"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Time, Unchained

Remember these lyrics from Unchained Melody?

      And time goes by slowly...

The heck it does.  I blink and a month has gone by, as a friend said.

For instance, yesterday I went to Anchorage, a hundred mile drive across and through the mountains and along saltwater Turnagain Arm.  I was on a mission to see my optometrist.  I've noticed a distinct decline in the vision in my right eye and figured that subtle cataract wasn't so subtle any more.

My insurance kicks in to help pay for new glasses every two years, and I was wondering if two years had gone by since my last pair.   So, off I went.

Spectacular day.   Bright, sunny, warm.

That water way down below and in the left center is part of Turnagain Arm.  Just look at that blue sky.

This is the arm, looking towards Anchorage, which is about forty miles away from this spot.  Those are chunks of ice stranded by the out-going tide.

Five hours later,  mission accomplished in the city, I'm once again driving along Turnagain Arm.  The sun is heading for the horizon behind me, while ahead of me waits a dark gray line of weather.

And, an hour later, six hours after I'd driven through this very spot in bright sunshine, I have this:


Oh, my mission in Anchorage?  My annual eye exam?   It seems to have been four years ago....

As I said, time flies, but I still like Unchained Melody.

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's in the air

 Everywhere I go, I see the eagles pairing up.

 They'll be nesting soon...if the Great Horned Owls haven't taken over their nest from last year.   If so, they have to build a new one.



 For now, basking in the warm sun.

Hmmm...   This one seems to have deserted its mate.

Ah, it's found a goody.


Me?  I don't have anything.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Invasion of the Sunflower Seed Snatchers

They don't arrive in twos and threes.  They arrive in dozens--three, four, six dozen at a time.

Herds of them, overrunning everything.  A flash mob of redpolls.


Chasing all the other birds away from the feeder, like the gentle pine grosbeaks.

Female pine grosbeak

Male pine grobeak in bush with redpoll.

The only bird that can scare them away emporarily is the black billed magpie.  It still rules the roost, because it would just as soon fly off with a redpoll in its beak as a black oil sunflower seed.

Black-billed magpie.

Good thing these redpolls are so cute.

Finally got the seed out of the hull.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Long Wait is over

Ah, Valentine's Day.  One of my favorite days of the year, but for reasons you couldn't guess unless you lived here--right here in this little valley with mountains on all sides.

This is the day the sun comes back, the day the earth tips far enough that the sun can peek over the mountains to the southeast and shine on our homes.  It doesn't last long at first.  Maybe a few minutes at most.   But every day it gains more and more time as the earth tips farther and farther to put the northern hemisphere on a rush towards spring. 

We had to wait an extra two days to see the sun because the 14th and 15th were cloudy and snowy.  Then it cleared off Friday evening and Saturday morning, there it was.  The sun.

I was out of the house today, running the mail route.  When I neared Hope, even Turnagain Arm seemed to be soaking up the sunlight,though it doesn't lose it like we in this valley do.

The roadside pullouts were full of vehicles for skiers and snow-mobilers, and at Summit Lake, the ice fishermen were trying their luck.

Farther along the route in Cooper Landing, there were more fishermen, though these guys were fishing in the mouth of Kenai Lake that stays open year-round.

Tenperatures were in the high twenties, perfect for outdoor activities.

But the best part was that for a few minutes, the sun graced my house for the first time since mid-November.

Friday, February 15, 2013

I Coulda been a Contender

Terry: You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a house pet, which is what I am, let's face it. -- Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront

Sakes alive, what happened in New York last weekend?

I was lying on the living room floor watching that Westminster Kennel Club dog show the other night and was in my usual funk when that thing’s on.  I shoulda been there.  I’d show those hounds and terriers and herding dogs what a champion is. 

 An Affenpincher?   Really?  How about this for a championship breed:  Weimaraner.   

And it's name?   What were they thinking?  What kind of name is Banana Joe for a champion anyway?  Here's the name of a champion:  Sterling Ice Fog of Alaska.  How does that roll off your tongue?  Can't you just see that engraved on a trophy?  After all, we are called the Gray Ghosts because of our coat color.

Banana Joe?  He wasn't even yellow.  Just a ball of black fuzz with a monkey face. 

See what a champ I am?

I have the pedigree.  I have the medical records.  I have the special training diploma.  I coulda been a contender.

Even as a puppy I had the look.

Look at those ears.  Aren't they special?

Even at so tender an age, I knew how to look like a champion.  No, I didn't choose the sofe because it matched my color.  I could never be so vain.  Sorry about the flash-eye.

I woulda shown that little black ball of fuzz Banana Joe what a real Best in Show should look like.

Why, I was bred for speed, good scenting ability, courage, and intelligence.  I used to hunt big game, . like deer, bears, and wolves.  (I was fearless, except for riding in cars.)

After big game was gone in Germany, where my breed began, I was trained to be a bird dog.    (Fine by me, except I didn’t like to get my feet wet.)

