Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hiking at Camp Sumatanga

I've lived back in my hometown now for going on four years.  It's been a wierd time, in some ways, seeing things that have changed so dramatically since I was in high school.  (But it's been good, too, being able to watch college football with my dad on lazy fall Saturdays!)  The philosopher and I have visited parks and other places I used to haunt as a child, and he patiently put up with my never-ending stream of reminisces.

Once place we hadn't been, until a couple of weeks ago, was the Methodist church camp where I spent many an afternoon and weekend attending church picnics, retreats, and 4-H summer camps.  (Yes, I was in 4-H.  Please pick your jaw up off the floor!)

In general, things hadn't changed much.  Some paved paths where they used to be stone, and upgrades to the cabin and lodge.  The camp is on top of Chandler Mountain, and sits in a little valley below the peak.  There's a steep, mile-long trail to the top, where there is a lighted cross that shines out over the valley.  As a kid, I only made that arduous trek once - I always opted for the much easier stroll to the far side of the lake - so the route through the trees was less clear in my memory.  We finally hit the upward trail (after doing a little accidental trailblazing of our own) and the steep climb began.  We met a group of weekend campers coming down, full of enthusiasm after having defeated the mountain, giving us high-fives and saying "you can do it - it's awesome!" (Sigh.  I didn't think I felt that bad, but we must've appeared weary and exhausted to the kids!)

When we arrived at the summit's cross, we looked down into the valley:

 Alabama is a beautiful state and being atop a mountain, even in the early throes of winter, keenly reminds me of that.  I have to say I was disappointed by the cross - it was probably the Coolest Thing Ever when I was 13, but after attending college at Sewanee and walking to this every weekend, a metal structure covered with neon lights doesn't do it for me.  Still, the view was incredible.

We continued our trek back down the mountain, and instead of following our original trail we turned north so we would end up by the lake.  Ahhh, the lake.  I was permanently scarred on that lake when I fell out of a canoe.  It took me decades before I would willingly paddle a boat again!  The camp has created a paved walking path with benches and swings since I was there last, and it was a welcome relief from the slippery leaf-and-needle covered trail.  We had our lunch on a swing, and the philosopher went to investigate the lakeshore.

 So it was a good day, full of memories and philosophical discussion.  It's getting too cold to go hiking these days, so we're planning our next foray for 2011, when Spring returns to these southern climes.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Prayers

There are many things that need prayer these days, and there are many things to be thankful for, as well.  So.... what's at the top of our Christmas thankgivings and prayer requests?

Prayer: The philosopher still doesn't have a full time job.  Of the two positions he applied for this fall, he finally got a rejection email from the school in New York.  (Would it be wrong to say that's a thanksgiving too??!?)  We have yet to hear from The Happy Southern School, but he does know (through the grapevine, as it were) that he's still on the short list.  They're calling references for other candidates, and I expect they'll do phone interviews with them soon.  I hypothesize that if no one measures up to the philosopher, then they won't bring anyone to campus and their will be much rejoicing in our house.  But if they do bring someone to campus, it could likely be late January before we know anything.  So prayers for dealing with the stress and anxiety, and prayers that we can finally settle down to be Wherever We're Supposed To Be.

"Almighty God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son's Name:  We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ear to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen"

Thanksgiving: Even without a full time job, we're getting by.  God has been good, and we're not in need of anything.  I read so many stories every day of families right on the edge of losing everything and families that *have* lost everything, and I praise the Lord that we are comfortable, and safe, and warm. (Well, safe except for the cat, who likes to lie across doorways at night like a large fluffy trip-monster!)

"Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may he unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A thought...

And yes, it's a bit snarky.  But I mean it in all seriousness.

In 2006 the left went ballistic that President Bush wanted to track phone numbers of suspected terrorists.  They said it destroyed the Fourth Amendment, and some politicians went so far as to say, "What the heck - do you think millions of Americans are members of al Qaeda?"

