Monday, July 30, 2007

Best laid plans...

Well, I had that cup of coffee and made a list. Then went outside and started to burn some of the stumps left from clearing the land. I intended to start moving stones (flatties) around and breaking up the soil but the pyromaniac inside just grabbed control.

Luckily, there is enough slash from when the power company cleared the right of way that I could keep the fire small and have plenty of branches to feed it. But it did take all day to burn the two stumps down to lumps about the size of five gallon buckets. Since one was from a maple that was a good 9 inches in diameter and three feet long, I consider this acceptable. The root balls contain much clay earth and stone which acts as a great insulator and prevents the fire from consuming much. I need to knock that earth out before I can burn the remainder. But that's okay because that earth and some of the charcoal left from burning goes into the compost pile once it's cooled sufficiently. I'll need all I can get to break up the clay composition of the soil so i can plant flowers and vegetables next spring.

I'm off to the Bolt Hole early Tuesday morning for three days of toil. Most of that will be done hauling and splitting wood. Painting the roof will have to wait until I can purchase the materials. Maybe I can get some time in with the bow if my arms and back aren't too sore from hauling logs.

Morning to ya.

Well, I got the cistern full yesterday and there's a 5 micron filter on the line. (I saved the 1 micron for later next week when I would do a scheduled change of filters on the first of August.) The water is still cloudy in bulk but pretty clear in the glass. I'll take it--for now.

The temperatures are supposed to edge into the nineties this week but it is time to think about winter and spring.

I'll be heading to the Bolt Hole to do some firewood hauling and splitting--a task I've left to Mark for too long. There are downed trees, cut into blocks that have to be hauled out of the woods and then split so they can dry some more before winter sets in. (And up in the Adirondacks, that could be the middle of September.)

Adam has been showing up to spackle the basement walls which means I won't get much of a break even if it rains. Terry insists that we have the basement ready for company by Thanksgiving.

Hunting season approaches (well, it does!) and I need to get my 2007-2008 licenses for NY and PA. Applications for doe permits for PA are to be mailed August 6. I've got to get some time in with the bow, and the rifle as well as pick out some likely spots for tree stands soon. Mark and I want to start with the bow season in NY this year instead of letting it pass us by.

As for spring planning, it's time to lay out the flower and veggie gardens here at the Aerie. Much of the ground surrounding the building site is fill from the leveling of the area. It's heavy in clay and stone so the big iron bar will come in handy to break it up. Meanwhile I've salvaged some of the soil from around the roots of the few trees that had to be bulldozed and added that to our vegetable waste, pulled weeds and some shredded paper to start a compost heap. Our best bet is for some raised beds, but even for them, the surface needs to be loosened.

Then there's the retaining wall--materials to be delivered. And the painting of the roofs at the Bolt Hole--materials to be purchased. And ...oh, well, lots and lots of stuff to do.

Now all I have to do is get the energy to do some of these things. Maybe another cup of coffee is in order.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wells: Another way to spell "Trouble"

Actually the problem is not in the well so much as the lack of rainfall and the subsurface strata here at the Aerie. June was pretty dry (I'm not sure just how dry because I didn't get the rain gauge set out until July 1) and July has produced only 1.85 inches of rain, 0.85 having fallen in some heavy T-storms over night. Average precip in this area is 4.4 inches in June and 3.3 inches in July. We are well below those numbers. Sure, others across the valley got much more rain than we did at the Aerie, but that doesn't help us at all.

The subsurface is mostly slate/shale with clay mixed in. Now, the slate/shale combo allows for lots of water through all the cracks and layers but the clay is so damn fine that it easily moves through those cracks and into the well. It stays suspended in the water due to its tiny particle size and enters the house system even through a 5 micron filter. There is a 1 micron filter available and that will be our next purchase--as soon as I can find them! There is no odor or taste problem with the water so a chemical filter (at $35 per cartridge) isn't necessary. Wally World has 1 micron cartridges at $17.50 each--when they're in stock.

We thought we were lucky to have found a lot that had all the amenities (well, electricity, septic) in place. Looks like we'll have to invest in improving the well, however. It will cost us to have them set up their rig ($600), pull the pump (which will probably have to be replaced if we go down much further), punch the well down another 75-100 feet ($15 per), and probably add more casing to line the system. Still, it will be cheaper than drilling a new well.

A few years back i had to have a well drilled for the Bolt Hole up in the Adirondacks. The first 100 feet or so was through glacial moraine--mostly sand and a few boulders--and produced some surface water. The next 300 feet finally went through rock--mostly granite. Yeah, it went down about 450 feet and cost mucho dinero but that water is the purest, sweetest tasting stuff! I should bottle it and sell it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Birding Once More

Terry and I hooked up with our friends from the Tiadaghton Audubon Society this morning to do a little birding at Ives Run Recreation Area. We parked at the head of the 2.6-mile long Railroad Grade Trail, which follows an old Penn Central rail bed adjacent to Crooked Creek and walked quite a distance although not all the way. The weather cooperated and we had a nice morning with a slight breeze blowing.

In addition to the birds, we spotted a couple of deer, several cottontail rabbits, a chipmunk and a vole. There were several large splashes in the pond along side the trail, probably made by carp but impressive nonetheless.

