Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tar Patties

Here is an example of the tar patties that are washing up on the shore at Seagrove Beach. We have seen clean up crews, and although we've seen plenty of these tar patties, it hasn't prevented us from enjoying the beach so far.

More on J.E. "Buck" Karnes

WBIR has more on J.E. "Buck" Karnes, whom I have been curious about for some time.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stir Fry Wrap Recipe

I may try this recipe from The Ungourmet.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Looking Into the Sun

NASA has a new satellite, the Solar Dynamic Observatory, visiting our sun. I found this image, which shows solar flares, on the Hayden Planetarium website.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

At the Beach

I am happy to report that the sugar white beaches of South Walton County, at least here at Seagrove Beach, are still sugar white. On the down side, the boys found oiled sand when we got here yesterday, including a tar patty the size of a quarter. So far, however, we haven't seen a lot of oil, and the beach is full of happy tourists enjoying the sun and surf. We have seen crews of workers scanning the beaches, and we saw a line of boats pass by this morning as if they were on a patrol for oil off the coast.

Unfortunately, we don't have wireless at our condo, but we are able to get service at the condo across the street where Mom and Les and Fraz and Laura are staying. Since their place is on the ocean side of the street, this will be our command post anyway, and we'll leave the laptop here for everyone to use for the week.

High Speed Train to Rome

Jake and Joey and their dad and cousin rode on this Eurostar Italia AV (high speed) train from Naples to Rome. I got to ride on a high speed train from Paris to Brussels when I visited Europe many years ago, and it is a wonderful way to travel. I love automobiles, but I wish we had more passenger rail in the United States. It would be especially nice for our frequent trips to and from Nashville.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What I See When I Come Home for Lunch Every Day

I see two lazy cats when I come home for lunch every day. The one on the left is Molly, and the one on the right is Emma. It is unusual for them to both be sleeping on the same bed. It looks like they worked it out so that Emma has control of the yellow sector, and Molly has jurisdiction over the white sector, with the blue part serving as a No Cat's Land. Since they take such delight in waking us up in the mornings, I make it a point to disturb their rest each day during my lunch break.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hotel Blogging in DeFuniak Springs

We drove most of the way to the beach today, and we just checked into a hotel in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. The kids have been chomping at the bit to get into the pool, and Sherry was kind enough to take them to it in order to give me a few minutes to unwind since I've been behind the wheel all day. I'm going to join them for a swim shortly, and then we'll probably order some pizza.

This is our first vacation since Mom's computer guy, Johnny, refurbished my old Thinkpad laptop, which is a dinosaur of a computer. Although it is slow compared to our newer computers, it still does the job, and it is nice to have internet access on the road, especially since I wake up several hours before everyone else does.

Mom, Leslie and Frazier and Laura and Grace are all coming down tomorrow, and one of the few things that will awaken my sisters before noon, other than work, is a trip to the beach, so I suspect they will be up early in the morning. We're only an hour away from our condo in Seagrove Beach, so we can make our way the rest of the way to the gulf coast at our leisure in the morning.

The beaches of south Walton County, Florida, where we will be spending our vacation, have been soiled this week by a "Black Tide" from the oil spill. Although beaches have been closed, the oil has receded, and the beaches have been reopened. The locals are frustrated with the lack of leadership from state and federal authorities, which seems to be a recurring theme along the gulf coast. The county has approval to create sand berms to protect the beaches from the oil.

Don't Tell Sherry About This

Every time my wife sees a cute animal, especially a feline, she asks me if we can take it home. When Sherry and I got married, she had two cats, and I had one. Having concluded that three indoor cats was just too much for our household, we have agreed to a limit of two cats, which is more than enough cat litter for me. I always tell her we can take in the new cute cat, but we'll have to get rid of one of the ones we have. So far she hasn't taken me up on it, but if she does Emma the elder calico will be the first to go.

Anyway, the Nashville Zoo has announced the birth of a clouded leopard cub, and I have to admit, the little critter is pretty cute. Emma better watch it if Sherry finds out about this.

