Saturday, May 31, 2008

Eden It's Not...

Jonathan's GardenWell, here it is! My garden! You can see the very annoying tiller in the background. In this picture I still hadn't planted my okra, cantaloupe, and purplehull peas. In the foreground next to the grass over on the right hand side of the picture you can see some of the rocks that still have to be removed. In fact, if you click on the picture you will probably be able to see LOTS of rocks that still have to be removed.

After I took this picture I finished tilling the last section (at the upper left hand section of the picture) and got my okra, cantaloupe and purplehulls planted. Then we tilled around everything to keep the weeds from taking over. I even hoed some of the places where I didn't feel safe taking that ornery tiller. As we finished up on Tuesday afternoon, I prayed to the Lord and told Him, "OK, you can let it rain now." Within seconds it was raining! What can I say? God likes me!

So now everything is in the ground.

Today I drove the stakes for tying up the tomato plants and put out some fertilizer around the tomatoes to prevent bloom-end rot. I also looked everything over. My okra is already coming up. I expect the purplehulls to follow any day now. I also noticed that something has been munching on my fordhook limas. I suppose that it is time to break out the pesticide. I'd love to be able to do this more organically, but I would need to do some research first and talk to some people who have done it before. This won't wait. Until I can do that, Sevin® dust will just have to do.

So far I am extremely pleased with the way things are turning out. Nearly everything that I have planted has come up. Most of the seed looks like it took.

My last gardening adventure was a complete bust. Hardly anything came up. I think the only thing that we got any produce from was our squash plants and they also died mysteriously - almost over night.

I anticipate much better results this time around. Of course, water will be a huge key in keeping our forward momentum. Hopefully the summer will be as mild as the spring has been. I don't look forward to the thought of many days like we had today. Mid-90s is too hot for my taste. I prefer things to stay below 85°.

The cool thing about this whole process has been the miracle of watching these seeds becoming plants. It is just awesome! It makes me want to check it out every day and see what the Lord has been up to. My garden isn't Eden, but it isn't bad for a good ol' boy's sophomore effort in the red, North Carolina clay.

Interesting Report On The Global War On Terror

Interesting interview on Fox News with CIA Chief

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Southern Writers

I have been working on Look Homeward, Angel over the past couple weeks and find myself asking the question, "Why do Southern writers seem to always write about the dregs of Southern culture?" Erskine Caldwell wins the prize (at least thus far) in making Southerners look like a bunch of inbred freaks, but Faulkner wasn't far behind him. And I have to admit, though I am held in awe by his use of language, even Wolfe spends much of his time crawling around in the slop bucket of the culture. If many people have read this stuff there is no wonder everyone thinks we are a sub-human species.

Perhaps I am sheltered, but the South that they are writing about intersects with mine almost nowhere. Sure, there is plenty enough dysfunction in my life and in the lives of many of my friends, but I guess one of the big parts of being Southern is that we don't talk about that so much. I wish that there were more Southern novelists that approached the region more like Don Williams did in his music. Perhaps I am just looking for someone who will portray the South through the eyes of a child. (Even though Thomas Wolf's main character was a child, he was a precocious one that understood more than he should have!)

I suppose that there are some that manage to write about the South that I am more familiar with. Truman Capote's story "A Christmas Memory" comes a lot closer to what I am looking for. And even though he can be critical of the South and its attitudes, Mark Twain captures some of the goodness of it too. The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter is also pretty fair in its treatment of the South and Appalachian culture.

Perhaps it is time for me to write the great American novel. I wish I had started 18 months ago. By now I might have been finished! The trick is writing something that is distinctively Southern and complimentary that still has enough of a crisis to drive the plot. I have actually been ruminating on an idea that may be robust enough to work. Now I need to do a little planning so that putting pen to paper - or in this case fingers to keyboard - won't be so daunting.

I have more practical book ideas too that would require some creative writing as well. I have started on one already, but it was put aside in the activity of real estate survival, and I haven't picked it back up. Yes, it may be time to do something with these ideas.

Calling The Low Down Varmint Out...

Two gunslingers facing off in the desertA voice of reason has appeared from an unexpected place. Czech President Vaclav Klaus has challenged alleged global warming 'expert' Al Gore to a debate about global warming. Not surprisingly, Gore isn't willing to intelligently discuss the evidence for or against global climate change or its possible causes. (Perhaps he is unable to do so?)

Klaus said, "It could be even true that we are now at a stage where mere facts, reason and truths are powerless in the face of the global warming propaganda." Ahh, Joseph Goebbels and Adolph Hitler would be so proud!

The Czech President has recently written a book that questions the true motive of the climate change propagandists titled, Blue Planet in Green Shackles - What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom? Klaus says that the thing most endangered is basic human freedoms and prosperity.

Klaus compares the tactics and aims of the environmental alarmists to the tactics used by the communists in his country during his lifetime.

"Like their (communist) predecessors, they will be certain that they have the right to sacrifice man and his freedom to make their idea reality," he said. "In the past, it was in the name of the Marxists or of the proletariat - this time, in the name of the planet," he added. Klaus said a free market should be used to address environmental concerns and said he opposed as unrealistic regulations or greenhouse gas capping systems designed to reduce the impact of climate change....

Klaus alleged that the global warming was being championed by scientists and other environmentalists whose careers and funding requires selling the public on global warming. "It is in the hands of climatologists and other related scientists who are highly motivated to look in one direction only," Klaus said.
Sound familiar? It is basically the same thing said by the founder of the Weather Channel months ago.

I have said many times (even in the midst of last summer's blistering heat) that I do not believe that any permanent global warming is taking place. I believe that any heating trends can be more easily explained by solar radiation patterns than by carbon emissions. This seems evident to me from a comparison of the amount of "greenhouse gas" emitted into the atmosphere by humans as compared to that given off by nature itself. A single volcanic eruption contains many times more "greenhouse gas" than all of mankind's pollution combined. Thus, you will have a hard time convincing me that any warming (or cooling) trends are being caused by man's usage of carbon.

