Dec 21, 2009

You Cannae Change The Laws of Physics!

Did you know, however, that hot air ballooning can alter the flow of natural events?  Or at least push events toward one outcome or the other?  It's true, and I just proved it this weekend.

Sunday morning down here in central Louisiana was a mite nippy, but it made for some beautiful flying.  We've had a tremendous amount of rainfall in the last month to six weeks, so the ground has been awfully soggy where ever we go, and since this isn't my first rodeo I had the (surprising) forethought to bring my knee-high rubber boots along.  I've had to wade into some unpleasant places to help recover, including cow pastures, briar patches and rowed fields and thought that with as much rainfall as we've had lately any field large enough to accommodate a comfortable balloon landing would also play host to a lot of standing water and mud, so I figured I was well ahead of the game.

Now Jim has his own ideas about laws natural and man-made and ballooning.  When driving the chase truck he's fully of the mind that Ballooning Rules apply.  Ballooning Rules state pretty simply that where things like laws and so forth run counter to what we need to do to safely and accurately chase the balloon then those laws are temporarily suspended.  It's a good rule, and we've only had to invoke it a few times.  Well, maybe a a lot, if you count (very gentle) trespassing and illegal u-turns but you won't catch me saying this on the official ballooning blog.  This past Sunday's flight was supposed to go up Saturday afternoon, and Jim had brought Tracy and I our Christmas presents--cunningly made wooden hot air balloon birdhouses.  Attached to my other present (still wrapped) was a smaller one that he suggested I needed to open before the flight.

Well, Jim's been doing this a lot longer than I have, so I opened it.  What did he get me?  A headlight.  One of those clip-on LED lights that you can attach to the brim of your hat.  "So," he told me, "this afternoon's flight doesn't become a night flight."

See, Jim Knows.  He knows that whatever you prepare for won't happen.  Have a good source of light?  Evening flight won't end anywhere near dusk.  Got brand new mud tires on the chase truck?  We won't get near soft ground.  Have a full compliment of tools?  Zero chance of mechanical mishap.  When I got into the truck Jim gestured to my boots and asked me if I was expecting water.  I should have known then that I was wasting my time bringing them but I persevered.  I Knew Better, you see.

So there we were, nearing the end of the chase.  Ski Lift, the other balloon in the morning's flight was down safe in a new subdivision, right in someone's side yard, and Skybird seemed too high to make it safely into the small cul-de-sac that ended the development.

Jim and I discussed it, and we both decided that he was going to pass over and land in the large open field that bordered the neighborhood.  I slipped my hiking boots off and slipped on my rubber boots, certain I'd beaten the odds and that my feet would stay dry and warm and that I'd be the only comfortable one on the ride home.

Next thing I know Skybird is about twenty feet high off the road, literally right in front of the hood of the truck and descending and the red line comes over the side of the basket.  The red line is a nylon strap much like those you see securing loads on 18 wheeler trailers, only this one is attached at one end by a thick steel carabiner to the basket and is used for, among other things, letting the ground crew haul the balloon down out of the air fast.  Jim slowed, I jumped out and went galumphing up the road in my boots toward the gondola, seeing the end of the road and a lamp post straight ahead.  I flung myself onto the edge of the basket, hooked my arms over it and tried to get traction--zero.  Rubber boots do not make for excellent gripping on new asphalt.  So there I was, skidding along with my feet making that weird rubber-dragging sound.

Stop we did, thankfully before encountering anything steel or otherwise unyielding and bemused neighbors started popping out of front and back doors to see what had happened to disrupt their Sunday morning ritual.  While the cellular phones and cameras came out we went about the routine of taking things apart and repacking.  I finally had opportunity to change back out of my completely dry knee-highs as well, but I'm thinking pretty seriously about leaving them in David's truck toolbox: I could get pretty spoiled to sidewalk landings in manicured subdivisions.

Dec 13, 2009

And Now, A Word From The Puppies

Or a word about the puppies.  Since I'm required by blogger edict or common law or a mandate from my readers sorta thing.

They're great.  They're huge--Vincent at six weeks of age, if he's still growing like he was a few days ago now weighs 13 pounds.  That's the same weight an "average" Borzoi pup weighs at 8.  Apparently we're growing monsters here.  Or moose.  Moosi.  Mooses.  Moice.  Whatever.

Luna has even more become The Affectionate One, the one that is always up in our laps, always howling for attention when she's in the play enclosure with her litter mates.  This is making the final decision (which one of the seven to keep) even more difficult.  She and Poe are currently neck and neck but only time will tell.  I think.  Not taking into account that Luna at birth got the favoured name AND was singled out as being the one we'd keep.  Just sayin'.

(Oh, the official Zorya Borzoi website is up and running, too!  It's simple, and still incomplete but it's up and working, a work in progress.  Zoryaborzoi dot com)

The rest just keep growing, keep learning, keep eating.  Gods do they eat.  They're officially weaned now, in that Belle refuses to give any suckle, and they're eating their Eukanuba puppy food dry, crunching through it like rabbits in a lettuce patch.  Also leaping into it and/or stepping in the bowl and/or running through it at full tilt, thereby slinging it across several hundred square feet of den.

They're a mess.  An adorable, fuzzy, sharks-mouthed mess.

Here's a pic before you guys kill me (apologies to Facebook folks who have already seen these.)

Salem, Ex Libris


Barnabas.  No question he's a Borzoi.

(l to r) Einar and Vincent

The more astute readers/viewers will note that they're all either asleep or dozing off.  This is because when they are awake there's no way to aim a camera at them.  I'm not that fast, you see.  They don't stop moving, EVER.