Here's today's bird list:

Location: Ive's Run
Observation date: 7/26/07
Number of species: 32

Mallard 2
Great Blue Heron 2
Green Heron 2
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 2
Bald Eagle 2
Mourning Dove 1
Belted Kingfisher 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 4
Cliff Swallow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Eastern Bluebird 1
Wood Thrush 1
American Robin 3
Gray Catbird 5
Brown Thrasher 3
Cedar Waxwing 2
Yellow Warbler 3
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
American Redstart 3
Common Yellowthroat 3
Eastern Towhee 1
Song Sparrow 4
Swamp Sparrow 4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5
Indigo Bunting 1
Red-winged Blackbird 5
American Goldfinch 7

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I hate well water!

Actually, just the water that is coming from my well right now.

I switched to running the pump for five minutes every three hours and that was fine for awhile. Then the water became cloud despite the very fine filter on the line. I had a 5 micron filter in the canister but don't think I had it screwed in as tight as I should have. Some super fine particles were getting through. I tried with all my might and managed to tighten the filter housing another half a turn and that seems to have stopped most of the fine sediment from getting in. unfortunately with half the cistern filled, I'm not happy with what is in there. So tomorrow, after going birding in the morning, I'll be running out to purchase a couple more filter cartridges. Then I'll have to pump the 200 or so gallons I've already collected out and start all over again.

I'll stretch things out a little more too, by going to five minutes every four hours. (It'll be just like when the kids were babes and had to get bottle fed during the night, I guess.) Scheduled pumping at 8, 12, and 4 and repeat. I get about 2 inches of water every five minutes so with a depth of about 30 inches,two days of pumping should do the trick...if the well don't go dry.

Of course, being as it's only about 135 feet down, I guess i could get a driller in to punch it down a bit further, say another 100 feet. But even that could produce a problem. Some wells in the area (I'm not sure how close to me) have had some sulfur problems. I don't need that!

Log Home Update: Part 61
Chimney gets a finishing touch

Don and Kyle came over today and put the final touches on the chimney. Don had placed the last stone on Friday but wanted to do a bit more pointing 9applying mortar between the stones) before he would call it finished.

Once he was through, the scaffolding came down and then the ladders.

Don and Kyle remove the ladder
Don and Kyle take down the 32' extension ladder.

Entrance to the Aerie with finished chimney
The main entrance to the Aerie.

Finished chimney
The stone work looks real enough from the ground.

Of course, the stone is really concrete made to look like stone by Corning. There are a few real stones in the mix, but I'll be darned if I can pick them out!

Now Don and I need to talk about gutters and down spouts which were not part of te original contract. And Adam will be coming over to do some spackling in the basement and I will have to think about doing a drop ceiling down there. I'll also be doing some stone work outside with a retaining wall or two. I'll have to find time to construct some flower and garden beds and stain the deck. (Maybe I can dragoon Terry into helping with those two.) That's not to mention going up to the Bolt Hole to put up some firewood for the hunting season. Aint retirement grand!

New Prediction: Not so many Hurricanes

Remember back in May and the first week in June when we had subtropical storm Andrea (eighth earliest cyclone since 1851 and the first May cyclone since 1981) and tropical storm Barry? People started to ramp up the global warming rhetoric and talk about a super active hurricane season. Hyperbole ruled the airwaves.

Well, since the first week in June there hasn’t been so much as a tropical depression across the Atlantic and they’re already revising the hurricane forecast downward. (Forecaster cuts 2007 hurricane outlook)

Why? You might ask. Seems the Atlantic ocean waters are too chilly, they say.
"Because the ocean temperatures have not yet rebounded from the significant drop in late spring, we have decided to reduce our forecast numbers slightly," said Todd Crawford, a WSI seasonal forecaster.

I know it’s still early in the hurricane season that runs until October, but I find it significant that 1) there has been NO, ZERO, ZIP, ZILCH activity during all of June and July (Barry formed in late May and disappeared from radar on June 2) and 2) revisions of and backpedalling from earlier forecasts have begun.

Of course, like most weather forecasters, this one leaves lots of wiggle room.
WSI's Crawford added that wind conditions due to the lack of an El Nino event were less conducive to formation of tropical storms.

Despite the downgraded forecast, WSI still expects the 2007 season to be more active than last year, and added that storm-weary parts of the Gulf Coast could still be hit.

"We feel the general threat to the western Gulf is reduced slightly, with a corresponding increase in the threat to the eastern Gulf and Florida," Crawford said.

So, it’s been too cold to form depressions which become storms which beget hurricanes. He’s still looking for more activity than last year, however, and the “storm-weary parts of the Gulf Coast could still be hit.” I don’t know about that activity level, but that last part is a weasel way of saying “maybe”, “could be”, “might” “sort of”…well, you get the idea.

And just so the sheeple stay edgy, the author of the story has to include reference to Katrina and Rita.
The energy and insurance industries are keenly watching the 2007 storm season after the record damage caused by hurricanes two years ago.

During the 2005 season, hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast and temporarily knocked out a quarter of U.S. crude and fuel production, sending energy prices to then-record highs.

But of course, they know, they just know, what the climate will be like in 20 years.

BTW yesterday’s forecast for the Aerie, and its surroundings, was for 40% chance of rain, today it is down to 30%. Of course, it’s almost always 30% chance of showers or isolated thunderstorms here in the Northern Tier. It’s the “safe” forecast as sunlight, evaporation, and hills can roll up a thunderstorm most days.

