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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

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Problem, Solution

On our daily walks around Jefferson, Jake and I observe all sorts of things.

For example, at the corner of two residential streets north of downtown is a house with a nicely-manicured yard. The lawn and shrubbery are immaculate. These people take pride in their home’s appearance.

Not long ago, I was surprised to see deep tire ruts in the grass at the edge of the yard, caused by a vehicle cutting the corner during a hasty left turn.

The homeowners responded by posting a “Keep Off the Grass” sign beside the ruts. But the next time Jake and I passed the spot, the sign itself had been run over, and fresh ruts were visible in the grass.

Game on.

The homeowners countered by placing three massive boulders at the corner — giant, immovable things that can foil any vehicle. And actually, the boulders add a nice decorative touch.

Game over.

Feet and Chair Legs

In 1498, Leonardo da Vinci completed his painting The Last Supper on the wall of a convent in Milan, Italy. 150 years later, inexplicably, residents of the convent found it necessary to punch a door in the wall, which eliminated a chunk of the bottom center of the painting. Gone were the feet of Jesus and some chair legs.

But the missing swath wasn’t exactly lost to history. Around 1515, two of Leonardo’s former students had painted (on canvas, not a stone wall) a reasonably close reproduction of The Last Supper. It shows the lost feet and chair legs basically as Leonardo painted them.

In 2020, the Royal Academy of Arts in London hired Google to digitize the reproduction in super-high resolution and made it available online.

This is Leonardo’s original, door and all.

And this is the reproduction.

I’d really like to know why that door was necessary.

Entitlement

Apparently, Steelers quarterback Ben Rapistberger is nearing retirement. So long, Ben. I wish you all the worst.

You remember Ben Rapistberger, who in 2009 was credibly accused of raping a casino hostess in Nevada. But then, the man is a rich and famous athlete, and the charges were dropped.

You remember Rapistberger, who in 2010 was credibly accused of raping a college student in the bathroom of a Georgia nightclub while his bodyguards, two off-duty state troopers, watched the door. But then, the man is a rich and famous athlete, and the charges were dropped.

Why those incidents got under my skin so much, I can’t say. But I was indignant enough after the Georgia incident that I vowed never to watch the Steelers again as long as Rapistberger was on the team. A silly and useless gesture, I admit, but I kept the vow, and I’m not sorry.

Funny thing, though. Out of all the current fawning on the sports channels about Rapistberger and his illustrious career, I haven’t heard one mention of the casino hostess or the college student.

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The United Nations has a thing called the Human Development Index, which ranks the nations of the world according to the well-being of their people. Primarily, the index considers income, life expectancy, and education level.

The 2020 HDI, the most recent, said the leading countries are, in descending order:

1. Norway
2. Ireland
3. Switzerland
4. Hong Kong
5. Iceland
6. Germany
7. Sweden
8. Australia
9. Netherlands
10. Denmark
11. Finland
12. Singapore
13. United Kingdom
14. Belgium
15. New Zealand
16. Canada
17. United States —Aha! There we are, in 17th place on the well-being of the citizenry chart.

Frankly, that stinker of a rating is no surprise to me. In spite of our huge wealth and abundance of potential, we rank poorly in most categories that genuinely matter to actual people. The US is:

— 13th in standard of living
— 20th in quality of life
— 24th in science education
— 29th in personal freedom
— 31st in delivering decent healthcare
— 34th in the actual health of the population
— 38th in math education
— 46th in life expectancy

But, by God, we do have some Number Ones to our credit. We lead the world in:

— Military spending
— Cost of healthcare per capita
— Incarceration rate per capita
— Number of guns owned by civilians

Is this a great country or what?

That’s a rhetorical question.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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Big Fella

In 2009, a BBC film crew went to Papua New Guinea (island nation north of Australia) to film a wildlife documentary in the unique ecosystem of Mount Basavi.

Basavi is the collapsed cone of an extinct volcano. It’s a circular crater 2-1/2 miles long with walls nearly half a mile high. Inside is a “lost world” of rainforest rarely visited by humans and loaded with critters living in isolation.

During the expedition, the BBC team identified over 40 new species of animals, including 16 frogs, three fish, assorted insects and spiders, a bat, and the pièce de résistance, a rat believed to be the largest in the world.

The first rat specimen they encountered was 32 inches long (that’s almost a yard, folks) and weighed 3.5 pounds. It was friendly and curious and showed no fear of people. The big fella will be known as the Basavi woolly rat until formally classified.

Rats and mice thrive in Papua New Guinea. The country is home to over 70 species of rodents.