In other news:

Work proceeds.  Yes I'm spoiled insensible with this work-from-home thing.  It's also troublesome--I found myself going stir-crazy during yesterday's all day rainstorm.  It was then that I realised that I'd not been outside except for very brief sorties to the chicken coop and to walk the hounds in the evenings since the last weekend.  It's taking some adjusting, and I'm not the fastest learner, but I'll get there.  I just need to remind myself that there's nothing really forcing me to leave the house on a daily basis, and if I don't think about it I'll end up turning milk white and blind and perhaps developing some sort of superior food-finding sensory apparatus.


I'm also getting better at the stress.  Yes, shut up about it, I'm tired of being derided for not swilling of the work-from-home cup to the fullest, for having worries about my job when I can work in my pajamas if I want to.  I'm not you, I have my own set of problems, and one of them is anxiety.  Which I'm working to correct, and yes, making nice progress at.  I'm not fully there yet, tho.  The anxiety kicks in once in a while, usually when I'm stuck in a situation where no one in charge seems to know how to get back in contact with me, and apparently every Sunday night about 1 in the morning, but the panicky, spikey bits are gone.  Now it's just anxiety that manifests itself in disturbed sleep patterns, vivid nightmares and a lot of residual anger.  Still, far better than it was, and I'm hoping that with continued therapy and diet control and the non-pharmaceutical supplements I'll continue to improve.  Hell, I have thus far, so I'm not complaining.  Well, not complaining too loudly.

I've also found something else good about this enforced home-living thing.  Houseplants.  I can care for them with much greater attention and consideration that ever before, so just last weekend I took my first big horticultural step in many a year.  No mere potted ivies for me, I've gone tropical:

A Phalaenopsis, or "Moth Orchid."  Phalaen from the French for "moth," which also oddly enough coincides with Penny-- Papillon is French for "butterfly," which their upright ears and long silken fur imitate.  When  Papillon's ears droop instead of stand upright the dog is called a Phalaen, or 'moth' instead of a Papillon. 


I've been thinking about growing orchids for probably several years now, ever since they have made a showing in this area in the local commercial greenhouses and so forth.  I was always aware of them in some background sort of manner, and being a devout fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe series I was hard pressed not to learn the basics of orchids, but I never considered myself an orchid fan until I began seeing them up close and in person, which is saying something in this tiny backwater town.

The Phalaenopsis branch of the orchid family are some of the easiest house-kept orchids, I've learned, which is right up my alley.  I've been told by two very reliable sources that orchids are easy to keep indoors, but I'm the guy who used to kill cacti and overwatered a bromeliad unto death.  But, I'm trying.  Stepping out.  Pushing boundaries, albeit small ones.  Plus they're utterly beautiful.  This first dear has even grown well enough to turn the second to last bud on its raceme into an opening flower and has begun to open yet another tiny bud at the very end.  Hope springs eternal.

So.  Fifteen dollars at my local Lowe's and I brought home my first.  It was on clearance, it being what passes for winter here, one of four little glazed clay pots forced into a tiny little space between walls of poinsettias.  I had the money, I picked my plant and made the leap.  Today we happened to be in our local Kroger's grocery store.  Far from our usual haunt on a quest for some specific xmas stocking stuffers (my child loves odd Japanese candy now,) we'd happened into the flower department to find a bouquet for the kitchen table, and I saw them.  Orchids.  A whole massive display of them, tier upon tier of them.  And not just any old Lowe's orchid but plants twice the size, every one with either branched racemes or multiple ones, each simply dripping with flowers.

For the same price.  So yes, this weekend I brought home my second:

Another Phalen, because I'm not about to invest a lot of money on something I don't have the necessary skill to grow, but gods look at those petals.  Up close they look like someone dribbled purple ink on a cotton sheet.

I was described a long time ago by a very good friend of mine as having "an old soul."  I've pondered that a lot.  Turned it over and over, looked at it from many angles and consider it intensely satisfying.  If I had to be described in five words or less I'd be beyond pleased if someone voiced "He has an old soul."  I've carried that descriptor around in my heart for a long time now, savoring it like a hard candy.  Carrying my newly found orchid today through the store my wife told me that she wasn't surprised at all that I'd gotten into orchids.  She'd seen it coming, she confided, for a very long time.  Then she said something that really made me smile.  She said that raising orchids seemed "a thing that a Victorian gentleman would do."

I read just a few days ago that orchids were first kept by amateur botanists and flower fanciers of all sort in England, circa 1890.  Victorian homes were often found to sport varieties of orchids brought back from far-traveling merchants and tradesmen, and were prized by their collectors.  I'm no Victorian, my moral compass is far too modern for that forthright title to be applied to me, but it's a comparison that I'm also proud to at least, in some small way, live up to.

It's a funny old world.  I'm glad it has orchids in it.  And Borzoi.

Dec 3, 2009

Fun With Particle Physics

A chance joke on a Facebook post originated by The Ancient And Inscrutable Legume Hisself got me to thinking.

The Large Hadron Colllider is, as we all know, a machine intended to destroy the entire universe.  Little known is its secondary purpose: to help socially awkward physicists (and aren't they all?) meet hot chicks.  Way down the very long line of possible purposes for the LHC is to prove or disprove the existence of a particle called the Higgs boson, supposedly an integral and pervasive component of Life, the Universe and, well, Everything.

Back to that chance joke--a friend of the old Bean suggested that Higgs Boson was also, coincidentally, the name of a Red Sox second baseman.  My thought was that it was possibly the name of a late Twenties touring sedan, the Higgs Boson Phaeton Supreme.  Elegant thing, but it had the unfortunate tendency to have its tires burst into flame at high speed and one such accident was responsible for the death of Grover Cleveland's great great grandson, Ohio Cleveland.

Now.  Your turn.  Keep the coincidence going.  Be as succinct or as flowery as you want.  What else just so happens to share that name/title/description?