And who the hell came up with the name “Barry” for a tropical storm? If it had turned into a powerful hurricane the stories about weather on steroids would have been nauseating.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Oh, the places I've been!

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Of course, several very long family vacations by car played a big roll in this coverage. You don't get to this many places if you fly. All of this is from 1972 to today. From 1949 (birth) to 1972 (marriage), vacations were pretty much limited to the area east of the Mississippi.

If they expand it to include Canada, well, I've been from Nova Scotia to BC and only skipped PEI because 1)it's small and 2)there were actually crowds there when we were heading past (and I HATE crowds). Have missed some of the northern Provinces but hope to get to the Yukon on my way to Alaska some day.

Seen over at Ogre's place.

Made me smile!

In an email from my sister:

Where did the white man go wrong?

Indian Chief, "Two Eagles," was asked by a white government
official, "You have observed the white man for 90 years.

You've seen his wars and his technological advances. You've seen his progress, and the damage he's done."

The Chief nodded in agreement.
The official continued, "Considering all these events, in your opinion,
where did the white man go wrong?"

The Chief stared at the government official for over a minute
and then calmly replied. "When white man find land, Indians
running it. No taxes, No debt, Plenty buffalo, plenty beaver,
Clean Water; women did all the work, Medicine man free. Indian man spend
all day hunting and fishing; all night having sex."

Then the chief leaned back and smiled. "Only white man dumb enough
think he improve system like that."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tribute to Wal-Mart--sorta

Here are a couple of songs to get GuyK
and his keeper—I mean-- Sweetthing going.

First we have The Wal-Mart Song

Then the I Hate Wal-Mart song.

These folks are having way too much fun!

A family reunion? Well, gooolly! Wouldn't want to break into their rec room!

(Seen at Maggie's Farm)

Yeah, that'll work!

(Seen at Maggie's Farm)

Rain. Glorious rain!

It's been terribly dry in the area surrounding the Aerie. Oh, there have been torrential thunderstorms to the north just across the NY-PA border that produced some real gully washers and even hail and there have been a few that have passed to the south of here along the I-80 corridor, but until today only one has drifted over our little patch of land. That storm yielded a mere half inch of precipitation which was about all we have had this month.

Today, however, a gentle soaking rain has moved in from the coast. It started here around noon and is forecast to continue into the evening hours and possibly later. The rain is sorely needed and I can almost hear the trees and plants sighing with relief.

Timing is everything. I had to empty the 500 gallon cistern this morning because of sediment build up due to my attempt to water the lawn last week. Now that it is empty and clean, the long slow process of refilling it has begun. Because the well produces very little water (only about 1/2 gallon per minute) I must draw from it sparingly. I'm running the well pump for just five minutes every hour. By doing so little at a time, the well has ample time to recharge without drawing lots of red clay into the pump's drawing zone (about 20 feet from the bottom of the 140 foot well). When I watered the lawn, I drew too much water out of the well during the hour and a half I had the sprinklers going and red clay got through the 20 micron filter and into the cistern. Things seem to be going as planned after five hours and the cistern is about 1/4 full. In another four or five hours, we'll have half a tank and can begin using the water again, albeit in a very careful manner. By this time tomorrow, if everything continues smoothly, we should have a full cistern again.

The rain will certainly help recharge the ground water and that should also help the well recover from my actions.

UPDATE:DAMN! Just minutes after I posted the optimistic note above, the water coming in turned murky and was filled with particles. I had to pump the cistern out again. It looks like I'll have to go on an different schedule. Maybe just five minutes (about an inch or two in the tank) in the morning, then at noon and again in the evening. It will take several days to refill the cistern that way ut at least we'll be starting with cleaner water.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hogwarts Faculty Member?

Originally uploaded by lieutfaber
While Terry and I traveled to Baltimore to visit Rick, Jessica, dressed appropriately, attended the sale of Harry Potter's latest tale at midnight Friday.

A fine weekend in Baltimore
Friday we met Rick at the motel just off I-695 and drove downtown for dinner. I had told him I wanted crab—I mean why else go to Baltimore—and he took us to a little place called Koco’s Pub.

Last year we had stopped at a place on the south side of town that specialized in whole crabs. You bought a half dozen or a dozen and they steamed them with lots of Old Bay seasoning and served them on a bed of salt. Way too much salt for even my taste and I like my chips and pretzels saltier than the Dead Sea! I don’t remember now if I had two or three beers with my dozen crabs but I do remember my lips and tongue tingling for two days afterwards. Koco’s was ten times better!

It’s not a fancy restaurant by any means and parking can be a problem. It’s just a friendly neighborhood tavern with a few tables to serve meals. But what meals! Instead of whole crab, they specialize in crab cakes. Their crab cake platter was served up with fries and cole slaw had one HUGE crab cake the size of a softball and consisting of lump meat that must have come from at least three giant crabs and maybe half a dozen medium sized blue claws. There was virtually no filling of peppers or bread and just enough batter to hold the thing together. Delicious!

If you’re ever in Baltimore and want some great crab cakes, this is the place to go.

