine cone, falling from the top of the tree, pinging and bouncing from limb to limb, like a pinball, until, after grazing the lowest limb, it fell with a crackly crunch to the ground in front of me.  Suddenly I noticed there were twenty or thirty pine cones already on the ground under the tree.  I've been walking this same route for several days, directly through and over this pile of pine cones, and never noticed them at all on the ground, even as I am sure I stepped on and crushed a few of them.  But it was hearing and then watching the one cone fall that directed me to the place and plight of the many silent cones that had always been there.  Is is necessary for me to see the wreck before I feel anything for the victims?

Later on, as my path took me through a field, I noticed a curious thing.  Actually, the two components of the curious thing were not curious at all, they are both common and annoying.  I walked by a fire ant hill. Across the field these red dirt mounds pop up like small volcanoes, and if you have ever become involved with one you understand that the stinging eruption of solenopsis invicta can have almost as much heat as Vesuvius.  Trying to get rid of them is like playing a game of Whac-a-Mole .  Actually you don't get rid of them, they just pick up and move a little down the road.  Then I noticed something in the fire ant hill I was walking by.  It was a hole, like a divot, right in the middle of the hill, and a trail of red dirt leading away from the hill through the dewy grass. I had seen this divot before.  Several times in my yard.  This was the work of an armadillo.  At first I laughed out loud in the quiet stillness of the morning.  The thought of a pesky armadillo sticking his ugly snout into the middle of a fire ant hill and the resulting painful withdrawal and retreat made me happy.  Then, the thought of the fire ant hill being disrupted by the armadillo made me happy again.  But then my heart, soul and mind were troubled.  What if armadillos develop a taste for fire ants and become their natural predator?  What if my enemy, the armadillo, is the answer to my life-long struggle against fire ants?  Or what if my nemesis the fire ants are the remedy for armadillo infiltration?   When did life become so complicated?

Walking through the dew laden field my shoes and socks became soaked. My steps became heavier and heavier.  While I am sure the added weight that I picked up on my journey will make be stronger, it is a slower walk.  But maybe that's not such a bad thing.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thurvey 6/7/2012 The Heat is On

It's hot out there, and I'm not talking about the weather . . . okay, the weather is hot as well.  A great time to sit in an air conditioned room and ponder, then publish, responses to this week's Thursday Survey. There is no formal structure for a response to the Thurvey, in fact, liberty is encouraged as you may choose to answer none, one, some, all, or a completely different question.  The heat is on . . . .

#1  The Heat, as in Miami, are still in the NBA playoffs, trailing Boston 3-2 as of this writing (yes, for the totally uninterested, that is still going on). For an update you don't want to miss on this game click here. But the hottest sport team in the nation just finished up the season last night with a win over Oklahoma.  No, I'm not talking about San Antonio (again, NBA playoffs. They lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder)  I'm talking about the University of Alabama Softball Team.  The Tide beat Oklahoma 5-4 to win the National Championship.  If you are a sports fan, what sport and team do you follow during the summer?   Will you attend a sporting event (at any level) this summer? What is it and why do you go?

#2  451 degrees is a lot of heat. Ray Bradbury told us it was the temperature at which book paper begins to burn in his classic Fahrenheit 451.  Bradbury died this week, so it might be a good time to re-visit one of his books this summer.  Most of us sometimes escape the summer heat, whether at home or at the beach, but not driving between, by reading a book ( or digital facsimile).  What is on your reading list this summer?

#3   National politics is generating a lot of heat, but is anybody feeling it, months before the November elections?   Are you paying much attention to national politics?  If not, when will you begin to pay attention, if at all?  If your attention has been caught, what was the bait?

#4  What is your favorite summer song, food, and drink?   Forget the heat. Tell us about your cool.

#5  Montgomery, Alabama, is one of the hottest places in the world in the summer.  I suggest that Cousin Governor Robert Bentley call a special session of the legislature for the summer, cut off the air conditioning as a result of budget problems, and hold them there until some real work gets done on the financial issues facing our state.  

#6  What question do you want answered this week?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Week in Preview Haiku and a story. . . .

Week in Preview Haiku 6/4/2012

Wisconsin, Same-sex,
Survival of the Union,
A house divided.

I've decided to do only one haiku per week, unless I do more. The rest of the post will have nothing to do with the haiku.

I was watching a relay race the other day.  One team fell farther behind with each leg.  By the time the third runner placed the baton in the hand of the anchor man, the team was a half lap behind.  The anchor man took the baton and immediately began to gain ground, but try as hard as he could, he was still a quarter lap behind when the winner crossed the finish line.

As the anchor  walked back to the rest of the team he was shocked by what they said to him.  "You were horrible," his team mates said.  "We lost by a quarter lap.  You were the anchor man. You were the one with the baton at the end of the race."

"I gained a quarter lap against their anchor. He was their fastest runner," the anchor retorted.   I wish I could have made it all up, but no one on earth could run that fast. We were so far behind when I got the baton I would have had to break the world record by a few  seconds to catch up. But I did catch up a lot. Came back from last place to third."

"We don't want to hear your excuses," said his teammates.  "You had the baton when the race was over. You let us lose by a quarter of a lap. We gotta find someone to replace you."

And they did. Someone who ran just like they did. Now they lose every race by even more.

Kinda weird being there for all that.




Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday. Caws to Paws.

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

I need to write swiftly this morning. There are many projects to do today and I must get down to studying which projects I will make plans to begin to finish. And I must get prepared to do that.

I do not have a pet.  It's not that I don't love dogs and cats and animals of all stripes.  It's just that I am not ready for the responsibility.

But occasionally, up here in the sub-suburban outskirts of the Oneonta metroplex, a pet will find me.  There is this cat.

He, or she, is a beautiful cat, sporting a herring bone black and grey suit with a classy brilliant white shirt, exposed from the neck to the chest, and then at the cuff,  not out of pretension, but simply good, traditional taste.  Cat does not need anyone for self-affirmation, and prefers his own company to being with someone just for the sake of appearances.  He stands at the edge of the woods, watching.  Sometimes, early in the morning or late in the evening, if I open the kitchen door, he is sitting in the carport.  But, as soon as it appears that I may be trying to move close, he runs away.

I take this as a challenge.  I want to be in Cat's inner circle.  I need his affirmation. I imagine that's the way he likes it.

So I bought some cat food.

Not wanting to be too pushy, I put the cat food on the sidewalk on the side of the house that is close to Cat's observation post, outside the carport, away from the doors.  I have seen Cat sampling the food a couple of times.  Ah yes, my invitation to Cat's next party is surely being prepared.

But something happened this morning that has given me paws.

A caws to be concerned.


Crows were grazing at Cat's breakfast buffet this morning, like  sandals-with-socks tourists at the Holiday Inn Express free breakfast bar pondering how to work the Belgian waffle machine. I opened the door. They didn't leave.  They just looked at me as if I had forgotten to put out silverware.

So now I have a reclusive Cat and bodacious Crows.

My yard is full of attitude.

But, that's just the way Cats and Crows are.

But they still gotta eat.  And I still like to have them around.  As long as they don't start messing with my tomatoes and squash.  But that's another story.

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