Sarah Dreams

When I woke Sarah up for school yesterday morning she was in the middle of a dream, which she enthusiastically described to me. It involved a wonderful playground that included a water slide and cars that kids could drive. I rarely remember dreams, and when I do remember a piece of one, it is usually because I was dreaming about something mildly stressful. How wonderful to be six and to dream of a playground!

Battle of Little Bighorn

George Armstrong Custer died 134 years ago today on June 25, 2876, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn fighting against an allied force of plains Indians, including the Lakota Sioux, the Arapaho and the Cheyenne. Custer was an interesting and controversial figure during his life, and he remains so today.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gut Bomb

My last two food posts have been about healthy recipes. Inasmuch as I am an erstwhile McDonald's grill cook, I thought I should give a nod to a less healthy menu choice in the interest of fairness. I therefore submit this artery clogging burger featuring grilled cheese sandwiches for buns.

By the way, SpongeBob Squarepants is actually a grill cook, not a fry cook. The fry cook is the person who cooks french fries and such in oil in the fry vat.

Summer Kabobs

Sherry and I have been talking about grilling some kabobs, and the Guilty Kitchen blog has me ready to try some pineapple and steak kabobs. This would be easy camping fare, and would also serve us well at the beach.

UPDATE: The Guilty Kitchen blogger just became a mother. Congratulations to her and her family!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Asparagus Pizza

I never thought of using fresh asparagus as a pizza topping, but I found a recipe from Smitten Kitchen that has me interested. I would most likely add something unhealthy, perhaps bacon, to this recipe.

Can't Take the PUNishment

Bob Wilson, the reporter that covers Blount County for the Knoxville News Sentinel, wrote an article about the two guys I've been seeing around town selling hot dogs. I was curious about the hot dog stand and enjoyed his article, but he used every hot dog pun he could think of for the piece, which begins, "To be frank about it . . . ." I have some really bad pun jokes to inflict on him the next time I see him at the justice center.

Who Was Lt. Alexander "Sandy" Bonnyman, Jr.?

The Lt. Alexander "Sandy" Bonnyman Memorial Bridge spans the Tennessee River at the Blount County border with Knox County as part of Interstate 140, which locals here call the Pellissippi Parkway. As I've crossed the bridge, I've wondered who Lieutenant Bonnyman was. I have learned that Bonnyman, who grew up in Knoxville, earned the Medal of Honor fighting in the Pacific theater during the Guadalcanal campaign in World War II. According to the United States Marine Corps, Bonnyman took the wounds that ended his life capturing a strong position fiercely defended by the Japanese:
Realizing that the seizure of this formidable bastion was imperative to make the Marine attack successful, 1stLt Bonnyman pressed his attack and gained the top of the structure flushing more than one hundred of its occupants into the open where they were shot down.

Assailed by additional Japanese, he stood at the forward edge of the position and killed three of the attackers before he fell mortally wounded. His men beat off the counterattack and broke the back of the resistance. The island was declared secured on the day of 1stLt Bonnyman's death.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Watching the Gulf

Tar patties the size of soft balls came up on Seagrove Beach over the weekend, but according to The Walton Sun, it is "looking much better." The message I get from what I'm reading online is that oil is coming ashore, but the locals are working hard to stay on top of it so that folks like us can still enjoy our vacations.

UPDATE: Jimmy Buffett is playing a free concert on July 1 on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, which is two and a half hours west of Seagrove. The show will air that night on CMT.

The Summer Solstice

Today is the summer solstice, and this is an image of Stonehenge at dawn during the 2005 summer solstice from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. In 1993 I visited Stonehenge with Mom, who is intensely interested in the ancient past, and we enjoyed both Stonehenge itself and the drive the drive through the Cotswolds to get there.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Father's Day Visit to Me in 2000

Through the wonder of a fertile imagination I pay a Father's Day visit to myself ten years ago. I find my 2000 self bringing camping gear up the hill from my canoe on Louisville Lake to my old house on Hardy Boulevard.

2010 Me: Yo Steve!
2000 Me: Whoa, dude! I get it. You're me from the future.

2010 Me: Yep. I was celebrating Father's Day in 2010, and I thought how much different my life is from the way it was ten years ago. I thought I'd come see you and tell you a little bit about your future. Mainly, I wanted to let you know that you'll get married the year after next, to a woman with twin boys, who will be age 6 when you marry their mother. You will have a baby girl in 2003, and she is six and a half on Father's Day 2010.
2000 Me: Am I on Candid Camera?

