Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Dogs

I know dogs hate the 4th of July,
but I wonder if dogs enjoy Halloween as much as their owners?

The Trick or Treat Dogs

The Extraterrestrial Dog

Darth Vader's Dog

If ever there was an expression that said it all, it must this one.


The book dog.

The Last Crusader (in Highlanders colors.)

The Junk Food Dogs

But not to be outdone by the Banana Boys.

And lastly...

"Pink toe nails and dirty with the money" (Mark Knopfler)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Short Romance

I suppose it was just a matter of time, with most polls now favoring Barack Obama to win the election, the Republican Congress wannabees changing strategies from negative attacks to damage control and rumors of heated differences between McCain and Palin strategists, before the troubles of the backyard spill out on to the front lawn.

In the short span of 3 months their sudden and surprising romance went from this

to this...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Into The Blue Haze

Billy Cobham and his fusion friends, Alfonso Johnson, Tom Scott and Steve Khan, are seriously freaking out some Punk Funk in my ears while I am recalling last weekend to write this post. Their 1979 album of Alivemutherforya must be one of the best fusion albums ever produced.

For nearly ten years now, when ever we get the opportunity, we slip away to the Great Smoky Mountains, and specifically Gatlinburg, for a long weekend or so. The past weekend we did it again.

There’s something in the mountains that draws one back. We love to get a chalet up in Chalet Village (bit expensive but worth it, much better than a hotel room) and we try to stay out of town. We just want to rest, take in the surroundings, sleep late, lazy around, and totally unwind. We did kind of plan this trip because it’s fall and the Smokies is famous for it fall colors, and that means crowds. On top of that, they also had the yearly Fall Festival and a Craft Fair. More crowds. (Gatlinburg is famous for its many crafters that live in the area.) So planning ahead was very important in order to get a good chalet.

I expected more color, but we were just too early for the changes at lower altitude. But then, to experience great fall colors you have to get the timing just right and have luck on your side. Nature is not really famous for playing along with your plans. It’s got its own plans and will drop its leaves depending on his own circumstances. And if you work for a salary you don’t always have the freedom to drop everything to go and watch nature’s antics. Yes, the leaves started to change color, but only at higher altitudes. Our timing was out by about 2 weeks. But our circumstances were such that this was the only week we could get away by ourselves to the mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Unfortunately the weather was cloudy for most of the time with a misty rain now and then. Nature’s own plans again. Off course when we had to leave on Sunday, the grey was gone; the sky was blue and clear with not a cloud in sight.

But coming home the traffic was a bitch! Bumper to bumper, stop-start from Dollywood Lane in Pigeon Forge to the I-40 and there must be 30 or 40 sets of lights until you get to the highway. And even the highway home was very busy and the the average speeds were slower than usual. In the end, the usual 3 and a half hour trip took longer than 5 hours. But the few days away from work, children and everyday rigmarole was priceless.

A near constant blue haze hangs over the mountains, hence the name Smoky Moutains. The haze is caused when the plants release water vapor and terpenes, natural oils produced by the plants, into the air. I took this photo from one of the many lookout points we stopped at along Newfound Gap Road.

Driving along Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The National Park, half of it in the state of Tennessee and half in North Carolina, is a unique biosphere and have more than 10,000 plant and animal species documented.
On Saturday when the rain stayed away, although still cloudy from time to time, we drove from Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap and then on to Clingman's Dome (2,025 m/6,643 ft), the park’s highest peak. The road goes up to about half a mile from the lookout point on the Dome.

Beautiful fall colors
The end of the road at Clingman's Dome, the 3rd highest peak in the Eastern United States. We decided against climbing the last 500 feet to the lookout point because of a cold wind that was blowing and from below we saw that the dome was constantly cover in a cloud (top left), which would have made decent viewing from there impossible.
A gently flowing stream now, but the Little Pigeon River can turn into a roaring beast in spring time as the snow melts.
The view from Newfound Gap. The original lowest gap through the moutains was at Indian Gap, but during the 19th century they found a lower path, hence the name Newfound Gap. The existing road through the mountains was built in the early part of the 20th century.