But lets suppose, just for the sake of argument, that these Chicken Littles were right. Let's consider how life would be if the environazis got their way and took us back to the Stone Age. Even then it would seem that there isn't any feasible way for humans to avoid carbon-based environmental impact. Humans need heat to survive. Anything below 98° F and we start needing some supplemental heat. And there are precious few places on planet earth that are 98° F night and day year round. (Thank God!)

Clothing can allow us to take that number down much lower, but manufacturing clothing in a modern society requires machinery, machinery requires electricity, and the most common source of electricity is combustion. Of course we could go back to using animal skins for clothing, but the environmentalists won't like that either.

There is also the problem of cooking food. Even vegetarians typically cook their food. And if we were to use animal skins for clothing, wouldn't it be wasteful to kill an animal just for its skin? (Seems like I have heard that argument somewhere before....) Thus, if you are going to eat yon mastodon, you'd best have a way cook it. Once again, combustion is going to be required.

Then there's the problem of shelter. Last time I checked there weren't that many habitable caves in the North Carolina Piedmont. That means we are going to have to figure out some place to stay. Well, we can go back to animal skins. (I can hear the animal rights folk howling even now....) There is also lots of nice red mud around here, but to make mud into brick requires baking it - more carbon. We could cut down trees to make cabins, but that reduces the number of trees which help to remove the carbon from the air. It would seem in our environmental Utopia that shelter may be a problem.

There is another problem that we have learned about too: animal flatulence. All those cows are farting the place up and pushing us towards global catastrophe. I guess it is good that all those cowboys nearly wiped out the bison herds back at the turn of the century. Millions of gassy buffalo would have probably pushed us over the edge.

I suppose that many who have read my rants against global warming might assume that I don't care about the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth. I care very much about it. My problem with most environmental issues is that they tend to tilt at windmills.

The issue of global warming is a hoax. It isn't an issue, but is something that is being greedily exploited to further other ends. Al Gore is exploiting "global warming" to put himself in the limelight and assuage his wounded ego after being rejected by the American people. He also, by the way, is exploiting it to make himself filthy, stinking rich through his investments in these "green" companies.

Politicians are exploiting it to line their pockets with bribes from companies that will benefit from new regulations and from those that would be hurt by new regulations. They are also using "global warming" to line their pockets with revenue from bogus carbon offset programs. And of course, let us not forget that it gives them a leverage point to obtain power over the people, exploiting this lie to induce people to give up their freedoms and prosperity.

Finally, environmentalists are exploiting "global warming" to make some marginal gains toward their agendas, and "scientists" are exploiting it to bilk grant money from various governments. These reasons are why I so vigorously oppose "global warming."

There are plenty of legitimate environmental concerns with real-world practical solutions. Pollution is a huge problem. It is clear that air quality has suffered as our cities have grown. Some progress has been made at reducing automobile emissions, but why don't we push on and see if we can't break away from petroleum and find a cleaner alternative? It will take some time, but if we can put a hunk of metal on Mars we should be able to collectively figure out a way to tell the gas companies bye-bye.

Why do we allow companies to dump their waste into our rivers? We should use the same policy with manufacturers worldwide that Momma did: "If you make the mess clean it up." Companies should have to have waste mitigation plans before they are allowed to manufacture the first widget. Would it be more expensive? Yes, it would. But I'd be willing to bet that manufacturers would find a better way to do it if they were forced to. Once they had discovered that way I'd be willing to bet that the prices could come down. (Whether they would or not is a different rant for a different post!) But what about the countries that wouldn't adhere to that standard?!! Don't trade with them. DUH!

Or perhaps on a more personal level, why do we allow people to litter? (This includes throwing cigarette butts out of cars, by the way.)

Why do we allow companies to use packaging materials that are not environmentally friendly? Why are we so addicted to plastics when glass, paper, and metal are much more easily recycled?

There are also water quality issues that are being raised by the irresponsible development taking place throughout the country. In North Carolina these practices threaten to destroy the state's only native trout. (Indeed, Brook Trout are threatened throughout their native range along the entire Appalachian Range from Georgia to Maine.)

All of these issues would be much easier to fix than "global warming." (Especially if it turns out that this purported climate change is being caused by the sun!)

North Carolina's Wildlife Commission has done a stellar job in reclaiming severely damaged river ecosystems. With the work that they have done they have begun to see very encouraging results in the resurgence of threatened flora and fauna. Their re-introduction of deer and turkeys have been wildly successful, and I have hope for the successful reintroduction of the red wolf and elk. It would be wonderful to see these animals thriving in our land again. (Although they will create their own problems too as we have seen with the invasion of coyotes.) I have also seen surprisingly quick results from the size and creel limits imposed on many saltwater fish species. There seem to be far more fish available in just a few short years following the introduction of these limits.

My point is that the real environmental problems facing our world can be dealt with successfully when they are approached with intelligence and TRUE scientific inquiry instead of the junk being passed off as science by so many. There are plenty of resources in our world to allow us to take advantage of them if we will be wise about it and not succumb to greed. It is high time that we start using our own brains and questioning why so many "scientists" are afraid of debate on issues like climate change and evolution. It is time that we stop giving these people money to perpetuate their lies. We cannot keep accepting that what "they" say is true. Too often it isn't. The money that will be wasted on "preventing" global warming would be much better used addressing real problems.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Eye Of God

The Eye Of GodHere is another in my stunning space pictures series. It is a nebula (I think) that is called "The Eye Of God." I can see where someone might come up with that name, don't you?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Quickie...

