Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good morning!

A few random things. I had a wildfire-like racing stomach-flu yesterday. Chills, shakes, spiking temp to 101.5. Thankfully it's subsiding now.

I am having really good luck with Christmas shopping on ebay. So far I've gotten a vintage 1960 bomber with pilot plane for .99, an alabaster carved nativity set from Peru for $6, and hard to find glow in the dark stars for $6. I usually avoid stores like the plague and especially at Christmas. Shudder. Shopping online through Amazon and ebay does the trick admirably for me.

Later today I'll be at Comer Elementary School helping out at the Good News Club, and tonight at church teaching the kids. A day with kids is always great and wonderful.

The weather's turned a bit colder, but thank God we had about an inch of rain. Driving by you look around and see the cow ponds all dried up like African Plains mudholes where the gazelles vainly try to drink from. Scary. The inch will not remedy the drought but it may help people whose wells are very low make it another month or so.

I'm letting my color grow out. My hair is 100% gray, a nice, silvery gray. I may scoot into town later and have my haircresser cut another inch or so off. It's growing out nicely. I was afraid I'd have that old skunk line atop my head, but the gray is melding through all over and the brown is just lightening up uniformly. I don't know why I'm doing this, after coloring it for over ten years. Maybe I'm tired of the chemicals. Or maybe I just want my real hair back. We'll see.

The HS Art Dep't joined the Annual Artisan's Show recently. I think that is a super idea. I bought a high school student's work, a painting I like very much. She was so thrilled to make a sale. And the proceeds from that table's sales go back to the Art department. How wonderful. Everybody wins. Above, Hannah Shelton, grade 12, "Seaside"

Take it easy and remember to be nice to someone today. Random kindness works.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An evening in Comer

There's an Annual Open House in Comer between Bendzunas Glass and Blue Bell Gallery on the weekend of Thanksgiving and on the weekend after. The two galleries are our town's "anchor" galleries and the engine for the local creative economy.
Demos all day taught onlookers how beautiful glassware is made. Here, Paul junior, following in his artist father's footsteps, heats glass in the furnace, turned to a balmy 2000 degrees.

Blowing the glass. It helps to have a bead of air in there as the glass ornament is successively heated, shaped, and blown bigger in stages.

Squeezing the neck of the ornament smaller and smaller, again, a task that is better done incrementally. When the item is finished, Paul will tap it at the juncture where it is connected to the rod to release it. If it is connected off-center, or if it is tapped just one millimeter wrong, the whole thing will shatter!

Released from the rod, Paul now adds molten glass on top and curls it around to make the loop from which the ornament will hang. Then it is put into another oven to a mere 900 degrees. Paul and Paul's work here. Next Saturday, Blue Bell Gallery's Open House! I have two pieces hanging in the "Angels" show. Wine and cheese and art on a Saturday is good!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Can we tawk?

I envy people who can easily converse. Conversation, I believe, is a dying art.

Once we had a friend Mike, we called him Mikey. He was a huge man, 350 pounds, built like an aging football player, with an easy laugh. He lived next door and often, he would stop at our house on his way home. When we heard his truck we knew we were in for a few laughs and a good story. He was a true raconteur, regaling us loudly and always had us laughing in two minutes flat. Mikey was the kind of friend you were always glad to see coming.

Other people can converse on a more quiet and less showy way. My friend has a husky laugh and her eyes sparkle in delight when we talked. She didn’t say much, but her words were always insightful and full of love. Her style of conversation was more of the listening kind. She would listen with full attention, too. I’d storm in, say, “Guess what happened?!” and she would stop what she was doing, fold her hands across her belly, and look me full in the eye. She would laugh at all the right spots, and was entertained by the smallest incident. Often, she would add an insightful comment that left me pondering a new thought for the rest of the day.

I think that the dubiously named skill of “multi-tasking” has had a negative effect on conversation. Have you noticed that people do a lot of things while they say they are listening to you? Cell phone message checking, taking notes, shuffling papers, glancing at the computer. I am a bad offender of that as well. I need to do better at my listening, I admit. What if we all stopped doing other things and really listened to each other? Society would improve, I am convinced.

