Friday, March 31, 2017

Strange Cloud - #SkywatchFriday

I left my house just in time to see the sun peaking over the horizon.

Several minutes later, nearby, I saw this cloud stretching across the sky.  My weather geek spouse said only "that's a strange cloud!"  I'm sorry I only took one picture.

Finally, the sun rose.
Happy last day of March.  Where I live in upstate New York, it is pouring rain, and we are under a flood watch.  Tomorrow, we may get snow, and that's no April Fools.

Visit other bloggers participating in #SkywatchFriday and see how many marvelous ways you can take pictures of the sky.

Note: In April, I participate in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  My theme will be "traveling through time and space". I don't know, yet, if I can fit this meme into the Challenge, but I invite you to check out my blog anyway and see some of my travels - literal, and through memory.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Otsiningo Tree #ThursdayTreeLove

Today, I am participating in a new link up hosted by Parul Thakur at Happiness and Food.

 In some parts of the world, trees are blooming and the hot weather has come.  But here, in upstate New York, the snow has only melted in the past few days.

 On Saturday, I walked in a local park, Otsiningo Park, and took this picture.  I don't know what type of tree this is but many could identify it from its bark.

Let me take a quote from Parul's blog: 
"Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky." ― Kahlil Gibran

Three strong trunks, pruned (possibly due to prior storm damage), and yet the tree lives on, sending up hundreds of sprouts in a flurry of poetry. Soon enough, this tree will wake up from its winter's nap and take in the sun once more.  But, not yet.  There's just something special about a tree without its leaves.

Do you love trees?  If you do, visit Happiness and Food and post one of the photos you love.

Note:  in April, I will be participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge - join me at Thursday Tree Love again in May.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Spring Things - Crocuses, Bees, and Snowdrops

Spring has arrived in my corner of upstate New York - I think.

While two to three feet of snow blanketed the ground in the last two weeks, lots of things were happening under that snow cover.

And now that the snow is mainly melted off, that activity is revealed. This, incidentally, is not at my house, but, rather, on the west side of Binghamton.  My bulbs are mainly on the north side of my house and are a bit further behind.
Crocuses.  Look carefully at the top crocus on the right.  You'll see a speck of brown and yellowish.

That speck is a bee.

Perhaps, after all, spring is truly here.

Note to my readers:  My Spring Things will be suspended in April, due to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  But it will be back in May, along with the best part (I hope) of spring.

Is it spring yet where you live?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Best Harvest Ever

Years ago, before the Internet was invented, I spent my winters buried in seed catalogs.
Some of our favorites
I would read them from cover to cover, because, from as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be around plants. To me, seed catalogs were more exciting than novels.

They promised so much The newest varieties.  The biggest yields.  The tastiest harvest.  The easiest to grow.  Oh, please, pretty please, dream all you want, they would plead with me, but then, buy OUR seeds.

Considering that my Twitter handle is @RamblinGarden,I don't talk all that much about our gardening on my blog. So here are a few quick facts:

My spouse does the veggie gardening. I do some flower gardening.  My back problems have held me back in recent years, but I am finding ways around it.

We've rented community garden plots for over 20 years.  Our community gardening season starts in mid-May and ends at the end of October.

If you drive on I-81 through southern New York State, you have passed our garden in Binghamton.

In another six weeks or so, our community gardening plot opens for the year, and we've just now completed our seed ordering.

Saturday, spouse bought a new shovel.

Dreams of how he will plant his seeds this year run through his head.   He will have the best harvest ever.  My flowers will bloom the longest and my vase will be filled daily.

I will leave you today with a picture of some luscious tomatoes from last year's harvest.

Let's hope for a good gardening year.

Do you enjoy gardening?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Music Monday - Don't Look Back

I was living in Wichita, Kansas in 1977 with my spouse (who was then serving in the military). One of his flight mates was a young man from small town Missouri who introduced us to several bands, including Van Halen and this one:

It was instant love as I found this album was absolutely "Smokin".  And I'm not joking.

John "Sib" Hashian was the drummer on Boston's first two albums.  The first album, self titled "Boston", may (in my most humble of opinions) be one of the best rock albums ever.  I played that album on our phonograph over and over again.

Sib Hashian died on March 22, while performing on a cruise ship with other rock greats.  He was 67.