Man, I wish I had time to post a long update tonight, but this is going to have to be a fly-by.

I checked my garden today and everything is coming up nicely. Most things are just starting to poke their heads through the dirt, but I hope to have stuff up high enough to be able to take pictures early next week.

Had a good practice with the Jazz Band tonight. We just kind of jammed for a while. It was fun. We have a small gig tomorrow night at South Rowan High School for the Drama Club fundraiser. We also have a gig coming up on June 6. That will be here before you know it. Still, if you are looking for a good one to come down for, our Dixie's Farmers' Day gig should be a good one to plan for.

This weekend I'm heading out with a couple fraternity brothers and their families to Lake Chatuge for some fishing and catching up. I'm not exactly sure how things will go. I'm the only single going with three families with kids. Yay. I am sure that it will be fun, but I am a true hermit at heart, and four days of tip-toeing around 12-13 other people will have me most ready to return to my little hermitage. There are pluses and minuses to single life! Hopefully I will find a nice fishing hole with some trout. I haven't caught any of those since I was a kid.

Tomorrow I'll be slammed. I have some mowing to do, and would really like to finish putting out my garden before Friday's rain arrives. (Thank God that we are getting rain regularly this year!) There is also a family dinner and I have already mentioned the gig. On top of that I need to go to the bank, the grocery store, do some food prep and pack. Perhaps I won't sleep... That should make me nice and sociable!

Well, if I don't get to update again before I leave. Have a great Memorial Day, and in the midst of your celebrations take some time to remember the men and women who have laid down their lives to give us the freedoms that we so often take for granted.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Alpha Centaurus

Galaxy Alpha Centaurus

Another very cool photograph I picked up at NASA's website.

Cars Run On Salt Water?

I saw this man's invention in a news report, however that report centered on his quest to find a cure for cancer and didn't mention this other discovery using the same technology. Hopefully some oil company hasn't bought the rights to this invention. If they have, no doubt they will suppress it.

By the way, this post is a milestone. It is post number 500!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monkeez Brew

Monkeez Brew counterI had the pleasure a couple weekends ago to visit Monkeez Brew on Main Street in Thomasville, NC (Just down from the big chair). It has a cool atmosphere and live music on Friday nights. I was there on Saturday night and they had live music then too!

Anyway, if you are in Thomasville and looking for a cool place to hang out, Monkeez Brew will do!


oyster toadfish (Opsanus tau)
Have you ever seen anything as bizarre-looking as this fish? It is an oyster toadfish (Opsanus tau). They eat oysters... in the shell. Very impressive. Of course they aren't very picky eaters. They will eat about anything that comes along.

According to Wikipedia:

The fish has a distinctive "foghorn" sound that is used by males to attract females in the mating season, which is April-October. Following the foghorn sound, the female comes into the nest, lays eggs, then leaves (the toadfish lays the largest eggs of any Chesapeake Bay fish). The male fertilizes the egg; they hatch after approximately one month. When the eggs hatch the young toadfish stay attached to the yolk for some time. When the yolk has been absorbed for energy, the young toadfish learn to swim. Even when the young have started to swim the adult still protects its young.
We caught a few of these radical looking fish on our fishing trip this weekend. Actually one of the ones that we caught may have been pretty close to a record-breaker. According to the Wikipedia article they don't get much bigger than 16 inches, and one of the ones that we caught was pretty close to that size.

Our guide told us that they have a pretty nasty attitude too. He said that they will actually come after divers sometimes.

My brother-in-law found out the hard way how aggressive they can be. We had a few in the cooler on ice along with the other fish we caught (a southern cod, several black sea bass, and a nice flounder.) He wanted to show my sister and niece the fish that we had caught and went rummaging around in the ice to find them. Well, one of them still had a little fight left in him and when my brother-in-law got his hand close to his mouth, the fish decided a little pay back was in order.

The next thing we knew, Dusty was bellowing and the fish went sailing through the air! (Shortly after having been attached to one of his fingers!) I told him that would happen! Needless to say he didn't dig around for any more fish.

All in all it was a pretty nice trip. The water wasn't too rough and we caught a few fish. Our guide was OK, although he wouldn't qualify as our best guide ever. That honor would have to go to a fellow that we chartered with out of South Port, NC. Still, it was nice being on the water and catching some fish. We also got to watch a group of Navy ships coming back from Iraq, bringing some Camp Lejeune Marines back from their tour of duty. That was neat too.

Today we got the fish cleaned and I buried their remains in our garden. That should have some future archaeologists scratching their heads one day!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Garden

An African Vegetable Garden
Well, it is time for another garden update. The picture above is NOT my garden. I think it is actually located somewhere in Africa, but the dirt color is about right. I apologize for the delay in getting this update done, but by the time I had finished work on Thursday and finished chatting with an old friend on Facebook there just wasn't any more time. I had to pack for a weekend fishing trip that I took with my family.

Thursday the weatherman had predicted rain. A part of me was secretly hoping that he was right because when I finally finished work on Wednesday night I was utterly sick of dealing with the tiller. Because it kept cutting off every 3 feet (or less), I was only able to get one row of corn planted by the time the sun had gone down on Wednesday night.

However, there was no sign of rain on Thursday morning so I went back to work. I finished tilling the patch for the corn and got it planted and then I started on the next big section of garden. My parents came out and helped to get the big rocks out of the way. (Thanks, guys!) I finally managed to get that section sufficiently tilled and got my tomatoes, green peppers, fordhook limas, green peas, and squash planted.

A nice gentle rain began to fall just as we were finishing up. (Perfect timing, Lord!) You would not believe the collection of rocks that I have amassed so far in this endeavor - and I haven't picked them all up yet! Once I get them unloaded from the back of the truck I'll take a picture.

