28 December 2010


We have returned home safe and sound. The snow has for the most part melted off of all the roads, so there was no slipping on the trip back.

When I got back I cleared the snow off of the poor little Scoobytruck and started him up for the first time in a week. He came right to life and warmed up without any issues, so I guess he survived the storm OK.

Tomorrow we will take the Scoobytruck up to Roanoke to see Eldest Sister, and then back here for the New Year where we will open up the remaining presents under the tree.

That will conclude the holiday season at the Refuge. I hope you and yours had a good one as well.

26 December 2010

Travels And Travesties

The weather gods are taking their revenge on me for yesterday's post. Today it's 37 degrees in Jacksonville, and the precipitation has taken the distinct characteristics of snow. Yes, snow in the River City, it's not sticking and it melts as soon as it touches anything, but it is snow nonetheless. I would still rather be here than at the Refuge where they have 5 inches already and are expected to accumulate another three before it is all over.

Today I took a side trip to my old stomping grounds on the former NAS Cecil Field (now Cecil Commerce Center) just to see what had changed and what had remained the same. NAS Cecil Field fell to disbelief and the BRAC axe back in 1999, no one in Florida could believe the Navy would do something so foolish as to close a base with such beautiful runways situated where the jet noise was not bothersome to the locals in favor of a base that was completely surrounded by a hostile city. They were wrong.

The barracks are all gone, of course, as are the old commisary and the enlisted and Chief's clubs. Most of the remaining structures are in use as offices now, the gym is still a gym, and the on-base housing that remains has been taken over by a private management facility, as has the golf course.

The change that surprised me the most is the draining of Lake Fretwell. The playground and ball diamonds are still there, but the man-made lake has been drained and grass now grows where alligators once swam. Apparently the cost of keeping the lake up was too great for the Cecil Pines management company to want to cover.

Once upon a time the Navy made some noise about re-opening Cecil Field. The city of Jacksonville said they would be glad to share the base, but the Navy wanted it back the way they had it. Since the city is making money from Cecil Commerce Center of course it went nowhere.

I'm certain there is a lesson to be learned there somewhere.

25 December 2010

Without Further Comment

OK, maybe one comment: Christmas day, 68 - correction, 70 - degrees.

Merry Christmas

Yesterday the temps in Jacksonville Florida were in the high 50's, the highest I saw on my dashboard thermometer was 58. So, of course, the jacket was on and the top was down.

Eldest Daughter has to work today so when she got home from work last night the kids opened their gifts. Everyone was pleased with the haul, and Youngest Son elected to stay with the rest of the kids while I went back to the motel to catch up on a couple of days worth of sleep.

Today's festivities will be basic, consisting of Christmas dinner and that's about it. Youngest Son and I will head back north on Tuesday and have a second Christmas at home with Eldest Son and Youngest Daughter.

We at the Refuge wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and a most happy and prosperous New Year.

Image from Mustang Parts.org

22 December 2010

The Countdown Starts

In less than 24 hours I will be on my way to Jacksonville FL for Christmas.

Eldest Daughter has not been to Father In Law's house to help him with the sorting, so there is no reason for me to take the trailer.

No reason to take the trailer means no reason to take the Subaru.

No reason to take the Subaru means I'll be driving the Mustang.

It should be a good trip.

21 December 2010


Last night two significant events occurred.

The first of these was the winter solstice. Last night was the shortest night of the year, and from this day forward the nights will be getting shorter and the days will be getting longer. Today is the first day of winter.

The second of these significant events, one that very likely passed right by without notice unless you made a special effort to see it, was the eclipse of the moon. It was the first time the winter solstice has had a total moon eclipse in almost four hundred years, but the next one will occur in 2094, only eighty four more years from now. So, if you missed it you won't have as long to wait.

I like to joke that here at the Refuge we don't grow grass in the yard, we grow rocks. Every year we get a fresh crop. That's not as much of a joke as you might think.

The ground water close to the surface freezes and creates patches where the ground pokes up in hundreds of tiny fingers, as if it was caught in the act of exploding. When there are rocks under the surface, this ground water freezes underneath them and forces them to the surface. This is how we get a fresh crop of rocks every year.

As you can see in the photo, the new crop is coming in nicely.

18 December 2010

Busy Days

I finally got the lights hung outside, just before the next round of Glowbull Warmening happens. As I finished up the first snowflakes started to fall.

Youngest Daughter and Son-In-Law got me a new monitor for Christmas. I had been wanting a flat screen, so they went out and ordered a widescreen Compaq S2021.

