Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year's End

It rained buckets starting last night. An occasional thunderclap shook the Nick-knacks on the shelves and sent the dogs scurrying for cover. The rain slacked up mid-afternoon and the temperature began to drop. By sunset most of the clouds were off to the north and the few that lingered on the horizon were painted peach by the setting sun.
I got up this morning and worked on my goals. I simplified my goals this year and made them more specific. I've also set up reminders at intervals to remind me of my goal and ask how I'm doing.
What I think would be really effective is to have a group of say five people that shared goals and plans for the coming year. The group of five would then meet monthly to discuss the progress and make any necessary adjustments to help ensure the goals are met. Accountability is big with me. If I think for a moment that someone is going to ask me for a status on a goal, I'm much more likely to trudge forward even if I don't feel like it. That's just the way I'm wired.
I've attended so many meetings at work where people come unprepared that it drives me crazy. I'm amazed that they have the insensitivity to waste everyone's time. As a result, I always make sure I'm prepared.
I've done fairly well this year. One of my goals was to work towards being totally debt free and self sufficient. I reduced my total debt by 15 percent and increased my net worth by almost 20 percent. The larger goal is to be totally debt free with enough residual income to retire by July 3rd 2010. After retirement, it is my goal to write, play music, and travel for a living....along with farming. Jilda has a green thumb and we grow herbs, assorted lettuce, and other seasonal vegetables with ease. Our stuff is mostly organic. I believe there is a market for organic produce.
But goals are tricky things. It's almost like juggling. You can only pay attention to one thing at a time so if you have too many goals you are doomed to fail. The idea is to decide what is REALLY important in your life and focus on those things. So this is what I'm doing this year.
Like most years, this one has been bitter sweet. I lost a brother-in-law and and one of our best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. But good things have happened too. I finally turned the corner in my web/media business. I had a chance to travel to Colorado Springs, I kept my promise to myself and to you to write daily on this blog. I also paid off Jilda's Volvo and solved several nagging problems that had been causing me grief for some time. We have also met some new friends who are delightful.
So we are going to bring in the new year at home. Jilda has baked potatoes in the oven, steaks marinating in red wine. We have our champagne on ice and we're ready for 2007.
It is my intention to do something remarkable this year. I hope you do too.
Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


I worked for a small newspaper in August of 1974. We had followed Watergate and watched the drama unfold on national television. We knew it was only a matter of time before Nixon resigned or was impeached. There was a lot of arrogance in Washington then and Nixon's handlers were mean spirited men. It was obvious that they felt they were "above the law".
But when it started getting hot, things began to come unraveled. John Dean, special counsel to the president made a startling revelation before congress. The president recorded all conversations in the white house. The race was on to get those tapes. Nixon and his cronies refused so a legal battle ensued. Nixion provided transcripts of some of the tapes to try and quail the uproar but the Democrats and the media were out for blood and finally on August 8th 1974, Nixon resigned.
Spiro Agnew, who had been elected with Nixon in 72 had already been forced to resign in October of 73 for unrelated criminal activity. Gerald Ford was tapped to take Agnew's place. So we as a country found ourselves with a president that we did not elect. But Gerald Ford was a breath of fresh air. He was totally clean of the whole Watergate fiasco. He took the reins in a turbulent time for our country and a calm ensued.
He did run for president in 1976 but was defeated by Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia. Had Ford not pardoned Nixon, he would have had a much better chance of winning the election, but Watergate would not go away and there were those who felt Nixon should have been prosecuted.
A few months after Ford took office, a comedy show came on the air. Saturday Night Live was very funny and President Ford was the brunt of many jokes. When Ford stumble while deplaning Air force One, SNL jumped all over it. And Ford who was actually a gifted athlete, was depicted as being a klutz and that label remained with him.
I think Ford was a good and decent man who served this country with honor and dignity. I was saddened to learn of his passing.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Last Request

We took down the Christmas tree today and I planted it for a third time. It's a forgiving tree. I made up my mind that I'm not using it again next year. It has served us well and deserves to be left to grow.
The living room looks bigger but it doesn't have the fresh evergreen scent that a live tree affords.
My sister-in-law called upset today because a really good friend of hers passed away on Christmas Eve and they buried her the day after Christmas. No visitation or wake...just an afternoon graveside funeral. My sister-in-law wanted to pay her respects but she could not get off of work.
It may have been her friend's wish to forgo the visitation/wake but that would not get if for me. I can tell you this...for the record....when I die I want the full coarse. I want mourner....lots of them...even if we have to use some of the insurance money to hire them. I want wringing of hands, mountains of wet Kleenex, waling, crying, and speaking in tongues. I want to throw all the local florists into overtime handling the flower orders. I want a Capella bluegrass singers to sing those old sad songs that make you weep loudly. Hell, I want to invite the Governor.
Afterwards I want all my friends to throw a party with enough fried chicken to feed the the hungry at the Jimmy Hale Mission for a week. I want lots booze. I want my friends to tell stories and lies...I want them to laugh and cry and to remember all the good times we've shared.
So there. You know what I want. I told my wife if I go first, she better make sure the stuff I want happens or I'll haunt her.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thinking About the New Year