2010 Me: Seriously! And the best part is that your life rocks. You have a wonderful family. Sherry, your beautiful wife, is the love of your life, and she has the same warped sense of humor you do. When Mom and Laura and Leslie met her their reaction was, "Oh no! There's two of them." The first time she met you, you were wearing a Groucho nose, and she married you a year later. There is nothing I would rather do than spend time with my wife. Sherry rocks!
2000 Me: Wow! She does sound cool!

2010 Me: She is, and she gave you three wonderful children. Your stepsons, Jake and Joey, are fine boys, and your daughter, Sarah, loves her daddy. She's really why I'm here. This morning while I was cooking I was listening to some Jimmy Buffett, and she came in and asked me to turn it up. That's my girl! It made me want to tell you how cool your life is in 2010.
2000 Me: It sounds like my life turns out pretty good, though it isn't bad now. I pretty much resigned myself to being a bachelor, which I've become comfortable with, and I figured I'd never have kids. I'm not surprised my kid likes Buffett, but I can't believe I become a father. Wow!

2010 Me: It's a good life. Happy Father's Day.
2000 Me: Happy Father's Day to you too, man.

Oil Hits Our Home Away From Home

The accursed oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico finally made it to the beaches of South Walton on the Florida panhandle yesterday. According to the local sheriff, "Walton County has reported sightings of small (dime to quarter size) tar balls on several area beaches, including Dune Allen, Blue Mountain Beach, Rosemary Beach, WaterColor and Seaside." Seaside, where the movie The Truman Show was filmed, is the municipality adjoining Seagrove Beach, where we'll be staying, and the other beaches mentioned are right in the same neighborhood along County Road 30-A. If Seaside is getting oil, Seagrove is, too. It just makes me sick.

Happy Father's Day!

Today is Father's Day, on which we honor our fathers. A woman named Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, was the impetus for Father's Day, which the YMCA in Spokane celebrated for the first time in 1910, making Father's Day 100 years old today. It is my seventh Father's Day as a parent and my ninth as a stepparent. It is the 17th Father's Day I have spent without my father, Phillip Ellis Ogle, who died in 1993, and it is a time to think of him and smile. He was a good dad, and we still miss him a lot.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bacon and Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Greek Chicken

I've been working in the kitchen a bit this morning. I had some potatoes and cream cheese that needed to be used up, and decided to use the cream cheese, along with a bit of sour cream and butter, in mashed potatoes. Sherry fried up a bunch of that big, thick bacon a couple of days ago, and I put what was left into the mashed potatoes. You can't hurt anything by adding bacon to it.

The Greek chicken is just a bunch of chicken thighs with olive oil and some Greek seasoning I found in our seasoning cabinet. I think my friend Rock gave it to me on a camping trip. It sure smells good!

Over the Weekend

Sherry drove to Nashville after work yesterday afternoon to see her mom and her boys. My wife has worried her sons to Italy and back, and has been missing them terribly. Sarah and I stayed home to begin preparations for our vacation and to shop and to cook for the coming work week. I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend enjoying home before our road trip to the beach.

The Roman Colosseum

Here are a few photographs from Joey and Jake's visit to the Roman Colosseum. Construction of the Colosseum began between 70 and 72 A.D.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More on Destin and Walton County

According to the Destin Log the East Pass in Destin was not closed, as I previously reported, and the strategy at this point is an "umbrella plan." The community is going to throw everything they have at the oil and hope for the best to stave off the oil at the pass.

Meanwhile, just east of Destin, in Walton County, where we'll be staying, they've had "minimal impacts," according to the Walton Sun, with oil reported on the beach at Topsail Hill State Preserve.

"This Was Their Finest Hour."

