Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year Eve's Blue Moon

Blue moons are either the second full moon in a calendar month or, as Farmer's Almanac defines it, an extra full moon in a season. Historically this extra full moon was called a betrayer moon because it could set off the timing of Lent and ergo Easter. And it betrays the naming of the twelve moons because suddenly there is this extra one but my calendar for 2009 calls this the Full Long Nights Moon. And the next full moon - Sun Has Not Strength to Thaw Moon - will be January 30th.

There is no heavy astrological significance of a blue or betrayer moon other than the usual "lunacy" that occurs around a full moon. My sister, who is a nurse, is not fond of full moons because of the havoc they create in emergency wards. There has been some recent research which says this long held belief is myth but ask any police officer or hospital employee. To add a full moon, blue or otherwise, to New Year's Eve does not bode well. Can you imagine what a full Moon will do to already crazed New Year's revelers? A more meaningful way to ring in 2010; instead of joining in drunken revelry maybe tp sit outside and look up at the beautiful Moon and see what messages it has to tell you for the future. With current temperatures where I live this could result, with the addition of alcohol, in a lot of frozen moon gazers. Fortunately, I can watch the moon rise from the comfort of my studio.

All full moons rise at sun set. I guess that makes it possible to both gaze at the moon and later party with the rest of the lunatics. Just don't drive drunk. It can ruin your entire new year or your life and the life of innocents out on the road.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The New Sherlock Holmes for Movie Monday

I guess you could say this was a wonderful Christmas for me. First spending the day with friends and playing in her jewelry studio and then yesterday, Boxing Day, an unexpected invitation to go to Taos and see the new Sherlock Holmes movie.

I am a long time fan of Sherlock Holmes. I even have read the collections of stories put out. And the BBC has done a very "faithful" job of putting them to film. Nor can one fault the acting.

But less face it girls, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are a lot better to look at for nearly three hours.

And I love Robert Downey Jr. and Judd Law. So naturally I just had to see it though to be entirely frank I had my reservations. I generally am not fond of re-do's of movies or shows I was already fond of. But even if it didn't measure up I would get to look at Downey and Law for three hours. How can you go wrong? And as it turned out I loved it.

Apologies to Sir Conan Doyle but I never quite understood why Watson put up with Holmes. There seemed to be no up side for him. But in this new take on the friendship we discover that Watson has a bit of a gambling problem and that while a prim and proper doctor (a tad anal retentive) he has a secret desire for the bizarre and Holmes, as played by Downey, is more bizarre than eccentric. But then Holmes would have to be if you figure the edges of crime and society that he hung around. Not to mention his fondness for opium, etc. Director Guy Ritchie seems to be purposely trying to make us reconsider what we know of Sherlock Holmes and his universe. Guy Ritchie wants to show that Sherlock Holmes' intellect is as much of a curse as it is a blessing.

These tweaks in the characters they are playing create a wonderful platform for a buddy movie of the level I have not seen since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Their on screen synergy is of a level that totally consumes your attention to the point you almost miss some of the fantastic backgrounds, elaborate ensemble scenes, and gorgeous costumes. Ritchie has made a very contemporary film as far as the tone and texture, because it has been a relatively long time since there's been a film version of Sherlock Holmes that people embraced.

Not only will I have to see this movie again I will have to own the DVD when it is released but until then I give you The official site, which I have visited too. Oh, and BTW, they left if open for sequel.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Beginning or Middle of Winter - What's in a Name?

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the winter solstice. She quoted the ABC weatherman at the local channel saying that the day before had been the last day of autumn and the 21st the transition to winter. That would make today the first full day of winter. Something in me just rejected all that.

Think back to your weather on the 20th if you live in the northern hemisphere. Did it seem at all like autumn to you? I told her I really believed that winter solstice was more like the middle of winter. Or at least approaching that point rapidly. With freezes in September slowing plant growth and snows coming in October I find it really hard to believe fall continues to December 20th.