This year is winding on down and will soon be history and I've spent a lot of time over the past week thinking about the things that will improve my life over the coming year.
One of my goals this coming year is to reconnect with old friends that have slipped away for one reason or another. Sometimes the reason we lose touch with friends is a change in circumstance or interests. Sometimes it's a change in lifestyles, distance and sometimes death.
Our families have consumed a great deal of our time over the past few years. Our friends would invite us to a party, to dinner or to travel and it was just not possible because we had responsibilities that disallowed our participation. We've never parted with friends because of hard feelings. That's not to say that we've never had a disagreement with friends but we simply have never allowed those disagreements to develop into hard feelings.
So this year, it is our intention to write more letters and to visit more. To have more outings, parties, and impromptu try our best to make up for the times we missed out.
I'm excited about the new year. I hope you are too.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


It was cool this morning. I walked out for work in a thin cotton shirt, and I made a hasty retreat for my jacket. As I walked back out to the truck, I stepped on acorns from the giant water oak tree in my front yard and it sounded like someone crunching ice from a soda fountain drink.
I park my truck under the trees so there was no frost on my windshield though it was cold enough. Off to the east the sun was making its way up over the horizon but there was a bank of grey clouds interfering. A jetliner headed west had left a vapor trail against the clouds that looked like a giant scar.
Off to the west on the Bagwell Farm there was a herd of black cows that I had never noticed before. Standing in the morning mist they looked like silhouettes.
I'm not sure why some days you pay attention and some days things slide by you like a boring movie. I wish I was better at paying attention because we live in an amazing place. The world is full of tastes, smells, and sounds that are extraordinary but we are so wound up with the little things in life that they go unnoticed.
The more I study writing, the more I realize that good writers pay attention. They get it. Not only do they see, hear and smell, but they have the ability to describe these ephemeral things.
We don't get do-overs, so it is my intention to do a better job in the future. I want to be a witness and be able to testify.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Lucky Man

The rain was gone by early morning but the wind out of the northeast was cold. I ran out and burned a boxcar load of boxes and Christmas wrapping and stood there watching the paper burn to ashes. The heat from the the fire felt good against the cold.
I was off today so I ran some errands. Being the adventurous soul that I am, I went to Wal-Mart to buy new lights to go around our screen porch. The old small twinkle lights died last week and I waited until the Christmas stuff went on sale before upgrading the lights. They look really good on the porch. I got the larger bulbs and they give off a nice glow. I'll be able to write out there after dark when the weather moderates.
Jilda called on her way home and said to preheat the oven. I knew before the words came out of her mouth that we were going to have soup and cornbread for supper. SOUP DAY!
We have soup a lot when the weather gets cold. It tastes better to me when the mercury drops. She decided on Taco Soup which is one of my favorites. Here's the recipe
1 pound of ground chuck
1 large onion, chopped
3 large cans of Mexican-style chili beans
1 large can of whole kernel corn
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 small packet of taco seasoning mix
1 small packet Ranch-style dressing mix
2 cups water

Cook beef and onions in a skillet until the meat is done and the onion is tender. Drain
Stir beans and the other stuff into the beef and onions (bring to a boil)
Eat it with a fresh hot pone of cornbread.

We sat in front of the fireplace and listened to music as we enjoyed the soup. It occurred to me what a lucky man I am.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Life changes. You can either accept this simple fact and embrace it, or you can spend a great deal of time feeling dissappointed.
Christmas tunes your emotional anntenna somehow. You hear and see things that affect you deeply. I think the reason is that people attach strong emotions linked home and family and when things don't work out, it can cause a sadness like no other.
Each year we come in contact with people that for one reason or another cannot be with their families during the holidays. They are far from home and their loved ones and the holidays seem to make the distance greater.
And then there is the soldiers who are at war. I spent a great deal of time yesterday and today thinking about them. They all have wives, children, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers whose Christmas wasn't the same this year because they had a loved one half way around the world and in harm's way.
As for the soldiers, I feel for them the most. I know what it's like to be serving so far from home at Christmas. The military can provide entertainment and food but there is nothing to compare to your mother's turkey and dressing or a hug from a small child.
But as I said, life changes and the traditions you hold so dear can change in the blink of an eye. So if you were fortunate enough to be home for the holidays, I hope you realized just how fortunate you are.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Safe and Merry Christmas

We used to exchange gifts on Christmas Day at the home of Jilda's parents. Kids, grand kids and great grand kids would all make their way there at some point during the day. We could take the gifts there and if you were patient, you would see everyone, howdy up, eat some turkey and dressing, sing some Christmas carols and go home glowing.
Now that her mother passed on, we are all scattered like dandelions in the wind. We spent a lot of time today visiting relatives individually and exchanging gifts but the feeling of a large family coming together to share a few moments at Christmas was gone...I fear...forever. It started to sink in today and it made me feel a little melancholy.
The rain moved in after dark and on our way home, the rain on the windows caught the Christmas lights sending shards of light in unexpected directions making the landscape strange and beautiful.
Jilda and I will exchange gifts tonight. I tried several times to make her unusual gifts, but each time they came up short. As a last resort, I did something totally unexpected which I won't disclose tonight in case she reads this blog before we do the gifting. If it works out well, I will tell you what I did....if it doesn't, this is the last you will hear of it.
Have a safe and merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