After dinner, Rick took us up to Druid Hill Park so we could get a view of the city. Druid Hill is one busy place! Basketball players, joggers, cyclists, tennis players and picnickers were numerous. The view was extensive, but the Inner Harbor was hidden by several small hills.
Rich & Rick on Druid Hill

On Saturday morning we drove down to the Inner Harbor to go to the National Aquarium. (Why does it cost so much to get into the National Aquarium, yet the National Zoo (like all of the Smithsonian exhibits) is free? Perhaps it’s because it is NOT a government run operation. Who owns the land and building, and who directs the Aquarium? )
Submarine at dock in front of the National Aquarium
Inside, we enjoyed the special exhibits of Australia and of the Tropical Rainforest. They have recreated the environments of both areas in walk-through fashion. The Australian exhibit starts with some aboriginal pictographs:
Aboriginal pictographs
More Pictographs
(For those who may be Disc World fans, I didn’t spot any pictographs of kangaroos or wizzards.)
Both exhibits had aviaries where birds were free to fly. The rain forest featured this ham who perched right along the side of the walkway in bright sunlight so you couldn’t miss seeing him.
Scarlet Ibis

Taking pictures of fish, turtles or frogs through the glass would have been possible, I suppose, but I didn’t even think to do so. Sorry.
After several hours of watching the fish swim around and around, peering through glass cases to spot the colorful poison arrow frogs, and dodging the birds in the aviaries, we emerged into the bright daylight to walk along the Inner Harbor for a bit.
Lots of people gathered around the outdoor performance area to watch some kind of break dancing display.
Crowd at the Inner Harbor
Others were renting paddle boats to venture out on the water. The most popular paddle boats were shaped like Dragons. I suppose they were supposed to be Chessie, but they looked more like Champy (from Lake Champlain) to me.
Another view of the Chessie

Other folks were just waiting for the water taxi to take them on a tour or to simply cross the Harbor. Or they were enjoying the sunshine and watching the boat traffic which included this sternwheeler.
Paddlewheeler in the Inner Harbor
We stopped at the Tír na nÓg Irish Bar & Grill for lunch. From there, we could overlook all the Inner Harbor activities yet have a quiet glass of ale with our meal.

After lunch we walked back to The Power Plant, home of ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Café and Barnes & Noble. We were looking for some books, so you can guess which of the three we went to.
The Power Plant
No, we were not in search of Harry Potter’s latest adventure. I know where I can lay my hands on a copy of that. From a Hogwarts Faculty Member?

Next on our agenda was some more park hopping. First up was Patterson Park to see the most unusual Pagoda. Unfortunately, the building was closed. Apparently it is only open on Sunday. Oh well.
Pagoda at Patterson Park, Baltimore, MD
The park area served as a gathering point during the War of 1812 and from the vantage point of Hampstead Hill where the pagoda now stands, folks could allegedly see the glow from the fires of the nation’s capital and the bombardment of Fort McHenry.
However, by 1861 when the Civil War threatened to dissolve the Union, all parks and open spaces were earmarked for troop occupation. Camp Washburn was established. Later, a hospital, Camp Patterson Park, was set up. Once again, Hampstead Hill was a strategic military lookout and fortification.

From Patterson Park, we drove back through the center of the city and south to Fort McHenry. It was, of course, the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814, during the War of 1812, that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” that became our National Anthem.
Fort McHenry
”…O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? …” YES!

Francis Scott Key Bridge
The Francis Scott Key Bridge viewed from Fort McHenry.

Next up was Federal Hill Park on the south side of the Inner Harbor. Like almost every high point of land, this flat-topped hill served as a strategic lookout during the Revolution and the War of 1812. It was occupied by Federal troops during the Civil War. Their purpose was to ensure Baltimore behaved and remained in the Union. If Baltimore, and the rest of Maryland, succeeded in seceding, Washington, D.C. would have been isolated. Today, the Hill provides a lovely view of the Inner Harbor and the Outer Harbor.

By the time we left Federal Hill Park, it was time for dinner. We went down to the Rusty Scupper located on the south shores of the Inner Harbor and under the shadows of federal Hill and enjoyed another excellent meal while looking out over the Harbor.
Northwest view of Inner Harbor from Federal Hill
Looking Northwest from Federal Hill across the Inner Harbor to Downtown Baltimore.

Northeast view of the Inner Harbor from Federal Hill
Looking to the Northeast across the Inner Harbor from Federal Hill. The partially red building just to the left of center is the Rusty Scupper.

After dinner, Rick drove us back to our motel, where Terry and I took a quick dip in the pool before turning in for the night.

Sunday morning, Rick showed up with some things he wanted us to take back to the Aerie. He has just two weeks remaining in his summer post with Baltimore youths and then he is off to Guyana with WorldTeach to teach high school math.
Terry with Rick
Terry plays the proud Mom to Rick’s “aw, shucks” Son.

Things couldn’t have been smoother on our drive back to the Aerie. It’s just about 220 miles from the motel at which we stayed (maybe 10 miles from the Inner Harbor) to the Aerie. But we did have some anxious pussycats demanding to know where-the-heck we had been and insisting they be fed…NOW!!..when we opened the door.

It was a great weekend and the weather couldn’t have been better. Hazy, hot and humid days departed for the three days we were in the city but promise to return by Tuesday so I guess we lucked out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

On the road in Baltimore

Terry and I left the Aerie this morning to drive to Baltimore, MD to visit with our son, Rick. Rick is working in the city parks with a group of three youths in a summer program designed to give the kids a job cleaning up and maintaining some of the parks and educated them at the same time. The kids work three days a week and go on field trips two days. The recently went to the sewage treatment plant and to a turf farm.