Flash forward four years.  If you want to fly, the TSA will scan you (and agents will be able to see completely nude images of you) OR you can submit to a pat-down that, if it occurred anywhere else, would be considered a sexual assault.  Which seems to be just a *tiny* bit more intrusive than say, phone taps overseas.  Moreover, the efficacy - and safety - of such procedures have yet been proven to be reliable.  But no one on the left is complaining about personal privacy and the Fourth Amendment now.  Why?  The arguments are exactly the same.  "What the heck - do you think millions of Americans are members of al Qaeda?"

OK, I know the argument:  Phone taps and airplanes are entirely different things.  How else can you keep airlines safe from terrorist bombs if you don't inspect closely every passenger and crew member?  I get that. But dontcha think that if we knew what the terrorists were doing by listening to their phone conversations we might stop them before they get within 100 miles of an airport anyway?  Besides, I think the terrorists have proven that once they use a tactic and we discover it, they switch to something else.  Cases in point:  Richard Reid, shoe bomber.  We have to take our shoes at the airport now.  Terrorists tried to smuggle liquid explosives in by using water bottles.  No more liquids!  Abdulmutallab tried the exploding underwear theory, and now we get nude scans.  So what will we do when the next guy hides explosives in a body cavity?  

I think it's time to try something new.  Political correctness has gotten so out of hand that we can't do those things that might actually be EFFECTIVE at stopping terrorists.  There have been some good ideas proposed by some smart folks, so I won't bother to recount all those here.  But if we *really* want to keep people safe in the air, and on trains, and in buildings we need to be smarter than the terrorists, and that's not happening right now.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Trip to Charleston

I went to a library conference last week in Charleston, South Carolina.  Never been there before.  Definitely want to go back and take the philosopher, and do nothing but walk around town admiring the architecture!  Now, I could regal you all (all two of you) with amazing conference anecdotes, and recaps of some of the amazing sessions like Scholarly Communication!  Google Books!  Bibliographic Instruction! e-Readers in the library! Database Management! Patron-Driven Acquisitions!

But I won't.

Instead I'll share with you some pictures I took during a brief walking tour.  I decided to skip out on one afternoon session, and try to see as much of the city as I could.  I wanted to walk down to the Battery.  I wanted to see some of the amazing historic churches.  I wanted to walk right up and touch some of the buildings that were standing 200 years ago.  So I did.. and this is some of what I saw:

Citadel Square Baptist Church: established 1854.  It was actually across Marion Square from the conference hotel, and we could hear it (and many others around town) toll the hours.

On the other side of the square was St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, established 1874.  You can't really tell in this photo because it was a cloudy day, but the edifice is a beautiful terra cotta color, and it had some wonderful stained glass.  It's also interesting that for all the churches, the stained glass is protected by what appears to be lexan or some other sturdy outer layer.  I suppose it makes sense.. you know, hurricanes could really do some damage.

Next was the French Huguenot Church, established 1845.  The architectural detail was stunning.

This is the First Baptist Church.  It is the oldest Baptist church in the south - the congregation was formed in 1682, and this building was constructed in 1822. 

 These are two of the Episcopal churches.  The one on the left is St. Michael's (1752), and the one on the right is St. Philip's (founded in 1680).  St. Michael's has the distinction of being one of the only churches that has not had significant changes made to its facade, so it looks today just like it looked 250 years ago.

 And then of course I headed down to the coastline.  The US Custom House and the USS Yorktown are visible from an awesome waterfront park and pier off of East Bay Street (on the Cooper River).  When I walked down to Battery Park, there was a sailing ship out in the bay.  I tried to get a decent shot, and the best one I could get also had Ft. Sumter just inside the frame on the left.  Bonus!