So I did what I usually do when challenging information I have received - I Googled. And wound up on Wiki as per usual. While it seems it is a cultural difference as to what solstice is called there is much historical basis for Midwinter over first day of winter. The Celts believed winter began November 1st. Seems more accurate to me. So winter solstice would be about 2 months into winter. And ergo spring actually begins in March.

Early March is when green begins to appear. There are little buds on the trees and the patches of grass showing through the snow are becoming green. So then spring equinox would be midspring?

I don't know if that is as important to get right as Winter Solstice. While the days will begin to be longer I find it quite depressing to believe it is the BEGINNING of winter. Where I live we have had winter for at least a month and a half. Midwinter is so much more optimistic! If you have made it to this point you can survive it. And today you more than half way through the ordeal.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Curious Incident of the Dogs that Did Bark

There is a short story featuring Sherlock Holmes titled "Silver Blaze" which has become known for the dog that didn't bark in the night.
Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."
This scene was the inspiration for the title of the 2003 book  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.)

All which is beside the point because my dogs did bark in the night-time last night. Well, very early this morning.

If you are an owner of a canine fur kid you do know they have different barks (well, unless it is one of those foofoo tiny things that are merely pretenders to the throne of dog) for different occasions. And living in the country as I do I have discerned the difference between their bark because all the other dogs in the neighborhood are barking, and the something unsettling is going on bark. Within the latter category is the elks through the yard bark and the I have no idea bark. It is the I have no idea bark which is the most unnerving. I can entreat them to go back to sleep through most all other barks but that one.

That was the bark at 3 a.m. this morning. And it was followed by protective behavior where they crowd in as close to me as possible. I want to believe they think they are protecting me rather than I am protecting them. Ever notice how acute your hearing gets in such circumstances? I could hear the distant bugling of female elks to their young and figured maybe it was just a herd leaping over fences but something did not feel right about the air in the house. Charged? Energized? I tried in vain to remember where the upstairs fire arm was. Made mental note to figure that out come dawn.

Got out of bed with some difficulty given dogs protecting me. Threw on terry robe and traipsed downstairs (I would rather rush to meet my destiny than have it creep up on me) where I was aware of all the gun locations. Dogs followed with that low growl thing going on. Creepier than the I haven't a clue bark. Lights were on across the street at the vacation rental - late arrivals for holiday ski weekend? And car lights were on down the dead end road - domestic dispute? Early morning departure for the holidays? Car rushes past fast down the road. I walked out on my back porch (damn cold out there this morning) and leaned over the railing so I could see if the lights were on at my neighbor's to the west - nope. Steve has a terminal form of cancer so a predawn emergency would not be out of the realm of possibility.

By this time I am totally awake and put on the water for coffee in the French Press, toss on a few logs to the burning embers in the wood stove, and feed the fur kids. Magique is still in protective mode at my feet and Mardi is only three feet away. Maybe dawn will reveal the cause of their upset. And maybe not. Coffee with the neighbors is probably called for to see what they experienced.

I am doing a gun check today and also being more careful about locking the doors. And there is an afternoon nap in my future.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ten More Days

No, not ten more shopping days til Christmas. Ten more waiting days until after Christmas sales. A trip to Santa Fe last year after Christmas netted me some great bargains on holiday ornaments, etc. This year I am going to try to score myself an LCD TV screen and/or a new DeWalt battery powered drill. Pre-holiday prices are looking good but early reports are that sales are down some 50% from last year and we know how bad a Christmas shopping season that was.

Besides I am entirely too busy to do anything before Christmas. And my sister is working through Christmas anyway. And because of the wonderful planning of the state and when I bought my van a few years ago practically everything is due in December from van insurance and registration to property taxes and insurance. Who thought that up in state government?

The good news is all of that is paid. The bad news is it doesn't feel a lot like Christmas. Even the long range forecast is looking dismal for a white Christmas and I live at the foot of a ski resort. Mind you I am all in favor of the high 30's and low 40's temperatures we are going to have. Some of the snow lying around my property in drifts will melt and water the trees and plants.

