Wednesday, February 28, 2007

One last mention

If you're getting tired of the "the South is so different and cool" theme I've had going, I apologize.
I promise to branch out, after this.

Last weekend, while wandering the country roads in our constant search for a secluded farm house on some land, Alexe thought she spotted some flames in the woods to our right. The road side was scorched, with black burn marks going a ways into the woods, and several memorial crosses on the side of the road.

The flames were farther back into the woods, and we didn't know if someone was doing a controlled burn (a popular alternative to mowing down here), whose land it was, and where the nearest house was.

We were pondering the situation, rolling slowly forward in the truck, when a car came up behind us, pulled alongside, and rolled down the window.

The fellow assumed we were looking at the scorching next to the road, and told us about a person that had been racing around the back roads, hit the power poll, and exploded.

We expressed our horror, and then asked how recently it had happened, since there were still flames in the forest. The chap didn't believe us, so we backed up the road, and he and I hopped out and walked into the woods.

We made our way through the scorched trees that had been burned weeks earlier by the accident, and came into healthy trees, with a single exception. A pine about 5 inches in diameter was missing bits of bark all the way up it's side, and in a concentric circle around it's base, flames had slowly cooked through about 6 feet of the pine needle cover.

I felt the trunk, and it was cool, but the lightning had obviously snaked down the tree, ignited the base somehow, and created a circle of short flames that stretched out in a pretty circle around the tree.

We stomped the flames down, but they kept popping up. The chap I was with turned out to live a couple doors down, so we left with the persistent little flames still popping up, and he assured me he'd check back to see if the current drizzle and impending downpour took care of it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Wonderful News

Natasha is getting married!!!
Many of you have met this delightful person, either while we were roommates in Annapolis and DC, or at Alexe and my wedding.

She is currently pursuing her PhD in physics in California, and I found out tonight Nathan (her fiance) has also started his PhD in African Studies. (I hope I'm getting this right. I just remember he will be spending a year in Senegal.)

So, they're planning a 2008 wedding in Vermont somewhere. Nathan is from VT, Natasha is from Minnesota. Two hardy northern folks.

If you can think of an inexpensive, beautiful setting in VT for a wedding and reception, let me know and I'll pass it along.


I've wanted to post about the weather and resulting infrastructure of the south, but in hopes that I would make the trek into town with the camera (all two blocks of the trip) and take some pictures to show what I'm talking about, I've been putting it off.

I don't have any pictures.

However, let me tell you about it. Water falls from the sky in floods. Frequency of presipitation doesn't impress me. I've spent time in DC, where it rains daily, and time in Alaska where it rains up to three times a day, and you can out-run the storm clouds that wander through the mountainous countryside, visible and finite to the naked eye. More recently, I've built a cabin in the woods of Vermont in what seemed like a 30 day constant drizzle.

Down here the water cascades, different from my previous rain experience as a garden hose to a water fall.

But more fascinating (for me) than the falling water are the systems set up to deal with these sudden deluges. I have never seen such a dedication to gutterage. Every little road has immense ravines on either side to deal with the flash flooding that is rainfall. Gutters in town are easily waste deep next to the sidewalk, and those running next to the main roads could pass small cars.

Parking lots have huge concrete gutters at 10 ft intervals, running down what looks to me like a very short embankment. Every house with a driveway coming off any sized road has a land bridge over the immense gutters that flank all the roads. I've never seen so many culverts.

What's more, these things fill up. They overflow. They can't contain the masses of water that demand passage every few days. It's incredible.

And, if that sounds not as interesting as I find it, this past Saturday was a whole different kind of hoot. Saturday night, after a long rainy day, Alexe and I made dinner (a scrumptious chicken with olives dish) and had a prairie home companion playing.

The show was disrupted by the screaming weather advisory, listing off thunderstorm, tornado, and hurricane warnings. This episode was cut short by the state weather advisory board, with slightly conflicting reports of locations of several tornados. For the next half hour, we heard two minute clips of Garrison Keillor, followed by more warnings tripping over each other. The message was there are several tornados, everyone is under advisory, they're all SouthWest of you, moving North East at 85 mph.

Alexe got a bit nervous, I told myself we were in a 100 year old house, luck should probably hold out for the night. The wind and rain was definitely howling, and the lightning strikes were impressive, followed by house shaking (and dog scaring) thunder.

As we sat down to eat in the central room of the house (no windows), with the radio still playing it's mixed fare, the town's siren wound up to a high pitched whine, and stayed on for the next 20 minutes.

It was our first experience with weather of that sort.

Dinner was delicious.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Dido's pop-influence

I can't wait for teenagers.
My darling pooch, in some strange move of solidarity, demanded a haircut to match Ms. Spears.