Terry and I drove down Route 15 to I-81 to I-83 to I-695 before stopping in Pikesville. Rick met us there and drove us int the city for dinner and a short tour. I'm glad he did the driving. First, he seems to have learned a good deal about the city during the stint he did last summer and the few weeks he's been here this year. And, second, driving in this city would drive me nuts. (Of course, driving in any city drives me nuts.) The congestion, signage, and apparent suspension of rules would have me looking for a BIG bottle of scotch or Grand Marnier at the end of the day.

We'll be going to the National Aquarium on the Inner Harbor tomorrow.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Wrong house used for firefighting drill
Firefighters in Braintree, Mass., practiced their vital but destructive rescue techniques on a local home this week, but not the right one.

The actual training property the firefighters were supposed to practice on turned out to be two blocks away from the Luu family's home.

The one they cut holes in was being renovated. The one they were supposed to practice on was being razed. Big difference.

Another instance of Massholes at large.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How to locate/recognize illegal aliens

(GuyK posted this over a CHARMING, JUST CHARMING and I swiped it. Hope he doesn't mind.)

Newt Gingrich on Immigration and tracking/recognizing illegals.

As I said over at Guy's place, put FedEx/UPS in charge of immigration and Chase Bank in charge of Social Security records. (Of course, FedEx and UPS would want everyone to have a bar code on their forehead but....)


GuyK’s (CHARMING, JUST CHARMING) wife, Sweetthing, has started her own blog ( THEN THERE WAS SWEETTHING). She probably just wants to inform us all about what a cur her dear husband is. (Just kidding Guy!) I’m sure we’ll hear about how he refuses to eat his salad. (He’ll tell us how he grew that damn rabbit food!)We’ll hear about how much Guy gets underfoot and how many times he goes off fishing without her. And we’ll hear even more about Miss Sassy and her Little Sister.

Welcome to the blog world. And smile a little more often. ;-)

My Heroine!

In the New York Post:


Good GREAT for her!

Ya gotta love this woman’s attitude! She is so right on so many levels.
Staten Island mom Deanna Hassell wasn't shocked when her son flunked the seventh grade. What shocked her was his promotion to the eighth grade.

"Are you kidding me? Is the Board of Education kidding? How does a kid with a 60.53 average pass?" she asked.

"He should be held back! If children are not getting the education they need now, when they get to high school, they are going to drop out."

Responsibility. Commitment. Rewards for hard work. Consequences for failure. Obviously the Board of Ed doesn’t believe in any of those things. But Mrs. Hassell does.
All year, Hassell warned her 13-year-old son, Anthony Raimo, that he would be left back unless he buckled down.

Anthony paid her no mind. He never did homework. He clowned around in class. He missed 55 days of school - more than one out of four - simply because he refused to go.

Except for the dragging him kicking and screaming to school or shackling him to his desk as this little POS deserved, Mrs. Hassell seems to have tried her best with little Tony. So what happens:
Still, none of it stopped him from squeaking by at IS 51/Edwin Markham School in Graniteville.

In a fortuitous twist for Anthony, the new criteria to end "social promotion," which went into full effect this year, actually worked to his benefit. For the first time, seventh-graders were promoted on the basis of just two end-of-the-year tests - not their year's worth of schoolwork.

He scored a 2 out of 4 on tests in both math and reading. Out of a maximum of 800 points, he got a 608 in reading - 599 was passing. In math, he got a 643 - 610 was passing.

Aaah! The system happened. Standardized tests happened. Sticking to a rigid score and screw the rest of his “work” happened.
So what does little Tony do? He rubs his mommas nose in IT!
"Ha, ha, I passed. I told you so," Anthony recalled telling his mom.

He doesn't even have to go to summer school.

"The message is you don't have to go to school. You take the two tests, and if you pass, that's it," Hassell said.

Bad move, Tony, bad move.
She called administrators at IS 51 demanding to know how her son could not be left back. After all, he failed every class but math, chorus and gym.

An assistant principal told her their "hands are tied" because Anthony passed the standardized tests, Hassell said.

Not quite, assistant principal, not quite.
The Department of Education said principals have discretion in holding back students who are not ready for the eighth grade.

But there ARE enablers in the system.
Robert Tobias, who was director of assessment and accountability for city schools from 1988 to 2001, warned against forcing kids to repeat grades.

"It sounds to me like this kid is bored. Holding him back could be the worst thing to do because it would exacerbate the problem," said Tobias, who now studies testing policy at New York University.

Then again, Mrs. Hassell seems to have HER head in the game.
Hassell, however, believes repeating the seventh grade will be the best lesson for Anthony.

Here’s hoping she wins out. It already sounds like she may have already scored some points in the game of life.
"I don't deserve all this. This is embarrassing," Anthony said.

Sure you do, Tony. You earned every bit of embarrassment your Mom can dish out. Even if you do get to stay in the eighth grade, you better attend every day of school, do your homework and pass every one of your classes next year or you can be sure Mom will be looking to nail your sorry little hide to the wall come next June. She’s already taught you one hell of a lesson.

(from News of the Weird Daily)


N.Y. Bar Serves Bottled Water For $55
Water is the latest trend when it comes to taste and a bit of marketing.

Glass, plastic, carbonated, non carbonated, high mineral content ... no, it's not a fancy drink or a fine wine. Diane Felicissimo is talking about the latest craze -- water.

It's a business making a splash. Americans spent more last year on bottled water than on iPods and movie tickets -- a whopping $15 billion.

