Saturday, February 28, 2009

March snowstorm in Blacksburg

An early March snowstorm brought 9 inches of snow to our house, closed work on Monday, and generally made for a beautiful Sunday and Monday. In like a lion, indeed, but an aesthetically pleasing one. Here's a photo essay of the snowstorm:

Early afternoon on Sunday, and we had about 1-2 inches of snow at that time. Barrie had just left for the store, leaving these tracks in the driveway.

By mid-afternoon the snow showed no signs of abating, with bouts of heavy snow. Here's Asta in the backyard in the heavy snow.

Oddly, we didn't light the tiki torches during the afternoon snowstorm.

Much to my surprise, it continued snowing all night, and we woke up to 8-9 inches in the backyard. I had to shovel the back steps a bit so that Bou and Asta could make it down to the yard. Here they are running back in after a brisk play session.

Monday morning, a clear sky, and lots of snow in the front yard.

The white "cloud" in the middle of the photo is snow blowing off the trees.

A handful of robins were sitting in the trees behind our house, all puffed up to keep warm. While taking this photo another robin streaked past these three.

Icicles on the back gutters.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Jake Walk Blues: FebPhotos Day 22

I can't eat, I can't talk
Drinking mean jake, Lord
I can't walk

- "Jake Walk Blues," recorded by the Allen Brothers, 1930
In his 2003 New Yorker article, "Jake Leg: How the blues diagnosed a medical mystery," Dan Baum told the tale of John Morgan's quest to find medical meaning in the wide variety of "Jake Leg" songs recorded in the early-to-mid 20th century. Morgan, a self-described "pharmaco-ethnomusicologist," was interested in the mysterious ailment called "jake leg," a form of paralysis that was repeatedly alluded to in blues songs. Through methodical research, Morgan discovered the "jake" was "Jamaica Ginger Extract," a concoction that was marketed to cure "catarrh, flatulence, and 'late menstruation.'" It was 85% alcohol, and because it was a "medicine," it was legal to sell during Prohibition, and many bottles of Jamaica Ginger Extract were quaffed for reasons unrelated to the purported treatments it offered. Unfortunately, much of the Jamaica Ginger Extract was laced with a legal chemical called TOCP which often resulted in paralysis in those who drank it. Floppy legs with no feeling - jake legs - were the result. At its peak, jake leg affected thousands of mostly poor people, becoming an epidemic and filling hospitals in the 1920s. Eventually, the US Government got involved and figured out what was going on. It's a fascinating study, and there's a link to a reprint from Dan Baum's website below.

Barrie collects bottles, and has a number of very cool examples of glass containers in her collection. Including these two examples of Jamaica Ginger Extract. The photos were taken in her study early in the morning, with lamplight.

To read Dan Baum's article, click here (note: it opens a PDF file).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Concrete Jesus, Folk Art....: FebPhotos Day 21

Yes, I'm running a bit behind on the FebPhoto posts, as you might have noticed. We went down to the Fearrington Folk Art Show last weekend, reprising our trip there last year. Here's a few images from the trip:

We once again bought a dog painting from Tim and Lisa Kluttz,
this one an homage to our yellow lab Enid.
But I did promise a concrete Jesus, didn't I? On the way back home we pulled over at a gas station beside a concrete statuary lot/store/yard/iconmart. Looking up while pumping petrol, my gaze found these concrete pups and animals:

And looking over the entire flock was this concrete Jesus, calming the waters:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

John Prine in Roanoke

Long-time fans of singer/songwriter John Prine, including yours truly, expect a lot from one of his concerts. With a deep catalog that includes nearly 20 albums since his eponymous 1971 debut, there's a lot of great - indeed some would say classic - material he could cover. Last night in Roanoke, Prine mined his canon with energy and passion, covering many favorites dating back to his first album.

Prine opened with "Spanish Pipedream" and "Six O'Clock News" from his first LP, which by any accounts is one of the great debut recordings by any singer/songwriter. By the end of the evening, over a nearly 2 hour set, Prine played a total of six songs from the album. After all, it's some of his finest work, and showcases his ability to create characters, strip raw emotions and situations down to plain language, and open up the listener's empathy with raw evocation that's never sappy or saccharine. For instance, halfway through the set, with a moderately rowdy bunch of fans shouting requests, Prine brought the crowd to a hushed whisper when he launched into the achingly beautiful "Angel From Montgomery," as potent evocation of an aging woman's feelings as any man is capable of writing. He also played "Sam Stone," about the drug addled veteran who comes home from "the conflict overseas" sporting "a hole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes."