End of Year Stuff

The sun rose warm and luminous this morning and chased away the lingering rain clouds like a flock of black birds. The autumn leaves are history now and what's left are bare oak, persimmon, hickory, and sycamore trees that look lonely and beautiful.
We are having dinner here tonight for all of Jilda's kinfolk who have birthday's in December. A December birthday is kind of a rip. People tend to want to bundle the birthday's up with Christmas. Jilda, does not let that happen and each year she invites them all to come over to "dinner" (a verb) with us and we try to make their birthday celebration special.
I've been on vacation this week. I like taking the end of the year off because it gives me time to reflect, to plan, to set goals and prepare for the new year. After taking a long hard look at my goals for the past year, I can see I made some progress and to some degree, met many of my goals. Yet there are others...still on the piece of paper on which I wrote progress whatsoever. For example, I weigh exactly the same as I did in January. My goal was to drop down to 195....didn't happen.
I find myself running out of steam towards the end of the year and letting things slide. I spend a lot of time on things that in the long run don't really matter while the things that do matter get the short end of the stick. I think it is a matter of focus.
It is my intention, to eliminate a few bad habits and adopt a few good ones. You can't fix everything at once but you can fix one thing at a time.
Here are some candidates for my list of goals this year:
To exercise, meditate, and eat better and be more health conscience
To do a weekend get-a-way with Jilda once a month and to take one actual vacation this year
To spend quality time with our group of friends at least once a month
To firm up my 3 1/2 year retirement plan to make it a reality
To take fifty or so of my best blog entries and publish my first book
To publish all the songs we've written over the past two years and pitch them to artists
To continue daily posts on this blog
These are subject to change prior to 1/1/07. I will most likely be adding other goals as well.
What are your goals for next year?

Friday, December 22, 2006

First Full Day of Winter

Today was the first full day of winter her in Alabama. It was cloudy and a heavy mist filled the air for most of the day but the temperature was not that bad. I've actually swam in cooler weather.
I worked for several hours on a handmade Christmas present for Jilda, but it went south and now I've got to come up with one more stocking stuffer tomorrow or my name is mud.
This evening we drove over to Helena to visit our friends Steve and Judy. We had a very nice dinner and drank some red wine while listening to Christmas music. We exchanged presents before heading home. Steve has a knack for selecting unique Christmas presents too. He gave me a guitar pick made from bone. It hangs on a cord necklace and looks really cool.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve Eve. Jilda has to work, but we're having family over tomorrow night to celebrate December birthdays so I'll have to do the chores to prepare for our guests.
I hope you all are having a great weekend

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Over the Top?

The sun is currently in hiding here in Empire, Alabama. I ran out to buy a few stocking stuffers for my spouse. She's great at picking these out. I struggle. However I did find a couple things today that I'm sure she will enjoy.
Ol' Buddy rode with me to the mall. I would never have guessed it, but he's a chic magnet. I could rent him out to guys who are down on their luck and can't get a girlfriend. All they would have to do is ride around with Ol' Buddy. I was stopped at a red light today and a woman motioned for me to roll my window down. "That's the cutest little dog I've ever seen," she purred. Buddy cocked his head like the old RCA Victor dog. She waved at Ol' Buddy as we drove off.
I had some time this evening so I decided to use it constructively so I scanned some yearbooks for my high school alumni website. I now have sixty one complete yearbooks online starting back in the thirties. I only need to scan six more and I will have them all. It's a hoot looking at those old yearbooks and for a little country high school website, it gets well over a thousand hits a week.
I put my annual Christmas greetings on our answering machine this morning. Word spreads fast because we had twenty two hanger-uppers when I got back this evening. I've been called weird, strange, demented but I prefer unusual.
Here's the greeting:

Santa Claus you fat old fart I won't forget last year
You ate up all my groceries and drank up all my beer
Rudolph got diarrhea and couldn't make it to the door
But the biggest mess of all is when you threw up on the floor
If you get misdirected and land upon my roof
I'll rip the leg off Rudolph and beat you with his hoof
Merry Christmas

Now I ask you, would you consider that over the top?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Baby Sitting

