Wednesday, July 31, 2013

31 July 2013 Kicking screaming into the present

          Cassi Creek:  “The time has come, the Walrus said to talk of many things.”
          Gloria and I have really never found the need to text message anyone.  My first and last texts were read and responded to in Vancouver BC four years ago. 
Part of the reason we avoid such messages is the very real topographical limitation we face when trying to use cellular phones.  Another is the expense.  Since we don’t send or receive text messages, we have no desire to pay for such service.  We don’t have a problem using phones for voice communication.  We don’t send photos back and forth to groups of people.  We don’t feel the need to be in constant touch with peer groups or other numbers of people.  So many of the applications that are considered essential by younger people, and some our age and older, hold no fascination for us.  
          The electricians showed up yesterday to install the pool heater.  The circuits all test out as functional.  However, the gas valve appears to be faulty.  I fielded a phone call this morning asking for serial and part numbers.  These were supposed to be on the exterior.  I went out in the rain, found no exterior label, and took the front cover off to discover some info plates.  I photographed them, using my cell phone, then had to ask for help from an office worker at the electricians office.  I haven’t heard that they arrived.  I haven’t heard that they haven’t arrived. 
          I guess it is time to figure out how to send photos on my android system.  I don’t see that it will be a frequent occurrence.  It may be easier using Google+.  But, again, I don’t use Google+ as a device to maintain the constant cellular communal existence that now seems to be the preferred way of life. 

          More misadventures are sure to follow.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

30 July 2013 Still waiting

          None of the trades people have shown up.  We’re about ready to take legal action in small claims court over the unfinished gutters. 
          The pool heater is on site but we have no idea if they will install it today or if there will be another snafu. 
          The hat search continues.

Monday, July 29, 2013

29 July 2013 Get your hat

          Cassi Creek:  Pleasant, partly cloudy day.  Temps this morning in the mid 50’s. 
          The morning has been taken up by a search for a new low profile combat medic ball cap.  This has turned out to be much more difficult than one might imagine. 
          Back to the search.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

28 July 2013 I can’t put that loud hailer where I’d like to put it.

Cassi Creek:  Despite early morning rain, we went to Asheville for the final day of what may have been the final BelleChere festival.  The rain held off, allowing a pleasant drive over and back. 
          We wandered around the festival area, trying to avoid being knocked down by any of countless baby strollers. We were fortunate to find a parking spot close in to the main festival area. 
          Everyone seemed to be on good behavior except for a nest of evangelical Christians who had occupied a corner and were threatening all attendees with hellfire and damaged hearing.  The crowd in that area was vehemently opposed to the message and the medium.  It would have been one matter if the thumpers had spread their message in a normal voice.  The loudhailer they were using was actually louder than the bass guitar noise emanating from two nearby stages. 
          There was on scuffle at that corner when a member of the crowd tried to unplug the loudhailer.  However annoying the noise and the arrogance of the supposedly saved, they do have a right to voice their opinion.  Given the number of cops on foot patrol, I can only assume that the local noise ordinance allows for such volume. 
          We had an early dinner, sashimi for Gloria, Pho for me, gathered up the leftovers and wandered around about another half hour.  As the vendors were tearing down and as we were getting tired, we slogged back to the Pathfinder.  The thumpers were still hard at it.  I doubt they made any converts today.  Their presence, though legal, and their endlessly repetitive ranting angered a great many passersby. 
          We were stopped several times by women wanting to know where we bought our trekking poles and where we could get parts for them.  Given the topography of Asheville, those poles did yeoman’s service today.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

27 July 2013 Rain on the roof

Cassi Creek:  It was our intention to day trip over the divide to Asheville NC for the Belle Chere festival. 
          We awoke to the pounding of rain on the metal roof.   The
Total rainfall since midnight is 0.67 inches.  The region is soaked and most hillsides are saturated.  The probability of landslides and trees falling over of their own mass is high.  Five years ago, we were experiencing a major drought.  Cassi Creek was essentially a series of barely connected trickles and puddles. 
          This spring and summer the creek has been high and fast.  Climate change?  Certainly an alteration in the weather patterns that affect the U.S. and the rest of North America.    

Friday, July 26, 2013

26 July 2013 No chore without pain

Cassi Creek:  There was a chance to sleep in this morning.  I took it. 
          The lack of rain overnight and this morning provided a window for yard work.   I managed to get all the mowing done as well as about 95% of the trimming. 
          The vibration from the small mower and string trimmer have exacerbated the pain in my left shoulder and neck to the point at which no medication I have will even begin to alleviate the pain. 
          I plan to grill steaks tonight.  I found some marked down on Wednesday when I went grocery shopping. 
          That’s about as much as I can manage this afternoon and it will leave no major kitchen cleanup.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

25 July 2013 Fast track to nowhere

Cassi Creek:  We are now in the 10th month since filing for Agent Orange/Parkinson’s compensation with Veterans Affairs. 
          I filed online via the Fast Track website established for Agent Orange claims.  Supposedly, the delay time was to be minimal compared to the routine procedure.  There is also an E-benefits website for VA that apparently has information about claim status.  However, that site repeatedly tells me that information on open claims is not available.  So there is no way to track claim progress on the E-benefit site. 
          Further annoying, the Fast Track program and site are being shut down by VA.  Logging onto that site has always been futile, as the status request has always returned the same response, “Claim in development” 
          The American Legion veteran’s service officer for the state has made a few phone calls but he gets little more, if any, information than I do. 
          So we sit and wait for the mail, hoping to find some reason to celebrate. 

