Saturday, July 30, 2011

Darlusz Meets Jackson

Editor's Note: Darlusz Zabagaiski, the Polish ceramic/plastic frog that lives in our house and serves as the household muse, is guest writing today's blog post:

I dunno. Dis Jackson, I dunno what to tink. Monday, Jeff come home, he got furry little animal wit 'im. Black curly fur, really, what you say, hyper. Jeff say furry ting is a called a puppy. Jeff say it name Jackson and it live wit us. Is cute.  Still, I worry.

Matt come home soon, I thought. He fix this. I worry dis Jackson iz too much. Maybe Matt tell Jackson live somewhere else, I hope.

But when Matt come home, he all thrilled wit dis ting Jackson. He lay down on driveway with little animal and start play wit it. Matt no like me no more? I tot we team. I get sad. Maybe he want me leave? Where I go? I not like da other frog who can live in da swamp. I get cold. Scared big animal come eat me.

Finally, Matt notice I in corner and I no look good.
Jackson the puppy and Darlusz the Polish
frog introduce themselves to each other. 

"OK, what's wrong, Darlusz,?" Matt asked, as Jackson, dat little black animal follow Matt, playing around Matt ankles.

I tol Matt why I worry.

"You worry way too much," Darlusz said. This is Jackson. He is going to live with me and Jeff and you for as long as we are all alive. Jackson is a dog. He's fun. He'll get bigger and a little less hyper in a year or two, but he'll still be fun to play with."

"But dare room for all us? I have to go live somewhere else? Where?," I asked.

"Why would you think that,?" Matt said. "There's plenty of room for all of us. You'll stay here. I told you from the beginning you can stay here forever."

"But you pay attention to dog. You just put me in corner and forget me, right,?" I asked. If you do dat, I must leave. I no want get in way.

Matt laughed and said, "No. You'll always be part of the family.  But Jackson is going to need lots of extra attention, especially when he's young.   He's a puppy, so he's like a little baby. We have to protect him, feed him, keep him out of trouble, and teach him how to live so he doesn't make messes and we all get along. But we'll all be a team. You included."

While Matt talk, I watch da Jackson. I little afraid of it. He smell me. Tug on da foot I hurt last winter.

"When Jackson get bigger, will he eat me? I worry. He has big teeth," I said.

Matt said he would protect me, and Jackson will be my friend.

I had other worry. "Will he eat bugs? I like to eat da bugs around here. I no want Jackson steal dem," I said.

Matt thought about that. Then he said, "Well, he'll probably eat a few. But we'll give him his own food. It'll be just like me and Jeff. Jeff and I eat our own kind of food, and you can have the bugs, which Jeff and I don't want. They'll be plenty for you."

Matt look at me. He see I still worry. But he good. He try to help. Here what Matt said.

"Remember when Jeff moved in? You worried I would blow you off. But what happened? We got much happier when Jeff came here.  The added person, especially with it being Jeff, just made things so much better in the house. For a million reasons. It will be sort of the same with Jackson's arrival.  Love, respect and friendship don't come in limited quantities. If you add more happy beings to a household, and you make the effort to support each other, laugh in the good times, help in the bad, the good vibe in the house, the love and warmth and trust just grows and grows."

"Yes, we'll all have to adjust our lives a bit with Jackson here now, but dogs like Jackson are innocent beings who will love and protect you unconditionally. He'll make you laugh, and he'll cheer you up when you're sad. Think of Jackson as a magic little animal that spreads cheer and kindness everywhere. I know you like magic, and happiness and good feelings, right?"

Matt smile at me as he finish da talk.   Dis animal, Jackson, lick my face, like he kiss me. Den he hop around me, like he jump for joy.

I tink maybe Matt right. I be friend with Jackson.  Maybe we have fun. Maybe da two of us can hunt da bug together.  I give it try.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fire Breather Invades My Heat Wave Refuge.

I sure do seem to attract the unusual.

Fire breather Vincent Izzo does his stuff in
the middle of nowhere last week.
There I was during last week's hot spell at a secluded swimming hole near Bolton, Vermont. It's my favorite place in extremely hot weather.  Hardly anybody goes there, the water stays cold and the brook generates a cool breeze that bounces off the rocks and cools a person down no matter how high into the 90s the temperature is.

So I'm there, me and maybe a couple of other people, the water, lots of trees, nothing else.
Suddenly a gaggle of young people, probably in their 20s come in off the trail. They probably want to take a dip. Or not.