Perhaps a rocker would love to enter rock and roll heaven while performing.  In tribute, I'd like to ask you to listen to a handful of other Boston songs.

Hitch A Ride.

And, finally, the song I think is the best song they ever did - "More Than A Feeling".  The lyrics and music both transport me to a different place.  I read online that it took more than five years to perfect this song.

That's all I have to say.  I'm going to close my eyes and slip away....

Another great gone.

No, wait - one more song.   "Don't Look Back".  Except I do.

Note:  In April, I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Not all of my Monday posts will be music oriented (although the April 8 post will be).  I will be back posting music Mondays again starting in May.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Civil War Sunday Throwback - Historic Walls

This post was originally written in September of 2014.

Civil War Sunday - Historic Walls

The escaped slaves huddled in the cluttered basement.  It was cluttered intentionally, to give them places to hide if the basement was raided.

It was cold and damp, but they did not care.  They had suffered every day of their lives - forced to labor from an early age, with little opportunity to rest.  Some labored on plantations, in the hot, burning sun.  Some were house slaves, attending to their master's every whim.  Others were skilled craftsmen, who had to give some or all of their earnings over to their masters. Some knew extreme cruelty.  Others knew mainly neglect.   They all, however, had one thing in common:

They had the burning desire for FREEDOM.  It was the desire that made them risk everything.  If they were caught, death or cruel punishments awaited, so they only had this one chance.  Somehow, they all had met up with this guide, the guide that would take them north to a magical place called Canada, where men hired by their masters to hunt them down and bring them back could not pursue them.

And now they were in this basement, in a place called New York State, just a few days run from freedom.  It was so close!

The guide had brought them there, but they could only stay a night or two. Then they had to move on.

The house was owned by a white man.

Who was the white man who was sheltering them for the night?
It may have been the man who owned this house in Auburn, New York.  This house was owned by someone who may well have become the Republican candidate for President in 1860.  But Abraham Lincoln got that nomination instead, and the owner of this house became Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State during the Civil War.

He became a friend of former slave, Underground Railroad conductor and overall amazing woman  Harriet Tubman, whom I blogged about last Sunday.  In fact, for some years, they lived only a couple of miles apart, on South Street in Auburn, New York.
His name was William H. Seward. When I went to school, I learned of him only in connection with something he did in 1867.  His entire history before that date was a big unknown.

Photography is not permitted in the house or in the basement that was a stop on the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War, but I can show you the exterior and grounds of this house.

Ironically, Seward was the son of a New York slaveholder, growing up just north of New York City at a time before slavery was outlawed in New York State. As a child, one of his playmates was a slave owned by a neighbor, a black boy who escaped one day after a vicious beating due to a prior escape attempt.  As an older teen, he lived for a time in the Southern state of Georgia, and what he saw of slavery during his time there turned him totally against the "peculiar institution".

Seward risked a lot in sheltering slaves in the years prior to the Civil War, but he risked even more by being an anti-slavery Senator.  He lost the opportunity to run for President of the United States as he was so hated in the states that ended up seceding and forming the Confederate States of America.

(As for those slaves, did they succeed in reaching freedom? We will never know. But like many things in the Civil War, everything was complicated. White men enslaving blacks.  White men helping slaves to freedom....although few of those white men considered blacks as their human equals, and that must also be pointed out.)

Seward nearly lost his life on the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  The plotters, who included John Wilkes Booth (Lincoln's assassin), also targeted others in Lincoln's administration for death.  The man assigned to assassinate the Vice President lost his nerve. The man assigned to assassinate Seward, Lewis Paine, went to Seward's house, gained entrance by trickery, attacked Seward's son Frederick,  and seriously wounded Seward.

Seward survived. However,  Seward's wife died of a heart attack shortly afterwards.

After the Civil War ended, Seward remained Secretary of State under Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson.  In 1867, he purchased land in North America from the Russians, who had lost interest in that piece of land. Many people opposed that sale.  They called it Seward's Folly. But the sale went through. 

That land became, almost 100 years later, the State of Alaska.  You could say, though, that Seward had the last laugh when Alaska became our 49th state and proved its worth during the Cold War.

William Seward died in 1872 and is buried just a few blocks away from that house in Auburn.  His last words were "Love one another".