Our nephew James asked if we would baby sit for he and his wife Andrea tonight. He had some tickets to a concert and his regular baby sitters were tied up. So we said sure. We sat for James, his baby brother and sister when they were young so we figured it would be a cinch.
But I don't think they were as quick as his kids now. Stone (3) and Breeze (2) are like tiny you see me now you don't. I blinked my eyes and they were history.
I know that James and Andrea don't keep an eye on the kids every waking moment but their house is childproofed and ours is not. So both Jilda and I have not slowed down since they arrived. They are really good kids, but our house is a new environment to them....a place to explore.
Already we have brought out the guitar and played all the Christmas songs we know. We've eaten Christmas cookies, Christmas candy, Christmas chicken, Christmas potato's, and Christmas apple cider.
We've identified all the Nativity players and things were going good until we experienced a harrowing moment when baby Jesus accidentally took flight and scooted under the couch just out of reach. "Baby Jesus, come back," Stone pleaded. Jilda fetched a wooden pasta spoon with which we were able to reach the sleeping infant and pull it back to the safety of the manger.
Jilda is really good with kids and handy with most things childesque, but when Breeze had an accident in her diaper we had a challenge to say the least. We saw the movie Baby Boom and laughed hard when Diane Keeten had problems installing the disposable diaper on her newly acquired baby. But when we tried to put the diaper on Breeze, it was no laughing matter. In the blink of an eye, one of the attacher things was dangling off of Jilda thumb and the diaper was hanging around Breeze's problem, Duck Tape to the rescue. It wasn't pretty, but that diaper hung high and fact, I'm wondering if her mom didn't have to cut it off with the scissors when she got home last night.
There are people who wait until they are older to have children but I'm here to tell you, that if you choose that path, you'd better take your vitamins because after a few hours with two very good kids, I'm exhausted.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Good Chocolate

I've been restless today. Nothing I started kept my interest for long. This happens to me occasionally. I'm not sure why but thankfully it doesn't last long. I downloaded a free biorhythm program recently to keep a check on the cycles of my life. Some people say biorhythms are a bunch of hooey and put them in the same category of astrology and palm reading but I just checked my rhythms for kicks and it shows that I'm in a down period.
I drove around a while today doing a little Christmas shopping but nothing I looked at seemed to be right.
But the weather was nice and it felt good to be out in the fresh air. I didn't let Ol' Buddy go with me today because it was so warm. I don't like to leave him in the truck when it's warm because I fear he will get too hot. So when I got home this evening, he had shredded up today's newspaper in the living was his way of saying "leave me here again at your own peril, mister man." I looked at him harshly, but he didn't back down so I picked up the paper and went to check my email.
Jilda had left me a little surprise bag on my desk. Inside was a packet of hot chocolate, a few bags of mint tea and a piece of Ghirardelli chocolate. I opened that little piece of candy and popped it in my mouth and soon a smile came across my face. I'm guessing that biorhythms don't take into account the effect of good chocolate.

Monday, December 18, 2006

New Mattress

A few weeks ago we ordered a new mattress and it was delivered today. We bought our old mattress when Jimmy Carter was in the white house and it had seen its better days. Even doing Yoga, my back squeaks when I get out of the bed each morning so we decided to remedy the situation.
We did a lot of research and asked friends for recommendations. We decided on a Tempur-pedic. It cost more than most of the cars I've owned in my life.
We bought it from one of the sponsors of my website and after they delivered it today, we put on new 300 thread count cotton sheets. Jilda says the 300 thread count is a good thing. I'm pretty sure you can't buy them at Dollar General. I was afraid to ask how much they cost.
We could have bought cheaper sleepware, but the thing is; I'm working on my 3 1/2 year plan. It is my intention to be retired from my day job by July 2010. I don't intend to quit working, just quit working for someone else. Since I'm in that frame of mind, I want to have the farm in good shape with all major repairs and renovations complete and paid for before I retire.
There are so many things I want to do, but I simply don't have the time.
I've gotten some feedback on which posts to include in the book and I'm beginning to get the artwork together. I assume I'll have to self-publish but I do intend to send the compilation to a few publishers to see if I get any interest.
Both Jilda and I want to travel more.....take time to visit all the places we've looked longingly at in the pages of books and magazines.
So our new mattress today is just a step towards retirement. Now if I can find a liquor store to knock off so that I can afford a new tin roof.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Short and Sweet

We had our party today. It was smaller by design this year. We a chance to spend quality time with our guests. We played a few Christmas songs and spent a great deal of time smiling.
More later.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Party

We're not pigs. Anyone entering our house would agree....our clothes are clean and there are no foul odors emanating from the kitchen but as I discovered today, what lies beneath can only be described as harrowing. We've spent the last few days preparing for our little Christmas party tomorrow and we took the opportunity to clean things up.
Our fridge has a bunch of glass shelves and they are usually full of food so you can't really see what the shelf looks like. I was cleaning under the fridge and found dry dog food that was petrified. What I saw when I glanced up from my low angle was disturbing. When I cleared the food off the shelves, it looked like some kind of science project gone terribly awry. I went to my workshop and fetched a hammer and chisel and most of it came off, though I'll probably have to replace the chisel.
I was rearranging some of the loose cables under my computer desk and I came across a dust bunny as big as a Collie. It seized up the old Kirby vacuum cleaner and could only be dislodged with a broomstick.
After knocking enough dust off the ceiling fan to plant a crop turnip greens, I started questioning our cleanliness.
But after several hours things started looking coming together. Jilda has all these table cloths, crystal serving dishes, cloth napkins and books of recipes. We'll get up early in the morning and after coffee she'll start putting it all together. Tomorrow afternoon when our guests arrive, all the hard work will pay off.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Trouble Shooting