One of the young guys asks a person sitting on a rock if he can borrow his lighter. The smoker obliges. The young guy lights up a torch. He then takes a swig of some liquid and swishes it around his mouth. He holds his mouth near the torch and blows.

A huge burst of flames billows from the kid's mouth. Glad I had the camera.

So, in the middle of nowhere, with almost nobody around, a random person comes in and gives a fire breathing performance.

Our fire breather says his name is Vincent Izzo and he took up the activity as a hobby. You know, like stamp collecting and scrap booking. Only hotter.

Plus I wondered if this was the right kind of fun to have during the worst heat wave in eight years. But who am I to judge?

Izzo says he's honing his skills and hopes to offer more performances for hopefully paying crowds.

It's dangerous business, Izzo says, and I believe him. What if the fire blows in the wrong direction? Or flashes down into his lungs. He said he's already given himself chemical pneumonia once when he accidentaly ingested some of the ultra pure lamp oil he puts in his mouth to do the fire breathing.

If it gets hot again, I'll probably go to the same swimming hole. Just for the entertainment value. Next time, I might get a sword swallower. Or maybe Circ de Soleil.

You never know.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Youngest Lady Gaga Choreographer

I like dancing around to Lady Gaga tunes, which is a frightening thing to think about seeing, given I'm a middle-aged male hick from Vermont. So usually, I keep that under wraps.

Maybe I need a decent choreographer. I would do well to find the choreographer the two women found in the video you can watch below. It's so adorable. A little boy seems to spontaneously come up with moves to the hit Lady Gaga song "Judas" and the two women follow along.

He's really come up with a surprisingly good dance routine to the song. The kid is probably three or four years old. Maybe he's a future judge (or maybe current judge) on Dancing with the Stars for all I know.

Watch the vid. It won't disappoint:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Forever Rainbow.

It must have been nature's welcome for Jackson, our new eight-week old cocker spaniel. (More on Jackson in an item to be posted soon)

The "it" I refer to was this nice big rainbow that arced over my St. Albans, Vermont home Monday evening. It was Jackson's first day living with us.

This rainbow in St. Albans, Vt. on July 25 lasted a
good 45 minutes

There's a couple pics I took of the rainbow in this post.

What makes me think it was a welcoming rainbow was the fact it lasted so long. It was there continuously, the whole thing, without interruption for a good 45 minutes. Sometimes a more faint, second rainbow appeared with the original one.

You might also remember Darlusz Zabagaiskik the plastic Polish frog that serves as a muse and comic relief for this blog. The first day he arrived at the house, there was a big rainbow, too.
 Another view of the "forever"
rainbow in St. Albans July 25, 2011

Jeff didn't get a rainbow, really. Maybe rainbows don't like humans as much.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Celebrity Montreal Thunderstorm

When I was in Montreal last week, I didn't realize I was meeting an Internet celebrity.

It was the peak of that big heat wave last Wednesday. It was 95 in Montreal, so at least it was three degrees cooler than it was at home in St. Albans, Vermont. But still.
Before the light show: Thunderstorms erupt
over Montreal at sunset, July 21. 

Unlike in the states, some thunderstorms got going just after sunset in Montreal. They did cool things off just a bit.

One thunderstorm, an isolated one, got the most attention. Unlike the line of storms that later hit Montreal this one drifted to the southeast of the city. It was a tall, immense, round tower of roiling clouds, with lightning sparking from it like crazy.

Seems everybody in the city aimed their cameras at the light show. Even lively Rue St. Catherine in Montreal stopped as people gazed at the lightning spitting from the cloud south of the city. It looked like the forerunner of some alien invasion.

Some of the best videos of the storm are here and here.

Below is the video I shot of the "alien storm" I shot from a corner on Rue St. Catherine. I like the sound of the street musician in the background as the lightning flashes and sputters:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scenes From Montreal

Jeff and I needed a big city break, so we drove an hour and a half north Wednesday for a visit to Montreal. I took some photos:

Some sort of bridal photo shoot in
Montreal's Old Port

A bunch of decorations strung over St.
Catherine Street with a building in
the background.
A scene in Montreal's Old Port

Me after a sweaty climb up
Mount Royal in Montreal.
The weather felt like we made a wrong turn and ended up in Houston, but between Circ de Soleil and other attractions it was worth the trip.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Boobs Againsts Haboobs

There's some people in Phoenix, Arizona that are upset over the haboobs that have hit the city this month.
Some people in Arizona say we shouldn't call dust
storms like this "haboobs"

Haboobs are big dust storms and I can see why they're upsetting. Imagine vacuuming the house after one of those things.