          It is unconscionable to treat the nation’s veterans in such a shabby manner.   

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

24 July 2013 Where’s the dog star

Cassi Creek:  The rain continues.  This may well be the wettest year we’ve spent here. 
          The nightly overcast and the thunderstorms that dance around the various fronts that sweep in and stall our make it nearly impossible to see the night sky with the major features.  So far, we’ve missed the last several meteor showers, a comet or two, and the migration of the planets around the sky.  While the night sky here is much more visible than the sky in Florida.  The light pollution is still much worse than we had hoped.  With Johnson City to our northeast and Greeneville to our west, there are some nights when there is no luck finding the seasonal features at all. 
          While this is the wrong season to see Sirius in the northern hemisphere, it will return in another couple months.  With it, Orion, as we ramp up for hunting season.  There is a wealth of information to be found on the site, Earth Sky.
          The Dog Star, not Sirius, came to mind today when we were infested with beagles which belong up valley according to their collars but which may be running with a pack downstream.  Like most dogs, they decided to mark territory.  Loki was not amused.  Gloria decided to herd the beagles up valley.  That went somewhat well until Loki got close enough to growl one into a rapid ascent toward the up valley compound.  The other got too close to a neighbors Newfoundland and then left under yelping duress.   

John Perry Barlow penned the song “Lost Sailor” for Bob Weir to sing.
Compass card is spinning, helm is swinging to and fro
Oh, where is the dog star, oh, where's the moon.
You're a lost sailor, been away too long at sea.”

Clear skies, calm winds, good viewing for tonight’s sky.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

23 July 2013 $3.5 million short fall not football’s fault

Cassi Creek: 
          East Tennessee State University cancelled its previous football program because attendance was low and the program was terminated in 2003
A good explanation of the failure is included below.

ETSU football gone for good
Published: Thursday, December 9, 2010
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 17:0

“During the years of 1999 to 2003, the ETSU football team was losing close to $1 million dollars each year. Losing games and costing money, the ETSU men's football team was sucking financially and on the field.

Budget limitations and state legislature that included Title IX were two of the many reasons that prompted ETSU President Stanton to terminate the failing athletic program.

Since its 2003 demise, the football team has benefited the university in its absence more than it ever hoped to while it was still alive.

The money that was being funneled into the dismal football team is now going toward university improvements both athletic and educational, as well as scholarships for students in other athletic programs.

Although Title IX's main purpose was to promote equality among men and women's teams within the athletic departments of universities, the 1972 educational amendment ended up meaning much more than that and become ETSU's saving grace.

Without the termination of ETSU football, who knows how far the university would have gone to keep the program alive and limping along.

I believe that had the program remained open, it would have ended up costing ETSU students hundreds of extra dollars a year.

In a 2007 ballot referendum, students voted against an increase in student athletic fees that would pay for a new football program.

It would have cost almost $5 million to restore both the football team and institute a new female athletic department that would be required to meet the Title IX requirement.

Thankfully, the ETSU student population voted against the resurgence of the football program.

To bring back the football team, the athletic fees that students pay in their tuition were going to rise by the hundreds and that is most likely why most students voted against the return of the program.

For now, it looks like ETSU football is dead and buried. I am supportive of the university's decisions in many things but one thing I will never support is the misuse of funding.

The only way that the football program could ever return to the ETSU campus is at the expense of all of the students who, after paying hundreds of dollars of athletic fees to bring football back, wouldn't show up to the games anyway.”

State Building Commission Approves ETSU Football Stadium
Thursday, July 11, 2013
“Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) on Thursday announced the Tennessee State Building Commission's approval of a project to build a new football stadium for East Tennessee State University. After a decade-long hiatus, ETSU has recently rebooted its football program under the supervision of former University of Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. Last month, ETSU hired former University of North Carolina coach Carl Torbush as the university’s new head coach for the program.
“I’m so proud to have football coming back to the East Tennessee State University. College is first and foremost about academics but a full and complete college experience is crucial to attracting top top-quality students to the university,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “The return of football to the ETSU campus will enrich university life in so many ways. But the first step to building a great football program is building a high-quality facility. I’m excited that the commission has approved this outstanding project.”
Thursday’s approval by the Building Commission authorizes the selection of a designer who will fully plan the first phase of the project and begin pre-planning the entire project. The first phase of the stadium will be funded entirely from student fees. The fee was approved by the university Student Government Association in January.
The proposed East Tennessee State University football stadium will seat approximately 10,000 people and is expected to cost $18 million dollars to build.”