Yesterday we had a really good rain shower, which means I won't be able to get into the garden to finish up today, but it should help things to germinate. If the rain holds off for a couple more days I still have to plant my purplehull peas and okra. I may get some cantaloupe plants too, but that will just about finish up the space that I have available to plant.

Now the waiting begins to see what will come up - besides weeds. They always come up.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Too Funny!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Brief Gardening Update

Mark Twain wrote a great book called Puddinhead Wilson. The book is about an outsider who moves into a small Southern town. One day an obnoxious dog was bothering him with its incessant barking. The main character of the book, a man named Wilson, commented to one of the locals, "I wish I owned half of that dog." To which the local of course replied, "Why?" Mr. Wilson said, "'Cause I'd kill my half if I did." This earned him the title "Puddinhead" because his dry sense of humor was lost on the local populace.

I wish I owned half of my dad's tiller...

Today was rough. I picked up twice as many stones (and still left several piles to be removed.) The tiller was even fussier today than yesterday. I finally managed to get the plot for my corn about ¾ tilled and got one row of corn planted.

I don't know if I can take much more of that tiller. I won't get into it tonight because I'm headed for bed, but let it suffice to say that it was more work than it should have been to get that little plot done.

If the rain holds off long enough I will try to finish tilling and planting the corn. We'll see how that goes. I'll try to update again tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Cool College Memory

Bill Gramley and Terry Swaim holding two of the three chickens that they raised in their Bragaw dorm room at NCSUI got this picture from one of my good friends, Terry Swaim. This is from the end of my freshman year at NC State. That is Terry on the Right and his roommate Bill Gramley on the left. They are holding two of the three chickens that they raised in their dorm room in the spring semester of 1988.

Another one of my suite mates, Jody Harris, brought the chickens when they were just chicks. (His family raised birds for Perdue.) Bill and Terry raised the birds in their room for the entire semester... without getting caught. Yeah, our RA was right on top of things. He somehow also didn't notice the underage drinking parties that were taking place in the suite next to ours - even though there were beer bottles piled up in the hallway 6-8" deep with only a small footpath to walk on.

By the way, they are standing in front of my room - which, incidentally, is now a laundromat. Their room was put to the same purpose. Ah, it is nice to be appreciated!

The three birds were named Thunderbird (after the alcoholic beverage, of course), Frobird (after one of our suite mates, John Froberg), and ironically, Perdue. I'm not really sure which ones they are holding. I could have told you back then, but that has been 20 years ago.

Sadly, the birds met a tragic end. Terry took them home and gave them to a relative - whose dogs promptly killed and ate them.

Those were the days... Good times. Good times.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

SJB Gig At Trinity Oaks

Jonathan Eller playing guitar at Trinity Oaks Retirement CommunityLast night ¾ of StillWaters Jazz Band played at Trinity Oaks Retirement Community. We had a really good turn out and it seemed like the folks really enjoyed the show. I'm glad they did. It wasn't one of my best outings. For some reason my mind just wasn't in it enough, and I zoned out a few times, getting lost in the process.

I think Justin may have figured out what the problem was. He asked me, "Have you been working on the computer again?"

I had to reply that yes I had.

"Well, don't ever do that before a gig again!" (Don't read this the wrong way. It was said and received in a good-natured fashion.) Next gig... no web design beforehand.

Justin Dickson playing trumpet at Trinity Oaks Retirement CommunityWe had only been scheduled for a one hour show, but I guess we probably played for an hour and a half. Because we were trying to conserve time we didn't take our usual 10-15 minute break halfway through.

I am actually surprised that my hand and Justin's lips didn't fall off. I guess we are getting used to playing for longer periods.

Really and truly, my favorite part of these gigs is getting to interact with the residents. We had some great folks who came up to speak to us afterwards. One woman was really emotional and seemed touched that we would come to play for them. We assured her that it was as much of a blessing for us to be able to come. And it really is.

Another woman told me that my hands reminded her of her son's hands. Poor fellow!

A couple of other fellows hung around to talk about the music of the good old days and challenged us to take on some challenging tunes like Harry James' Ciribiribin.

Sara Dickson playing piano at Trinity Oaks Retirement CommunitySo, let it suffice to say that even though we had a couple of train wrecks during the show we were still very well received.

Perhaps you are wondering where our bass player is. Well, I think that his schedule finally caught up with him. Fortunately, we can still manage even though he adds a lot when he is able to play.

Haywood Basinger, Billie Eller, and Louise Basinger at the SJB concert at Trinity Oaks Retirement CommunityOne of the treats of the evening was that we got to play for my Grandfather's sister and her husband. They are residents there. My Mom and Dad were also there. I put Dad to work taking pictures. I have found that it is hard to take pictures while playing.

The band will have a few weeks off from performing. We have a gig scheduled to play for the JC Carson High School Bible Education Society fund raiser at St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Main Street in China Grove on Saturday June 7. We're not sure on the time yet.

We have also been asked to perform at Dixie's on July 19, 2008 for China Grove's Farmers' Day street festival. It is typically held on the hottest day of the summer. (At least it feels that way.) Hopefully our playing will make it a little hotter! Once again, I'll have to get the time for you. If you haven't seen us before Farmers' Day may be the time to do it.

Well that is all for this update. Stay tuned!

Here's Your Hat. What's Your Hurry?

Baby Cardinal Out Of Its Nest

Thought you might like an update on my new neighbors.... They left. I mean I know I'm not the greatest neighbor, but they didn't even say goodbye! Perhaps they were bothered by the very large peeping-Tom that they had to contend with during daylight hours.

I took the photo above on Saturday late in the afternoon. I really didn't get close enough to look in the nest, but I saw this guy perched on one of the branches. Little did I know it would be the last time I saw him... or her. It is kind of hard to tell at this stage.