But the dust is the least of the problem for some of these people, it turns out. They don't like people calling these dust storms haboobs. And the problem isn't because the word "haboob" prompts lots of snickers from middle school age boys.

No, haboob is an Arabic word and since, according to a few people, we're supposed to hate all things Middle Eastern, we should not use that word, according to an article in yesterday's New York Times. 

Not many people feel this way, of course, but I love the logic of them anyway.  There are a few Middle Eastern terrorists we need to get rid of, for sure. And many Middle Eastern countries aren't exactly oases of human rights and democratic, transparent governments. Apparently, saying "haboob" gives comfort and support to terrorists. To solve those problems, we should stop saying "haboob."


Yes, some Middle Eastern issues are problematic. One critic in the Times article wondered how a soldier would feel after coming home from Iraq and hearing the word "haboob."  We don't need to be reminded of those awful towel heads, the critic seems to be saying.

My guess is said soldier wouldn't really care about the origins of the word "haboob" He would probably say. "Great. Not another #&%*!*!! dust storm."

Linguists also note that expunging Arabic words from the language, if we wanted to be pure about it, would be inconvenient. We would no longer be allowed to say "algebra." Actually, I'm for that. I hate algebra. But we'd also be unable to say, for instance "zero," "pajamas" and "khaki."

Call those dust storms in Arizona just dust storms if you want. But if you call them "haboobs" I don't think that will worsen terrorism or political tensions in the Middle East, do you?  Maybe we should not concentrate on "haboobs" and instead keep plugging away at the messier job of  fighting terrorism and encouraging democracy in the Middle East.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trip to Montreal: Don't Park on Manhole

They're predicted torrential thunderstorms in Montreal late Wednesday night or Thursday.

I mention this unimportant factoid because I'm heading there today for a couple days, and found a video that illustrates one reason I need to be careful parking there.

It rained hard in Montreal the other day. The sewers backed up it rained so hard. The owner of a car parked  near the corner of Rue St.  Catherine and Rue Levesque learned why downpours are bad

The storm sewer turned into a gusher. Watch this wild video to see what happened to the car. As for me, I'll park on top of a hill while I'm there. Just in case.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another Vermont Storm Chase

I had time yesterday to exercise my weather geekdom by chasing a strengthening thunderstorm south from near Burlington, Vermont down to Addison County, a good 30 miles.
Dramatic storm clouds loom over an
Addison, Vermont house yesterday.

I first saw the storm as a run-of-the-mill cumulus cloud northwest of Burlington, but it slowly developed. In South Burlington, it was a mild storm. In Charlotte, 10 miles to the south, the downpour was intense, and there was some nice. close lightning strikes.

By the time it got to Addison County, the storm had a nice Midwestern tornado vibe, though it was by no means as violent a storm as the kind you get out there.

But it had strong shifting winds, dramatic clouds, abrupt breaks of blue sky and torrential downpours. Plus, it behaved erratically, shifting to the east, redeveloping to the west, strengthening, weakening and reforming at will.

It wasn't the strongest storm in the world, but it was nice and photogenic. It was worth the chase.
Storm clouds threaten Addison, Vermont yesterday.

A video of the storm in Addison, Vermont as the storm passed just to the east is below.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cameleon House

Jeff has been at it again.
My houae last week...

He says he needs projects over the summer, so when I come home in St. Albans, Vermont, I often find some major changes to the property.

A few days ago, I arrived to find the house was a different color and so was the strange gargoyle lamp post I have out front.

Much better, don't you think?
And now, with a much better shade of green and
a nice red and black lamp post.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Distant Thunderstorm Beauty

Last evening, around sunset, I saw a small, isolated distant thunderstorm off to the northwest of St. Albans, Vermont, where I took the pictures.

Thunderstorms are my favorite kind of weather, either when I'm getting blasted or watching one from a distance. This one has a classic thunderstorm shape. You see the big anvil top, the dark tower of the storm and a gush of rain coming from the bottom of it.
A small thunderstorm blossoms about 60
miles northwest of St. Albans last evening.

It's true I took the shots of the storm with a long lens, but it's amazing how a storm can be clearly visible even when it's far away, especially when there's not much haze, like last evening. I checked the weather radar and this storm was at least 60 miles northwest of me. It was southwest of Montreal, heading southward toward northwestern New York.