We moved to North East Tennessee in 2006.  The lack of a football team at a small state university was of no significance at all.  Since then, we have seen episodic attempts by former ETSU football players and other alumni calling for a new football team. 
          The ETSU administration has succeeded in ramming a new football program, complete with a new stadium into being.  The student government association approved a $125/semester fee assessed to all students to pay part of the costs of rebuilding a football program.  Understand that the student body was not asked to or allowed to vote on this assessment. 
          My wife and I have been students at ETSU since moving here.  We have no interest in attending football games in a new stadium that did not need to be built, or in an old but serviceable stadium.  The $125 fee assessment rubberstamped by the SGA would be better spent by us, and by most students, for textbooks.  Textbooks have far more connection with the reason universities exist than does football.  We will drop out rather than support a useless football program. 
          Today’s Johnson City Press contains an article indicating that that ETSU projects a $3.5 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year.  Professors’ salaries are to be cut; maintenance cutbacks and other costs directly related to the main purpose of an educational facility will be implemented.  However, the football coach has been hired at a salary of $250,000.  Scholarship funds will be shifted from academic programs to football players, many of whom will never graduate. 
          I have long contended that the primary beneficiary of public school athletics has been the privately owned athletic franchises that generate billions of dollars per franchise annually.  If ETSU wants a new football team, perhaps it should apply to the NFL to fund it.  For that matter, athletic program funding in all public schools should be billed to the NFL and other professional leagues.  Public school monies should be used for education, not athletic training and selection for the next level farm team. 
          When I initially attended university at a major land grant university, I found my student fees included a similar assessment.  Despite having to pay this unwanted fee each semester, I never attended a single football game during my undergraduate years.  Like many of the students in today’s universities, I spent 40 hours a week working to supplement my GI Bill checks and another 40 or more hours studying. That $125/semester would have paid for a lot of groceries.  Instead, it went into a fund for athletic scholarships, paying tuition for people who, for the most point did not graduate and who were not selected to become professional athletes. 
          How disappointing to see the same highway robbery practiced at ETSU. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

22 July 2013 Doctor, what’s ailin’ me?

          The GOP/teavangelists are determined that they will sabotage the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. 
          Yes, I said “sabotage.”  The unholy alliance of the ultra-wealthy, the ultra-fundamentalist, and the basically bigoted is doing everything that they can to prevent the inclusion of poor and working poor Americans in the lists of those with health insurance.  Failing to block it in the formal voting, they now schedule symbolic votes – costing about 1.5 million dollars per event in an effort to keep the teavangelists voting with the GOP loyalists instead of taking their particular brand of anti-everything governmental off into an attempt to form a working third party.  Fortunately, it appears as if they lack a sufficient base of anti-intellectuals, bigots, and anti-immigrants to forge a viable voting populace. 
          There may be some states that should be invited to leave the union until such time as they realize that education based upon STEM courses instead of rightwing religious mythology is essential to the future of this nation.  These same states should be made to understand that the social safety nets benefit the populace, which may come to include those red staters who find that the economic plans they supported being applied to other citizens are not nearly so viable or accurate when they begin to feel those effects personally. 
          Here’s the major message for today.  The time devoted for physicians and patients to discuss end of life options should be billable time.  Physicians should be able to initiate the discussion while the patient is lucid and capable of evaluating all options.  Such a discussion is no more a “death panel” than Sarah Palin is able to speak English without butchering the language. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

21 July 2013 GOP spends $60 million on symbolic repeals.

21 July 2013  GOP spends $60 million on symbolic repeals.

According to ThinkProgress, each vote by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to repeal of Obamacare costs taxpayers approximately $1.5 million, depending upon the time spent preparing and voting on the bill. This latest attempt by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his republican associates brings the total spent on repeal bills which they know will never be enacted up to almost $60 million.