I still may bore you with a post about some of the conference proceedings - we had a senior Google engineer talk about the Google Books project which was Just Absolutely Amazing. I also enjoyed some delicious food at Slightly North of Broad, Chai's Lounge and Tapas, and the Swamp Fox Restaurant.  But I'll save that for later....  ::grin::

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall Colors on the Mountain

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.  
~John Muir 

This past weekend the philosopher and I went on a hike in the Talladega National Forest.  The Pinhoti, as I've mentioned before, is a really long trail extending from south of Birmingham to the Georgia state line near Cedartown.  We're hiking all the parts of it nearby, bit by bit.  This time we went from the County Road 94 crossing about 3 1/2 miles up the mountain and along Augusta Mine Ridge.  It was a perfect day - upper 70s with a nice breeze and low humidity.
Wilson Ridge
This is looking east from Rocky Top, elevation @ 1850'
The trail cut through an ancient grove of cedars and pines - I kept thinking of Tolkien, for some reason.
Looking down into Piedmont Valley
Looking back to Oakey Mountain
It was a frabjulous day, all in all.  And the best part?  We didn't talk deep philosophy, or make plans about what we might do if the philosopher doesn't find a full time job.  Instead we talked about where we might move to be closer to the (soon-to-be-his-we-hope-and-pray) job he will have next year.  So we talked about houses, and where we'd like to live.  And where we might live if we BOTH got a job at the Happy Southern School, and where we might live if I stay where I am.  My friends, I have to say, that was the most hopeful and encouraging Hiking Talk we've had... ever.  So keep up the prayers.  We know for sure that one way or another things will be settled by Christmas.  And ... hopefully! ... our yearly Christmas letter will bear happy tidings for us at last!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hitchcock is Laughing

Birds.  Birds!  BIRDS EVERYWHERE!!  They're following me!  ACK!

I've mentioned before about the long desolate journey I have every day to work. And I've mentioned some of the ...odd ... wildlife I've seen. So last night, driving home, I was swooped by a bird.  (It may have been a bat, but who can tell when it's dark?)  It was an omen, though, of my pending morning commute.  (Cue the menacing "Twilight Zone" theme music here...)

This morning, I passed a rafter of turkeys.  They were congregated in the large area around (I kid you not) the Etowah County Bow Hunters range.  Maybe they had a death wish? Or maybe they were showing their machismo and daring the bow hunters to take the field?  I don't know, but they were looking at me as though *I* might be Thanksgiving dinner, not them!

Later, I saw a murder of crows perched among the branches of an enormous dead tree.  Can you say "creepy"?  Just imagine - the skeleton of an oak, filled with large black birds silhouetted against the rising sun.  Yeah.  "Creepy" about sums it up.

There's a beautiful creek area on my way to work, too.  It's a nearly mile-long stretch where the road crosses several creeks feeding into the nearby Coosa River.  What did I see?  Swans!  Black ones and white ones!  At least these birds didn't seem menacing in any way... but after my first two experiences - and the fact that Halloween approacheth - I'm staying on my guard!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rose Identification?

This will be boring to everyone, except those interested in figuring out what kind of rose this is.  Feel free to ignore at your leisure!  ::grin::

(The information provided is based on this data sheet from Garden Web)

STUDY NAME: "Mamie's Rose"

BUDS: round and smooth, with pointed sepals.

BLOOM: vibrant pink, 80+ petals, looks a little like a hybrid perpetual in shape and density

FRAGRANCE: very fragrant, sweeter smelling than the "old fashioned" rose smell you find in potpourri and perfumes


REPEAT BLOOM: blooms at least three times a year (in fact it has buds on it now, in October)

HIPS: few, dark brown


LEAVES: smooth, medium green and glossy, usually 5 leaflets, no spines, each leaf about 3" long

LEAFLETS: uniform and medium-spaced

STIPULE: light green, no striping

THORNS: many, straight, strong and light brown (I actually like to call them "wicked and evil" when pruning!)