Anyway Sunday was cold and rainy, so I didn't think anything about not hearing them. I figured they were hunkered down in their little nest (like I was) trying to stay warm. When I didn't hear them at all yesterday I decided to check it out. Turns out they had paid their bill and left.

I'm pretty sure this little guy didn't fly away, but I truly have no idea where he (or she) or his (or her) brothers (or sisters) went.

In The Stars His Handiwork I See...

Billions and billions of stars, galaxies, and nebulae

My Dad's Tiller Is Better Than Using A Mule, But Not Enough!

Today I began my garden. I know, I know, it should have been done weeks ago. Give me a break, OK? I'm a newbie.

Anyway, getting the ground ready was an adventure. My dad had plowed it and disked it, but tilling still remained to be done. And there is another chore that has to be done at my parents' house when gardening - rock removal.

Once upon a time when folks were hollering, "There's gold in them thar hills!" There was a gold mine on their property. Apparently the field that became the building site for my parents' home and also the spot for my garden was where they threw out all of the non-gold rock. (Too bad they didn't overlook some of the gold!) Thus, there are abundant stones in the dirt. Even though we have been collecting these stones and tossing them out for years, every time you till the soil there they are again. It is like they are reproducing like potatoes!

So my activities today centered around doing things that my body hasn't done in a VERY long time.

The most fun chore was wrestling with the tiller. It is one of those self-propelled jobbies that I remember from ads that insinuated that using such a machine was supposed to make tilling such fun. Don't believe it for a second! The thing was about ¾ as ornery as a mule. It liked to run right along and it was all I could do to hold it back. It also turns out that it is a little underpowered. This means that it likes to cut off whenever it hits something (like a rock or a clump of grass, which, I will remind you, are quite common) that it deems too hard to try to move. Then there was the fun of trying to get it to go in a straight line. Like the title said, it's better than using a mule, but not enough.

Tomorrow I get to pick up stones again (Anyone know any sinners? Just kidding. ) And then I get to till it all probably two more times. This will in turn bring more rocks to the surface which will have to be picked up.

I'm actually thinking about doing like the folks in Scotland do and just give in and start making stone walls with them. I had been wanting a stone retaining wall for a raised bed at my home. (Don't ask me when I'll start that chore.) Today, no kidding, I picked up enough to probably build 2-3 feet of wall.

So depending on how long it takes me to get moving in the morning after my extended workout this afternoon, I hope to get the entire garden ready to plant, and I even hope to get it planted tomorrow. I will be utterly useless tomorrow night, but hey, you gotta die of something, right?

Updates tomorrow...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Now Please Honor Our Nation By Standing and Removing Your Hats...

Dang! Them gals can sing!

This Really Shouldn't Be A Problem

The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote.

The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card.

Sponsors of the amendment — which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum — say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship.
OK, check me here if I am wrong, but legal residents aren't allowed to vote - only citizens, right? The article that I quoted above did have a story about an older lady who had trouble getting a birth certificate, but really, how many bona fide US Citizens truly can't prove their citizenship with a little due diligence?

This is a measure whose time has come and really should be more widespread than it is. US Citizens should have absolutely no qualms about proving that they are a citizen. Laxness in this department has caused the problems that are facing the states with large illegal immigrant populations.

Remember how there has been so much pandering to the illegal crowd by California politicians? Why are they cow-towing to a group that legally isn't able to vote? The problem is that these folks have been allowed to vote and have been actively recruited to the voter lists by treasonous people who care more about winning elections than they do the welfare of our country.

Frankly, if I were a naturalized citizen and had gone through all of the expense and work that it takes to become a citizen of the US I would be incensed. Anyone who actively supports allowing non-citizens to vote is no friend of our nation. It is not a burdensome requirement to make people prove their citizenship.

Many opponents of the law cry that thousands upon thousands of legitimate citizens will be disenfranchised by such a law. I wish that they would produce all of these myriads of people. Here's an idea: I suggest that instead of working to prevent a just law, that they work with these purported "disenfranchised" folks to help them prove their citizenship. It shouldn't be that tough to do, and certainly shouldn't cost as much as fighting this legislation.

Citizenship, like Christianity, cannot be attained by any path one chooses. The benefits, privileges, and rights of the citizen (and the Christian) are only available to those who obtain membership by the prescribed means. It is high time that we remember that.

Neat Video

I just posted a really cool video over at Conspiracy Of Kindness.

It is a very creative interpretation of the song Who Am I by Casting Crowns using a black light and folks dressed all in black with white gloves.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Thanks, moms for all you do. Thanks doesn't really seem to cover what you really deserve for all of the late nights, dirty diapers, and everything else that comes with motherhood, but that is all the English language will afford. Thanks for taking the toughest job there is and making it look easy. We couldn't do it without you!

God bless you all!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Dream Job...

Military Pilot Prepares For Takeoff

Champions Of The Middle Class?

Barack Obama and Hillary ClintonI read the other day that Hillary has loaned her campaign 6.5 million dollars... again. That makes over $12 million that she has made to her own campaign. She lives in very expensive digs in New York, and certainly lacks for nothing.

Earlier in the campaign she was accused of not leaving a tip for a waitress that she later exploited in a campaign speech. Of course she has denied doing this and the waitress confirmed that a member of her staff later brought a tip to her.

By all of the accounts that I have read about her by secret service people she is elitist, condescending, and downright hateful to the people who are serving and protecting her.

Yet somehow she is trying to convince everyone that she is a friend to the little guy - that she understands our pain and is going to bring relief if only we will put her in the White House... again. Once there she will stick it to all of those "rich" people and give their wealth to us.

Things really aren't that different for Barack Obama. From what I have heard he had a fairly privileged life. He certainly isn't hurting for money now. In fact, both he and Hillary are millionaires.