Look at that house.  It's a house that sheltered escaped slaves, was the home of a governor/senator/Secretary of State/ and saw a bloody assassination attempt turned back.  Kings and princes visited Seward there and dined with him, as did many famous people of the 1800's.

Their pictures line the walls of the house.  But you won't see any portraits of the slaves that sheltered in that cluttered basement.  I can wonder what happened to them, and their descendants.

It's a cliche to say "if only those walls could talk" - but, if only those upstate New York historic walls could talk, what would they say to us of the 21st century?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Local Saturday - April and Ava

Hundreds of thousands of us are captivated by a giraffe (still pregnant as I blog this) living in Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York.

But I am just as captivated by (as a famous journalist once based a long series of broadcasts on) "the rest of the story."

April the Giraffe lives about 30 minutes from where I live.  This park is owned by a man by the name of Jordan Patch, who you will see in this video along with zoologist Allysa and keeper Corey, and a bunch of tortoises. (why tortoises? You'll have to watch the video).

Last year, Jordan Patch and his wife Colleen welcomed the birth of their first daughter, Ava.  But this birth was not your usual birth.  Seven weeks before Colleen's due date, Colleen showed signs of premature labor, and a sonogram was done.  Soon after, doctors gave the couple dire news.

Their unborn baby had an arachnoid cyst — between the surface of the brain and the cranial base or on the arachnoid membrane, one of the three membranes that cover the brain and the spinal cord.  The cyst was monitored by neurologists, but, two weeks before her due date, labor had to be induced due to the cyst's rapid growth.

After birth, and a number of health emergencies, a diagnosis emerged.

Ava has a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, further compounded by infantile spasms.  In layperson's terms, the two hemispheres of Ava's brain are not connected.  This condition probably stemmed from the existence of the cyst.

Doctors don't know Ava's prognosis.  The condition could result in nothing.  Or it could result in Ava being severely disabled.  She may never walk.  She may have severe physical or mental deficits.  The Patch family may not know the entire truth for several years.

The Patch family has not let that uncertainty stop them.  Already, they and Animal Adventure have held a fundraiser for another local family with a baby challenged by a serious condition called "Ava's Little Heroes".  They wanted to take the love their community showed them and "pay it forward".  There will be another fundraiser this summer.

Many watching April did not know about the behind the scenes drama of Ava Patch, the baby whose nursery is decorated in giraffe prints and who helps feed carrots to April and her mate, Oliver.

There will also be an online naming contest when the giraffe calf is born.  With each $1 contribution, you will get a vote, and the proceeds will go to some worthy causes, including an animal conservation foundation in Africa, maintaining the local giraffes at the park, and for "Ava's Little Heroes".

And mark your calendars for May 13, when Animal Adventure Park opens for its fifth season, and show your support of the Patch family, and animal conservation.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Skywatch Friday - Mares Tails

It was the first day of spring in upstate New York, and what did I see?

Clouds my husband (a weather "geek") calls "mares tails".  Quoting from Wikipedia:
"Cirrus uncinus is a type of cirrus cloud. The name cirrus uncinus is derived from Latin, meaning "curly hooks". Also known as mares' tails, these clouds are generally sparse in the sky and very thin."

In sailor's lore, these clouds mean "prepare for a storm".

On this first day of spring, nature was wondering what had happened.  After a mild February, we were covered in a record snowfall.  Afterwards, the temperature had risen and the snow was melting, but winter was getting ready to return.

The trees, already budded out earlier than normal, had no choice but to wait it out.

Be sure to visit other blogs participating in #Skywatch Friday, and see skies from all over the world.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Real Life Hero

On the day after the horrific terrorist attack in London, I feel compelled to look for an example of good in humanity.  It didn't take long to find one.

On last night's evening news, they did a feature on the oldest working nurse in the United States. 

Florence "SeeSee" Rigney has been working as a nurse for over 70 years. She started out as a student in 1946.  Now in her 90's (she will turn 92 in May), she has scaled down to working two days a week.  On her work days, she sometimes walks three miles, and can still set up an operating room with good speed.  She no longer works directly with patients.

She even makes coffee for the break room for her co-workers.

She wouldn't have it any other way.  Her zest for life is obvious.

What an inspiration, to make a career out of caring for other people and doing it for so long.  And, if you want to read even more stories of inspiration next month, tune into the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and the posts of a man in India who will be blogging about "real life heroes".