CANES: Upright and straight, stout

GROWTH HABIT AND FORM: 5-6' high shrub, upright

VIGOR AND HEALTH: fast grower, susceptible to black spot

HISTORY:  Mt great-grandmother (late 1800s, it is guessed) moved the parent of these shrubs to Haleyville Alabama from Carrollton, Georgia.  About 60 years ago my grandmother moved them (or propagated offspring) from Haleyville to Collinsville, Alabama.  I transplanted these bushes to my house (about 40 miles away) two years ago.  They were growing in part shade in very rich, loamy soil in Collinsville, and had been untended for at least five years.  Before that they were very well cared for.

 (new growth in October!)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth

That full phrase is actually "Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth."  What, you don't know what I'm talking about?  It's an old radio announcer's test.  When I was in college it was a "repeat after me" memory test (usually dragged out when the spirits were... heh.) You should try it sometime!  But I digress - I actually am going to rant a little bit today.  So if you'd rather not be bothered, you should hop on over to wikipedia and try to memorize "one hen, two ducks"... it'd probably be a lot more fun!  8-)

OK, let the rant commence.  (Don't forget, I warned you!)

That old announcer's test came to mind yesterday when I read about the House of Representatives voting to adjourn before they voted on the tax cut extension.  So that means all of us are sitting here waiting for the lame duck session to find out whether or not our taxes are going to go up.  And it's going to affect everyone, regardless of your bracket.  I'm not going to go on a rant against the Democrats, because that wouldn't be fair.  But I am going to go on a rant against ANY politician who wants to put off a critical vote in favor of campaigning to keep their jobs.   Your salary comes out of MY salary, remember?  All those pet projects you want to fund?  Again, MY salary pays for those.  All those entitlements you want to keep funding without changing?  I am one of those who's going to be stuck in the middle.  You keep taxing my personal savings and investments to oblivion, and I'm convinced there won't be any funds left in Social Security when I finally retire at .... what ... 85?  Geez.

And you know what?  There's also talk that during the lame duck session that other bills will be voted on which will directly impact our checkbooks - things like Cap and Trade. And the EPA is off the reservation with its Tailoring Rule, which could make our power bills go sky high.  And then we have the health care issue - with none of the promises coming true ("bending the cost curve down" anyone?) and a lot of the negatives starting to surface (premiums rising, doctors considering shuttering their offices). Which brings me round robin to "A marked prospensity towards sloth and procrastination."  One of our House members actually said about health care, "we need to pass this bill so you can find out what's in it."   No, ma'am.  That's not the way it should work. You need to read the bill carefully, and give the American people time to read the bill carefully.  Then you need to listen when we say what we think - that goes back to the fact the we pay your salary, remember?  So to all our Senators and Representatives: don't be lazy and self-serving.  It doesn't become you, and it certainly doesn't become the office you hold.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Shrub Bed - Almost Done

Well, for all intents and purposes it IS done... except for the colorful perennials which I'll add in the spring.  But the hard part - the hard work - is all over.  The holes were dug (and the digging bar was utilized - darn that Alabama red clay!) and the happy hummousy composty earth was mixed.  Then the plants were released from their plastic bondage and set free to root deeply.  They were all a bit root-bound, which is to be expected for a fall planting.  I took especial care with the camilla.  At the last minute I decided to go with the sasanqua instead of the japonica.  The sasanqua variety is a little less formal, but more importantly it is more cold hardy.  And seeing as I live in north Alabama, you can never quite be sure what the weather will do.

My biggest worry is the crape myrtle.  The three main trunks were taped together, and it looks as though they'd been that way for a while.  When we took the binding off, the tree didn't relax much - you can see in the photo how tightly the trunks are bunched together.  If it doesn't relax this fall, over the winter I'll stake them separately (after pruning, but NO crape murder!) and see if I can gently encourage them to grow a bit more spaced out.  In the long run it will make the tree happier, and prettier too.

So here's the whole bed - the picture was taken from the sliding glass doors facing the yard.

The row of hollies is probably close to 40 years old, as is the big holly tree in the back.  It's hard to see, but at the far end of the bed is one of my grandma's rose bushes.  All the rest is the new plantings.