After we returned from the drive through the park we visited some stores in town and at Sleepy's we bought a wood carving of bears "Wipe Your Paws". The Black bear is the maskot of the National Park and there are about 1,500 bears in the park.
This is the view we had from the sofa in the sitting room or
from either of the 2 decks of the chalet.
Heaven on green cottonballs!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Mole Hunt

When I started out to redesign the garden it was not the long term planning or the hard work of transplanting plants or the heavy loads involved in building stone edges that worried me, it was the moles. I said then I will have to find a way to stop the moles from turning my new lawn into the catacombs of Rome.

That is exactly what is happening now. There seems to be one in the very back of my property, tunneling in their usual stomping ground, but this fall he, she or it, let’s call it it because I don’t know the sex, has also moved closer to the house and into the newly planted lawn. Off course moles love a soft, watered lawn, and after tilling the soil and sowing the seeds one has to water to make the seeds grow. Not so? Exactly what the mole doctor ordered. So what am I to do next?

Internet research tells me I have many choices but the tools available on the market produce little or limited results. Great! I have already tried the granules that are supposed to chase them away with the smell to an area I don’t mind them living. But that just infuriated the mole and it invaded another area of my yard and he dug twice as many tunnels as before. I am now trying the poison peanuts, but I have already noticed that after you killed one in a specific area another comes along a day or three later and claims the territory. Moles are very territorial. A few years ago I tried the mole traps, unsuccessfully I might add, my cat had much more success catching them than I, and research tells me moles are mostly too clever to get trapped by unprofessionals like me. So, it seems I either live with them or I turn into a Carl Speckler (Bill Murray), the obsessed golf-course-lawn-loving greens attendant in the movie, Caddyshack.

I don’t mind living with wild animals in the yard as long as they are beneficial and don’t give me additional work. I rather have a mole digging tunnels than picking up shit after a dog. Moles certainly are beneficial and good for my garden. They eat all the grubs and worms and other bugs that would normally attack plant roots. They are good for aerating the ground beneath lawns. So they are beneficial, but it’s the extra work they give me that I don’t want. Hell, that’s why I changed the garden, to have less work. I have noticed in the past that there where moles dig their tunnels the grass dies and moss or weeds take root in the open patches. But I don’t want a patchy looking lawn either so I will have to continuously seed and water (extra work) or fight them, which my logical brain tells me is rather futile because if I succeed this fall, they will be back next spring again.

In the mean time, I don’t know when to give up and I still have some fight left in me. So, Mr. or Mrs. Mole, I am not going to become Carl Speckler, but I am going to give you my best shot.

To be continue…

PS: January 10, 2007, East Germany.

A 63-year-old man's extraordinary effort to eradicate moles from his property resulted in a victory for the moles. The man pounded several metal rods into the ground and connected them - not to household current, which would have been bad enough - but to a high-voltage power line, intending to render the subterranean realm uninhabitable. Coincidentally, the maneuver rendering the surface of the ground uninhabitable as well, electrifying the very ground on which he stood. He was found dead some time later, at his holiday property on the Baltic Sea. Police had to trip the main circuit breaker before venturing onto the property.

Rumor has it they figured out the time of death by looking at his electric bill later.

Brothers in Arms

Will it be a fart against thunder, a storm in a tea cup or just a tiny splinter from the beam?

I have so far refrained from commenting on the Thabo Mbeki resignation or firing, which ever way you look at it, simply because I don’t really know Mbeki. I left SA when Nelson Mandela was still running the country and I have only read on the Internet what Mbeki achieved or did not achieved in his presidency. What his achievements mean to the everyday person in his everyday life I can’t say. And the new temporary President I don’t know at all. Never even heard or saw his name before. However, the possible split in the ANC could have repercussions for expatriates.