Do you have an inspiring story to share today?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Things - Presto Change-O

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, our area had between two and three feet of snow.

Monday, spring came (and my Wednesday feature transitions into Spring Things.)

Yesterday, after a weekend with some cool weather, it got up into the 50's F (about 11 C), and the snow really started to melt.  It was the first full day of spring, after all.

Today, winter is back, with howling winds, snow, and cold.  The wind chill is about 13 (-10.5).

My bulbs wait patiently for spring to truly begin.

They may look a bit wilted, but they will recover.

I, however, am less patient.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Giving Tree

I am a grown-up crybaby.

I cry at weddings.  I cry through movies.  Some children's books choked me up so much that I couldn't even read them to my then-young son.

Strange how, recently, the memory of gardening led to the memory of a book I was given to read sometimes to my then young son called The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. But I was never able to because the mere thought of that poem makes me cry.

This is a poem you either love or hate.  I think, in a way, that I both love and hate it.

I never understood that poem until I was a mother.

Now, there is a real Giving Tree in Oakland, California.

It still makes me cry.

What am I crying for?  Youth lost?  A son grown?  I really don't know.

Is there a book, a poem, or a movie that makes you cry?

Tree (not an apple tree) Binghamton, New York, October 2016

Monday, March 20, 2017

Traveling Through Time and Space the A to Z Way - #atoztheme reveal #atozchallenge

Picking my A to Z theme for 2017 was difficult, and I don't know why.

At first, I thought, "Oh, nostalgia."  For many of us, nostalgia is a fun pastime.  What would be hard about it?

When you get to a "certain age", your memories become a kind of museum.   A museum of historical events.  A museum of obsolete technology.  A museum of memories that sometimes mean so much to others younger than you.  But sometimes, those memories don't matter at all.

I've accumulated a lot of memories in 64 plus years of living, after all.

Recent memories.  Memories from long ago.  Some happy.  Some not so happy. Memories of travel.  Memories of everyday life.  Times of nostalgia.  All them, I hope, interesting.

But, we have to live in the present, too.

So, my theme for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is:  Traveling Through Time and Space.  For most of the challenge, I will dust off some of my thousands of iPhone photos and travel once again to places I've been, and memories I've accumulated.  Other days, it will just be memories in writing.

I invite you to join me on my 30 day trip.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Music Sunday - Chuck Berry

Tomorrow, normally my Music Monday, will be my Theme Reveal for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  I am switching my Music post to today.

Today, I offer a tribute today to the late Chuck Berry, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

On Twitter, tweets from various music greats flew in - Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and more.  He's been on Rolling Stone magazine's lists of greatest rock and roll musicians of all time.  Three of his songs are on the Rolling Stone list of 500 greatest rock songs.

He was considered one of the greatest rock guitar players of the modern era.

Here are some of my favorite Chuck Berry songs.

From 1956, Roll Over Beethoven.

Johnny B. Goode - a live performance from 1958.

Also from 1958, Sweet Little Sixteen.

You may want to remove the children from the room for this final one.  This song was popular when I was in college, and this live performance - well, let's say it's not suitable for all audiences.  But it was his only #one hit song.

Berry, as late as last year, was still performing live shows.  He was planning to release an album later this year called Chuck.  It would have been his first album in 38 years.  This rock pioneer proved you don't have to be young to rock and roll.

Another rock and roll great gone.

Rest in Peace, Chuck Berry.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sustainable Saturday - April, Allysa, Animal Support Animals and Snow

It's been an interesting week in the Southern Tier of upstate New York.

At Animal Adventure Park, in nearby Harpursville (about 30 minutes from where I live), a pregnant giraffe, April, continues to attract hundreds of thousands of daily views to her You Tube page.  Meanwhile, both the best and worst in human nature continues to appear in live chats and comments on the park's Facebook page.

I'm watching as I write this blog post, along with about 102,000 other people.  Just think, a reticulated giraffe could unite this country. But, after she gives birth, will anyone pay attention anymore? That remains to be seen.