"There are so many people that are uneducated about water," Felicissimo said.

It’s freakin’ WATER! I don’t care what the label says; whether it’s Evian, Perrier, Poland Springs or whatever. Whether they got it from the bottom of a glacier in the Canadian Rockies or from a Swiss Alp peak. It’s still H2O, dihydrogen monoxide, WATER!

(from News of the Weird Daily)


Pagans upset over Homer Simpson stunt

The Wessex, Britain, Pagan Federation chapter has said they will do "rain magic" to wash away a giant chalk drawing of cartoon character Homer Simpson.

The 180-foot publicity stunt for the new Simpsons film was drawn next to the Pagans' famous fertility symbol, the Cerne Abbas giant, Britain's The Sun reported Monday.

Next thing you know, some one’ll be blowing up the Cerne Abbas giant because it’s blasphemous or something. Whoever granted permission for this publicity stunt should be sacked.

“Snakes! It had to be snakes!”

14-foot python found in Holy Hill, Fla.
Experts said the reticulated python was so strong that it was impossible to get an exact length measurement, but it was definitely large enough to kill dogs and cats or small children, WFTV-TV, Orlando, reported Monday.

It ain’t just the gators or the fire ants ya’ll gotta look out for anymore.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Water Troubles

So, last week we were sweltering under sunny skies and 90+ degrees (only into the 70s at night) here at the Aerie. Then, sudden like, the wind switched around and started blowing out of the north-northwest. Thunder boomers swept through and the temperatures plummeted. Now the humidity has also plunged, the highs are in the 70s during the day, the lows are into the 50s at night and the wind is still coming out of the north. In short, the weather is gorgeous.

Before the rains came, I took pity on the grass that was struggling to grow out of the packed red clay that is the fill around the house and hooked up the sprinkler for an hour or so. I shouldn’t have. Oh, not because the rains came. No, that should have been expected—kinda like washing your car on a sunny day only to have an unforecasted monsoon pop up to visit for the next week. No, I should not have watered the grass because of the limitations of the Aerie’s water system.

You see, we have a very shallow well—only 140 feet or so—that produces only 1-1/2 to 2 gallons a minute. (Sounds like a lot, but it isn’t.) To ensure enough water for showers, toilets, washers, etc. we have a 500 gallon cistern in the basement. This is set up to draw water from the well when about ¼ of the cistern is emptied and so always has around 300 gallons of water in surplus. A filter on the line from the well is supposed to trap any red clay particles moving through the shale/slate substrate 20 microns or larger in size.

I didn’t change the filter on July 1 as I should have and, as a result of putting heavy demand on the system by watering the lawn, it sorta failed to do its duty. I now have a cistern filled with watery red sludge and water coming through the pipes that is just slightly reddish (much of the stuff has settled to the bottom of the cistern). The only thing to do is to empty the cistern, clean it out, and slowly, slowly refill it one agonizing inch at a time. Last time we filled it we did so one inch every hour or so to give any sediment in the well a chance to settle before drawing from the well to fill the tank. Did I mention the cistern is about 30 inches deep? That translates into about 30 hours to fill the tank. I can’t do it right now because Don needs water to mix mortar and clean his tools while applying stone to the chimney’s exterior. He wasn’t sure I could get the tank emptied, cleaned and refilled between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, so the process has been delayed. But it will have to be done as soon as all the stone is in place. I don’t think Terry wants to do any laundry until the water is a bit

Label this as either “unintended consequences” or “my own damn fault.” In any event, it is a lesson learned the hard way.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Press 1 For English"

With all the hullabaloo over the Illegal Immigration Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill recently beaten to death in the Senate, I wonder if people missed the Democratic debate question where nearly all candidates opposed making English the official language of the United States?

One of the requirements for becoming a naturalized, that is, legal, citizen of the US of A is an ability to read and understand rudimentary English. Why shouldn’t it be the Official Language? You really can’t have two or more.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Log Home Update: Part 60
Stain and stone

Another hot, muggy day here at the Aerie with the thermometer registering 92 late in the afternoon. Adam, Kyle and Don showed up early to get to work on the staining and stone work and despite the heat, managed to make good progress.

The dormer has been stained as has the west wall. Only the porch ceiling and posts remain here.

I really like the rich, warm tones of the stain. The added protection against the weathering of the wood is a plus also.

Staining the north gable
Adam and Kyle mount the ladders to stain the gable wall and eave.

While Adam and Kyle wielded brushes, Don tackled the stone work on the chimney. Hauling both mortar and stone up the ladder to apply one stone at a time to the chimney faces. He has managed to complete a bit over half the chimney now and is plugging along in this unusually hot weather.

Stain and stone
Adam and Kyle finish the staining on the gable end while Don cleans up from today's stone work on the chimney.

Hot time, summer in the city country.

Back at the Aerie the last two days after busting my hump cutting firewood up at the Bolt Hole. Mark and I made good headway getting trees on the ground and cutting them into lengths for the splitter. Now we just have to haul them up to the barn to be split and stacked for drying.

It's been bloody hot here in the Northern Tier. Yesterday's afternoon high was around 92 and today promises to be just as hot.Despite that, and not having an AC at the Aerie, the nights have been comfortable as the temps drop down into the low 70s. The trick is to keep the hot air out during the day while letting the cool air in at night. Done right, it never gets above 80 inside the log home.