I tried to call home today to tell Jilda I was leaving early and there was a busy signal. That's odd, I thought. We have call waiting....we never use it....but we have it. As a result, a busy signal is a rare thing. I tried again on the way home and it was still busy so I knew without a doubt that there was a problem with the phone.
I could have called repair service, but had the trouble been on a line inside the house, I would have received a hefty bill. Instead, I fetched my tools when I got home and did some investigation. It was a good thing I did because one of the inside wires was shorted. I removed that wire and the rest of the phones are back in service.
You may ask how I knew how to do this....well, I used to be an installer/repairman for the phone company. I learned a skill set that has served me well.
I have a Master's Degree in business, but that little two week school I had back in the late 70's (and the five or so years of experience) taught me trouble shooting skills that have been more valuable to me in my job and indeed my life than all those years in college.
Trouble shooting skills go far beyond fixing telephones. It's an approach to solving problems....a mindset. It doesn't matter if the problem is mechanical, electrical, or human if you take the right approach you can find the root cause of a problem. You might not always be able to fix it, but you can understand what's causing the problem.
There's a reason the PC help desk always asks "is it plugged in?" That's such an annoying question and it often has the unintended effect of the askee wanting to crawl down the askor's throat and stomping his liver. But the root cause of problems are often simple. People want to believe that their problems are "special". "Well my computer died and I think the problem is due to either sun spots, errant lightening bolts, abnormal dips and surges in the electrical power grid caused by dancing squirrels on the high voltage lines." When in reality it is very likely that someone (or something) kicked your power cord or perhaps your power strip got turned off inadvertently.
Bottom line, most problems are caused by simple things. If you don't know how something works, ask someone to explain it to you in layman's explaining it to a child.
When you have an idea of how it works, look closely look at each of the parts to see if it's doing the fan running, does it have lights...are they on? You get the picture.
We live in a time of great complexity and it pays to know a little about a lot of things. Repairmen make a great deal of money off of people who don't have a clue. That's not to say repairman are unscrupulous, but a little knowledge goes a long way.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Walking Slow

It's a ghost town at work. I got a parking place right up front. A lot of people save their vacation until this time of year. The people who are at work walk more slowly than at other times of the year and that's because everyone is stuffed. Everywhere I go there is food. You go into a meeting and people are shoving food at eat this. I hate to hurt people's feelings so I too stuff myself and walk slowly.
I figure I can walk it off after the first of the year....the problem is, I'll have to walk from here to California if I have many much more fudge.
We're having our annual Christmas get together this coming Sunday. The crowd will be a little smaller than in years past, but I expect it to be lively. We'll sing a Christmas Carol or two and yes, we'll eat, drink and be merry.
I've run out of steam this evening so I'm cutting it short. I think Jilda is making some fudge.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sweet and Salty

In years past, our group at work did "Sweet and Salty" days in the weeks before Christmas, I'm not sure who came up with the term, but people brought treats to work for everyone to enjoy. We'd go about our work, but we'd graze all day on spinach balls, home made cheese sticks, rum balls, fudge, sausage balls and cheese dip with Fritos. One of my favorites was a ham ball made by the wife of a guy from Clanton. I must have gained ten pounds before the actual Christmas feasting began.
Things have gotten crazy at work and the dynamics of the team has changed drastically and we had gotten away from our Christmas tradition. On Monday I went up to one of the Old Timers and said let's do "Sweet and Salty". She said let's do it. So today I took a big honkin' crock pot of chili. I make a pretty good chili, but Jilda's is better. I've had few complaints about the grape jelly and cocoa that are in my recipe. My chili has been characterized as toxic by some "soup-eaters" because it's a little hot....O.K. it's a lot fact, it has been known to take the hide off of tongues and scar the roof of mouths. But you can't fly on one wing....right?
Anyhow, I decided to go with Jilda's recipe for the wimps at work. Today we had bourbon balls, and peanut butter fudge. Tomorrow, we'll be having fruit cake cookies, cheese potato soup, and a surprise or two.
It's a fun way to ease into the holiday spirit. What kind of things do you do at the office for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Wealth and Power of a Nation

I stepped out on my deck last night before hitting the hay. A gentle breeze was blowing out of the south and the air was cool, but not uncomfortable. I know it must have been my imagination but I could almost smell the salt air from the Gulf of Mexico. The starlit night sky was clear and I could see the Little Dipper and Orion’s Belt.
I saw the lights from a passing airplane and although the sky was dark, I could see a vapor trail behind the plane that looked like gray rope stretching across the night sky.
I tried to imagine what it must have been like a few thousand years ago when pollution was nonexistent and the stars did not have to compete with man made light. Even today with modern telescopes and a vast amount of knowledge about the earth and sky, the natural world is still a mystery.