Around 9pm Eastern Daylight Time each night, you can see one of the park employees coming in and interacting with the giraffes.  My personal favorite is a woman by the name of Allysa.  The interaction between Allysa and April is so heartwarming, as Allysa feeds April romaine lettuce and carrots, and will then give April a quick external exam, a belly rub, and belly kisses.  Upwards of 130,000 or more people will watch that tender moment.

So, why are so many people obsessed (and I do mean, for some, obsessed) with April? Forbes Magazine had an interesting take on the situation - April could be, for some, a virtual emotional support animal. Call it, if you will, virtual animal therapy to relieve stress and anxiety, something many of us are experiencing right now.  Read the article at the link to find out more about emotional support animals.

Meanwhile, Animal Adventure continues to dig out of the snow we all received in this area earlier in the week.  For my readers who live in areas that don't get much, if any, snow, here are some more pictures for you.

Broome County Courthouse (downtown Binghamton, New York) and the moon, March 16, shortly after sunrise.

A downtown Binghamton, New York street the afternoon of March 17.  Yes, after a day or so, snow doesn't look as pretty as it once did.
An area house.  Looks so peaceful, doesn't it?  Those lumps on either side of the small porch are buried bushes.

Happy Saturday, wherever you live.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Skywatch Friday - Record Snowfall Edition

So close to spring, and yet so far.

Here was the sunrise on March 13 in upstate New York.
And then, on March 14, this came along.

They weren't kidding.  Almost three feet later, no one was going anywhere.
And the beautiful sunny sky of the day before was replaced with this.

And then, last night, Nature tried to apologize with a gorgeous sunset.

Because today is St. Patrick's Day, I thought I would end this post with a cute St. Patrick's Day poem by a fellow blogger.

May your St. Patrick's Day be green, and not white (unless you like snow, that is.)

Join others participating at #SkywatchFriday and see skies from all over the world.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

After The Snow

We are clearing out from a record snowstorm in the Binghamton area of upstate New York - officially, 31.8 inches (80.7 cm) of snow dumped out just a few days before the beginning of spring.

Yesterday afternoon, gusty winds were blowing the snow my spouse and others labored so hard to plow back onto the streets and sidewalks.  The Governor of New York came to our area, and National Guard troops were dispatched to help medical personnel get to work and to help with other issues so crews could start the cleanup.

Here are some highlights, for my readers who live in climates with little or no snow.

A bush, and garage roof, with about 22 inches (almost 56 cm) of snow at that point in time.
Me, standing in that same 22 inches.   No one was going anywhere-we were under a state of emergency.
Perhaps it should have been put in the garage.
Our rhododendron.

Near sunrise yesterday morning, it looked like a winter wonderland.

We got more snow yesterday than we got all of last year (which was a record year for least snowfall, strangely.)  Another storm, and we may exceed our snowiest winter on record.

But we won't win the Golden Snowball award, alas (a yearly friendly competition between five cities for the most snowfall).

Let's hope this is winter's last hurrah.  But it doesn't look like it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day March 2017 - Beware

You know what they say:  Beware the Ides of March.

After hoping we would have early spring flowers to show for you (earlier than normal, but that's the kind of year we've had), what we got yesterday, instead, was a major snowstorm and a state of emergency that still exists as of me posting this.  As of about 7pm, we had 24.5 inches (62 cm) of snow.  Officially, it appears we received around 32 inches.

But, before I show you some scenes from that, here's what is blooming for me inside my house.

African violet
One of my three Phalaenopsis.  Another has buds on it - maybe next month.

One of my Thanksgiving cacti is blooming. Another has buds.

But, as for outdoors - about two weeks ago I could have shown you one of my two Lenten Roses.  The other one had buds on it.
February 25 - ah, memories
But today, this is what I would show you, instead.  Spring is on hold.
My back yard at 23 inches of snow-try to find the Lenten Rose under that
Over 23 inches of the white stuff has fallen.  It started about 3am yesterday and we've broken our 24 hour snowfall record here in the Binghamton, New York area.  Officially, over 28 inches fell yesterday.

If not for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, this would have been my final Winter Wednesday post of the year.
My front yard as sun set 3-14
I'll just postpone it until tomorrow.

In the meantime, we wait to see what is happening down South with a freeze coming at a most unfortunate time.