As if that wasn't enough from his first album, he delivered another crowd-stilling moment with a version of "Hello In There," again about aging, lonely people, and wrapped up the show with "Paradise," his song about the lost town of Paradise, Kentucky, which was razed by a coal company.

But Prine didn't just bask in past glories - his set list was a balanced mix of earlier fare and songs from the last couple of decades, including his Grammy-winning 2005 album Fair & Square.

Prine sounded in fine form, even if his range isn't as great and his voice a bit huskier after his battle with throat cancer. All told, a great evening of music from an American legend.

John Prine Set List:
Roanoke, VA Feb 21, 2009

With Dave Jacques, electric and upright bass, backing vocals
Jason Wilber, guitars & mandolin, backing vocals

Spanish Pipedream
Six O’Clock News
Grandpa Was A Carpenter
Storm Windows
Fish and Whistle
Glory of True Love
Long Monday
Far From Me
Angel from Montgomery
Dear Abby
It’s A Big Old Goofy World
Please Don’t Bury Me
Sam Stone
Bear Creek Blues
That’s Alright By Me
Ain’t Hurtin’ Nobody
Hello In There
Lake Marie

Killing the Blues
In Spite of Ourselves (duet with Carrie Rodriguez)
Paradise (with Carrie Rodriguez, vocals, fiddle)

Credit: Photo of John Prine live in 2008 from the JPShrine fan site.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Off to Chapel Hill: FebPhotos Day 20

A belated post after a 24 hour road trip to Chapel Hill to see the Fearrington Folk Art show and visit with friends and family (OK, one friend and our nephew, but the familiar alliterative ring of "friends and family"is just too easy, and it's got a relative ring of truth, so there you go). On Friday we met our nephew Alex for dinner at Top of The Hill on the corner of Franklin & Columbia. Here's a photo of that intersection from the restaurant's patio, about 8:30 in the evening:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Asta and Bou: FebPhotos Day 19

It's been six days since Bou came to stay with us, and Asta's dealing with it pretty well. I took "the girls" (as we've taken to calling them) out in the backyard this afternoon, and they started to run and play together some. Here's a photo of them playing, along with a couple of individual shots:

Scampering across the backyard at full speed.

Asta looks sideways at Bou.
Bou plans her next move. She burst into a run a few seconds after this pose.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Big Wet Snow: FebPhotos Day 18

Rain turned into sleet this morning about 6:45 or so, and by 7 there was a good coating of slushy sleet on the back deck. It soon developed into a mushy mixture of sleet, rain, and snow, while the temperature hovered right around freezing. By about 8:30 a heavy mess of big, wet snow was coming down with slushy flakes about the size of a nickel. Here's a few photos - the big white streaks are the slushy falling snow. It was all gone by mid-day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A wee bit of frost: FebPhotos Day 17

It was cold last night - down around 10 degrees when I gazed out the window this morning. By the time Asta and I made it up the hill around 9 a lot of the frost had melted in the sun, but the shady spots still had some crystals lingering. Here's what we found:

A few frosty crystals lingering on a dead holly leaf.
Frost doing that pine needle thing.

What happens when you put the camera on macro and stick it down to the ground. The ever-popular "horizon gone amok" effect. Duck and cover.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dusk: FebPhotos Day 16

Dusk as seen from the front of McConnell Library, with a heavy bank of clouds behind the library, and the waning daylight in front:

View from the library steps looking out on the quad. The bright spot in the bottom left corner was a small snowflake that flew onto the lens just as I took the photo.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Backyard: FebPhotos Day 15

A few shots of ivy and a closeup of a pine cone from the backyard:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bou, the "foster dog" : FebPhotos Day 14

We got a call last week from a close friend in poor health, who asked us to take care of her dog Bou until she recovers. Bou is short for Boudicca, the Iceni queen of the East Anglia who rebelled against the Romans in 60 A.D. Did I mention that our friend is a retired English History professor (and one of the smartest and wittiest people I know)?