Unfortunately, I don't know as much about Obama's story, but I would be willing to bet that it really isn't all that different from Hillary's. We do know about his church and the notions that it has. We know that his wife is ashamed of the United States. I think the thing that is kind of hard for me to grasp in all of this is how he can possibly understand the plight of the average Joe. Has he ever known lack? Has he ever been unemployed? Has he ever owned a business that wasn't making enough money to live on while being taxed like a "rich" man?

How about Obama's charitable giving? According to an article I just found it would appear that he isn't all that generous - except in an election year.

...according to their 2000-2004 tax returns, Barack and Michelle Obama gave less than 1% of their income to charity, Obama campaign spox Tommy Vietor writes to note that even though their 2007 tax return is not yet ready, the Obamas "gave $240,000 to charity in 2007."
What does this say about our "champion's" true concern for the less fortunate?

I find the actions of these "saviors" of the middle class greatly incongruous with their words.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Laminin... Who'd Have Thought It?

You can see a picture of the molecule over at Deborah's blog, Thoughts Along The Way. That's where I found the video.

Happy Birthday, Grandfather... I Sure Miss You

Richard Eller, Wayne Eller, and Jonathan Eller surf fishing at Avon, NC
That's my grandfather in the foreground, wearing the bee-keeping coveralls that he wore almost exclusively when I was growing up. (He raised bees most of my life.)

Today would have been my Grandfather's 89th birthday. I sure miss that guy!

John McCain On the Judiciary

Here is a series of excerpts from John McCain's speech at Wake Forest University yesterday that centers on his judicial philosophy.

It would be nice to see the whole speech.

Now For Something Completely Different...

A lady hand-feeding hummingbirdsHere's something you don't see every day. A friend sent me an email with this picture. According to the email:

This lady lives in a Hummingbird fly zone. As they migrated, about 20 of them were in her yard. She took the little red dish, filled it with sugar water and this is the result.

The Woman is Abagail Alfano of Pine, Louisiana - she has been studying them daily and one morning put the cup from the feeder, with water in it, in her hand; as they had gotten used to her standing by the feeder they came over to her hand. She says in touching they are as light as a feather. Abagail also said, 'if she had known her husband was taking pictures she would have put on makeup.'

So there you have it! All of that Disney stuff about birds flocking around women was true!

Did You Ever Ask Yourself...

From Left to Right: Senator John McCain, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama

why, if all of these guys' ideas are so great, have none of them have been implemented while in the Senate?

I guess it all makes sense when you understand what has to be done. I have, for the first time in my life, gotten a view of the contorted inner workings of our Legislative branch over the past few weeks. It is frankly a wonder that any bills ever get passed by the Congress.

Our Representatives never stop campaigning, and about a third of our Senators are campaigning at any given time. Besides that, every national holiday merits at least a one week recess. Plus there's summer break to consider. Then you have to factor in all of the "very important" hearings about whether some baseball or football player has been using steroids, whether there is enough minority representation in NASCAR, professional sports management, or team ownership, or whether Oprah's new diet is working safely and effectively. When you add all of the partisan sniping that goes on, the required social events to take bribes, er, accept contributions from the Chinese and big oil, I mean, private interests, and otherwise chase tails (theirs or someone else's) they are just swamped.

So please forgive me if I am somewhat cynical when one of these candidates tells me that he or she has the great panacea of our ills all worked out. All three of our potential candidates have had the opportunity to show us what they could do, and I'm afraid it doesn't amount to much. And if they can't find a way to rally a strong majority of the country to their policies and ideas they won't get a thing done. We've already seen under President Bush that the "Bully Pulpit" doesn't have that kind of power against partisan stonewalling.

And if someone is offering free rainbow stew, you might better check the pot.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Just In Case You Were Wondering...

I am just about done with the document that will give you additional pictures of the car. Once I have that worked out it shouldn't take too long to get the extras of the tractor. I'm trying some new stuff that should end up expanding my web design experience and capabilities. It is fun.

I haven't posted much about the website lately because it has been on the back burner a little while. I am trying to get my sister's site up and running, and I am very close to having it finished. She has to write some text for the "About Me" section, I have to do a little formatting on the home page and finish my text on that page, and I need to play with the PHP to automatically detect the end-user's browser and pick the right style sheet.

I think that the PHP shouldn't be that hard, but I really haven't learned that much about PHP, and I haven't worked with it at all, so wisdom (and past experience) tells me that it may not be as easy as hoped for. This of course tends to stoke the procrastination fires, and I have to admit that I have been putting it off a little bit for that very reason. Still, it needs to be finished.

There are some interesting developments that may put the commercial website on hold for the time being. I can't go into the details here - at least not until they become a reality - but let it suffice it to say that it would be a good thing. I still intend to finish the website, but perhaps not in the way I had originally planned. If this works out it will be great.

I also have another website that I need to finish up for another friend. I have 95% of the content done, but need to redo the formatting. With what I have learned over the past couple of months I should be able to crank out this website in a couple days' work. Yet one more place where having that PHP code functional will be useful. I guess I have to quit putting it off and jump in and see if I can get it to work.

So that's where things stand for now. I'll give you the address as soon as I get my sister's website live.

Another Cool Space Picture

Sunrise over earth from spaceHere's another cool picture I picked up on NASA's website. The colors are just incredible. I'm not sure if it is a sunrise or a sunset, but it is awesome either way!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ford 1000 Tractor For Sale

Ford 1000 Tractor
Looking for a good tractor? We have a Ford 1000 that belonged to my Grandfather. It runs really well. We are asking $4,500 for it.

Bush Hog

The bush hog is also for sale. It works just fine too. The asking price for the mower is $400.