I was bred for the nobility,  Why, it was illegal to even take me out of the country until after WWII when Gen. Patton was presented with one of our kind.

I am not only a personal companion, I am also friendly with everyone.   If you don’t understand that your first duty is to pet me, I will stand on your foot until you get the message.

I don't flaunt my noble status.  I'm a regular guy.


I am a loyal member of the family and I love children.  My intelligence made me easily trainable and I often flabbergasted my adoptive parents with my ability to understand English, though German is my first language.

Yeah, I coulda been a contender.    If I still lived in Europe, that is.  I’m allowed to be shown there, not here in the U.S.  All because of my long coat, with my beautifully feathered legs and tail.  And my ears?  I defy you to find a dog with more handsome ears.

Huh.  My hair isn't even as long as Banana Joe's.  Go figure.

Why, they don't even dock my tail because it's so pretty, unlike the short-haired dogs of my breed.  I'm pretty special.  There aren't many of us long-haired Weimaraners whelped.


I'm not even as hairy as some sled dogs I know.

If not for the short-sightedness of the American Kennel Club, I coulda been there.   I coulda been a contender.  

I coulda been somebody.

(You were somebody, Sterling.  Rest in peace.)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Pot Hole on the Road to Mystery

I had this wonderful idea for a post, one that wedded two seemingly unrelated subjects.  I had photos with which to illustrate it, and a gotcha opening line that would reach out and grab any reader that came to see what the heck I was up to now:

In 1981, at the age of 21, an undergraduate student at Yale sparked a controversy that turned an entire nation upside down.  That student, Chinese-American Maya Lin, had entered a design contest and her design was chosen out of more than 1400 others.

The contest was for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial to be built in Constitution Gardens in Washington, D.C.   The winning design, and Lin herself, were subjected to much criticism and the announcement was made.  She had to defend her design strenuously.  And, she was criticized about winning because of her ethnicity.  The wounds of that war were still bleeding.

  As we all know, the memorial has become much like a shrine.

Lin's original winning design.

While traveling in China a couple years ago, our group was sitting along a covered walkway that created a square on three sides.  The fourth side was a museum.  This building, I recall our guide saying, was designed by none other than Maya Lin.


Here’s where things went wrong for my wonderful idea.  My memory tells me the museum was part of the exquisite archeological digs/museums of the Terra Cotta Warriors near Xi’an.  In an effort to verify this, I did some online research.

One of the three massive pits near Xi'an where the digs continue to unearth more statues.

I looked at a map of the Terra Cotta site and can’t find that building.  I search other museums in Xi’an.  It looks somewhat like the Shaanxi History Museum, though in response to a travel company in China, was I was told the actual designer’s name and it is not Maya Lin.

I search Maya Lin’s web sites, and can find nothing that indicates she designed a building in China.

This might not even by the same building as the one above, except they are chronologically side by side in order.

 I turned to my several thousand photos of that trip to China.  In one series of photos, there are Terra Cotta warriors displayed in the museum with a photo of a mystery pot that was to be the link to Maya Lin, along with 115 photos of a flower bed where a peculiar humming bird was flitting about, one I was attempting to catch on a memory card.

In another series of photos from a different camera, there is a break in the series.  It shows we went back to Xi'an, had lunch, and were driven to another museum (maybe even the next afternoon), which had Terra Cotta Warriors, too.  Then followed the mystery pot photos.

So that leaves me with only a mystery, much like this pot:

This pot is roughly the size of a large teapot, but look at it carefully.  There is no spout, just a small ceramic animal head for dispensing water through its mouth.

But, how to fill the pot?

The diabolical answer is that there is a hole in the bottom of the pot.  A hole with no plug or no stopper, just an open hole.

But, how to fill the pot and  keep the water in it?


Turn the pot upside down, of course.  That's where the opening is located.

Then, turn the pot upright and over a fire.  The interior stem traps the water and prevents the water from escaping, thusly:

So, what have we learned from this post?

1.  Maya Lin designed the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in D.C.

2.  She might or might not have designed a museum somewhere in China.

3.  My guide might have been mistaken.

4.  I might (probably am) mistaken.

5.  Hummingbirds in China have square tails.

6.  The Terra Cotta Warriors are worth going to see!!!

7.  Somewhere in the world is a museum exhibit of the mysterious pot.

8.  Your photographs will NOT stay in chronological order, and,

9.  Good ideas are hard to come by, and 

10.  These guys are flying really long kites!

This kite actually goes on a lot longer than you can see.  The ever-present Chinese smog obscures much of it.

Now, go back to that first paragraph in italics, "...turned an entire nation upside down.."   "Upside down."  Get it?  The upside down pot.   Okay, and then the title:  "A POT HOLE in the Road of Mystery."   POT HOLE--the pot with the hole.  Wasn't that a clever title?   And the juxtaposition of Maya Lin's American fame and her maybe museum in China that has a mystery pot?   Oh, just too clever to be real.

Don't you love a good mystery?  I think I'll go read one written by someone else.  One that makes sense.