From the Office of Phil Roe M.D. TN 1st (R)  dated 17 July 2013

“…Last week the administration announced that it would delay the employer mandate by one year. This decision does nothing to help the individuals that are still being forced to carry health insurance because of this law and there’s no way to guarantee it will reverse the damage that has already been done because of this law. This week the House will take action to delay both the employer and individual mandate. I look forward to seeing the same enthusiasm to protect families by delaying the individual mandate as we saw from President Obama when his administration took steps to protect businesses.
This delay is a step in the right direction towards protecting the American people from an economic catastrophe, but we can’t stop here. Obamacare is bad medicine for America, and the only cure is a full repeal.”
The Congressman has called for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  The GOP and its teavangelist compatriots have made 39 attempts in Congress to repeal the law.  They have nothing to replace the law except to remain with the current status and to support a broken system that enriches insurance companies and their executives while denying care to many of the insured Americans whose premiums have secured them only minimalist care before landing them in poverty.
From the office of Senator Alexander  (R)  20 July 2013
. Last week, Senator Corker joined all Senate Republicans in a letter to President Obama urging him to permanently delay the implementation of the health care law.”
          The GOP has long been in the pocket of the health insurance industry.  The salaries and benefits packages that the industry CEO’s pull down are more obscenely over-inflated.  Any major health insurance CEO has an hourly compensation rate that is more than twice what my yearly income is, or ever was.  The attempt to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act – Obamacare – is not only an attempt to marginalize the Obama presidency, a GOP goal since 2008, but also a means to assure that the health insurance lobbyists keep the re-election funding coming in while the health insurance industry CEO’s draw their ever increasing compensation packages.
          The thing that I find most frustrating about the health insurance and other health matters such as women’s health is that those members of Congress who are physicians should know that the GOP lack of any plan to replace Obamacare would only exacerbate the method of health care non-delivery we currently enjoy.  The number of uninsured will grow exponentially.  Employers will cancel employee coverage, as is already happening due to the ever-escalating cost of health insurance combined with the spiraling number of insured who are being denied benefits after paying premiums for years. 
          States will continue to undermine women’s health care.  They will disregard any science-based concerns while once again allowing physicians who should know better to advance religion-based suppositions and misinformation as if they were proven science. 
          Unable defeat Obamacare in reality, the GOP continues to waste taxpayer money by staging repeated “symbolic” repeal votes.  These are estimated to cost $1.5 million per incident.  That’s nearly $60 million for the 39 attempts to overturn reality.  Someone in the GOP caucus needs to remind the caucus and leadership that the definition of insanity:” doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." –Einstein.
            Doctor Roe, how about pushing for a dose of reality instead of simply rubber stamping the waste of $60 million by the actions of people who want to role the calendar back to the antebellum period.  While they are so engaged, maybe they can vote germ theory out of existence too.  After all that’s one way to deal with multiply resistance bacteria, pretend they don’t exist, that there is no scientific fact supporting their existence. 
            Further proof of a GOP that has no health care plan beyond “Get sick – die quick”  is the GOP/teavangelist willingness to waste money on symbolic votes while demanding the poorest and most vulnerable citizens in the nation, including many veterans and active duty personnel be stripped of their meager safety nets already damaged by the “sequester.”

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

20 July 2013 Standing on the moon reprise

Cassi Creek:  On this date in 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  Or did it?
          I recall very clearly sitting in a hooch in Dau Tieng RVN, cleaning my weapon, hoping to find a shower with some water remaining in the overhead tank, drinking Christian Brothers altar wine – unconsecrated –  considering the disparity between duty inside the base camp and that beyond the wire, when someone passed the word to turn on the AFVN TV broadcast. 
          There in all its grainy black and white wonder was the broadcast from the moon.  We’d done it; put a man on the moon.  Two, in fact.
           I was astounded.  I’d missed the announcement of the launch.  When it took place, I had no access to AFVN radio or television.  “Stars and Stripes,” the official U.S. military newspaper did not deliver at my location.  Our PRC-25 radio was used very sparingly – batteries were heavy and not particularly long-lived - to monitor the tactical push and to respond to sitrep requests and orders in the barely whispered range of audibility, or by breaking squelch.
          Instantly, weapons cleaning and gear maintenance was forgotten.  The desire for a shower and clean jungle fatigues vanished.  There was suddenly no interest in the availability of food other than C-rations or LRRP rations.  The wine remained in focus as we toasted the astronauts and the NASA people.
          Then, the feed from the moon was over and we returned to the much more locally important task of making sure we had working gear and weapons for our next trip beyond the wire.  As amazing as the lunar landing was, it was of no consequence when performing those tasks that might mean the difference between life and death for a soldier.  We talked about it as we worked.  Everyone was excited about it.
           No one thought that the landing or the entire trip out and back, might be a fake.  We were living in the Michelin plantation, within rocket range of the Cambodian border, wearing the same clothes for a week or longer, subsisting on combat rations and drinking bad water.  But we believed that the NASA scientists had the expertise and that the U.S. had the technical power and the internal desire to travel to the moon.  We’d grown up on Disney’s animations as explained by Willy Ley and Werner von Braun just as much as we had John Wayne and Steve McQueen.
          Like others, I hold some dates in my mind as world changing.  The date that JFK was assassinated, VE Day, VJ Day, The end of the VietNam war, and others that have either socio-historical or great personal import. 
          But I always get the Apollo 11 landing wrong.  Where and when I was, it took place on the 21st of July.  There’s this thing called the International Date Line.

          By the way, in case you might wonder, there was no remaining water in the showers that day.

Friday, July 19, 2013

19 July 2013 It gets lonesome way out there

Cassi Creek:
          Half an inch of rain between 1630 and 1730 yesterday.  Lots of local flash flooding for the second straight day.  We remain fortunate.  Cassi Creek remains clear and within its banks. 
          Today and tomorrow, present a rare opportunity to become part of a NASA project involving the Cassini Solstice mission.
As the planet Saturn eclipses Cassini’s view of the sun, photographs and other imagery will be collected and forwarded to NASA.  It is expected that a very distant image of Earth will be captured.  So, go out and wave to Saturn.
          You should present your smiling faces between 1847 and 1901 EDT.  If you wish, you can obtain a certificate documenting your participation in the Cassini Solstice project.
For those of you who don’t have the photo/imaging capability to shoot your own Saturn studies, here are some great links from NASA dating from 2006.