2 disc plowThere is also a 2 disc plow available. It is too large for the tractor, but is in pretty good shape. The price for the plow is $300. I'll do my best to attach a link later today so that you can view additional photos.

1971 Buick Skylark 4-Door

Green 1971 Buick SkylarkAnyone looking for a 1971 Buick Skylark? This one belonged to my grandmother. It is a one-owner car and has less than 100,000 miles on the original engine. The engine is a 350. It has been kept in the garage for most of its life. Our asking price? $3,600.

I'll post a link soon so that you can see additional photos.

New Neighbors

Three baby cardinals
I have some new neighbors. A family of cardinals has set up housekeeping right outside of my kitchen window. These little guys hatched late last week and have been keeping mom and dad pretty busy gathering food.

Like most baby birds, they aren't much to look at, but it is neat to have them living where I can keep an eye on them.

I have already had to chase off one cat. All I can say is he had best hope I don't catch him there again. I have some very unpleasant things planned for him if I do.

So far mom and dad have been fairly patient with my curiosity. Dad came by when I was taking this picture. I would have probably snapped a couple more if he hadn't. I'd love to get a shot of one of them feeding the kids. I don't think that they'll tolerate that.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Who Needs Corn?

A woodland trail with a yellow road sign that says 'Energy Solutions Ahead'I just read another interesting article from NC State about their projects to develop alternate fuel sources to power America's transportation industry.

While they are working on other ethanol-based solutions, they are also looking at possible answers by extracting a glue-like substance called lignin from wood products. "Even though it's harder to work with, (Dr. Steve) Peretti (from NC State's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) likes lignin, calling it a 'higher-energy feedstock, almost like crude oil,' that is lower in oxygen. Less oxygen, he says, translates to higher energy value per gallon."

One of the really neat things about this project is that if they can get it to work on a large scale, there are a wide variety of sources for the raw materials needed for this process. It can be extracted from "Anything that has organic molecules in it – clean wood, dirty wood, forest thinnings, bark, waste paper, solid waste, even plastics." Using these sources will provide a serendipitous effect, by keeping these items from landfills and by helping to reduce the risk of wildfire.

In another article, Dr. Glenn Catts, a senior research associate at NC State who is working on a related project said, "Energy is certainly one thing that is not going away in terms of demand. The idea that we can generate energy in an alternative form while at the same time decreasing the risk of wild fires is the most compelling thing about this project."

This project will harvest debris from woodland areas for use as potential biomass. They are working with FECON, a company that manufactures mulching machines, to create a machine that can remove forest floor biomass in a cost-effective manner.

Dr. Joe Roise, professor of forestry at NC State said, "This is a resource people haven't thought of, and it's also a critical fire risk that needs to be removed.... What we have is not a product you grow, it's an existing resource that could support the energy needs of the South if you could convert it. So the real question is not how to grow biomass, but how to use the biomass that we already have." (Emphasis mine.)

On a side note, the project that Drs. Roise and Catts are working on could create some potential environmental problems, but they are optimistic that the effect will be similar to the outcome of controlled burns, benefiting many species by thinning out competing plants, and protecting housing in the urban interface.

Red NC State Block SSee what people can do when they actually put their minds to it? Granted there is a long way to go with this research and a lot of work to do, but this just goes to show that there are options. I am confident that as more research is done that we will be astounded at what is discovered.

Once again I am proud to be an alumnus of NC State. They keep proving, as their commercials claim, "We all go to NC State!"

Vote Day

Campaign button emblazoned with the word 'vote'Well, today is my chance to take part in the electoral process. I never dreamed May would get here so soon, and I certainly never thought that Senator Clinton would still be doggedly hanging in there. I hope she wins today.

I know that this must be shocking for anyone who has read my blog at all. In earlier days I didn't conceal my disdain for the Clintons. I am trying to be nicer these days. I doubt that Hillary can win the nomination, but I hope that she hangs in there until August to force Senator Obama to spend his resources fighting her instead of Senator McCain.

My support certainly doesn't indicate that I approve of anything that Senator Clinton stands for or that I believe ANYTHING that she has to say. It is more that I distrust Obama even more than I do her. Say what he will about his connection to Wright and Wright's church, I fully believe that he gives assent to all of those audacious things that Wright has been saying. Obama has distanced himself from Wright because it is politically expedient to do so.

Senator Obama is an amazing orator. I have heard some of his speeches and they are breath-taking, but his content is as whack as the ideas coming out of his church. He acts as if the American public will just believe that he is America's messiah without paying attention to any of the things that he supports. He may be a messiah to the left, but God help us if he comes into office.

Actually, God help us if either one comes into office, but at least if Hillary were to win (God forbid) I think that she has sense enough to realize that some things are necessary - even if she pretends they aren't. For example, I think Senator Clinton at least realizes that there may some merit to having a military presence strategically located in the Middle East. I don't think Senator Obama does.

Please don't think that this is about race with me. I wouldn't care if he was purple if he was on board with my make-or-break issues. There are quite a few non-white people that I would be glad to support for the Presidency if they mounted a competitive campaign. One that comes immediately to mind is the former congressman from Oklahoma, J. C. Watts, Jr. I would also consider supporting Alan Keyes if he ever made a concerted run at the White House.

I had actually thought about switching parties so I could vote between the two of them, but it is too late now. I'll just have to leave it in God's hands. (Which is where I was going to have to leave it anyway!)

One of the wonderful things about this internet age in which we live is that it is much easier to get information about candidates. Any candidate with the sense to put up a website can easily get his message out there for his potential constituency to read about it. This is especially helpful in the lesser-publicized races that don't attract the media coverage that the others do. There is really no excuse to go to the polls ignorant.

So even though the Republican nomination is sealed, I'm still going to vote. Hope you will too!

Now Playing...