Me and the FBC

I’ve been mad at the First Baptist Church of Jefferson since 2016, when I voluntarily took finish-line photos at FBC’s annual 5K race, and the church posted my pictures online with the comment “Photos courtesy of our Youth Pastor, Joe Blow.” I never got an explanation, much less an apology.

So, when I got called out by a church lady the other day for walking my dog on FBC property, I was, shall I say, pre-irritated.

The FBC is near downtown in one of Jefferson’s historic districts. I usually park in the church lot when Jake and I go walking in that part of town. He’s on a leash, of course. Recently, we were returning to the car when a woman on the church steps called out to me. I stopped and looked her way.

“Sir, kindergarten is in session now,” she said, smiling sweetly, “and the children walk between the building and the playground a lot. It would be better if you walked your dog somewhere else.” She maximized the smile and waited.

I ached — ached, I tell you — to reply with a rude remark and gesture. But my mother raised me to be nice. I didn’t even answer. I just turned away and continued to the car.

Drawing upon my fine command of language, I said nothing.

Robert Benchley

Battle Steeds

I used to think a Welsh Corgi was a Welsh Corgi, but I recently learned that the breed comes in two varieties: the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. They’re related, yes, but they have physical differences and separate origins.

Pembrokes, which have a supposed connection to the Vikings going back about 1,000 years, are somewhat smaller and lighter in color than Cardigans. The standards of the Pembroke breed require the tail to be lopped off, usually just after birth. Another jerk move by the human race.

The Cardigan is the older breed of the two, having originated in Germany about 3,000 years ago. Cardigans tend to be stockier and have large, bushy tails, which the standards generously allow them to keep.

In Welsh, “cor gi” means dwarf dog. In Welsh mythology, Corgis were the battle steeds of fairies. Which is very cool.

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Thoughts du Jour

Memorial

Part of my daily routine is a morning walk with my dog Jake. I need the exercise, and I know Jake approves because he dances in circles when I take his harness off the hook.

On weekends, our habit is to walk at one of the local schools; the campuses are spacious and well-maintained, no one is there, and Jake can go off-leash. Perfect.

When we walk at Jefferson Middle School, I like to visit a memorial to a former teacher that is tucked away in a grassy area behind the school.

This bench is the memorial:

And this is the plaque next to the bench:

Candace Simmons had a master’s degree in Education and spent 15 years teaching at Jefferson Middle School. She received numerous awards for being a crackerjack teacher.

Candace died of a brain aneurysm at age 40. She left behind a husband, a son, lots of relatives around North Georgia, and this memorial that I visit regularly because I find it quite moving.

Deploying the Pinky

In some circles, holding one’s little finger aloft while drinking from a glass or cup is looked upon as a polite gesture. In other circles, it’s considered snooty. Putting on airs.

Nobody knows when, where, or why the practice originated. Miss Manners said it might go back to people reacting to holding a hot tea cup.

Personally, I use my little finger in an entirely different way when holding a glass: I curve my pinky under the bottom of the glass to provide extra support. It’s a habit I acquired quickly and dramatically in college.

At lunch in the dining hall one day, I picked up a glass of iced tea and turned to place it on my tray. The glass was large, heavy, and wet, and it slipped from my grasp. It hit the tile floor and exploded in a spectacular fashion, for which the other diners gave me a hearty round of applause.

Since that day, I’ve been in the habit of placing my pinky underneath every smooth-sided, handle-less drink container I pick up. Not water bottles. Not soft drink bottles. Not beer cans. Just containers that I suspect might, just might, slip and fall.

A traumatic experience will do that to you.

Master Mule Skinner

I’ve gone on five mule trips at Grand Canyon — ridden the famous “long-eared taxis” five times. My first ride was in 1996. It was just a half-day trip to Plateau Point, not an overnighter. My mule’s name that day was Arluff.

My next four mule rides were down to Phantom Ranch, on the floor of the Canyon, where I stayed for a couple of nights. Specifically, my second ride (1997) was aboard Wags; the third (1999), Blackjack; the fourth (2005), Larry; and the fifth (2016), Twinky.

Those last four trips all took place in November and December, because in the winter months, you’re allowed to book more than one night at Phantom. In the busier months, the mule riders arrive at Phantom in the afternoon and depart at dawn the next morning. Booking in winter gives you an extra day for hiking and exploring.

FYI, being in the saddle for four or five hours is taxing. Not as strenuous as being on foot, but still not easy.

That’s because, on the downhill ride into the Canyon, you’re trying not to tumble forward over the mule’s handlebars, as it were. On the trip back uphill to the rim, you’re trying to remain in the saddle and not slide off the back of the mule. In both cases, your leg muscles get a good workout.