So we drove down to Mt Olive, NC, today and picked up Bou, an 11-year old beagle who's full of sweetness and beagle-esque mischief. We might have Bou with us for a while, so it was great to see that her and Asta got along pretty well on their first day as co-habitants. Here's some photos from our trip and Bou's first hour here:

Yes, we went to Mt. Olive, home of the famous Mt. Olive Pickle Company, as you might surmise when you see their town sign. You can see a very stylized image of the town of Mt. Olive, with their famous street intersection of Cucumber and Vine, by checking out their website.

Any ideas that we might be starting our own kennel here in Blacksburg were quickly put to rest when this truck passed us on Hwy 52 north of Winston-Salem. While we had one small bag of Science Diet with us as Bou's provisions, this truck passed us with a bed filled to the brim with bags of dog food. You can see from their license plate that these folks are serious about dogs. Hounds in particular, it appears:

Like a good beagle, as soon as we got here Bou immediately started to sniff the entire perimeter of the backyard. No smell went undocumented. Asta watched as Bou checked out her new foster home yard, occasionally trying to get Bou to play, to no avail.

In an expected twist to the FebPhoto project, I accidentally switched my camera to the video mode and, much to my surprise, ended up taking this 10 second video of Asta and Bou scurrying around each other in the kitchen. You can tell by how deftly I aimed the camera that I had no idea it was in video mode:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kitchen Window: FebPhotos Day 13

Our south-facing kitchen window is filled with indirect lighting in the morning, filtering nicely through the double panes, backlighting the bottles, and illuminating the Christmas cactus and African Violet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Red Sky at Morning: FebPhotos Day 11

This red sky greeted me this morning, looking southeast from my backyard about 7:00 AM.

There's the old weather adage of "Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morning, sailor take warning." A front came through today, with winds gusting up to 37 mph and a forecast of severe thunderstorms tonight. There's a long history of the "red sky at morning" weather lore, and it's been well documented by the Library of Congress:

Shakespeare... said something similar in his play, Venus and Adonis. “Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field, Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds, Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.”

In the Bible, (Matthew XVI: 2-3,) Jesus said, “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering."

In order to understand why “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning” can predict the weather, we must understand more about weather and the colors in the sky.

Usually, weather moves from west to east, blown by the westerly trade winds. This means storm systems generally move in from the West.

The colors we see in the sky are due to the rays of sunlight being split into colors of the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere and ricochet off the water vapor and particles in the atmosphere. The amounts of water vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere are good indicators of weather conditions. They also determine which colors we will see in the sky.

During sunrise and sunset the sun is low in the sky, and it transmits light through the thickest part of the atmosphere. A red sky suggests an atmosphere loaded with dust and moisture particles. We see the red, because red wavelengths (the longest in the color spectrum) are breaking through the atmosphere. The shorter wavelengths, such as blue, are scattered and broken up.

Red sky at night, sailors delight.
When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.

Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise reflects the dust particles of a system that has just passed from the west. This indicates that a storm system may be moving to the east. If the morning sky is a deep fiery red, it means a high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain is on its way.

Source: Library Congress' "Everyday Mysteries: Fun Science Facts from the LOC"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Found Objects: FebPhotos Day 10

My FebPhoto goal today was to find colorful things on the ground and take photos of them. No specific seeking, just whatever seemed colorful. The morning walk up to the golf course found these old tees, with some interesting colors and what amounts to tee-rot:

And then, what should I find while walking across campus this afternoon? Amazingly, this iconic bit of American food lore. I couldn't have planned this one - it was just there, beside the parking lot, and behind the Alumni Garden:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Looking different, eh?

We interrupt this installment of Bantering Bibliocrat to move to a cleaner template and add a new header photo. We hope you like it! Back to our regularly scheduled FebPhoto series tomorrow....

Asta Frolicks: FebPhotos Day 8

A warm, partly-cloudy Sunday afternoon - what better fun than chasing partially deflated balls and mangled flippy-floppers in the backyard? Asta was having such a good time that I had to pull out the camera and catch her in action.

Gleefully running with the flippy flopper, with some funky mossy stuff dangling from it.
Playing with the ball is serious work. Note the intensity.

Waiting for the next flung object.