This is a close up of the three gulf stream nandinas and the tea olive (osmanthus).

This is the sweetspire, the crape myrtle (see how close the trunks are?) and one of the gardenias.

Finally, this is the other gardenia, the camellia - and did I mention it already has buds? - and the barberries.

I am really proud of this project.  I designed it, and we implemented it perfectly (well, I suppose I can't really say that until the plants survive the winter, can I??)  So I'll pamper my new plants this winter, water and talk to them and encourage them to grow.  As Tom Bombadil said, "Eat earth!  Dig deep!  Drink water!"... though I hope none of my trees grows as angry as Old Man Willow!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Laugh or cry?

Back sometime around the first of the year, I blogged about starting to eat healthier.  And generally, I do.  I don't think I get my FIVE daily servings of fruits and veggies every day, but I get close enough to feel fine about my consumption.  And I've definitely reduced the amount of fat and sugar and salt - (but I was doing that before, so can I count that as an improvement in my diet)??  Anyway, I'm feeling pretty good, and as I approach Middle Age (curses be upon it, ack-phtooie) I'm still managing to keep my weight at a constant level.  Now of course the holidays are right around the corner - What? Yeah I know it's three months away, but have you been to Hobby Lobby recently? - anyway, we'll see how I do then.

Along those lines, I'm sure many of y'all have heard of Mrs. Obama's healthy eating campaign.  So she's got to be a bit distressed to hear about a recent Gallup poll that asked 175,000 Americans whether they had easy access to fresh fruits and veggies (92% said yes) and whether they actually ate the recommended daily servings (46% said yes).

Oops.  So the LA Times has a great (and a bit sarcastic!) article about what this poll really means.  The author's conclusion?  We don't wanna!  ::heh::  I suppose I have a bit of libertarian streak in me - I don't want to be told what to eat, but once I decide for myself, it's a goal I can keep.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A bit of inspiration

“Gardens are not made by singing "Oh, how beautiful," and sitting in the shade.” - Rudyard Kipling

So this weekend we're planting our shrub bed. Or, well [ahem], we're going to START planting our shrub bed. With twelve large holes to dig, it might take a bit longer - especially when one of those holes will be for a ten-gallon tree. Yeah. Um.... SO! Anybody got a spare shovel and want to come to Alabama for a weekend???

Here's what we're planting....

Osmanthus fragrans (Sweet Tea Olive)
Itea virginica (Henry's Garnet Sweetspire)
Nandina domesticus x (Gulf Stream Nandina)

Gardenia jasminoides (August Beauty Gardenia)
Camilla japonica (Professor Sargent Camellia)
Berberis thungbergii (Crimson Pygmy Barberry)

And the centerpiece will be a Dynamite Crape Myrtle...

(I nicked the photo from my World's Best online nursery - if you live in the southeast and need to order plants, check 'em out!!)

And yes, I even have a garden plan. ::sigh:: Are you surprised?? As I played around with garden designs, I had the notion that I was actually pretty good at it - at least the layout. I'm still struggling with plant choices and what will do well in our soil and with our sun exposure.

This plan includes a couple of long-range projects (the arbor right next to the house and the patio with a pergola out by the hollies) but even without those two elements, I think the space will look really good come next spring. I'm still agonizing over perennials to plant around the shrubs, so I'm sure I'll inflict that agony on my hapless readers at some point. My colors for the bed are white and red, and that's only because I wanted to focus on sweet-smelling plants - which are mostly white. So the tea olive and the gardenia and the sweetspire are all amazingly fragrant, and they even bloom at different times. (I feel so gardener-ish!)

So that's what I'm sitting inside dreaming about today. And on Friday, we'll make the trek to the nursery, and the digging will commence! You'll be there with your shovel and garden gloves around noon, right? ::grin::

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fighting for the bed!