          It  remains hard for most of us to comprehend the immense distances between the sun and the various planetary components of our solar system. 
“Cassini launched in October 1997 with the European Space Agency's Huygens probe. The probe was equipped with six instruments to study Titan, Saturn's largest moon. It landed on Titan's surface on Jan. 14, 2005, and returned spectacular results.
“Cassini completed its initial four-year mission to explore the Saturn System in June 2008 and the first extended mission, called the Cassini Equinox Mission, in September 2010. Now, the healthy spacecraft is seeking to make exciting new discoveries in a second extended mission called the Cassini Solstice Mission.
The mission’s extension, which goes through September 2017, is named for the Saturnian summer solstice occurring in May 2017. The northern summer solstice marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. Since Cassini arrived at Saturn just after the planet's northern winter solstice, the extension will allow for the first study of a complete seasonal period…”

The Los Angeles Times has a very good article about the Saturn imagery. 
Looking sunward from Saturn, the sun is greatly diminished in size and intensity.  Our badly abused and over-populated planet is barely visible with the longest of lenses, the best of filters, and the aid of computers to locate it. 
Looking in the other direction, beyond the rocks and ice that make up the Kuipfer Belt.  The Voyager missions were launched in 1977 and still function as designed.  Their mission has been extended and they now travel through the Heliosphere, at the extreme edge of the beginnings of interstellar space.  At their distance from the sun, it is a pale small glint among the rest of the stars.  It calls to mine the closing lines of Cisco Houston’s “Way Out There.”
“The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft continue exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. In the 36th year after their 1977 launches, they each are much farther away from Earth and the Sun than Pluto. Voyager 1 and 2 are now in the "Heliosheath" - the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas. Both spacecraft are still sending scientific information about their surroundings through the Deep Space Network (DSN).

The primary mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. After making a string of discoveries there -- such as active volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io and intricacies of Saturn's rings -- the mission was extended. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. The adventurers' current mission, the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), will explore the outermost edge of the Sun's domain. And beyond.
Interstellar Mission
Interstellar Mission.  › larger image

Mission Objective
The mission objective of the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM) is to extend the NASA exploration of the solar system beyond the neighborhood of the outer planets to the outer limits of the Sun's sphere of influence, and possibly beyond. This extended mission is continuing to characterize the outer solar system environment and search for the heliopause boundary, the outer limits of the Sun's magnetic field and outward flow of the solar wind. Penetration of the heliopause boundary between the solar wind and the interstellar medium will allow measurements to be made of the interstellar fields, particles and waves unaffected by the solar wind. “

“So long Pal, sure gets lonesome out there!”

Thursday, July 18, 2013

18 July 2013 Don’t throw the phone

Cassi Creek:
          The urge to hurl the phone at someone or something is strong today.  It is only 1030.  At least an hour has been consumed this morning checking VA websites and downloading physician notes.  The American Legion service officer I spoke with Monday and today, tells me that the fast-track application should have been handled in 2-3 months at most.  The whole point of the fast-track plan was to simplify and accelerate handling of those agent orange related claims that carry proof of service in VietNam, service in areas where agent orange was used, and one or more of the deemed disorders/diseases.  He intends to dig as deeply as he can.  The next step, if nothing positive surfaces, may well be me being forced to contact the office of a Congressman whom I really detest. 
          The pool heater remains undelivered and will likely be undelivered for some time.  We are currently hoping to find someone with a pickup to help us move the heater from Greeneville to Chuckey. 
          Then there is the matter of an ophthalmology visit billed incorrectly to insurance, resulting in an erroneous charge for Gloria’s annual retinopathy exam and the subsequent misapplication of the co-pay for a follow-on visit.  The billing clerk Gloria spoke to was sufficiently unhelpful that Gloria hung up in mid conversation and chose to call her Medicare provider.  If you’ve dealt with an insurer lately, you know what the frustration levels are. 

That’s three of our four cordless phones that narrowly escaped injury today.  Fortunately, the cell phones are secondary systems while we are at home. 

          Yesterday’s promise of rain gave way to a major storm that followed us by about 90 minutes.  By 1700, widespread flood and thunderstorm warnings were posted for nearly every place around us.  Some of the localities received over 5 inches of rain in about 2-3 hours.  We clocked about 0.25 inches of rain, little wind, but lots of lightning.  I put dinner together during a long episode of power sags and dropouts.  I expected that we would lose power – many localities did – but we escaped that problem.  Today promises more of the same weather.  Friday, Saturday, & Sunday promise even warmer temperatures with increased probability of thunderstorms.  Hope we have enough phones to throw.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