Join Carol at May Dream Gardens for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and see what is blooming all over the world.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day 2017 - Weight Watching Shepherd's Pie

Today is Pi Day, so named because, in the American way of writing dates, it is 3-14, which is also the first three digits of the value of Pi.  Here is a brief history of pi, which is the relationship of the radius of a circle to its diameter.  No matter how big or small the circle is, pi is the same.  Additionally, pi never repeats because it is an irrational number.  This, in fact, was first proven in 1761.

Hence, it has become a day for celebrating science, and pie...I mean, pi.

Today, I feature my spouse, the family cook, and his first attempt yesterday at a Weight Watching Shepherd's Pie. This serves two as a main course.  If you aren't weight watching, you may want to make more.

My spouse has been cooking for over 50 years, so he is someone who doesn't measure.  All of this is approximate, so don't blame me if it doesn't come out right.

3/4 lb peeled and cooked (boiled) potatoes
1 oz  butter (yes, butter. Why? Because the rich taste of butter enables the cook to use other calorie-friendly ingredients).
3 medium cloves garlic (or to taste), crushed against the flat edge of a cleaver
1 medium onion, chopped into small cubes
1/4 lb baby carrots, chopped into small cubes
1/2 a large stalk of celery (optional)
1/2 a large sweet pepper, your choice of color, chopped into small cubes
About 1 cup combined almond milk and concentrated turkey bone broth (spouse couldn't estimate how much exactly)
8 oz cooked turkey, chopped into small cubes
The ingredients, assembled
We didn't have peas in the house, but if you wish, you can add 1/2 a cup of frozen peas.  However, on Weight Watchers, you would have to charge points for the peas - we would rather spend the points on the butter.  (Since we use an older Weight Watchers program, we haven't tried to calculate modern Smart Points.)
Raw veggies and garlic, assembled


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

First, you are going to cook the vegetables.  Start by sauteing the garlic in about 1 tbsp of butter, for just a few seconds until it just starts to brown.

Immediately, add onion and celery and cook until they soften. Then, add the peppers and carrots. Let everything saute over medium heat, covered, for about 10 minutes.  Add the peas last, if you have them.

In the meantime, take the cooked potatoes, put in a saucepan with the rest of the butter,  Mash, and keep warm.

Incidentally, if you saw the sprouting eyes on the potatoes, you may want to note that these were German Butterball potatoes, bought at a local farmers market last fall. They showed some pretty good storage qualities!

Now, on medium low heat, make the sauce.

Sprinkle 2 tbsp of white whole wheat flour or plain white flour onto the cooked veggies, and cook about two minutes, letting the flour get incorporated and slightly cooked (so it loses the raw taste it would otherwise have). You want to hear sizzling and see steam, but don't burn anything.  Let cook, uncovered, three to four minutes.

Now add liquid - part almond milk  a little at a time, stir, let thicken, until you have a sauce in the pan which is like a thin pancake batter.  Now, start adding the turkey broth and keep stirring.  You want this to continue to thicken.

Add the turkey.  Stir.

Now, pour the mixture into a pie pan.  Take the mashed potatoes and totally cover the top of the mixture, making sure there are no holes.  You are treating this as an upper crust.

Now bake at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until crust forms on the potato and it is lightly browned.  Let set for several minutes.  It was a good first effort, but again, not highly traditional.

Enjoy, because enjoying food, unlike Pi, is quite rational.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Music Monday - They Were Family

Joni Sledge, founding member of the group "Sister Sledge" composed of four sisters, died Saturday at the age of 60.

So far, there is no word on the cause of death.  Her publicist said Joni had not been ill, and had been found dead in her home in Phoenix, Arizona.

This was the announcement from that Sister Sledge page on Facebook:

"Important Announcement:
Yesterday, numbness fell upon our family. We are saddened to inform you that our dear sister, mother, aunt, niece and cousin, Joni passed away yesterday. Please pray for us as we weep for this loss. We do know that she is now eternally with Our Lord.
We thank you in advance for allowing us the privacy to mourn quietly as a family. We miss her and hurt for her presence, her radiance, and the sincerity with which she loved & embraced life.
We love you; God Bless You all.
The Sledge Family"

We Are Family, from 1979, was perhaps their greatest hit, but they were also known for other anthems of the disco era.  (Much as it was fashionable to hate disco, I enjoyed a lot of that musical style.)

He's the Greatest Dancer.

From 1980, Got To Love Somebody.