Heh. And now I bet you're wondering what in the *world* I'm talking about, right? Did the philosopher make me sleep on the couch? Have we been overtaken by cimex lectularious? Or has the cat gone rabid and taken refuge in the master suite? Nope! None of the above!

You've read about our War Against The Pool. You've seen the results of the battle. Now we have created a blank slate, and are working to install a beautiful new shrub bed and cobblestone patio in its place. So why is it a fight? Well, do recall that we live in Alabama. And you do know that Alabama is notorious for its red clay. And, if you glance at the pictures I linked to above, the new shrub bed is backed by a row of 40-year-old holly bushes. So... red clay plus holly roots plus no rain for three weeks make for... concrete-like dirt.

We've amended the soil with manure, hummus, and potting mix (bought in bulk from our favorite local landscaping supply store (and no, by that we do not mean "Lowes" or "Home Depot"). Two weekends ago I edged the new materials with plastic edging so it wouldn't wash away. We hauled in the dirt via truck and trailer, so after we got the dirt in place we could actually sow our initial grass seed. We opted for a cheap rye grass, again just to hold the soil in place until we can reseed with something better in the spring. I also re-planted all the perennial herbs... I had to dig them up when we removed the pool and they've been languishing in pots. Now they're in the ground again with a beautiful new layer of mulch to keep them safe over the winter. And they're right by the patio, so there's easy access from the kitchen!

The reason the herb bed's not finished is because there where you see the clay at the bottom of the picture is where the edge of cobblestone patio will run. Once that part of the project is done I can add the other border stone and finish out the mulch.

This past weekend I spent a large portion of Friday and half of Saturday building the stone border for the large bed by the hollies. It's about 40 feet long, and averages to seven feet wide. The stones came from the mountain behind the house, and are the same field stone that our house facade is made of. I really like the way it looks, and it ties the back yard into to look of the house.

I really, really had fun doing this. It's like combining Tetris and Lego and aesthetics all at once! You have to make sure the stones fit together, and find smaller stones to fill in the gap, and make sure it has a pleasing curve. Of course, after two days of hauling rocks around, I am ... sore. But it's all worth it! This weekend we're heading down to Wayside Nursery (a wholesale shrub and tree company) and we'll pick up our 15-gallon Dynamite crape myrtle, our Henry's Garnet sweetspire, our August Beauty gardenias and Doc Sargent camilla, our Gold flame nandinas and our crimson pygmy barberrys. And since we're watering the grass (it's still scraggly right now, but at least it's growing!) we can set the sprinkler to make sure it gets the new shrubs too. Then they can grow their roots all winter and be fresh and happy in the spring. Yay, plants!! ::happy dance:: Ahem. Sorry. I got excited there for a minute!

Yeah, this whole project is a lot of work - shrub bed and grass and patio and such - because we're doing it all ourselves. But considering if we had hired it done it would be well over 10k - and that doesn't include the pool removal - I'm quite happy getting this done for less than a thousand dollars. And having a beautiful back yard instead of a non-functioning pool will make our house more sellable... and that's looking more and more like something we'll be needing to do next summer. (!!!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Two Cool Things

It's been a very culturally uplifting September for the philosopher and I. Our little corner of Alabama doesn't offer much in the way of live theater or classical music performances, and occasionally we get the urge to partake in such things. So we look a bit further afield... not too far, not so far that it would require an overnight stay, but a day trip to get away from the "country" and take in a show or two. (Yes, that's one thing I miss about our five years in northern Virginia - there was always something wonderful going on in DC!)

So Labor Day weekend, we headed over to Atlanta to the American Shakespeare Tavern and saw "A Midsummer Night's Dream". It was superbly well done, (and the tomato basil bisque was fantastic, too). This is Shakespeare done like it was meant to be done - simple sets, talented cast, small audience, and just a bit of bawdiness (which goes along well with the English draft on tap!) Definitely not highbrow, but definitely a great time.