And it is looking good for a girls' day in Santa Fe this year. I am making my conservative list and checking it twice. I don't want to spend all my money. Last winter was hell trying to scrape up the bucks for heating bills, etc. I am trying to build a nest egg as a cushion for unexpected expenses.

Are you paring down your holiday buying?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Life by the Book

I used to be a Franklin-Covey Day Planner person. A subscriber to 7 Basic Habits for Highly Effective People. I carried the day planner into my life after corporate America. Every year about this time I would be buying the yearly fillers for my book. And on particularly nice years a new binder that said success. Then I tried Palm Pilot. And calendars on line. I came to the conclusion I am a paper person. I have to write (not key) things down. So in 2008 due to finances I went with the engagement calendar instead of the Day Planner.

The fact that I chose the Old Farmer's Almanac Engagement Calendar says a great deal about my life these days. It lays flat on my computer desk - generally right in front of the screen - and it includes all sorts of little wives' tales trivia, tips and quotes, as well as the phases of the moon. It allows two inches for each day for notes. I clearly no longer have a life style that requires two pages for each day. Nor does it need to be broken down into 30 minute segments. But I have learned the habit of making notes and lists. I like a record of my comings and goings just in case I get called as a witness to some crime! LOL.

Well, perhaps not that funny. It was that habit of making notes (and the new habit of writing blogs) that stood me well during this last round with the contractor from hell. I have written backup of things. He does not.

So here I sit at the computer with the 2009 engagement calendar open before me. And the 2010 underneath one flap. We are in that time of year where forward plans require both. This morning I will be entering some dates of importance in my Google online calendar so I can get e-mail reminders. Important these days are pet sitting engagements, arrival dates of guests and maids at the house I am sitting for the winter, gallery receptions, and MVAC board meetings. A bit different from my high powered days as a project control engineer for a major construction management firm.

But I am about to begin a lobby effort to change the Mechanic's lien laws in New Mexico. Can I show up at the office of a state legislator with my Farmer's Almanac Engagement Calendar? Any thoughts?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's Snowing

Shades of Little House on the Prairie

First let me say I was rather disappointed to discover that Little House on the Prairie was written about the Dakotas. I always thought it was Kansas. But the fact I had been marooned with my parents in a blizzard in Kansas while going home to Kansas City, Missouri for Christmas may have tainted my memory.

Second let me mention that I am not a snow hater. I just love it more when it falls straight to the ground and stays there until it melts. I prefer it when it melts within a couple of days.

Third, this is not our first snow of the "winter season." We even had a rather serious 7 inches early on. This does seem, however, to be the first one the weather prognosticators have gotten right. Damn! I have been spending my physic energy to turn it south. That part of the state is having a drought of some length and they would really love this. I even tried to get it to Phoenix. They want to steal all the water out of the Colorado River so they can mist their shopping centers and water more than 150 golf courses so I think they ought to deal with how the water gets into the Colorado River for them to steal it. Let them shovel it for a change.

Okay, I admit, blizzards do not put me in a good mood. I just popped out my head to get another log off the porch and suffered a chilling whiteout. That does not increase my desire to actually walk to the wood shed (maybe 50 feet). But there is more wood on the porch to use before that become necessary.

Having failed in re-directing this low pressure area I am seeking someone east of here that would like to have it next. Any bids from Kansas? Though you may not have a choice. Texas could use the water. I want to hear phrases like "....this fast moving storm, now centered over Dallas, is responsible for more than a foot of snow in the panhandle."

PS: that is a Google photo. I am not going out of this house with a camera.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Winter Thus Far

First let me say this is not a picture of me, my cat or my swood burning stove. I do have a huge old iron wood burning stove. And mornings are likely to find me stoking up the remaining embers to take the chill off the room. And it is also highly likely that my cats will be close. So will the dogs. On chilly mornings and evenings the whole fur kid population and me are likely to be close to my formed iron stove.