17 July 2013 Looks like rain feels like rain

Cassi Creek:  Another day spent waiting for the gutter company to show up. 
          Another day spent waiting for the heating and cooling company to pick up the pool heater.  We may have found an alternate means of getting it here.  I certainly hope so. 
          Gloria’s medical appointment was typical for the times; we were there on time and the physician was late.  We had hoped to be home from Johnson City by 1400 or so.  We did well to walk in the door at 1500 after grabbing lunch and shopping for groceries and other items at three different stores. 
          The mountains were cloaked in dense haze and clouds by the time we headed out of town.  The NWS posted a severe thunderstorm warning that did not include us.  However, the storm involved was heading our way with an echo top of 29,000 feet, big for here.  As I write this, we hear distant thunder and have been for an hour.  The cluster of thunderstorm cells is still heading our way but there are still no watches or warnings posted for our small part of the world.
          Surprisingly, the high temperature for the day, recorded at 1503, was 78.5 °F.  It was, or at least felt as if it was, a good 10-15 degrees higher.  Looking at the radar, I can’t believe we won’t get some rain.  But since the general precipitation track is westward today, the mountains may tear the cells apart as they ride the high pressure inward toward the Mississippi valley.  Or, listening to the rumbles of thunder grow louder, they may cross the eastern divide with sufficient cohesion to open up the clouds as if they had zippers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

16 July 2013 Everyone’s time but mine.

Cassi Creek:         Today is nearly half over and most of it has been spent waiting for other people to show up or waiting in a line to have some service performed. 
          The exhaust system on the Pathfinder has an annoying and unnecessary rattle that requires a return trip this afternoon.  The American Legion benefits/service officer whom I need to talk to about my ongoing claim for Agent Orange/Parkinson’s disease, is unavailable but will call me at some time in the unspecified future.
          VA is in no position to expedite the backlog of currently active claims, including mine.  It has been 10 months since I filed this claim and I have had no response from VA.  The only good thing about this delay is that if my claim for compensation is granted, the back compensation will be all the greater.

And, to add insult to irritation, the gutter company has yet to show up or even call back.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

15 July 2013 Low down, dirty, and mean

Hunger Games, U.S.A.
Published: July 14, 2013 330 Comments

“Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable…”
            Cassi Creek:  The very idea that anyone with a modicum of intellect would prefer trying to subsist on the meager amount of SNAP assistance provide by the Federal government is patently absurd.  The GOP/teavangelists insistence upon gutting the social safety nets that protect the citizens of this nation are, frankly, among the most vicious and mean-spirited attempts to wage class warfare that this nation has ever seen. 
            Blaming unemployment upon the laid-off, out-sourced, off-shored workers of the American working and middle class is akin to blaming children infected with Hepatitis B and other infectious but preventable diseases for their parents refusal to allow them to be vaccinated.  Of course, we do have a sizeable population of parents who stupidly refuse to protect their children from such illnesses; and in doing so, infect many others beyond their immediate circle. 
            The GOP/teavangelists are willing to destroy all the existing safety nets, and any others that might be proposed in their efforts to cover up the role of corporations and financiers, and shift the blame for the great recession to the people who lost everything including their homes and jobs.   We seem to be headed back to the days of child labor, poor/work-houses, and epidemics of communicable diseases brought about by malnutrition and lack of sanitation and affordable health care. 
            The rush to abolish the safety nets seems to be driven by a desire to punish people for not being wealthy, for not being GOP/teavangelists, and most of all, for recreational sex.  The Teavangelists demand someone be punished, and forced starvation and disease is much less expensive than making people wear all the various scarlet letters.  We’ve watched this year as state after state tries to implement a war on education, upon social security, upon the poor and unemployed, and upon women.  Collectively these efforts are somewhat more drastic than Dickensian, bordering on the suppression of the Kulaks by Stalin. 
            Stalin, in addition to his megalomania and cruel nature, was most likely suffering from tertiary syphilis.  I’m beginning to wonder about our Congress and their owners.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

14 July 2013 Truth, justice, and the American way

Cassi Creek:  The Zimmerman trial has resulted in a jury determination of “not guilty.”  I can safely assume that Gloria and I are the only people in the valley who would disagree with this verdict.  There is a decided racist component to life in rural TN. 
          Truth in this matter is sketchy.  A 17-year-old black male was shot to death by a white/Hispanic male who wanted to be a police officer and was rejected.  Instead, he became a neighborhood watchman, playing at being a police officer.  The watchman suffered a broken nose and two very minor, if bloody, abrasions to his scalp.  The 17 year old died of a single bullet through his heart. 
          Justice was served when the jury weighed the evidence and handed down their verdict.  There was never any guarantee that the result would be other than “not guilty.”  The Prosecution offered mostly conjecture and broken witnesses including an apparently incompetent associate medical examiner.   We do not have to agree with the jury’s decision in order for justice to be served; we merely have to assure that the process is allowed to play out according to the applicable laws. 
          The American way is what we saw during endless television overkill.  The practice of trying a case publically needs to be reviewed and modified so that the media coverage does not poison the jury pool.  We need to find some means to assure that legal representation is the best available for all who are charged with crimes.  We certainly need to distance ourselves from the type of funding seen in the Zimmerman case; there should never have been 2nd amendment solicitations to defend Zimmerman.  Neither should we have someone like Nancy Grace poisoning juries before they are ever selected.
          Now we wait to see how much civil unrest there will be