Another loss for the music world.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Civil War Sunday - Does Anyone Know What Time it Is?

Today, Daylight Savings Time began in the United States.  

Is this really necessary?
At 2am today, most parts of the United States suddenly lost an hour.  The clocks moved to 3am, and we (except for night workers and late partiers) slept on.  In the mornings may of us felt disoriented as the sunshine outside did not match up to the sun. Now, as I write this close to 6pm in upstate New York, it looks like there is too much light out there.  I'll feel out of balance for another day or so, and I am not the only person.

In fact, more and more of us ask - why do we do this, anyway?

This is the day we in the United States (except in Arizona, Hawaii and some territories and possessions such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) go on Daylight Savings Time.  "Spring ahead, fall back" we remind ourselves. (We will get the "lost" hour back on the first Sunday in November.)

But never mind Daylight Savings Time.  Did you know there was a time when there were no standardized time zones in the United States?  And, that the Civil War was fought during that era?

As important as railroads were to the fighting of the Civil War, even the railroads hadn't yet found a way around coping with possibly up to 8,000 - yes, 8,000 - time zones in the United States. Local cities and towns set their own time, depending on the height of the sun in the sky to tell them when high noon was.  So, New York City might be on a different time than a city an hour away by train.  Just think of writing schedules, when every city had its own version of what time it was.

Each city and town having its own time worked when transportation was by walking or traveling by horse.  But, trains could run much faster.  And, I found something interesting online - a map from 1861, published two months after the Civil War began - something called "Lloyd's Americn Railroad Map, Showing the Whole Seat of War." 

On the map is a device called a Time Dial, which the railroads used to try to keep track of all those different local times, at least for 28 different cities.

Who said people in the 1860's weren't high tech?

Even the Civil War couldn't standardize time.  I had a brief taste of this kind of non-standardization for several years where my spouse and I traveled through Indiana on occasion.  Part of Indiana is on Eastern time. Part is on Central time.  Part was on Daylight time.  Part wasn't. 

Time wove back and forth and back and forth as we traveled from county to county. If we got out of your car to get gas, it was our best guess (in these days before Internet and cell phones) if we were on the same time as our last stop, an hour ahead, an hour behind, or even, the dreaded two hours behind.  (This situation was somewhat fixed in 2006).

Meanwhile, back to the 1800's. The railroads finally decided, in 1883, that they had had enough of local time. If the government wasn't going to standardize time, they would.  And so, on November 18, 1883, nearly twenty years after the Civil War ended, American and Canadian railroads started to use four standard time zones in the continental United States and Canada.  Municipalities and states followed.  And that is why we have "Standard" time zones even today.

Does your county or country go on Daylight Savings Time?
This was originally posted on March 9, 2014.  I made some minor changes.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Local Saturday - Oreo Snow

Dear readers, winter has returned, again, to upstate New York.

It just won't let go.  Never mind perhaps a record warm winter.  Winter just won't let go.

We had a dusting of snow last night, with temperatures down into the single digits (F).

This type of light, powdery snow, combined with low temperatures, is something I like to call "Oreo snow".  Sometimes, I use my imagination, and think I am inhaling a sweetness that is carried by the cold air.

It even sugar-coats bushes.

But it is no fun to be out in, with the sometimes strong winds of March.  Right now, the wind chill is 3 above zero F (-16C).

This is just an appetizer.  By midnight Monday night, we are going to get a powerful nor'easter, and the ones that come in mid-March are sometimes the deadliest.  Even the southern United States may get snow.

An interesting week ahead.

Call it Jack Frost's revenge.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Skywatch Friday - Blown Away

March is living up to its reputation.


We get mild.  Then it gets windy (dangerously windy).  For the second week in a row, dangerous winds (especially in other parts of upstate New York), plunges in temperature, and hard freezes follow each other.  Then it warms up again.

Here are some photos from March 8, ahead of another wind situation.

Right after sunrise.

About half an hour later, I arrived at work and took this picture in the small city downtown where I work.

Later that day.  These look so dramatic, don't they?
March 8, Binghamton, New York
Meanwhile, crocuses are starting to bloom, unseasonably early, along with snowdrops.  Will they survive the big plunge in temperature that starts later today?

Visit other blogs participating in #SkywatchFriday and see how the skies look all over our world.