The only problem is, my computer is an ancient (3 or 4 years old) Compaq Presario SR1303WM, and the integrated video card wouldn't support the widescreen. So I could either set the monitor to aspect and have dark bars on both sides of my screen (and a compressed display because it wasn't quite wide enough on aspect) or I could have a stretched out display.

Or I could go get a new video card.

Off to Comp USA I go!

The new graphics card is installed, the software is set up and running, and the resolution is set properly for the display. It's really looking good!

Now I'm all set for a night of surfing as the snow falls.

On The Agenda

Eggs and sausage now.

Next is a trip to the big box store to get some clips to hang my outside Christmas lights. I must have my lights hung by 3 PM today.

Sometime after 3 PM we are expecting the next round of snow and freezing rain to begin.

When does Spring start?

16 December 2010


Julian Assange is out on bail.

He begged the judges not to release his address on his bail request.

The judges said "Information wants to be free!"

Spare me the drivel about how this might put his life in danger. He leaked information for the sole purpose of embarrassing the United States, and in doing so very likely put the lives of countless others in jeopardy.

This is what we call "poetic justice" in these parts.

Winter Advisory

The bad news: A winter weather advisory is in effect across the central Piedmont and the northern coastal plains until 4PM. This area includes Wake, Durham and Franklin Counties.

The good news: The Subaru is an adept and sure-footed winter traveler.

The better news: I have no reason to be out in it today.

I hope you can all stay warm and dry today.

14 December 2010

High Finance

Youngest son stays with his aunt during the week while I work. She is his schoolteacher, so it works out in more ways than one.

I pick him up from school on Thursday, he has Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, and I take him back Sunday on my way to work.

I will also pick up any needful things for Sis's house while he is there. He will occasionally want something different, and Sis will ask him how he proposes to pay for it.

"That's easy" he replies, "First Bank of Dad!"

Sigh. I think I need a bail-out.

Unfortunately I'm not "too big to fail" so I most likely wouldn't qualify.

13 December 2010

Gods Of The Copybook Headings

Karl Marx said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. Put that down under the category of blind hogs and acorns.

Rudyard Kipling wrote "If you don't work you die." Put that down under the category of hard facts and reality.

Utes in Britain should study more Kipling and rather less Marx.

On a related note, Professor Jacobson remembers the Iron Lady. Perhaps Britain will one day do the same.

Until then they will only be the "formerly Great" Britain.

12 December 2010

Winter Party

Last night we had the company Christmas party.

I'm not much for parties as parties go, but it was OK.

07 December 2010


My father in law goes in today for surgery. He is having some stents put in.

He has been having small heart issues for a while now, and while not serious in and of themselves, given his age they are a matter of concern.

I have told him he is not allowed to leave us this year, but much like his daughter and his wife before him he does pretty much as he pleases, regardless of what I would like.

Pop is old and tired, and his world has been rocked with the loss of his wife a year ago last May and his only child last June. Lesser men may have given up already, but I have never known Pop to give in to anything.

Prayers would be appropriate, and appreciated.

UPDATED: Upon further investigation the docs determined he didn't need stents, the irregular heartbeat he's been having can be taken care of by non-invasive procedures. So that's good.

UPDATE II: The procedure went well and Pop is back home and doing fine.


Sixty nine years ago today, at 7:48AM local time, air and submarine elements of the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a devastating attack on US Navy, Marine and Army Air Corps assets at Pearl Harbor and Oahu, Hawaii.

Two strikes were launched and a third contemplated before the attacks were over. In the aftermath four battleships were sunk and four more were damaged, along with three cruisers, three destroyers, one minelayer and one training ship. 188 aircraft were destroyed, 2,402 personnel were killed and 1,282 were wounded.

The un-launched third wave would have taken out the submarine base and the support facilities, including fuel depots and shipyards. The three American carriers, not in port at the time of the attack, were also spared. One of those carriers, USS Enterprise (CV-6), would not only survive but would become the most heavily decorated ship of the war.

In time all but two of the battleships (Arizona and Utah) were raised and, except for the heavily damaged Oklahoma, returned to service. The Iowa class battleships were built to replace them, but ultimately it was the carriers that turned the tide of the war.

Although it was a tactical success for the Japanese, the attacks were fortuitous for the Americans in several ways. Had the warnings from the radar station been heeded, the ships would have been underway or in the channel. This would have blocked the harbor for the returning carriers, and instead of being raised and returned to service the ships would have been lost in deep water.