Saturday, July 13, 2013

13 July 2013 To market

Cassi Creek:  Up early today to drive into Jonesborough for breakfast and the local farmers’ market. 
          We bought herbs and salad greens.  We also ran into several friends and spent time just chatting. 
          Breakfast was enjoyable.  I discovered today that I can no longer eat a full stack of dinner plate sized pancakes.
          No film at 11

Friday, July 12, 2013

12 July 2013 Where talk is cheap and vision true

Cassi Creek:  still more stellar amusement
“Spacecraft en route to Pluto spots its largest moon
NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has spotted Pluto’s Texas-sized, ice-covered moon Charon for the first time.
NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft, using its highest-resolution telescopic camera, has spotted Pluto’s Texas-sized, ice-covered moon Charon for the first time. This represents a major milestone on the spacecraft’s 9½-year journey to conduct the initial reconnaissance of the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt and, in a sense, begins the mission’s long-range study of the Pluto system.
The largest of Pluto’s five known moons, Charon orbits about 12,000 miles (more than 19,000 kilometers) away from Pluto itself. As seen from New Horizons, that’s only about 0.01 degrees away”

“A beautiful end to a star’s life

X-rays from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (pink) shows superheated gas around the dense, hot core of an aging star.”

“Another supermoon coming up on July 22”

“Standing on the moon
Where talk is cheap and vision true
Standing on the moon
But I would rather be with you
Somewhere in San Francisco
On a back porch in July
Just looking up to heaven
At this 
crescent in the sky

The outstanding successes that NASA has achieved would be immensely spectacular if they all took place here on Earth or in near-Earth space.  That they take place over distances ranging from a single AU to beyond the solar system and into inter stellar space, over a period of years to decades it becomes even more impressive. 
          If only we could bring the same degree of common purpose to the resolution of our socio-economic problems.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

11 July 2013  From the northwest corner of a brand new crescent moon
Cassi Creek:  You’ll have to provide your own crickets and cicadas to round out the trip to Terrapin Station.  I’d be happy to help with that but I don’t hear those creatures anymore.  At least the season and year are right for cicadas. 
Enjoy the imagery.  Hope it provides you the same amount of enjoyment as it does for me.

Video: Our solar system’s comet-like tail

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

10 July 2013 Who are the Grateful Dead and why have they stopped following me?

Cassi Creek:  There is a real disconnect, sometimes, between the demise of the Grateful Dead as a structural entity playing seemingly endless tours, and the rearrangement of reality subsequent to the death of Jerry Garcia 18 years ago. 
          Part of the reason that we sometimes think of the band as if they were still an active organization such as existed until 9 July 1995 is the availability of nearly every note they ever played together in nearly any format you might wish to access and listen to it.  Another is the remaining member’s long habit of spinning off his or her own performing groups and continuing to actively play music and tour. 
          I enjoyed their music more than any other band of that nature – jam band, improvisational, however you choose to describe it.  18 years after they final show I still enjoy it. 
          There is a real, if small. Connection between Gloria, me, and the band.  Had it not been for a late night on-line search for tickets, I’d perhaps, have never met Gloria.  So the band is partly responsible for the last 20 years of happy marriage and a whole lot of musical magic. 
          We miss the shows, we miss the changes in the music that made it unique and always different.  But a fix is only as distant as the nearest stereo, tape deck, CD player, or electronic storage and playback device. 
          About once a week, I get some sort of correspondence offering me new copies of vault material, cover groups, t-shirts, etc.  The Grateful Dead may have played their last show.  The parking lot and the Merchandising unit are still following us.   That’s as it should be.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

9 July 2013 Pathfinder in the shop

Cassi Creek:  Busy morning compared to others.  Morning hike with Mike was uneventful.  He presented more of his belief that the Zimmerman trial will result in riots in urban areas when Zimmerman is acquitted.  Since I believe that Zimmerman is most likely guilty, we don’t delve too deeply into the matter.
          We dropped the Pathfinder off this morning to have a catalytic converter replaced and some exhaust system repairs performed.  The Nissan dealership has been investigating repairs to the AC/Nav/audio module for the Pathfinder.  Their last suggestion was to remove the module and send it off for repairs.  Today, they called to tell me that there was no guarantee that repairs could or would be completed.  So we continue with a partially operative AC for want of 3-5 plastic buttons that contain contacts, which activate the module. 
          We got a good deal on the Pathfinder in late 2001.  It has performed well and we have maintained it as recommended.  The current problem is due to plastics aging and breaking.  Honestly, if we had realized how few of this particular model had been manufactured, we’d have been able to foresee the current scarcity – read that as unavailability – of repair parts. 
          The next step is to see if we can put an AC/audio unit without the Nav system in to the vehicle.  They are available.  It remains to see if the wiring and switches are compatible. 