The shapes of the storm, especially along the bottom, kept changing as rain poured from parts of it and downdrafts rearranged the edges of the storm. As the sun set, the storm began to decay, having lost the energy of the sun that helped feed it.

A detail of the the distant thunderstorm
last evening
This morning, it's crystal clear outdoors, it's cooler and less humid, and there will be no thunderstorms today. That's OK. I'm not so sick that I just want thunderstorms.  I love nice weather, too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Korean Lilac Cheers Me, Darlusz

"Matt, you sister and dat husband she got really nize. What dat day leave out dare on da deck,?" asked Darlusz Zabagaiski, the Polish frog who lives here at my St. Albans house.

"They sure are nice. They left me a beautiful Korean dwarf lilac to plant out in the yard," I replied. It's a beautiful gift. It blooms a little later than traditional lilacs. It's smaller, and has these gorgeous dark, shiny leaves with curvy edges. Just a gorgeous shrub.

The lilac will be another step in my goal to eradicate as much lawn as possible and convert it to gardens.

"Where you plant da what you call, Korean lilac,?" Darlusz asked.
Darlusz the Polish frog checks out the
dwarf Korean lilac my sister got
me as a gift.

"I think it will look great on the right side of the driveway, sort of across the driveway from the big lilac I already have. The Korean lilac can act as sort of an echo to the other one. It will also add a nice point of interest to an area that is a little too flat, with plantings that are a little too even, with not enough variety,"  I said, trying to fake some good landscape design chops as I talked.

"I help you plant," Darlusz said.

"OK, but no eating bugs around the lilac. I don't want you knocking it down and damaging it," I said.

"First we have to decide exactly where to plant it," I said. "Darlusz, you're good at placing things in the right spot. You can guide me," I said.

That was a big mistake. I brought the lilac in its pot out, and placed it in a spot I thought would work. "Move dat six inch to da right," Darlusz said. I complied. "No, now up da hill four inches, no a little down hill, to da right....."

This lastest most of the morning.

By the time we finally settled on a place to plant the lilac, it was getting late. I started digging the dirt in the spot where it will go, but decided to come back to it today. The dirt is surprisingly lousy there, full of rocks and a little bit of garbage like broken light bulbs and plastic that the strange, previous owner of my house buried.

I'll dig out an area much bigger than the lilac's root ball and replace it with quality soil. "I help you haul da good dirt here," Darlusz said.

"OK, but you'd better not be as picky as you were today," I said.  We have to get this thing planted tomorrow.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

City to Gardener: Lawns Rule

A woman in Oak Park, Michigan is in big trouble for a terrible crime.

She is growing vegetables in her front lawn.  How dare she? How un-American! Doesn't she know that front lawns are supposed to be grass, and you're not supposed to grow anything useful there?

The offending front yard garden in
Oak Park, Mich.
I mean, what if she eats some of the vegetables. Or worse, shares some with her neighbors?  Terrible. She must be some commie. Because the real, American way to do things is to fire up a noisy, smoky lawnmower and blast away at the grass.

And doesn't this woman know that you're supposed to buy vegetables in a giant store with florescent lights that give you a headache, and not grow your own veggies?

 That's why God created supermarkets. You're supposed to drive to a supermarket, fight traffic, find a space in a hot parking lot, struggle against clueless shoppers in the store, pay an arm and a leg for vegetables grown in another country that taste like plastic and then go back out into the parking lot and find your car has been dinged by wayward shopping carts?

What's the fun in getting some fresh air, getting the sense of accomplishment by growing your own veggies, then having a very tasty salad with extremely fresh lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers that evening?

The city of Oak Park is going after this woman because her front yard is not "common." Again, it's supposed to be a lawn, you see.

"I don't know of any community where I have seen a full garden in the front yard. In planning and zoning, we try to put things in appropriate places, said Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski, according to the Detroit News.

So I hope this city jails this woman forever over her shocking front yard behavior. Critics say the city of Oak Park should be spending precious tax dollars on other resources, like fighting crime and fixing potholes.

But go for it, Oak Park. Get that veggie lady!  As it stands now, she could get 93 days in jail for growing her vegetables. That's more than many drug dealers get.

However, if we don't crack down now, people will do even more outlandish things. What will this country become if people started planting blueberry bushes or strawberries in their yards?

We MUST make an example out of veggie lady!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

More Summer Flowers

Things continue to bloom nicely around my yard in St. Albans, Vermont as you can see from these quick shots I took yesterday:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Severe Vermont Storms Spark Damage, Confused People

A nasty squall line passed through Vermont yesterday, causing pockets of wicked tree damage and power failures while leaving most areas relatively untouched.