I, like many other South Africans that have left the country may always have the hope of one day returning, maybe to retire there. After all you can take an Afrikaner out of Africa but never really take Africa out of the Afrikaner. The current storm in a tea cup with the possible split in the ANC can cut both ways. Let’s face it; the ANC did bring a form of political stability to South Africa after 1994, albeit crime did climb sky high. But compare to what happened in other African countries after a change in long time rule the ANC did not do too badly. But it also brought arrogance and a sense of “we can do what ever we want” in parliament, which is not good for politics because it can lead to another Zimbabwe. On the other hand a split in the ANC into 2 parties, the doves and the hawks, or the moderates and the hardliners could have positive and negative implications. Positive because it can lead to more balanced politics in the country and negative because it could result in a civil war. It’s not too far fetched with some hawks exclaiming that they will kill for Jacob Zuma.

But will there really be a significant split? Will Mbeki really join a new party after a lifetime of serving the ANC? Will the ANC high command really allow something like that to occur? And will those that are now doing the tough talk and breaking away come up with policies that differ enough from the ANC’s to become a real political power? After all, the split it seems to me is more about power than policy. And that’s hardly a sound reason for starting a new political party. Obviously only time will tell, but it does make for more interesting times ahead for South Africa.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Die Lang Wag

12 weke! Dit is hoe lank ek nou al wag vir om my CDs te stuur.

In ‘n vorige pos het ek geskryf oor my soeke na nuwe Afrikaanse rock musiek. (Rock het nog nooit werklik goed vertaal na rots or ruk en roll toe nie.) Ek het uiteindelik ‘n paar CDs by gekry waarin ek belangstel (daar’s maar min om van te kies), meestal compilations van verskeie kustenaars, dit bestel, en toe begin die lang wag.

In Julie het hulle my laat weet my shipment is gestuur, maar dis was die laaste wat ek van hulle gehoor het. Twee emails later na hul customer care departement, op soek na die “geskeepte” CDs (ek kan sweer die Union Castle is nog steeds deel van hul supply chain) het ek uiteindelik iets vanaf hulle gehoor. Natuurlik het hulle eers verskonings probeer maak dat oorsese verskeeping nie traceable is nie, maar hulle het belowe om die CDs weer te pos sienende dat dit verlore is. Ek sal maar nog moet wag en sien of dit hier sal uitkom.

M stuur my biltong as sy gaan kuier in die Kaap en ek kry dit om en by 3 weke later. Soms nog voor sy terug vlieg. En in January het ek ook CDs gekoop by hulle en dit binne ‘n maand ontvang. Nee, ek dink M is reg. Dit het mootlik nooit die Poskantoor gehaal nie of dit het “verdwyn” in die Poskantoor “stelsel”. Blame the ghost workers.

Om te vertel wat ek bestel het is irrelevant; Dis soos om die vel te verkoop voor die bok geskiet is. As die CDs ooit eendag hier uitkom, en ek het daarna geluister, kan ek weer hieroor gesels. Intussen moet ek maar wag.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2008 Financial Bailout

This is suppose to be historic times we live in.
Strange how history seems to repeat itself.
Especially in the political arena.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Feeling of Freedom

Very few people have the ability to transform the sound of music into the feeling of freedom like Niel Young can do it in Unknown Legend.

Einde Van Ons Bloed, Einde Van 'n Volk

einde van ons bloed
in die stilte van die heuwels
is die gekreun van brons ossewaens oorverdowend op die gemoed
ongefokus staar die oog en wonder
oor die vele stryde wat nog sou woed
was dit maar die begin
van die einde van ons bloed
skreuend en voetsleepend word ons meegesleur
deur die vallei van herinneringe soet
en gelos as slagoffers van ‘n edele stryd
wat binne woed and brand soos ‘n vulkaniese gloed
die landskap is stil en smeulend, swart gebrand
net hier en daar ‘n enkele kaal boom wat kla
daar is geen stem meer wat uitroep
ons vir jou suid afrika

Ek het vanoggend 'n damn goeie blog inskrywing gelees oor die "afgestorwe Afrikaner volk van Suid Afrika. En terwyl ek so gelees het, het ek weereens besef dat die geskiedenis van nasies maar net die gevolge is van 'n reeks besluite wat geneem word van geslag tot geslag. Die uitslag op die lange duur is soms niks anders as 'n simple twist of fate soos so goed beskryf deur Bob Dylan.