I read a news article last week where scientists recorded a giant infrared flair which they deduced could only have been produced by a star, possibly the size of our sun, being swallowed by a black hole. This event happened so far away that it took years for the light to reach earth...light traveling at 186,000 miles per second....take a second and absorb that.
I know the nature of my entries for the last few days has been a lot different. I think it's because I'm reading the book on Alexandria. It is remarkable to me what they knew then. Euclid wrote Elements. It's a book about math...only the Bible has been read more. They understood how the body's organs were connected and mapped the circulatory system. This was disquieting, but the king back then let the medical students practice on condemned prisoners.
A great deal of the wealth amassed by Ptolemy was funneled into education. They understood that the wealth and power of a nation lies not in the vaults, palaces, statehouses and the armories, but in the minds of the people. Ptolemy spent an enormous fortune collecting books, and providing research facilities for the students of that day. I think the current inhabitants of earth should stand together and demand that our governments stop squandering our resources and start investing in things that matter.
I'm only part way through the book, but I know how it ends and it makes me sad to think about all that was lost when the greatest library of all time was destroyed.
This I know....we are living in remarkable times today. Never before has knowledge been so accessible. Sometimes I think I'm pretty smart but this I've come to know......the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know squat.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Are We Getting Dumber?

It seems to me people used to be a lot smarter. I'm reading the rise and fall of Alexandria and those people back then were pretty darn clever. Back around 500 B.C., Eratosthenes hired a guy to step off the distance between Syene and Alexandria and then at high noon on the Summer Solstice he measured the length of a shadows cast by a stick. He then took out his pencil and a piece of paper and calculated that the earth must be about 25,000 miles in circumference. He didn't have a computer, he didn't have a calculator....he used his head. He was so close the the actual circumference that he could smell the barn.
It was not uncommon for these guys to debate ethics, politics and health. They did geometry and calculus for fun. No surfing the web or Googling facts about geography or history for was off to the library of Alexandria and reading through scrolls to find the information they wanted.
I read somewhere that less than three percent of the population of the U.S. have library cards. We get our news from thirty second sound bites on CNN or Fox News and we feast on the latest celebrity gossip. We can name all the American Idol winners, but we struggle all the states and capitols and with American history.
I really don't think those folks 2500 years ago were actually smarter than we are today, but I do think we are much more distracted. We've become used to technology and as a result, we are somewhat lazy.
I've made a commitment to myself to read more and watch less TV. The next time I have to do a simple calculation I'm going to use a pencil and piece of paper. I'm going to spend a little time each day thinking about things I've never thought of before.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Toast

We pulled out our Christmas stuff today and put up the tree. Jilda always waxes nostalgic each year as we begin to unbox the old ornaments, hangy things for the tree, angels, Nativity scenes, Santa Clauses, candle holders and other December stuff. "Skip and John gave us this candy dish for our fifth anniversary" she said. "My mother and daddy gave us this angel when we lived in the trailer." I looked at her as if she was speaking Yiddish. I couldn't believe she remembered this stuff. So I pointed to a fuzzy Santa and said who gave us that? "Nancy's mom made that for us the year before she died." Where did this Christmas stocking come from. "You bought that for me the year we moved into this house," she said as if I had forgotten our anniversary.
I feel like I pay close attention most of the time, but some times I miss the boat entirely. How could I not know where all these beautiful things came from? It's a mystery to me.
Putting up the tree is usually a fun light hearted thing, but this year it was harder than in years past. Jilda would pick up ornaments and big tears would come to her eyes. I correctly guessed that her mom had given them to us.
As I've said before, her mom died in November 2005 and Jilda was still in mourning so the holiday's last year were a blurr....but this year, it is sinking in that we will never celebrate a holiday at her house or have another bite of her chicken dressing.
She and her mom were very close. Ruby did not drive so if she went anywhere, Jilda drove her (for the most part).
So this year the holidays have been a little sad but we got all the stuff hung on the tree and we sat on the love seat for a long while looking at the tree with the lights off....both of us lost in our thoughts.
Later tonight we will watch old Christmas movies (another tradition), have some egg nog and drink a toast to a mother we love and miss.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Uneventful Day

OK, here's a little Life 101 lesson. If you love trees, you better enjoy raking leaves. We love trees, a fact that has been well documented in this blog. Earlier in the fall, I shot photos and described in detail the colors of the foliage and the beauty of the season. Well, all that's gone now and my yard is knee deep in dry leaves and they aren't nearly as pretty now.
Every time I'd rake up a pile today, the dogs would run up and jump right in the middle and roll around. They scattered leaves faster than I could rake them up. Since the wind was calm here I burned some of the piles. I bet I burned thirty wheel barrow loads full of leaves. It felt good because the air was cool but the sun was warm. I got my daily dose of exercise.
I dug up the Christmas tree and brought it in for the decoration ceremony tomorrow afternoon. When Jilda got home from work, we met our nephew and niece Haven and Alesha at the Bull Pen in Oakman, Alabama and had a nice steak for dinner.
All in all it was an uneventful day, but it was very nice.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Something You Can't Buy at Wal-Mart