Then we went to other end of the spectrum this past Tuesday. The university where the professor teaches occasionally brings in concerts and performances in conjunction with local partners. This time they brought in the Tokyo String Quartet. They performed some Hayden, some Barber, some Schumann and a encore by Debussy. I enjoy chamber music, and we own some pieces on CD that are are auditorally stunning. But oh. my. goodness. To hear this quartet LIVE. In an acoustically superb recital hall. I wept. From the first notes they drew across their strings, it was a masterful performance. If you're interested, there are a few clips of them performing on YouTube. But that's nothing.... NOTHING compared to seeing them live.

OK, so now that I'm done waxing rhapsodic over our little burst of snobby culture (haha), I think I'll go back to digging holes for shrubs and planning our Christmas vacation. Disney was our first thought, but after some comments from a friend who's a seasoned Disney-goer, we (ok, "I") decided to hold that thought. Instead we're now considering a return to the city where we went for our honeymoon - New Orleans. A quiet B&B, some really good eating, and lots of browsing the antique shops would be a great way to round out 2010.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Late Summer Hiking Adventure (and a bit of an update)

We braved the heat and humidity last weekend to go hiking again. This time we went north on the Pinhoti Trail, from the Salem Church Road crossing to the 1500' overlook (about five miles round trip, all told). It was great to get back on the trail again after our long, hot Alabama summer. Yes, I know it's still summer, but you know, September 1 is the first day of meteorological Fall so I'm sticking by my story!

This is Hawkins Hollow Creek, which had some beautiful red flowers.

And this is the view from the overlook on Indian Mountain.

In the foreground is Davis Mountain, then you see the Augusta Mine Ridge, then Oakey Mountain, then waaaaaaaay in the distance is Dugger Mountain. We've been to all four! How cool is that?

We still have our sights set on going up to the Walls of Jericho, if the fall doesn't get away from us too quickly. But given our schedules, we'll have to see. What with jobs, and yard reclamation, and other house projects, and college football games, sometimes it's hard to carve out the time.

A brief update on Other Things:
The philosopher had yet another phone interview with the Far-Away School, and he is encouraged. I think he would fit in intellectually very well there, but the whole Big City thing is a tough sell. We are also fairly confident that he'll get an interview for the full time job at the Happy Southern School, where he's already teaching adjunct. It may come to a decision between Two Cities (could that be the best of times and the worst of times?) so prayers for wisdom, and guidance, and patience are always appreciated. You know, it's funny - we talk about these deep things when we're hiking quite often. Maybe it's easier to listen for the still small voice of God when you're in the wilderness?

Are most librarians funny?

My friend over at Billy Ockham asked that question recently, and I replied with an off-the-cuff (amusing) answer. I said we had to have a sense of humor because otherwise we'd go insane when someone (I'm looking at YOU, Google Books) tried to catalog Jane Eyre in Architecture. But I've been thinking about it, and wanted to actually comment with a little more thought and seriousness.

I read a lot of blogs. And one blog I find side-achingly funny is the Midwest Conservative Journal. He's got a rapier wit and can skewer a news story with awesome commentary, or write a bit of fiction that is worthy of Douglas Adams. And he's a librarian! I'm also on several library listservs - one for the Association of Christian Librarians, and two through the Association of College and Research Librarians. Now, most of the content is typical library stuff, but often we - ahem - digress. Stories about wild animals loose in the building. Wonderfully brilliant satire. Off hand comments leading to a treasure trove of one-liners and witty repartee. And of those many comments, it's not just one or two comedians making everyone laugh... it's most of the regular contributors!

I am part of other groups, and read lots of other blogs. But there's a really high concentration of witty folk out there in library land. So why is that?