Last winter's electric bill for heating my modest home, coupled with the increased attention to global warming has made me look long and hard at our habits in winter. Why, for instance, do people want to warm their entire house to hotter than then cool it off to in the summer? And central heat is so wasteful. I remember when my father installed central heat in our house on Bellamah Avenue. There were no longer those radiators we could stand in front of to get dressed on chilly mornings. And there was this constant breeze blowing through vents.

My current abode has baseboard electric heat controlled room by room. So rooms I am not in do not have to be heated. And instead of cranking up the heat to reach 72 plus (I have a neighbor that has to have her house winters at 76) I put on a hoodie and throw an afghan over my lap. I find anything above 67 stiffling of my energy. The studio with all its windows facing the south and east frequently warms up above that. And I will turn on the ceiling fan in the livingroom to suck some of the heat into that part of the house.

Winter days when the sun doesn't come out are probably my biggest challenge. That is often when I will alter my activities to stay where it is warmest. It is why the pioneers used to mend harnesses in the room with the potbellied stove in the winter. Or everyone would drop in at the old country store to chat and warm up around the old stove there. We didn't heat what we weren't using. That neighbor who likes her house 76 heats every single inch of it.

I figure I have two months of real "winter" to make it through. And like this week I will from time to time use a little space heater for just that space I am in. Or dry my clothes in the drier as opposed to hang them out on the line to "freeze" dry. And there is the underhouse heat to keep pipes from freezing. And the one baseboard heater in the unused rental unit turned to 50 for the same reason. I threw another quilt on the bed. Am getting really good use out of my hoodies and discovering the pluses to having Magique curl up on my feet under the computer desk.

And yesterday moved the French press coffee maker to the flat top of the wood stove to keep the fresh brewed coffee warm and eliminate the microwave in my morning rituals. Life is good. And no guilt about my carbon footprint.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

January the Coldest Month?

I was sure that December was the coldest month. It is the darkest because of the Winter Solstice falling this year on the morning of December 21st. But when I went to Google and confirm my facts before posting I found the following information: January is the coldest month...Because water retains heat. Between 70 percent and 75 percent of the Earth's surface is covered in oceans, rivers, and lakes. (There's even more water vaporized in the air or stored in the ground.) During seasons of longer days and more sunlight, these geographical features are able to store up and retain heat over long periods of time, before emitting it as the days get shorter. A body of water is far more effective as a space heater than, say, a big field of rocks: The water holds on to five times as much heat per gram.

Since I have lived in the mountains of northern New Mexico my feelings run counter to this information. In my memory we often get about ten days every January where night temperatures hang around zero farenheit and below. Once it was coupled with ten days of no sunshine and people depending upon solar or passive solar heating almost froze. It seems to me that it is seldom that cold in January. But then there are no large bodies of water around here. And the condensation rising from the cooling oceans generates clouds that climb to the top of our mountains and become snow. So I think for the inner mountain west they are wrong.

Who is they? Weather forecasters (isn't that an oxymoron?) Just before the Utah winter Olympics the government put forth big bucks to study mountain effect weather. The end conclusion of this two year study is you cannot predict mountain weather. Duh? Saturday and Sunday of this last week we were warned of 6 to 10 inches around 7500 feet and more above that. We got a dusting. The front hitting the mountains took a dive south. Now we are facing our first Canadian cold front. They are pretty reliable with or without snow.

For the next three days we are not even expected to be above 20 F as a high. I am currently ignoring lows as it is four degrees at the moment! And the Canadian express has not arrived. But it is around this time every year it makes its appearance. And we seriously crank up the heat. Especially since it generally sucks up moisture from the gulf of Baja and we miss the solar warming of the sun. January generally brings a thaw and we have a couple of weeks of sunny weather. If you are out of the breeze like on my studio porch you can almost sunbathe.

I think I might look up all the climatic data for December and January in the mountains right after it warms up just a hair. I would rather not know January is going to be colder until I am through December. Call me chicken.