Seventy years ago today in the British House of Commons Winston Churchill delivered one of his most famous and moving speeches. It has been written that Churchill marshaled the English language and sent it to war. He concluded his speech as follows:

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oil on Okaloosa Island

Oil started coming up on the beaches of Okaloosa Island in the form of tar balls, some the size of dinner plates, yesterday. Randy and Dawn can see oil from where they live in Mary Esther, Florida, and a local reporter spotted a huge mass of oil three and a half miles offshore. It is slowly moving east, toward where we will be staying during our vacation, which begins in about a week. Destin Pass is already closed.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Happy Psycho Birthday

Fifty years ago today on June 16, 1960, Alfred Hitchcock's film, Psycho, featuring a deranged character named Norman Bates, was released. I learned from this Neatorama post that the character was based on a real life killer named Ed Gein, who killed women in his Wisconsin home town. When the authorities searched Gein's property, they found not only the corpse of the woman they suspected him of killing, but also a disgusting variety of human body parts, like a cup full of noses, lips on a string and chairs upholstered in human flesh.

What makes a fella want to go and do a thing like that?

Italian Mountains

I confess that I don't know much about these photographs, except that they were taken in some mountains near Naples. Italian geography is not my strong suit. Pictured above, from left to right, are Joey, Jake and their cousin Alessio.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Bit Thundery

We've had some rain here in Maryville over the past hour or so, and the skies over Everett Hill still look pretty menacing. Parts of northern Knox County were still without power at noon today in the wake of the storms that blew through the area yesterday. On the bright side, the rain has watered our vegetables and flowers.

Visit to Pompeii

During their adventure with their dad and cousins in Italy, Joey and Jake visited Pompeii, the city famously destroyed with its sister city, Hurculaneum, by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

These are plaster casts of people (and a dog) who died in Pompeii in the wake of the eruption.

This statue adorned the Temple of Apollo, back in the day.

I understand a statue of Joey will soon modernize this ancient landmark.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Sherry took Sarah over to Springbrook Pool yesterday afternoon for some fun in the sun. This slide is one of the pool's coolest attractions.

Volcano Hopping

Last week the boys visited Vulcano Solfatara, which is on the Phlegreaen Fields just a few miles from Naples. The ancients had steam baths and saunas here, and the earliest written record of Solfatara we have is from around the time of Christ. We have sulpurous water in the creek at our place in Estill Springs, but sadly no volcano.

Jimmy Dean Dead at 81

Jimmy Dean of country music and sausage fame died at his home in Virginia yesterday evening at the age of 81.

Flag Day

The flag of the United States was adopted by resolution of the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. Americans celebrate Flag Day on June 14 each year by displaying the flag, and many communities, including John Adams' home town of Quincy, Massachusetts, have parades. We display the flag at our house every day, something I've done since I was an undergraduate student.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Steve Martin in Manchester

Steve Martin played Bonnaroo Friday night, and he wore one of his trademark white suits. He told jokes, and he played his banjo with the Steep Canyon Rangers, a bluegrass band from up in Asheville, North Carolina.

The Kids Are Alright

This picture of the boys with their cousins Alessio and Michelle reminds me of an album cover and made me think of the song "The Kids Are Alright" by The Who.

Southern Accents

The last time I left the United States was in 2000, when Mom took my sisters and me to Europe, where we visited Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Strasbourg and Interlocken. We were in countries that spoke French, German and Dutch, and I enjoyed learning enough to get by during our travels. When we came home we flew in by way of the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I remember how wonderful it was to hear the sweet sound of English being spoken with Southern accents as I walked through the airport.

Scary Story About Creek Pollution in Estill Springs

I took a look at the Tullahoma News website last week to see what it had to say about Bonnaroo. I saw an article about oil and gas being discharged into Poorhouse Creek just before it flows into Rock Creek in Estill Springs. Because our beloved family cabin sits on a creek on Rock Creek Road, I became concerned. I have checked my Tennessee Atlas and Gazetteer, and have determined that although they are nearby, neither Poorhouse Creek nor Rock Creek flow into our creek. The spill killed fish and crawdads in Poorhouse Creek.

Interestingly, our creek, which I know as Taylor Creek, is designated Dry Creek on the gazetteer. It is referred to as "Sulphur Spring Branch" in Grandmother and Granddaddy's deed, and I have a memory of seeing it referred to as "Dry Branch." The gazetteer shows another creek on the other side of Highway 41A from the cabin as Taylor Creek. Our creek, and a little bit of the cabin, is shown above.