Yes, I have a hypothesis - it's a vast oversimplification, but a hypothesis nonetheless. We can be funny because we love books. And we love books, in part, because we love to read. And because we love books and love to read, we're quite literate. (I mean that in a very broad sense - not just in the sense that we can read at a certain grade level.) So when we get to telling stories, we can do it well. And because we're literate, we can do it well in writing. And in my case, and possibly others, I tell stories *better* online than I do in person because I'm the quintessential librarian introvert! We can easily dip into Tolkien's vast "Cauldron of Story" and pull out bits that seem good because we've been steeped in that literary tradition. We've read good literature, and good history, and good writing on an amazing spectrum of other subjects, from science and engineering to philosophy and criticism. And we've read bad writing too, but because we've read *good* writing too we can tell the difference!

So when we write, whether about rogue wildlife or Anglican investigators, we tell our stories well. Because we've learned how to do it by reading so much of others' writing.

Of course, there are lots of people out there who are not librarians but who also love books and love to read and are also very witty... like the Joneses, for example. So that leads me to believe that anyone who loves books and loves to read .... can write well! So read, darn it, read! Yay, BOOKS! ::librarian cheer::

Monday, August 23, 2010

Five Random Things

Number One.
Classes started today. It's been a zoo here most of the morning, and it has finally slowed down to a dull roar. So unless..... [five minutes later] what was I saying? Oh, yes, unless I'm asked to make another [another five minute pause]. Wait, what? Ah - so I was saying that unless I'm asked to make another student ID or activate a library card I can actually finish this post!

Number Two.
The professor has just applied for a full time job. At the school where he's already teaching on an adjunct basis. And I think they wrote the position description with him in mind. I'm trying to Remain Calm, but I'm praying like crazy!!

Number Three.
This week the average low at my house is predicted to be 66 degrees. Yea, verily, there was much rejoicing!

Number Four.
I am going to plant a red crape myrtle, two gardenias, a red camellia, three barberrys, three dwarf nandinas, a sweetspire, and a bunch of pretty daylilies and perennials in my new shrub bed - where the pool used to be. YAY! (And it's all going to cost less than $200!)

Number Five.
Did I mention I'm praying like crazy?

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Death of a Pool

Yes, it is gone. Done. An ex-pool, if you will!

(In honor of that, here is my favorite Monty Python skit - and I quote: "'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!")

::snort:: ::giggle:: ::wahahahahahahaha:: ::snort::

Sorry. Where was I?

Ah, yes, the demise of the pool. We called a local guy - so local, in fact, that he *drove* his backhoe to our house rather than haul it behind a truck. He arrived about 9am, and by 1pm, he was driving off into the sunset.

So here's the before:

And then we did a little work with a sump pump. (The pool vinyl was so crunchy it was disintergrating as we cut it out!)

And then Snake showed up. (Yes, we live in Alabama. Yes, the backhoe operator's name was "Snake". Stop laughing!)

He did all that work in three hours. And we did not have to have any fill dirt brought in - he regraded the existing hill and smoothed it out and all that went into the hole. And I gotta say, he was a master of that machine. He was able to use the claw and pluck the fenceposts out of the ground without breaking them - and without breaking the holly bushes they were right up against. He broke the concrete skirt away from the patio slab perfectly, not even cracking the concrete we wanted to keep. And he did amazing grading work with the front scoop - you'd think we used one of those big grading 'dozers! I suppose there's something to be said for learning a trade early and keeping at it for three decades, huh?

(And in case you were worried, the bottom of the pool is not concrete, but a sand slurry mix that will disintegrate - and did actually start breaking up as soon as the concrete bits started getting tossed in. So we should have no drainage problems at all.)

Now, you are probably asking, how much did that cost? Well, one estimate we got from a professional landscaping company was upwards of three thousand dollars. ::shudder:: We wrote Snake a check for one-sixth of that. And for another couple hundred he's going to bring in a few tons of topsoil and his bobcat to spread it around. But that will be a couple of weeks, because we need to let the ground settle first.

So now that we saved all that money, I'm dreaming of landscaping and hardscaping and trees and shrubs and flower beds and arbors and pergolas. But the philosopher has us on a budget, so we'll see how far we can get in our Master Plan. I'm hoping at least for a crape myrtle and a camilla or two!