Tuesday, December 30, 2008

O Holy Night

The early evening sky was especially lovely tonight with a pink sunset graced by a sliver of moon. On nights like this one its easy to park the car in the driveway after the commute home and linger outside to watch the colors go away and the stars begin to glimmer.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Render This

I got to monkeying around with Adobe Photoshop and created a mock book cover. I hope nobody is actually writing this book, but I wouldn't be surprised if it has already gone through several printings.

The original image was a rather unremarkable photograph of some swirly foam making its way downstream from Big Shoals on the Suwannee River in north central Florida. The 4-mile hike the clog-wife and I took on that bright winter afternoon was far less chilling than the mock book cover would suggest.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Got Melamine?

The Chinese food-contaminant melamine just won't go away.

Now we learn that the Chinese may have been feeding fish and seafood raised for the export market melamine-laced feed in order to boost protein content.

Time for a bumper sticker assault.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Recipes

So there are these things called blog carnivals, if you hadn't noticed years ago. I've had a recipe or two published at The Carnival of the Recipes, and being somewhat of a foodie and dedicated home chef, enjoy following this carnival to glean ideas.

The most recent, holiday Carnival of the recipes is now live, courtesy of A Boy Named Sous, who's repast is titled "Eat it like it's Stollen". Check it out. Find some ideas for that missing dish that will make your holiday entertaining complete. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Christians Dampen Halloween?

Here in north-central Florida Halloween is subdued, judging from the turn-out in my home neighborhood. Not a few children we know informed us, upon inquiry, that they would not be trick-or-treating in our familiar neighborhood because they were required to attend to a "Fall Festival" put on by the pastor of their local church.

Halloween traditions aside, what is the beef with Halloween? Its origins are not evil, and Lord knows that all of us, including our children need an escape, a time out of time, or a dip into liminality, as the Folklore students would phrase it.

Halloween is not and has never been an enjoinder to be or do evil. Halloween is a once-a-year healthy evening in our lives when we can experience for a moment something else apart from our rule- and prescription-driven lives. Time-out-of-time where we discover something about ourselves and others.

The kids knocking at my door were polite and gracious, to a ghoul, fairy, or mutilated linebacker from the hometown football team.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Barn Owl Pellets for Tight Budgets

Stocking up on stuff for the 3-day Memorial Day Weekend, or perhaps for the 2008 hurricane season?

Don't forget barn owl pellets. At the link you'll learn that they're "great for young students and tight budgets."

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pat Your Little Foot, Sally Ann

Video of the Clog-wife flatfooting to the fiddle and banjo accompanied by yours truly on guitar in the sitting room of a friend's old frame house in Micanopy, Florida.

Pat Your Little Foot, Sally Ann

Dave Forbes - fiddle, Chuck Levy - banjo
The four of us as "Fear No Weevil" will perform two shows at the Florida Folk Festival next weekend.

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Gumbo Limbo

The Clog-wife, her son, and I walked/bicycled downtown to watch the hot north Florida Cajun band Gumbo Limbo play at the sinkhole bandstand at the High Springs farmers' market. Members of Gumbo Limbo are friends in the traditional music and dance circles we move in. All, including us, are former members of or are somehow connected to the Cross Creek Cloggers. It was nice to be outside on a bright summer day listening to good music and dancing a bit. We'll all see eachother again in a few days since we're all performers at the Florida Folk Festival next weekend. We returned home to a meal of meatloaf, yellow rice, and fresh green beans.

I photographed a couple of butterflies feeding on lantana in one of our gardens:

Giant Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail


Monday, May 05, 2008

Eight Belles/Eight Bells

The national Irish is up following the catastrophe at the 2008 Kentucky Derby wherein second-place finisher Eight Belles crashed after crossing the finish line.

Eight Belles was euthanized after she shattered both front ankles as she pulled up around a quarter-mile beyond the finish line following her second-place finish behind Derby winner Big Brown. Eight Belles was the first filly to compete in the Derby since 1999.

The Clog Almanac admits to weeping upon learning that that filly was euthanized subsequent to crashing to her knees after crossing the finish line in this great national horse race, one of our nation's annual hallmarks, the Triple Crown. Thoroughbred champions display characteristics that resonate with many of our highest valued qualities and aspirations: a will to succeed and win; joy in competition; indomitable energy and resolve; and a totally committed heart. It is the animals themselves that endear so many to this "sport of kings". The Clog Almanac suspects that these same qualities made horse racing so beloved by such kings and their subjects alike, and to many of us as well. It was difficult to witness the end of such a great animal.