Monday, July 8, 2013

8 July 2013 Time rushes on

Cassi Creek:  the morning presented with a partly cloudy sky and humidity that was palpable.  Today is supposed to be relatively rain free.  We can use some dry days to let me catch up with the yard.  There is, of course, mowing and trimming to accomplish. 
          Beyond the hike with Mike, today has been consumed, so far, by a series of phone calls that are necessary to have the Pathfinder repaired, the guttering completed, and the replacement pool heater installed.  I’ve spent half the morning on hold or redialing numbers. 
          If Vincent DeMaio is to testify today, I’d like to see and hear him.  He is a recognized authority in the field of Forensic firearms/gunshot wounds investigations.  But the rest of the defense witnesses will simply be called in an attempt to justify the killing of an unarmed 17 year old. 
          The year has flown by to this point.  It hardly seems possible that it is July.  The apparent compression of time seems to manifest more with each passing year.  The years before I met Gloria dragged interminably.  The years since I met Gloria have flown by too rapidly. 
          We are still waiting for some word from VA about agent orange/Parkinson’s compensation.  The palliative effects of the medication I take are noticeable but short-lived so that I wake up about 12 hours after my evening meds and exhibit more pronounced symptoms than I do after my morning and afternoon meds.  The delay at the VA level is problematic.  The disease/disorder is treatable but not, as of yet, curable.  The future is easily visualized.  Only the nature of the journey is uncertain.
          “And the leaves that are green turn to brown.”

Sunday, July 7, 2013

7 July 2013 Release the hounds

Cassi Creek:  Or, release the hound!  We’ve only the single dog, Loki.  She’s recovered very well from being bitten by an un-seen venomous snake.  She has resumed all her prior activities and now pulls anti-squirrel duties again. 
          Gloria has an array of bird feeders in the back yard that are greatly tempting to the local tree rat population.  She has provided them their own squirrel feeder, but they apparently view that as backup or dessert.  The five recognizable residents have managed to circumvent all the anti-squirrel devices and tactics we apply. 
          Loki will lie in the office and look out at the platform feeder.  In the game she has developed for her own amusement, the squirrels may visit any part of the deck, except the platform feeder, with only limited response from Loki.  Once they leap onto the platform feeder, she is up, jumping at the door, barking to announce the intruder(s). 
          At that point, one of us will let her out the door.  The squirrels take off in five different directions as Loki tears a path out and off the deck.  She has to decide which one of the five to follow as they flee for the safety of trees.  When she comes back inside, she is always quite pleased with her performance.  The squirrels seem to enjoy the game as well.  They will usually return within 15-30 minutes to start the whole process over again.

          The Asiana 214 crash at SFO has mostly supplanted the Zimmerman trial in today’s news.  I must admit that I am interested in hearing the defense’s expert witness, Vincent J.M. DiMaio, M.D.  He wrote:
Gunshot Wounds
Practical Aspects
Of Firearms, Ballistics, and Forensic Techniques
Second Edition
He is a nationally known expert in this field.  I suspect that his testimony will rapidly demonstrate that the prosecution’s witness, Dr. Bao is poorly qualified and of limited competency. 
          Stand by for lots of inane commentary from the cable newsreaders.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

6 July 2013 When it comes to slaughter

Cassi Creek:
          Yesterday I had the privilege – well, the experience - of watching an associate medical examiner demonstrate his apparent lack of any real ability to answer questions from attorneys without looking both incompetent and indecisive.. 
          The question was raised about how much separation existed between the muzzle of G. Zimmeran’s hand gun and the body of T. Martin when the single fatal shot was fired.  The ballistics tech had described the injury as a contact shot due to wound shape, stippling, and other factors.  The ME who performed the post-mortem exam apparently has developed a classification system of his own that varies from the ballistics determination and the accepted forensic pathology  definitions .  Combined with his less than stellar English, his insistence upon talking over questions, and his non-adherence to standard forensic practices and procedures, he turned in a performance that would cause me, if I were a juror, to question his competence.  Normally, I don’t watch televised trials.  However, the forensics in this case will win or lose it and I have always had an interest in forensic pathology and other forensic studies..

“Forensic Pathology of Firearm Wounds 

·         Author: Randall E Frost, MD; Chief Editor: Stephen J Cina, MD   more...

Aspects of Firearm Wounds
The expert medicolegal examination of firearm wounds may allow determination of several aspects of these injuries, including the following[2] :
·         Range of fire
·         Type of weapon used to inflict the injury
·         Trajectory of the missile or projectile
·         Type and extent of the injuries inflicted by the projectile(s)
Range of fire
Range of fire, or muzzle to target distance, may be divided into contact, near contact, intermediate, and distant categories, with various subtypes also demonstrable. Contact and intermediate range wounds are often collectively referred to as close-range wounds.
Determination of range of fire is based on the characteristics of a firearm wound, features of the wound that have been imparted by material issuing from the muzzle of the firearm other than the bullet, or from features due to direct interactions between the target and the firearm itself. Material from the firearm muzzle may take the form of soot, hot gas, gunpowder particles, or other material, and the effects of this material are discussed in more detail below.[5] The range of fire has obvious relevance to such issues as whether a wound is self-inflicted or inflicted by another person, the truth of proffered explanations of shooting events, and the validity of self-defense arguments.”
Enough said.