I played hooky today (vacation) so me and Ol' Buddy took a ride out to Jasper. I had to shoot a picture for an advertiser on my website and while I was standing there setting up the shot, I looked down and saw a yellow cat eye marble. I had not seen one in many years and it took me a few seconds to realize what it was. What on earth was a yellow cat eye doing by the crosswalk in downtown Jasper. It was a mystery but it did give me an idea of a place I wanted to visit and write about this evening.
Posey's is an old mercantile store that has been in continuous operation in the same location since 1924. The great grandson, Randy Posey still owns and operates the store. The door jangles with an old entry bell when you walk in....can you say deja vu? The floors are made of heart pine and they squeak in places as you walk through browsing the shelves.
I know Randy must have thought me strange because once inside, I stood there a long while and absorbed the ambiance. The place smelled like the old stores from my childhood. Posey's actually has a lot of the things the stores had back then. In the front window there was butter churns, old speckled blue coffee pots, and mason jars. There is an old red hand water pump. A neighbor had one of these when I was a kid and we used to go over to their house to get a drink of cold water when the summer day got hot and our mouths got dry . One of us would bend over and open our mouth and the other would pump until a refreshing stream of cold water came rushing out.
Poesy's has fly swatters made out of metal screen instead of plastic. Hanging on the back wall was a Radio Flyer snow sled. A kid here might only have an opportunity once or twice in their lives to use one, but if you need one, you can get it at Posey's. Outside on the side were Radio Flyer coaster wagons. It was like a page torn right out of my memory.
I bought some collars for my dogs, a toy kaleidoscope and a cane penny whistle for my niece and nephew Breeze and Stone.
I stood and talked to Randy Posey for a while about his store. Most of the things in there are made in America. I won't bash the super stores because they provide things that were unavailable here before they came. But I hope stores like Posey's stay in business because not only do they sell things that are unique and beautiful, they can also send you on a journey back to a happy, simpler time and that's something you can't buy at Wal-Mart.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Spirit

I looked out the window this evening before I left work. The sun was shining and the sky was clear and blue. The weatherman said that it would be cold this evening, but after the window survey I had my doubts.
When I stepped out on the south side of the building, it was chilly, but not that bad. When I stepped away from the shelter of the building, the wind was blowing hard out of the north and it almost cut me in two. I picked up the pace and got into my truck and pulled on my leather gloves.
When I got home, Jilda had the fireplace going and the dogs were curled up in front of it like a Norman Rockwell painting.
Jilda was hard at work on our Christmas cards. Her cards aren't your run of the mill Christmas cards because she hand watercolors each card. They are beautiful and several of our friends have them framed.
This weekend we'll be re-arranging the plant life in the living room to make room for our Christmas tree. Saturday we'll get out the decorations, put on hot apple cider, load up the stereo with Christmas music and decorate the tree. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I hope you all are getting into the Christmas Spirit.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I got to thinking about the title of this blog tonight. I'm not sure the title Life 101 is the best fit. Life 101 would imply that I have some sort of insight on what life is about. And that I can use my vast knowledge to enlighten those who visit and read these words. The truth is, the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know squat.
I spent a great deal of time pursuing a college education...a Master's Degree in Business Management no less. It cost the company for which I worked a great deal of money. I cannot say that the education has not served me well, but I can say that when I make a list of the things that are important to me, success in business is so far down on the list that is only a few items above keeping the grass cut regularly.
The older I get the more I cherish my family and friends. I look forward to time spent with the people I love. A BBQ at the Green Top with friends, a bowl of cheese potato soup with my mom, a Sunday afternoon playing Monopoly with my nieces and nephews is what I live for.
For any young folks that happens upon this blog, I would encourage you to be mindful of your health. You take it for granted when you're young and when age and neglect begin to take its toll it is very difficult to undo years or poor health habits.
OK, here is a few pieces of Life 101 advice that I do feel is worth sharing:
1. Play hooky every now and then - do something you love to do
2. Write a handwritten letter to a friend
3. Keep the oil and water checked in your car
4. Travel to places you've never been when ever you get the opportunity
5. Take lots of pictures
6. Exercise daily
7. When someone is getting on your last nerve, close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes
8. Leave enough space when you're driving in traffic for people to merge
9. Eat lunch outside whenever the weather permits
10. Drink hot chocolate with marsh mellows when it gets cold outside
11. Be slow to judge and quick to forgive someone
12. Say what you do and do what you say
13. Before you die, find work that you love and do it
14. Always let the people you love know how much they mean to you each time you see or talk to them

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Early Christmas

We finally broke down and ordered a new mattress this week. The old mattress came over on the Mayflower. I think it must have gotten wet during the journey over because it's flat on one side and has about as much bounce as a slab of salt pork.
We went to our local furnature store "to look". We tried a few mattresses and most of them felt quite nice. But it would not take much to be better than our current mattress. In fact we once slept on the hood of our out Plymouth Valiant and actually slept better than the bed we now sleep on. I decided to act, because there would have been blookshed at our house had I not done something to correct the sleeping situation. "You don't have to buy the mattress," Jilda said "This hip that is causing me pain each morning can probably replaced." Before we walked out of the furnature store we had spent enough money to buy a new mid-sized Chevy. We bought a Tempurpedic matress and foundation.
Jilda decided that we couldn't put our old sheets on the new mattress when it arrives. The old ones feel a little like they are made of burlap. She bought 300 thread count sheets I can say without hesitation that they feel good. If they come in this week, it will be like an early Christmas.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Random Full Moon Thoughts