Italians’ style of conversation is steeped in storytelling. We call it "l’historia.” Even the simplest query from a friend, the smallest question designed for a short answer of “fine”, to the Italian, is met with excitement. Immediately we launch into a long, lyrical story that has a beginning, middle, end, and ranges from laughter to tears and back again. Watch out if you ask me how I’m doing! You are likely to get a long, and to me, absolutely fascinating story.

Remember the movie Moonstruck with Cher? A Brooklyn Italian-American family and their trials and triumphs? The brother-in-law character was named Raymond Cappomaggi and it was he who saw the large moon years before. Around the dinner table he was urged to repeat the legendary incident, with the family exhorting, ‘Come on, Ray, tell about Cosmo’s moon!” he responds, “Well, it’s not a story…but…” I knew exactly what he meant. It’s almost genetically impossible for me as an Italian-American to converse without having a fully born story in my mind, accompanied by hand gestures that usually knock over the salt shaker.

There are many different styles of conversation, and the one I like best I had the good fortune to experience this Thanksgiving. As a person with no family nearby I was invited to spend the day at a friends’ house. There were ten of us there, their family members and me. Even though I was meeting some of them for the first time, they included me in conversation that was flowing, relaxed, and easy. I was really touched by their hospitality. Ultimately, the best conversation style is not verbal, it’s one of the heart, one that includes, listens, and loves. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are having a blessed Christmas season.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Elders reminiscing at Thanksgiving

We were sitting around the living room after a great Pre-Thanksgiving meal on Wednesday night. Two guests were ladies were in their mid and upper 80s. They were remembering how poor they were here in rural GA in the 1930s. They had one pair of shoes for the year. Around now was the time of year they would get the new pair, in time for the cold weather and Christmas.

The elder of the two told us one of her jobs way back along when she lived in Atlanta during the week (and came home on weekends). She used to work at Sears & Roebuck in Atlanta. People used to get the catalog, pick out their shoes, and trace their feet and send that in with their order. Her job was to match the selected shoe to the tracing and pick out the right size.

The second of the two ladies said that it used to be so cold she remembers Thanksgiving weekend was always the weekend they killed the hog and boiled the lard down and processed the meat...and it was cold enough to keep it frozen in the ice house with no electricity.
(Note: above link is a reminiscence from an unknown man describing his memories in Arkansas).

And Thanksgiving week has been so warm we sleep with the windows open and hear the birdsong all's warmer these days.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Weird news of the day

I found this neato world map of hazards. The Emergency and Disaster information Service from Budapest, Hungary. Earthquakes, volcano eruptions, typhoons, biohazards and more, all posted in real time. Once you see the world map with the icons flashing the hazards you get a sense of just how active the planet is. Many of the items are not commonly known but once posted then I can learn more about them, such as the Legionnaire's outbreak in Ontario, or the anthrax-ridden rabbit in New Mexico that occurred within the last few days. Sometimes there's weird or funny events happening, like the argument in New Zealand yesterday whether the brown stuff washing ashore was an algal bloom or "poo." The scientist had been quoted, "Bunk! People know poo when they see it."

Here is something else that happened last night:

"Dublin, Ireland (AHN) - Billions of jellyfish, which covered an area of about 10 square miles of ocean, attacked an offshore salmon pen in Northern Ireland on Wednesday killing all the fish."

"The Northern Salmon Co. Ltd. lost 100,000 salmon worth $2 million at two net pens located one mile off the coast of the Glens of Antrim, north of Belfast. The fish died from stings and stress. Workers failed to rescue salmons on time as the mass of mauve stingers hindered their boats from reaching the pens."

"The company's managing director, John Russell, said he had never seen such a massive jellyfish attack in his 30 years in the business. He described the scene as unprecedented and absolutely amazing."

QOTD: Are there more earthquakes these days?

One thing I got interested in after I saw how seismically active the earth is, with so many volcanoes and earthquakes active at the same time. What is the world's average seisimicity? First, find the benchmark! Here it is, left. The USGS estimates that since 1900, there are an average of 18 major earthquakes (magnitude 7.0-7.9) and one great earthquake (magnitude 8.0 or greater) per year.