A strong thunderstorm looms over Lake Champlain off of
Burlington, Vt. Wednesday.

I like the drama of storms, so I was in my glory as the lightning crashed and the wind blew. Of course, I don't like it when things get too destructive. Like the church hall in Essex Junction that burned down after it was hit by lightning. 

I almost got hit by lightning, too, because I was stupid enough to stay outside during the storm. I was under a roof overhang at Burlington's waterfront. You know you're at least almost in trouble when you see a bright flash and a simultaneous, deafening CRACK!  BOOMMM!!!!!!

I'm still tingling from that one, and not in a good way.

I get too excited during storms. I tried to take video of the storm hitting Burlington, Vermont's lakefront, but in my agitated state, I kept fiddling with the camera and shaking, so the videos were so amateurish and blurry and hard to watch I'm not going to share them with you or anybody else. You get glimpses of storm-tossed trees and waves of rain coming through, but the videos have all the focus and steadiness of an ADHD patient on crack and meth.

So I'm not perfect during storms. And I take solace that a lot of people are worse. Why is that bad weather makes some people even more stupid than they already are.
Firefighters tangle with a fire at an Essex Junction, Vermont
church hallthat was struck by lightning Wednesday.

I was on my way back from covering the church hall fire for the Burlington Free Press, where I work, and encountered a busy intersection where the traffic signals weren't working because of a power failure.

Never fear, a town cop was doing a yeoman's job controlling and directing traffic. Things gummed up though, when the woman in front of me would not obey the cop's directions. He was trying to wave her through, his arms moving more and more frantically as she Just. Wouldn't. Budge.

I saw her raise her arms at the cop in a gesture of utter confusion. Traffic was backing up more and more and the cop finally went to the car to see what was the problem. After a conversation that got more and more animated, the woman finally crawled through the intersection at a slug's pace. She probably had the brains of a slug, too.
After a stormy day, a rainbow graces
the sky over Burlington, Vt. Wednesday

After a few more showers and storms, a big rainbow arced over Burlington and we all enjoyed a bright orange sunset.

Despite the dumb people out and about, there's nothing like a day of active weather to energize me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fun With a Flooded Road

Here in Vermont, they're predicted thunderstorms with some heavy downpours today.

Sometimes that kind of weather floods streets briefly. People usually make the best of it, splashing around in it, or trying to get splashed by cars speeding through the big puddles.

Last summer in St. Petersburg, Russia, a guy took this to a whole new level. A storm flooded a street, so the guy got out his surfing gear. The fun results are in the video below:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Natural Fireworks

Vivid thunderstorms rolled down from Quebec into northern Vermont last night, showing that Mother Nature can do much more with fireworks than any human could.

I enjoyed the show for awhile from a hill overlooking St. Albans, Vermont. It was twilight, and the thunderstorm pushed into the remaining blue ski off to the west. The top of the storm, the anvil was visible, with a bit of a red afterglow on it from the sunset. Lightning danced up there, seemingly coordinated. One end of the storm would light up, and then the other. Kind of a call and response.

Meanwhile, humans set off their own puny fireworks and fireflies danced around amid the light show.

I did manage to take a video, which is pretty cool. Watch it, below (Best to click on full screen to see things better):

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Talent Keeps Getting Younger and Younger

Seems like I remember most kids between the ages of say, 5 and 12 when I was growing up didn't become big singing stars like they do now. I mean good ones, not just cut.

We have kids like Jackie Evancho, who hit it big by blowing them away on "America's Got Talent" last year.

Now I've stumbled upon this kid on the Daily What web site named Brendan MacFarlane. He'll turn 14 in September. He's already an accomplished, and apparently well known gospel, country and blues singer.
Brendan MacFarlane, 13, yet another kid who
brings the house down with his voice

I'd never heard of him until now, but watch the clip and be blown away by his singing ability. How can a 13-year-old sound like he's been practicing his chops for 20 years?

The song is called "Money Won't" The video is a little cheesy but this kid's voice sure isn't.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Flower

Flowers don't last too long. I'm trying to gradually plant gardens around my St. Albans, Vermont home so something's blooming from early spring to late fall.

But you can't have everything. So I go around taking photos of the blooms in the yard, just to keep the flowers in some respect.

I like the shot in this post I took the other day. A day lily in my yard is misted with water droplets after an evening shower.