The death of a great filly, a horse loved by her trainer and owner is causing a national re-evaluation of this time-honored tradition - and the collective blame-game has begun:

Some question the wisdom in racing young horses.
Some question letting fillies race against colts.
Some question the wisdom of running a field of 20 horses.
Some question the so-called inbred champion blood-lines from which champions emerge.
Some question the individual track characteristics.
Some question the industry's adherence to tradition rather than embracing changes that would advance the humane safety of horses and their riders.

Clog-wife, who exercised/trained thoroughbreds for nearly a decade, and who exercised horses on many tracks ranging from the deep and fluffy Saratoga Springs to the hardscape of Churchill Downs, opined that the race-day surface of the latter was firm enough to walk across wearing high-heels. Perhaps this overly-hard surface contributed to Eight Belles' faltering and ultimate demise.

Horse-racing suffered a devastating loss when Barbaro, the first horse to be interred at Churchill Downs, suffered a similar fate and eventually, euthanization last year for a similar injury during the Derby. This industry apparently has not taken heed of the many factors that have again come to the fore in this years' tragedy. The
Clog Almanac believes the racing industry must adapt if it is to remain the "sport of kings". We are not sure if synthetic tracks are the only answer - breeding and training also are extremely important aspects of the solution as well.

The Kentucky Derby website has precious little to say (as of 5/5/08) about the controversies and the sadness following the demise of Eight Belles. One would think that such lucrative concerns would be more interested in the long-term sustainability (read
economic and social acceptance) of such a franchise.

One wonders what the patrons at the pub Eight Belles, in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, said when they learned a great horse sharing the name of their local gathering place had been put down?

"Eight bells" in the language of seamen, has a meaning as well: Eight Bells signals the end of a watch. In addition, sixteen bells are rung at new year: Eight bells for the previous year, and eight bells for the New Year. We suggest that the watch of the horse-racing industry has just begun. Let's not see a repeat of this year's Kentucky Derby. Perhaps in this next year, we will see changes that protect the wonderful creatures of a national icon - the great thoroughbreds that compete in the great horse-races that are part of our national conscience.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Garçon! I Didn’t Order Healthcare for You and the Chef!

Restaurants in San Francisco have taken to charging patrons for the health care payments required by that fair city's Universal Coverage Ordinance. Typical required contributions are $1.17-$1.76 /hour/per employee for establishments who employ 20 or more workers.

Check your bill, and then refuse to pay that portion I say. What are tips for? Sheesh. Cost of business and all that - charge me more for the meal and let me decide if I'll pay it and the customary tip for Christo's sake.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Single-Tree Birdwatching

I've lots of friends and colleages who are avid birdwatchers. By avid, I mean drop-what-you-are-doing and rush-off-to (insert far-flung state or country) in pursuit of a storm-blown or accidental sighting of a single rare bird that has yet to be checked off from their life list.

I'm truly a more what's-around-in-my-daily-travels sort of birdwatcher. Not quite "backyard" watcher, since my daily travels take me, during a week or month, to just about every corner of the county I live in, and to every variety of habitat and natural system that is present in the area. I get a chance to see native and soon-to-be developed tracts that few have the opportunity to walk and observe in.

So today, upon hearing an avian commotion in a laurel oak tree near Clog House, Est. 1935, I and my huge black tomcat Buffalo (He, with the longest cat-tail I've ever seen) investigated. We observed a lively mob of chickadees, titmice, chipping sparrows, and ruby-crowned kinglets; a pair of black-and-white warblers, a few northern parula warblers, and a single cardinal - all in a huff about an unseen something-or-other. Might have been a snake. Might have been the single cardinal that outsized everyone else. We couldn't determine what caused them to become so agitated. But it was a great 5-minute break to notice the birds in the area. You should do the same in your little corner of Paradise.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Camellia Time Again

I enjoyed a brief stroll with my daughter at the historic Thomas Center in Gainesville, FL this afternoon. Since it's Camellia Time, I've taken this opportunity to post photos of some of the blooms to be seen on the grounds as Spring begins.
[click on images to enlarge]

Camellias are gorgeous this time of year in Florida. Some blooms are as broad as compact discs (items the present generation will fondly remember as "CD's"). The evanescent blooms of these and other flowers are much prettier and more important.

A white Camellia photographed in deep shade. I can't look at red and white Camellias blooming together without thinking of Alice in Wonderland. The rest of the world may associate that story's Red Queen with roses (or beheading) - the War of the Roses, and all that - but really, Camellias trump roses in terms of form and grace. This from a botanist who grew up around roses who now lives in the South where fine roses are scarce and mostly outside of their climatic range, and where Camellias in large part do just fine, provided they are nurtured with proper soil amendments on occasion.