Additionally, fears that the American carriers and land-based bombers would find them played a part in the Japanese decision not to press a third attack. This spared the shipyards that were vital in the restoration efforts as well as the fuel and ammunition needed to immediately send the subs, also spared by the decision, to sea.

It was the submarines that crippled the Imperial Japanese Navy by attacking it's logistics trail, and it was the carriers that put their ships on the bottom. Although a clash between the titans, USS Iowa and IJN Yamato, would have been epic, it was not to be so; Yamato was repulsed by escort carriers at Leyte Gulf while Iowa chased ghostly foes, and ultimately it was carrier aircraft, some of them from Enterprise, that laid Yamato low.

Sixty nine years later we are losing the veterans from that time in our history. As they fade from the scene it falls to us to ensure that the lessons we have learned do not fade with them.

05 December 2010

Snow Event

The first snowstorm of the season has come and gone, leaving us blanketed in a thin layer of white. The highs are expected to near 50 today, so by this afternoon quite a bit of this covering will be gone. It never really did stick to the paved surfaces, which makes driving a much more pleasant experience.

Yesterday morning Youngest Son and I took the Mustang out for a car event, and when we got back I didn't bother to put the cover back on it. I had not looked at the weather for the day, and the forecast from the day before said nothing about snow. The weatherman can't always predict what is going to occur within days, but the "climatologists" would have you believe they can predict what the weather is going to be like decades from now. But I digress.

It sits under a covering of snow right now, but in a moment I will go out and start it up. I'll let it warm as I clear the windows, the heat from the motor will loosen the snow on it's hood enough to slide it off without damaging paint (this car has the most fragile paint that I have ever had on a car) and then I'll take it out to blow most of the snow off of it's top and trunk. After that it will sit in the sun, and by the time I have to go to work this afternoon it will be dry so that I can put the cover on it again.

Boots and I went out to walk the perimeter this morning and the wind was already knocking big chunks of snow out of the trees. When it would pick up the snow would fall and swirl almost as if it were falling from the sky for the first time. I love the morning right after a snow, the world is quiet as if it is spending another hour or so in bed nestled under it's glistening blanket.

I like this type of snow best of all (or perhaps more to the point, I dislike it the least) because the roads don't get covered and by the time I have to go to work the pavement should be mostly dry. Within a few days it will be gone as if it had never come.

04 December 2010

First Fall

The snow is falling, first of the season. It's hard to tell if it will stick or not, but it is falling at a good clip.


Happy Anniversary Boo.

I miss you.

03 December 2010

Six Months

Nurses today rarely wear the uniform that they are famous for. My sister had a picture taken when she graduated from nursing school, in her white smock with her white nurse's cap.

The nurse that day wore no cap, nor did she wear a smock. It was chilly in the cardio unit, even during the dead heat of a North Carolina summer, so she wore a sweater over her surgical scrubs as she efficiently went about her business.

She patted my arm as she walked out, her face full of sympathy. "She doesn't need me now" she whispered, and then she was out the door.

I sat and held her hand, an eternity, an instant; the eternity between her breaths, the instant between life and death. Fifteen minutes later it was over; the eternity and the instant both.

Six months later we prepare for what was her favorite holiday. I will remember how much she loved the season, how much she loved me, and how much I loved her. I pray that somehow this little comfort will be enough.

02 December 2010

Soup For You

Over at the Flying Monkeys the soup nazi has raised her ugly head. There is soup, but none for you! That's why you should come here, for the soup!

Potato Soup

5 lb potatoes, any kind you like.
1 med sweet onion
1 bunch celery hearts
1 lb bacon
16 oz heavy cream
1/2 gal milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb shredded Cheddar cheese

Peel and dice the potatoes and put them on to boil. You want to cook these until they are done clear through but still firm, about 10 minutes or so.
While the potatoes are cooking, chop the celery and onions. In a cast-iron frying pan, fry the bacon crisp over medium high heat. Go ahead and have some, you can make do with 12-14 oz. Go ahead and give some to the dog too, you know you can't resist those puppy dog eyes. Let the rest drain and cool on paper towels.
Cook the celery and onions in the bacon fat over medium high heat until the onions are slightly transparent and the celery is soft, about 5 minutes. Drain the celery and onions and pour the bacon grease into a container, it is useful in almost any recipe that calls for shortening.
By now the potatoes should be done. Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Add celery and onions, add cream and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until warm. Crumble and add bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with shredded cheddar on top.

Calling All Angels

Or tooth fairies, as the case may be.

Incisor emergency!

Please make a donation to the "Tam needs a new grille" fund. Your snark-o-meter will thank you for it.