Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, we're now in high gear for the holiday insanity season. My expectations for human intelligence wanes to a seasonal low again as hordes of idiots from all corners of the globe crawl out of the woodwork to make fools of our entire species. I'm staying as far away from centers of commerce as I can, including grocery stores until the late, late hours just to keep from getting trampled. Forget the malls, I've been doing my holiday shopping online for the last 11 years. What little holiday shopping I do, that is.

Meanwhile, before the holiday hysteria drowns out reason again, I just wanted to take a moment to wish all of our friends a Happy Thanksgiving from the entire Gnu Herd. We are all thankful for your friendship and support through good times and bad.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Messin' Around

My wife is into the Destination Truth series on the SciFi channel. Yes, that's right: SciFi. I spelled it FUCKING CORRECTLY!! I refuse to use the "new and improved" name. It's a bullshit move and I hate it - what are you positioning the channel's viewership for, Twilight fans or something? Come on!

Anyways, she Tivo'd an episode where the team travels to the Himalayas to track down the Yeti. She's all into it and excited, and instead of sharing her excitement that maybe they'll find some concrete evidence confirming the existence of this mythical creature, all I can think of is...

This was a missed advertising opportunity for these guys:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

A big thank you to all veterans - past, present and future - for all you do to protect freedom around the world! Every generation must repay the debt that is owed for the freedoms we enjoy. The generation that absolves itself of this, damns its future to miserable servitude.

Thank a veteran today. Do it again tomorrow.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Remember, Remember

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.

Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.

Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

While Guy Fawkes Day is more of a British event than here, the thought that a holiday can or should be dedicated to the remembrance of an act of treason is fascinating to me. We have no real equivalent here in the United States, no Benedict Arnold Day or such. So why is it so important for Britons to remember an attempted terrorist act that happened 404 years ago today?

Perhaps it's an important social reminder to succeeding generations of the importance of respect for the bounds of civil society, beyond which we should not let our passions take us. Originally there was an anti-catholic bent to the celebrations, but this was replaced over the years with the rhyme above, fireworks, and "a Penny for the Guy." The reminder that one's act of treason will not be forgotten is a powerful meme, one with strong social ties to the community to remind people that while it may be permissible in the pursuit of social discourse to take up opposing sides of important issues of the day, there are boundaries that are not to be crossed.

Indeed, this reminder might be a valuable token to offer our own so-called leadership in this country as to their obligations to respect the bounds of ethics, morality and the timeless values that bind human society together in ways that strengthen without enslaving, and without which society is reduced to anarchy and chaos. Leaders in business, government, religion, education and culture seem to have forgotten that to lead is to serve, that those who follow are not vassals to be toyed about or trifled with. Leaders who have fallen from the path of truth, who accept expediency over deliberation, the quick answer over the right answer, form over function, "right now" instead of just plain right.

The message needs to go further, to those who take their ill-considered beliefs to such extremes as to destroy the fabric they claim to be saving from others, those instigators who drive the masses towards decisions their grandchildren will regret for them. We should take notice of a month in history that should remind all future generations of the persistence of consequences that arise from ill-begotten actions: Red October, culminating in the 25th, 1917. In more recent history, we see how faith is twisted to serve evil purposes, to massacre innocent women and children for no other purpose than to amass power and reduce humanity to mere playthings of pretend gods, living - but mostly dying - at their idle whim. There are no greater evils in our world today than Fascist Islam, Socialism and Communism, who together have murdered and enslaved nearly half the planet.

These bankrupt philosophies are being repudiated around the world as people in many countries emerge from the darkness of misery, yet here in our own country, a cadre of "useful idiots" plow forth down the same paths to ruin, while the drunken and passionate cry of ignorant citizens along for the ride drives them on.

Remember, indeed. Treason to moral principles and values that are ageless, even God-given, is just as bad as betraying your country, and the consequences will be visited to the seventh generation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jockey's Ridge

In spite of the weather reports that spelled out gloom and doom all week, the weather in the norther Outer Banks wasn't all that bad last week. So we went for a trip out to Jockey's Ridge State Park.