When a mule ride at Grand Canyon ends, the riders are presented with a certificate to mark the occasion. This certificate is from my second mule ride in 1997:

Arluff, Wags, Blackjack, Larry, and Twinky were all calm, good-tempered animals. They also were obedient, except for stopping to munch on trail-side vegetation now and then.

I’m sure the mules are not allowed to carry tourists until they can be trusted. The mules, not the tourists.

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This Just In

ANKARA, TURKEY — A Turkish man joined a party looking for a missing person, not realizing he was the subject of the search.

Beyhan Mutlu, 51, went drinking with a friend in a forest in northwest Turkey. When he did not return home, and his wife learned he had wandered drunk into the forest, she reported him missing.

The next morning, Mutlu came across the search party and volunteered to help. When the searchers began calling his name, he realized he was the missing person.

Mutlu identified himself, but the others didn’t believe him and continued the search. Half an hour later, the party encountered Mutlu’s drinking buddy, and the search was ended.

UNIDENTIFIED CITY, GERMANY — Since June, two men have been trading cryptocurrencies based on choices made by a hamster.

The hamster, Mr. Goxx, has a specially constructed enclosure adjacent to his living quarters. When he runs on a hamster wheel, his paws highlight certain cryptocurrencies.

Also inside the “Goxx Box” are two tunnels, one marked buy and one marked sell. After Mr. Goxx makes his selections and runs through one of the tunnels, his owners send his decisions over a real trading platform.

In its first month, Goxx Capital was down 7.3 percent. But by September, the hamster’s career performance was up 19.4 percent — which is better than the NASDAQ 100, the S&P 500, Bitcoin, and Berkshire Hathaway.

TORRANCE, CALIFORNIA — A lost pet parrot was reunited briefly with his British owner, but ultimately was returned to the family the bird lived with for the four years he was missing.

Nigel, an African gray parrot with a British accent, disappeared from the home of Darren Chick and at some point was purchased by a Torrance family at a yard sale for $400. Nigel, who was called Morgan by the family, learned to speak Spanish from the Guatemalan grandparents.

Morgan flew away again and showed up at the home of a woman in a nearby town, who traced Nigel’s microchip and found the original owner.

The Torrance family saw a newspaper story about Nigel’s return and contacted Mr. Chick. When Chick saw how attached the parrot was to the family, he decided to let Nigel return to being Morgan.

Morgan can whistle the first bars of the theme from the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and he likes to imitate the beeping sounds made by the garbage truck. He also knows the names of the family’s three dogs and barks like them.

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Not long ago, the Georgia DOT rebuilt a bridge across a creek on Georgia Highway 11 south of Jefferson, my fair city. Traffic was rerouted onto side roads for a few months, which was a pain, but the project finally was completed.

Soon after, a story appeared in the local newspaper about some unpleasantness between the DOT and a man who raises cattle on property near the bridge. The incident, I’m pleased to say, concluded in a most satisfying manner.

This is what went down…

To wrap up the project, DOT graded both banks of the creek, seeded the area, and planted several rows of saplings. The owner of the cattle immediately informed DOT that the trees they planted are poisonous to livestock, and his cattle had to be blocked from grazing — on his own property. He demanded that the trees be removed immediately.

DOT officials at the county level ignored the man, probably on grounds that no stupid farmer could tell them what to do. Whereupon, the man dug up the saplings himself and hired a lawyer.

The lawyer got an injunction that prevented DOT from replanting any trees known to be poisonous to animals, and he took DOT to court.

The court ruled that the man was lawfully protecting his animals, and DOT was blocked from filing any retaliatory charges. The court further ordered DOT to allow certified experts to choose the replacement trees to be planted in the area.

By then, state-level DOT officials had stepped in, and they complied fully. Life along Georgia Highway 11 has returned to normal.

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The Confluence

It’s June 1994, and I’m on my first-ever raft trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon. On the morning of the second day of the trip, we arrive at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. In contrast to the green water of the Colorado, the water of the Little C is a beautiful deep aquamarine, due to dissolved limestone and travertine.

The trip leaders take the passengers upstream along the north bank of the Little C to a point above a shallow set of rapids. Curiously, we are told to put on our life jackets upside down — to wear them like pants so the padding protects our butts. Just do it, the guides say.

We enter the river and form a chain, single file, 15 people long, each of us holding the legs of the person behind us. The guides steer the chain into the current, and we embark on an exhilarating 60-second ride back downstream to the confluence.

Over the next hour, we reform the chain and ride the Little C a dozen times, whooping and hollering like children. The experience is magical.

And I think to myself, this is the life.

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Pix o’ the Day

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