The moon this evening looked like a giant pearl floating in the eastern sky toward Atlanta. It will be full tomorrow. My wife contends that people get crazy on the full moon. It's hard to argue because I too feel a little crazier during the full moon. Not crazy like someone who wants to throw their wife in a wood chipper and then put on her mascara, go through her closet and sniff her jogging shoes.....but crazy enough to walk outside barefoot and howl at the moon just to make the dogs in the neighborhood go beserk. That always freaks them out...."he mister, we're the ones that are supposed to be howling," they complain, "next thing we know, you'll be treeing squirrels and chasing the paper man."
I work this week and next and then I'm off work until January 2nd. We may go out of town for a few days while I'm off. We've done most of our shopping over the internet. It beats arm wrestling a pulp wood cutter over a playstation 3. We get home after work and have a nice dinner and the UPS man delivers our stuff right to the door. No gun play over parking spaces for us.
I bought a live Christmas tree (with roots) three years ago. It was a beautiful tree. We put it in a number 3 wash tub and used a sheet to cover the roots. Last year I thougth to myself.....self, why don't we use the same Christmas tree. Sure we had planted it and it had grown all cozy down by the barn, but I dug that puppy up and it did just fine. After Christmas I planted it back and it's just now getting cozy again. I think tomorrow night while the moon is full, I'm going to dig that tree back up and use it again this year. I'm just in that kind of mood.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Tinker Bell

I wrote a few days ago about my niece Samantha losing her dog Chico. Her brother James works for a local newspaper and he was on the lookout for a new pup for Sam. He told the story about Chico getting killed to one of his co-workers at the paper. On Friday, the co-worker was covering a story about a fundraising drive at the Walker County Humane Society and she called James excitedly. "Tell your sister to get over here quick!!!" she exclaimed. "There is a dog here that would be perfect for her."
James called his mom and they hustled over to Jasper to have a look. What they found was a tiny dog, I'm not sure of the breed, but she fell in love at first sight. It's a fuzzy black and white dog and more laid back than a stoned fan at a Grateful Dead concert.

It seems the previous owners bought the dog for a small child and they didn't get along. I'm guessing the kid tormented the little critter until it had enough.

Anyhow, I'm so glad it worked out the way it did. My niece is happy and the little dog is in heaven. She brought him over on Friday to show Jilda, but I was out of town so she brought "Tinker Bell" over to show her to me this morning. I shot the accompanying photo.

Welcome to our family Tinker Bell.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Learning Something New

I learned something interesting today. Those National Public Radio stories where the reporter goes into the field and interviews people about interesting things. It sounds simple enough. Just get a cassette recorder find someone and ask them questions and record what they say.
This weekend I learned it's not that simple. My friend Dale and I drove down to Opp, Alabama (home of the world famous RattleSnake Rodeo) and met Lamar Morris at the home of Wes and Deidra Laird. Wes and Deidra grilled pork chops, made rice, sauteed mushrooms and tossed a fresh salad. We sat around and had a leisurely dinner and Dale asked questions to get a feel for an angle for the story.
After dinner, Dale got out his mini DV recorder which is a small digital recorder smaller than a pack of cigarettes. He wired tiny microphones to Lamar and recorded him talking about life on the road with Hank Williams Jr. and other famous country artists in the 60's and 70's. We also recorded him playing the guitar.
This morning, we got started at 9 a.m. and did another three hours of interview questions. One story that I've never heard was about the time that Lamar played on stage with Hank Williams Sr. Lamar was just a kid about 10 years old. Hank came to Andalusia for a performance and a friend of Lamar's father asked Hank if Lamar could play a few songs. Lamar said he played three songs made popular by Hank Sr. before the star came on stage. "I'd better start the show now," he said "before you play all my songs." Hank was having fun with the kid, but Lamar said he was mortified that he had made ol' Hank mad.
We also video taped Lamar playing a song off his album "Walls of Memories." This was for a separate project that is in its infancy
On the way home this afternoon, Dale said we got some good stuff.
The real work begins now because Dale will have to edit all that tape down to a report that is from 5 to 8 minutes long. Dale will write his thoughts and observations and splice it together with the words and music of Lamar.
I'm sure it will take several days to distill it down to the finished product but Dale is a very good writer and editor and he does remarkable work.
I was fascinated by the process and I had a great time learning something new.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Off to see the Wizard

I'll be traveling today. My friend Dale and I are going to Opp to interview Lamar Morris for National Public Radio. Dale is a freelance reporter for that organization. We are also taking some video equipment to do some filming with a documentary in mind.
As I've mentioned before, Lamar is a musician extraordinaire who has performed with some of the country greats. He has a very interesting story to tell.
After the interview, I'll post details and schedules where you can hear/access the audio portion.
More to follow.

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