This is the largest natural sand dune on the East Coast and is visible for miles around the area. I've never taken the opportunity to visit until now, and I can tell you, I'm really glad I didn't come here in the summer. The sand goes on for miles and I can only imagine how hot that would be in August. Sand temperatures tend to be much hotter than the surrounding air, so if it's 100 degrees outside, expect the sand you're walking on to be at least 120. Ouch!

Coming in October was good idea for cold-weather folks like us. Made for a much more enjoyable visit. Maybe next time, I can convince The Missus to let me go hang gliding!

Enjoy some more pictures from our hike around the park:

Above and below: Satellite dunes on the western side of Jockey's Ridge facing the Roanoke Sound. These smaller dunes move around a lot, and around the park in many spots you can see where some of the larger ones have swallowed up trees and shrubs. The more stable dunes provide shelters for tree groves and shrub thickets that become home to a wide variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. Walking along the nature trail, we were able to identify tracks from Raccoons, Possums, Egrets, a Hog Nose Snake, and field mice. In the air we saw Egrets, Cormorants, Geese, Ospreys, and Cranes. Thankfully, we had a steady 10mph wind that day so there were no mosquitoes buzzing around our heads.

Below: Roanoke Sound front at the western edge of the park. We found Brine Shrimp in little isolated pockets of still water along the edge and a fish or two jumping out of the water to greet us. Dragonflies were buzzing all over, darting in and out in search of prey.

Above and below: My attempts at photographing interesting sand formations along the dune face. For the most part, these are "raw" photos with no intense digital enhancements, only minor color adjustments to even out the saturation. My only accessory is a circular polarizing filter on my lens to clean up the sky and bring the clouds out.

Below: There is a semi-permanent brackish-water marsh in the Wadi at the base of Jockey's Ridge that is a favourite landing point for many species of migratory birds and also is home to a wide variety of other animals and plants.

all photos copyright
2009, The Smoking Gnu
All rights reserved.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Don't Look Down!

Scottie: It's because of this fear of heights I have, this acrophobia. I wake up at night seeing that man fall from the roof and I try to reach out to him, it's just...

Midge: It wasn't your fault.

: I know. That's what everybody tells me.

: Johnny, the doctors explained to you.

Scottie: I know. I know. I have acrophobia which gives me vertigo and I get dizzy. Boy, what a moment to find out I had it!

: Well, you've got it and there's no losing it. And there's no one to blame, so why quit?

: You mean and sit behind a desk, chair-bound...

: ...where you belong.

: What about my acrophobia? What about... Now, suppose, suppose I'm sitting in this chair behind a desk, here's the desk, and a pencil falls from the desk down to the floor, and I reach down to pick up the pencil - BINGO - my acrophobia's back.

: [Laughing.] Oh, Johnny-O.

-Vertigo (1958)
Alfred Hitchcock

Well, the Gnu Herd had a great time at the beach. When we got tired of looking at scenery right off the back porch like this...

...we went out to explore the island. Some friends came down to join us for the weekend, so we went up to Currituck Village to climb to the top of the lighthouse. Here's another video postcard from the top of the lighthouse:

Great view, huh? Don't look down if you're afraid of heights!!

Again, from the west side, looking over at the Keeper's house:

Yes, I know, my thumb makes another cameo appearance. Still, that's a lot better than filming my iPhone's untimely demise!

Looking up the spiral staircase on our way to the top...

Hello, hello (Hola!)
I'm at a place called Vertigo (¿Donde esta?)
It's everything I wish I didn't know

Except you give me something

I can feel, feel.

-U2, Vertigo
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)

Here's some slightly more sane pictures of the grounds...

The Keeper's Quarters, at ground level:

Nice digs, huh?

The lighthouse from the sound:

The nature trail along the Currituck Sound:

The Currituck Sound:

Dunno why they call it a sound... I didn't hear a damn thing.

all photos and videos copyright
2009, The Smoking Gnu