Let us not forget that Azaleas are just now coming into season. OK you gardeners. Let's put you on notice. You want your Camellias and Azaleas to bloom? You'd better consult your local garden club, nursery, or private afficionado: These two species set their next year's buds at specific times of the year. Find out when your favorite shrubs set their buds lest you trim the shrubs and unknowingly (ignorantly) remove the buds in a flurry of Fall or Spring trimming and clean-up. You can find out. Look. Ask. Inquire. Your landscape will look better for it.

A couple enjoying the sunshine and fair weather on the Thomas Center grounds. The pair lends a sense of scale to the evergreen southern live oak tree in the right-hand side of the image.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Camellia Time

It's Camellia Time in north central Florida. Nowhere near Clog House Est. 1935 can a prettier display of these stately shrubs be found than our local cemetery. The bushes are old and tall, and just now thickly adorned with blooms big as a man's fist.

Clog-Wife and I take a weekly stroll through the lovely cemetery with our Corgis every Sunday afternoon. It's a routine outing that we anticipate all weekend. We noted today that azaleas are beginning to bloom, and with redbuds and dogwood trees will soon storm the stage as the Camellias make their exit. Soon the cemetery will be arrayed in a bedazzling tide of pinks and whites and reds.

Peaceful strolls midst the South's loveliest flowers await. For now, its Camellia Time, and we are awed by this most regal of garden species.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Currently Reading

At Clog House Est. 1935 we're currently re-reading Mark Helprin's lovely collection of stories entitled The Pacific. Helprin is one of our favorite American authors, so the rereading is quite pleasing, and as always, uplifting. Don't miss the reviews here, here and here.

We don't quite subscribe to Mr. Helprin's politics, but his novels and stories are filled with luminous archetypal characters and luminous themes that are cast in surprising and wonderful ways. His subjects are extremely varied and the resulting inventions both clever and awe-inspiring. As always, the imagery is precise, enlightening, and nearly overwhelming. In this backdrop, the themes expressed border on the sublime. War; Light; Water; Honor; Love; Family; Home; Aging. One wonders how another could conceive of such wondrously woven tales, and is left pondering and measuring one's existence after reading them.

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Winter Ramble in a Florida Woodland

I enjoyed a fine stroll through wild Florida today. Detailed account and photographs are found at my other blog, In Praise of Walking. Though the day was overcast, it was not cold. In fact, my fleece vest proved to be too much for the weather and I ended up carrying it most of the afternoon.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wesley Snipes Not Racist - Most Everyone Else Is

Wesley Snipes is on trial for two felony charges: conspiracy to defraud the government, and filing a false tax claim. The trial will be held in Ocala, Florida, down the road a piece from Clog House Est. 1935.

See a copy of the original indictment at The Smoking Gun.

Playing the Race Card: Snipes has made two motions to have the trial moved to New York, declaring that the town of Ocala is racist and that he can't get a fair trial there. That would be the whole town. A federal appeals court recently denied those two petitions.

Playing Another Race Card: Snipes also made a motion to have the charges dropped on the basis of selective prosecution. Snipes' two named co-defendants are persons not-of-color, and are not being charged for failure to file tax returns. Snipes maintains he is being selectively charged and tried on the basis of his race.

Local TV news ran a short report last night. Jury selection has been long and tedious, and apparently one of the primary questions being asked potential jurors is whether they are capable of making a fair decision given the race of the defendant. Really that is asking if they are capable of being fair or unbiased given the fact that they are people-not-of-color. That tastes slightly racist.

Snipes attended a prayer service before court yesterday.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

FL Wild Hogs and Their Schedules

Since my initial November 14th sighting of wild hog piglets along a busy stretch of US441 northwest of Gainesville, Fl, I've observed the fat black things rooting along the side of the right-of-way every couple of days. I'm on my way home at the usual time and spot them in the exact same place, unfailingly and nearly precisely at 5:30 p.m.

Apparently, wild pigs have schedules and routines, just like I do, and mine has converged with that of a porcine lot.

What separates we humans from the baser animals? Cross "an awareness of time and place" and "schedules" off of your list. Next we'll find out that the wild pigs watch Green Acres reruns for a chance to see Arnold Ziffel, the pig.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tony Blair, Banker

Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, has taken a job on Wall St., joining global financial services giant JPMorgan Chase, in the capacity of Senior Advisor. Mr. Blair will also be a member of the company's International Council. Salary: estimated at $1 Million. Nice gig!

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Sir Edmund Hillary Dead at 88

Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealand beekeeper who was the first to scale the world's tallest peak, is dead at 88.

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