Darn birds woke me up at 5:30 AM yesterday and again today. I imagine they are demanding their food. (We've had to take in the feeders at night or the young bear that is in the neighborhood will take them apart for the sugar water and sunflower seeds.)

Speaking of the bear--it was back again this morning at 7 AM. It wandered up from down the hill passing right through my milkweed patch. I tried to get it to stop for a photo but it booked on down the trail when I called out to it.

Went up to Arnot Mall in Big Flats last night for dinner at the Olive Garden and to do some shopping. The cats have outgrown their litter boxes and we needed deeper trays to contain their output. I wanted a hand truck to haul stone around as some of it is quite heavy. And we did a little tour of the Barnes and Noble for some light reading.

I'll be heading back to the Bolt Hole to haul the trailer to get service on a refrigerator recall. It'll probably be just a two day trip, up and back, with no time to do any more with the wood.

I've got to do some running around today to order some block and stone for the retaining wall. Plus, I have to pick up the five chainsaw chains I dropped off for sharpening yesterday. Don and the boys will be working on the stain and stone again today. Much of the former is done and a good portion of the chimney stone is up. (That's a little slower since Don doesn't want the weight of the faux stone to push those below off. Plus he's pointing the stone--adding mortar to the joints--as he goes along.)

TIme for another cup of jumpstart (as GuyK would say) and then it's off to work. Damn but retirement is a busy time!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Hail! Hail! The gangs all here!

I drove up to the Bolt Hole in the Adirondacks this morning with the intention of cutting some firewood. All the way through southern NY the sky was bright and sunny with only a few cumulus clouds making everything picturesque. Right up to the last 14 miles.

It was then that the clouds became dark and ominous and the rain began to fall, the lightening began to flash and the thunder rolled. It was pouring when I pulled up to the door and I had to wait for it to let up a moment to hustle inside.

Every 20 minutes or so another thunder boomer would roll over the cabin and the walls would shake to the tune of the thunder. Then at 2 o’clock it started to hail. Pea sized pellets rattled off the metal roof and the truck parked outside for at least ten minutes.

Hail, hail, the gangs all here!
Pea sized hail fell fast and furiously.

Rain & Hail
The rain also came down in buckets.

By 4 o’clock all was right with the world again and the only clouds in the sky were white, fluffy cumulus.

With any luck, I’ll be able to drop a couple of trees and block them up tomorrow morning. I’ll just have to keep my eyes open for the black bears that have been photographed wandering the same woods I’ll be working in.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bear redux

Did I mention that the bear came back last night? Just after dark I heard the hanging bird bath, the only thing we leave out overnight, crash to the ground. I looked out in time to see the tail end of the bear (I assume it's the same one that showed up at noon) disappear under the deck. Using my million watt flashlight I went out about 15 minutes later to retrieve the birdbath and assess any damage that might have been done. No harm was done to the plastic birdbath but I brought it in anyway so it could be refilled this morning.

And the bear returned again this evening at 8:30 just after we brought in all the feeders. It walked down the driveway, past the deck and down the trail into the woods pausing only once to pose as I called to Terry to look out her window.

It's obvious to me that the little sting my air rifle made had no effect upon its behavior. We'll just have to be real careful about leaving any food materials outside and hope the bear moves on. Right now, it seems too comfortable around the house to suit me.

Birding State Game Land 37:
The Fire Tower

Gary and I went up to the fire tower on PA State Game Lands 37 this morning to do some birding. It rained pretty hard on this area last night so all the woods and grassy areas were wet. Luckily there are numerous trails the size of one lane roads throughout this area and we were able to walk in comfort most of the time. Only when we tried to follow a section of the Mid State Trail that led through an area of waist high grasses and chest high shrubs did we finally get very wet.

While admiring the diversity of the food plots mixed with hardwood forest and some browse areas that provided abundant habitat for birds, we nonetheless found plenty to grouse about concerning the lack of accurate maps for the trails we were walking. We had hoped to make a circuit hike out of our trek but discovered that a trail we thought would lead back to the parking lot instead dead ended 0.3 miles short of our goal. We could have bushwhacked through the forest to get to the parking area, but the understory was quite thick and very wet so we had to backtrack.
It’s a lovely place to walk and is very much underutilized during the off season for hunters. I’ll be going back up there again—with a water bottle, a lunch, and my GPS unit and a compass.

Here’s a list of the birds we saw. Many of the counts are WAG (Wild Ass Guesses). There were far more individuals of some species that went untallied, but, as I mentioned, we backtracked for a good portion of our hike and may have seen the same birds and counted them twice. Sue me.
Location: Fire Tower
Observation date: 7/5/07
Notes: Humid, warm, some fog. Followed heavy rain the night before.
Number of species: 23

Turkey Vulture 1
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 3
Red-eyed Vireo 3
Blue Jay 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Veery 3
American Robin 4
Gray Catbird 2
Cedar Waxwing 9
Chestnut-sided Warbler 2
Black-throated Blue Warbler 2
Black-and-white Warbler 1
American Redstart 2
Ovenbird 3
Common Yellowthroat 6
Scarlet Tanager 3
Eastern Towhee 4
Chipping Sparrow 6
Song Sparrow 5
Dark-eyed Junco 6
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

God Bless America

This should be the national anthem.

God Bless America as sung by THE Kate Smith

Wildflowers in Bloom

We’ve actually got two types of milkweed in our little stand. There is the more common pink flowered variety and a white variety I don’t remember noticing before.