Album Cover: Christ For The Nations Worship Collection Volume 2
The Christ For The Nations Worship Collection Volume 2 is playing now over at Worship Music Radio. This is one of my favorite albums that they stream regularly on this site. Check it out! It has some seriously anointed songs. Click HERE to go directly to the radio!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Are You Saved?

I just watched an excellent sermon which I have embedded below. The main question that it asks is "Are you saved?" And then it gives an excellent, biblical way to tell. The video lasts about 48 minutes. It will take a while to watch it, but I thoroughly recommend it even if you are pretty certain that you are.

If Billy Graham believes that probably less than 5% of the people who came forward at one of his crusades really got saved, then perhaps it would be worth your time to set aside an hour and ask yourself some penetrating questions.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Lemony Cheesecake With Chocolate Ganache And Raspberry Sauce

Today is my Mother's birthday, so in honor of her I have made a cheesecake. If the batter is any indication of how good the cake will be, this is going to be excellent. I have it baking even as I type this.

So here is how I made it:

Lemony Cheesecake With Chocolate Ganache and Raspberry Sauce


3 ½ 8oz. packages of Philadelphia Cream Cheese®
½ cup plus 2 T. granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. ± vanilla extract
4 packets True Lemon® crystallized lemon

4 cups graham cracker crumbs crushed
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter melted

Raspberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
2 cups fresh raspberries
¼ cup water
3 T cornstarch
¼ t. salt
1 T unsalted butter

Chocolate Ganache
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
24 ounces dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° F

For the crust:
Combine the graham cracker crumbs and the sugar. Add the melted butter and mix thoroughly. Pour crumb mixture into a 10" springform pan and firmly pack the mixture over the bottom and up the sides of the pan forming a crust. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.

For the filling:
Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy, then beat in sugar. Add whole eggs and yolks, 1 at a time, beating well at low speed and scraping down bowl after each addition. Add the crystallized lemon and mix well. Beat in flour and vanilla until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the crust (which should still be in the springform pan!)

Wrap the sides and bottom of the pan with aluminum foil. Place the springform pan into a larger pan in the oven (like the drip pan) and fill the larger pan with water. (Of course you don't want to fill it so full that it overflows into the cake! The aluminum foil is to help keep the water out of the springform pan.) Bake until the sides of the cake are firm about 2 ½ inches in. Turn off the oven and allow it to cool.

Run a thin knife around edge of cake to loosen, then cool completely in pan on a rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.) Serve at room temperature or chilled.

For the Raspberry Sauce:
Combine sugar, salt, and berries in a sauce pan. Mix the water and the cornstarch together to make a slurry and add to the sauce pan. Over medium-low heat stir the mixture constantly until the sauce thickens. Stir in the butter while the sauce is still warm.

For the Ganache:

In a heavy pan heat whipping cream, butter and powdered sugar to a boil while whisking constantly. Place chips in a large stainless steel bowl, add hot cream mixture and let set for 5 minutes. Whisk together until smooth. Let cool until it reaches spreading consistency.

The cake is just about done baking. I will do my best to add some photos of the cake and a finished product report a little bit later tonight!

Sorry. No pictures. Candles kind of messed up the aesthetic anyway. The ganache and the raspberry sauce were good, but I think I need to find a better way to do the sauce so that it doesn't thicken quite so much. Perhaps less cornstarch. I could have used fewer graham crackers for the crust too. All told I liked the cheesecake best without anything on it. It had a nice lemony flavor - which is good because that is what I was going for! It was a pretty big hit too. It is ¾ gone!

Friday, May 02, 2008

A Very Cool Photograph

A UV Light Photograph of SaturnIs this a cool photograph or what? This is a UV Light photograph of Saturn. I got it on the NASA website. I have been collecting pictures from there for a little while now, and may make some cool space shots the theme of my next "cool picture" series.


Theodore RooseveltIt is said that when President Roosevelt entertained diplomatic guests at the White House he was fond of taking them out to the back lawn at the end of the day. As the President stood gazing at the night sky, all eyes would eventually be cast heavenward as his were. In his day, the vast array of stars was not dimmed by the city lights, and the magnificent display of God's brilliant creation would overcome the party. After a long moment, Mr. Roosevelt would say, "Gentlemen, I believe we are small enough now. Let's go to bed."

- Quote from this week's Presidential Prayer Team newsletter

What great perspective from an amazing man. He was a force to be reckoned with - a man of great passion and determination. Yet he recognized that in the entire scheme of things there was something if not someone bigger. I have wanted to read one of the many biographies about him for some time and intend to do so soon. For now I will merely ponder the wisdom of his practice.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Quick Note About An Interesting Discovery

Hello. Sorry I wasn't able to write yesterday. I don't remember why it didn't get done, but oh well. I didn't do a very good job in April of getting a post a day in. I guess there was just a lot going on. I will do my best to do better with that this month.

You may remember the post I made two days ago that talked about the struggles that I and so many of my friends have endured recently. Just a few hours after I posted it, I got a phone call that very well may change my life.

Unfortunately at this time I can't go into the details of that phone call, but if everything works out it could very well prove to be a Joel 2 event. Believe me, I will be glad to see the locusts gone!

Anyway, you would think that I would be rejoicing over such wonderful news, yet instead, I was stunned. In fact, I even commented to someone that I felt like one of the prisoners at Dachau must have felt when they were liberated - just numb and not sure if the deliverance were really true. (I am in no way saying that my trials could even hold a candle to those experienced by the people held at Dachau.)

Well, today I discovered something that gave me goosebumps. When I opened My Yahoo this morning I discovered that the 63rd anniversary of the American liberation of Dachau was two days ago - the very day my phone call had come; the very day that I had spoken those very words. I had no idea when I said it.

Could it be a message from God? I hope so, and I'll keep you posted.