USGS has "Earthquake Information by Year" here. They don't make trending to compare against the benchmark very easy. I was unable to find total seismicity by year, only 'significant earthquakes by year.' So that makes comparing numbers of earthquakes against the historical averages, left, unwieldy. However, I did find a listing of earthquakes greater than magnitude 8since 1900. Very reliable historical trending. There has been an average of one or two quakes of that mag. per year and 36 years when there were none of that mag at all. In 2007...there have been 4 so far!

I created the chart below from data listed from USGS, criterion: "significant quakes worldwide greater than 6.5 or with significant damage, injury, or fatality":

PS: since starting research there has been another earthquake this morning, "A 6.7 magnitude earthquake rattled eastern Papua New Guinea on Thursday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bathing Bert

I like to start the day by visiting the bathroom, then heading to the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee. I turn on the laptop, and by the time it has booted up, the coffee is done. I sit down at my heavy old fashioned editor's chair at the table and with the coffee mug steaming, I go through my daily web routine of news and blog reading. This did not happen today.

I got as far as the bathroom. I peed vigorously while admiring my two rambunctious kittens cavorting and careening toward me. Just as I arose from the throne, kitty Bert leapt joyfully atop, plunging headfirst into the yellow bowl. "Cripes!" I yell, and instantly he was a mass of quivering, urine soaked kittenish squalling, shaking, and general wetness; all legs spluttering to get out. I grabbed him before he could escape into the apartment, with all its clean rugs, and threw him into the tub.

For the first time I was glad I had shower doors instead of a curtain. I got in there with him and commenced filling the tub. Understand, all this was within 5 seconds, and Bert still isn't quite sure what happened. I knew, the dripping walls and puddling floor were telling me. But when he saw the waterline inexorably creep toward him, well, suffice to say now I really know what "climbing the walls" means.

Washing him was an experience I don't care to repeat, not because he was a bad boy about it, but because he was so good. He doesn't have a fully developed meow and all he does is sort of squeak and look pitifully at me with big eyes, like ET when his heart light was going out. Oy.

I made the washing happen fast and then the fun part began with the drying. Poor l'il bugger. I had him swaddled in a towel in a trice and did my best to make sure he was clean and dry before releasing him to roam the apartment.

My next job was to clean and dry the walls. And the floor. And the toilet seat. And the shower doors. In my wet pajamas. Without benefit of coffee.

So, I put in a full day before breakfast. Like the Marines. Complete with capturing an elusive enemy, containing, interrogating, and releasing him to roam once more. Oy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Abby goes to the dentist

My older cat, Abby, is staying overnight at the vet clinic. I brought her in for her annual checkup, for which they have to sedate her. Apparently, passing through the kitty crate acts like a Superman telephone booth and she turns into Super Devil She-Cat. Abby does not like the vet. She does not like her here. She does not like her there. She does not like her with a mouse. She would really like to tear her blouse. For the vet to examine her and remain in one piece, Abby must be knocked out.

Her teeth had a lot of plaque and the vet scraped them, and due to the slight bleeding, and the lateness of the day, she had to stay over.

Have you ever heard a 747 at idle? That's Abby's growl as I handed her crate to the vet. Stay overnight? Fine by me. It's gonna be hell when she wakes up.

A grateful Word

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bye bye iPod

The kitties trashed it last night. Though I thought I had hidden it well enough, but they found it last night & they dragged around the dock and ate through the wire, and I cannot find the iPod itself. I have the little clip kind, and goodness only knows where that ended up. I looked under every rug, bureau and bookcase and it's nowhere to be found. Life with kitties sometimes means you wake up in the morning and find a mess! And there they are, looking so innocent...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pics from Praise Fest

My buddies Hilda, Sara, and Wilma at PraiseFest Sevierville, TN. These ladies are true steel magnolias. Strong, gentle, loving, and fun!! And boy, do they love the Lord.

The big finale. All the gospel groups (not all singers captured in this pic) came onstage and sang with true joy. They brought down the house. And when they sang "Till the Storm Passes By" and right in the middle there was one huge thunderclap, everyone jumped to their feet, whooped with delight and applauding. The guy from Greater Vision said, "Yes! That's right, only the Lord could do that!" It was a showstopper all right.