Honeybees on Milkweed
Honeybees are attracted to the pink flowers of the milkweed.

White Milkweed
A yellow swallowtail feeds on the white flowers of another milkweed.

Some larger creature, perhaps a groundhog, has also helped itself to some of the younger shoots and flowers of the milkweed and in the process pushed the plants over.

There are several other types of wildflowers growing around the edge of the clearing and in the power line right of way. Currently, the daisies are the most abundant.

Daisies 2
The daisies have attracted their share of flying visitors, mostly bees and flies.

Daisies provide a natural landscaping that is very pleasant to the eye.

Queen Anne's Lace
Queen Anne’s Lace is also flowering now but is much less abundant than the daisies.

Still not in flower are the Russian thistles (I’ve had to cut many of these out so as to have an open path into the woods) and goldenrod. There’s lots and lots of goldenrod but that won’t be flowering for a month or more.

Unwanted Guest for Diner

Terry and I were just sitting down to our July 4th meal of barbecued chicken, potato salad and corn on the cob when I looked out the door to see we had a “guest.” No doubt it smelled the smoke from the grill. (The rich aroma of chicken barbecue will attract all sorts!) It wandered down the hill only to pause at the bird feeders.
Black Bear at Aerie, July 4, 2007
Unwelcome guest.

I opened the screen door to take a couple of photos and then shouted. I might as well have run a dinner bell. The bear didn’t react except to start licking up sunflower seeds. I stepped out further and yelled some more but the bear only took one or two steps up the hill before turning around and heading back to the feeder.
Black Bear at Aerie, July 4, 2007

I loaded up my Viper air rifle and waited for it to turn so I could shoot a pellet at its backside. When it did, I fired and it ran a dozen steps up the hill before stopping. It then meandered on its way and I lost sight of it in the trees.

I’m not sure if this is the same bear that visited during the night last week. It seemed a bit larger today. I know I thought last week’s visitor looked too small to have bent the shepherd’s crook bird feeder holders but today’s “guest” may have been able to do so.


We have a small patch of milkweed that I have left standing because it attracts butterflies. Not only are monarch butterflies pretty and frequent visitors but there are usually four or five yellow swallowtails and the same number of Fritillaries present on a sunny morning. (Interestingly enough, the monarch was the only one I could not get a picture of. It kept bouncing around from flower to flower and always just out of range of the camera.)

Fritillaries on milkweed
Fritillaries on milkweed.

Yellow swallowtail on milkweed.
Swallowtail on milkweed.

Red Admiral
Red Admiral
(I had to “chase’ this one down as every time I started to take a picture, it fluttered away. It finally settled on this piece of sumac which had broken off the shrub and was hanging upon a tree branch. When the chase started, it too was feeding on the milkweed.

The milkweed is also a feeding ground for numerous honeybees, bumblebees, flies, etc.

Log Home Update: Part 59
Stain and Mortar

Things went a little slower than I anticipated this week, but the reasons were understandable. I mixed mortar on the ground while Don hauled it up the ladder in 1/3-filled 5-gallon buckets to apply to the chimney. We managed to get the skim coat nearly completed on Monday; finished it on Tuesday; and actually got some stone in place on Tuesday afternoon.
Skim Coat on Chimney
Even with just the skim coat in place, the chimney looked 100% better.

While Don and I did the mortar work, JP was around back staining the logs. Monday he worked using a step ladder and got all the logs on the first floor.
South end 1/2 stained
Here you can see the difference in color between the natural wood of the logs and the warm brown of the stain. On Tuesday, JP was able to finish the gable and the soffit (roof overhang).

One row of logs at a time.
To avoid overlap and prevent any dark marks on the logs, you actually stain one log at a time, from end to end. These three are the bottom rows of the west side of the house. WoodGuard isn’t noted for this particular problem, but some deck stains will be doubly dark if you overlap them and the result is not pleasant to look at.

We've taken the Fourth off and the weather is not promising for tomorrow. Don and Adam (who's been working on other jobs or for the Code Inspector's office) have a family reunion in VA this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so we may not get much more done until next week.

Okay. One more.

Jeez! How could I forget this one?

Not totally a march but it contains some march qualities.

By John Williams:

You'll know it when you hear it.

More Marches

And, as I said, John Williams has written some very excellent marches, including this one:

And this one:


One more Sousa

Semper Fedelis

Happy Fourth of July!

Stars and Stripes Forever.

John Philip Sousa knew how to write marches! One of the greatest disappointments in the seven(!) years that my two kids played tuba in their high school's marching band was listening to all the non-marches that were deemed necessary for competition. I would have much rather listened to week after week of Sousa. (Although John Williams writes some pretty mean marches, too.)

JPS's Liberty Bell March

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Pit Bulls are Dangerous? You're kidding, right?

The next time someone tries to tell you that pit bulls are inheritly dangerous and should be banned from existence, remember these videos from Texasgirly1979:

Of course he could have been just selecting his meal, but I don’t think so—even if there are only three chicks sleeping on his back in this one:

Then there is this video taken two months later in which all the chicks appear healthy and quite a bit larger:

It’s not the breed, it’s the breeder.
It’s not the nature of the beast, it’s the nature of the owner/trainer.
When you see a “mean” dog, you are usually looking at the end result of a mean trainer/owner or a bad breeder.