I never thought I'd see this again, snow and ice! It dropped from 49 degrees to 27 degrees as we ascended the Smoky Mountains on the Great Smoky Mt. Parkway. The ladies, who rarely see snow, got excited as kids. All I was thinking about was black ice. But we made it OK and soon we were back in the land of 70 degree weather.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Amen, brother!"

I was invited by three friends to attend a three day convention in the Smoky Mountains called "Praise Fest." It is a pretty much continuous slate of gospel music singing, Christian comedy, and preaching. We go for three hours in the morning and then break for the afternoon, and then three hours in the evening.

Last night Dr. Charles Stanley of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, also known as "America's Pastor" spoke to us about being active in service ministry all the days of our lives, the same message was delivered by Pastor and comedian Ken Davis. Dr. Stanley said, 'when you stand before God being judged and He asks you what you have been doing the last twenty years, are you going to tell him, 'er, I retired from serving You and have been coasting?'' I sure want to be able to say that I worked hard for Him and what a joyous moment if He replies, "Well done good and faithful servant"!!

The music is rousing southern gospel, moving and cheerful. The preaching is insightful, Scriptural, and inspiring. All in all, it's 2,000 evangelical Christians in an auditorium saying, "Amen, brother!"

Above, The Specks singing southern gospel to a crowd of about 2,000.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

At the laudromat

At Danielsville laundromat, I park next to Papa and his boiled peanut and fried pork skin vendor cart, and enter past a bulletin board advertising the annual chitlin dinner at Watson Mill Fish House. Inside is a women in a brown tee shirt advertising Bubba's Taxidermy.

Above, Papa attending to a customer, wearing his trademark white cowboy hat, matching his white, flowing hair.

I watch my delicates spin, and my interior chortles on the typical southern markers fade as I chat with a woman who owns a washing machine, but there's no water at her house because her well ran she's here at the laundro. Her well gave up the ghost, and the drought doesn't seem to be easing anytime soon. "I wonder how long it'll be till they tell us we can't use this place," she said morosely.

She runs a farm and has to haul water for all the animals. She heats the water for dishwashing in the microwave. She takes a shower at her friends' house. One load of laundry takes 60 gallons..."I know. I've hauled them," she said.

As I pack to leave, I wish the the no-water dry well woman good luck. She brightens, saying "Nice chatting with you!"

Children are the heartbeat of God

I volunteer at a Bible study club conducted after school in a local elementary school. There are about 45 kids in it, from K to 5th grade. Yesterday was the sweetest day, everything ran smoothly and there was real connection and there was laughter. I love those little souls!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

Watch the WHOLE thing

it builds. Lifehouse Everything skit, 3,488,743 views on and 1,873,523 views on

My current crisis

I ate some popcorn last night while watching a Bette Davis movie and a kernel husk got stuck halfway down my throat. And it's not budging. I categorize this as a "minor annoyance."

So I look at nice photos to take my mind off it. :) This is at Lake Louise, northeast Georgia

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A slow day at the gumlog

Do you believe in angels?

I do. I believe I have a guardian angel who is around me. I can feel him sometimes. His name is Aniel.

So the Gallery is hosting an "Angelic" Exhibition beginning in late November and running through Christmas. I have a few pieces that might be considered ready, there's one that Tina really likes. It's below. The deadline is quickly approaching and I have to get the photo developed, matted and framed... But I do love the idea of a whole exhibition dedicated to God's messengers!

This is from my deck. Evolution of a potential entry:

I cropped it to focus on the angel & scripture, and away from the dead leaves and negative space:

Next, fool around in Photoshop to make it look otherworldly:

I snapped this one a couple of years ago at my apartment in Maine. My landlord had an angel holding a globe on her deck, so I took a photo of it.

When I developed the photo I noticed an entire world inside the globe, and in focusing on just the globe it looks like the angel is holding my world... and me. So then I extracted the extras away from the photo and left just the angel and globe. For the 'Angelic' show I am thinking of doing something with this, but I don't know yet.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Kindness works

Did anyone ever perpetrate a random act of kindness on you? When that happens, it feels so good in its unexpectedness. Someone unknown to me called yesterday and the purpose of his call was to express a kindness. The effect of kindness cannot be underestimated! It refreshes the heart.