Posted by: zhak39 | September 18, 2010

We’re not in Kansas anymore

Well I’ll be dipped.  Apparently the wind event in Queens actually was a tornado.

When I  heard on NPR that a devastating weather anomaly blew through the New York City burg my first thought was there are no tornadoes in my home state.  I did not recall any in my childhood locale near the Hudson River.  Apparently I wasn’t paying attention.  According to the Tornado Project, there were several twisters there in the latter half of the 20th century.  Notably, there were two in one month in 1992.  Also notable, the first tornado reported in that area did not occur until 1972.

In the same table the earliest events are listed in 1954, an F1 in July in Yates County and an F2 that September in St. Lawrence.  So what’s the F?  It comes from the Fujita scale.  An F0, which is what touched first the other day in Brooklyn is lightweight.  (Not to take away from the damage done by that event, a gale tornado will put a peak on your meringue.)  An F1 is considered moderate and relates to hurricane speed and F2 is significant with winds from 113 to 157 mph.  The Fujita scale is a measure of intensity as opposed to size and is illustrated with probable damage but I consider this somewhat misleading on a small scale.  What may blow over a poorly anchored mobile home in one topography may not seriously damage a better structured unit in another.  In fact, I was once blown away by the sight of the nodding head of a Queen Anne’s Lace bobbing next to the upturned roots of a decades old oak tree resulting from an downburst during a brief summer thunderstorm.

The events in New York in a 45 year period ranged in intensity up to F4 or ‘devastating.’ While F0 to F4 tornadoes are not going to whisk someone to Oz, they are significant events and are occurring with a frequency that surprised me.

Events by Intensity 1950- 1999


Posted by: zhak39 | September 16, 2010

What I Have Learned, Lesson 437

We are in hiring mode and today I chatted with a potential employee.  We were talking about how jobs can grow us, how we have stretched not only professionally but personally.

“One thing that I have learned during the growth phase of this project is that sometimes I just can’t accomplish everything and that that is ok.  For the first time in my life, I can look in the mirror and see that although the resemblance is uncanny, just because I look like Wonder Woman I actually don’t have superpowers.”

Ah, the relief of confession.

Posted by: zhak39 | September 13, 2010

For Mom

Guy with dowsing rod says–

Me Hope You Get Well Soon

Love you.

Posted by: zhak39 | September 11, 2010

Jon Anderson

My evening out ended just as Chris and Hannah were heading out the door for a night time stroll.  He had been kind of surprised as I whipped up a quick stir-fry for their dinner a few hours before.

“You’re going to a concert?”


But not ‘Yes.’  It was billed as “Jon Anderson, The Voice of Yes.” I would have preferred that it had simply been ‘Jon.’

I am fuzzy on the details.  Apparently Jon Anderson was very ill for a while and that illness effected his voice.  And that voice.  That incredible haunting clear and agile voice.  It definitely effected his voice.  Which could be devastating if a person’s expectation is that we as humans do not grow and change.  For those at the Carolina Theatre last night that insist that their life began and ended in their own adolescence sometime around 1978 it is a big over.  Some there last night would have done better to put on head phones and look at album covers.

The Yes songs that Jon Anderson performed had been completely rearranged to suit his current range.  Interestingly, he inserted some key changes, short interludes in minor keys that darkened and softened the music, added poignancy.  He also performed newer work that truly suited his range and gifts.  My recorder ran out of batteries (wah!!!!) but I found this on YouTube this morning.

Back home the kids asked me how the concert was.  I thought.

“You know how over time sometimes glasses get kind of cloudy and crazed looking?  Jon Anderson is like that.  The glass is cloudy but what it holds is still incredibly sweet.”

Posted by: zhak39 | September 2, 2010

The Sound and The Fury

A long weekend on an Atlantic coastal island.

Barrier islands are long thin strips of land, some right off the coast, some feeling like a cork in the middle of the ocean.  This particular island boasted ten miles of beach and about 400 yards of depth.  We were guests in a cottage on a private rode running perpendicular to the beach.  A hop to the ocean, a skip to the sound.

Behind the front row, gingergbread houses on stilts with names like You-N-Sea and Gimme Shell-ter live thick thatches of salt myrtle wind sheared to perfect 15 foot hedges and live oaks with trunks growing parallel to the ground.  Tucked behind these natural windbreaks are the older houses, some cinderblock boxes that survived Hazel, some newer cedar shingled bungalows.  We stayed in a home with walls displaying original watercolors and family photos with handwritten dates.  From wall to wall and room to room I watched this stranger family grow, marry, welcome babies, babies that became toddlers then teenagers then parents.

The second day I carried my kayak down to the sound.  It’s a bitty way across, in the middle, a couple of islands large enough to boast a tree or three, long thin islands of marsh grass.  It’s a maze, it’s amazing.  Tall egrets standing atop dead tree limbs, bright shining skittery fish flying across the water’s surface like skipping rocks.  Oyster beds scraping the bottom of the boat, traps in sheltered inlets.  Quiet, above all, quiet, calm, peaceful.  Sun, hazy blue skies.  Sunshine.  Cool, gentle breezes.

Just 400 yards away rip currents make the surf interesting with blue-green-shodows in the water.  Few beach combers, a couple body surfers, broken shells, sea glass, smooth pebbles.  I loaded this on my iPod and brought it to a friend.  She held the little device up to her ear, listened smiled.

“To think once upon a time we used to use shells to do this.”

Posted by: zhak39 | July 23, 2010

Get well soon

I was privileged to see Al Jarreau in a theatre in the round in Long Island about 25 years ago. Last night he was hospitalized and is in critical condition in a hospital in France. Please “Take Five” to put Mr. Jarreau in a healing light>

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Posted by: zhak39 | July 18, 2010

What kind of snake am I?

He did the right things.  Looking over his shoulder at the row of grass  he had just cut in the far back lawn edging the woods Chris saw movement.  He hopped off the lawn tractor and went all Jim Fowler , I mean Crocodile Hunter on it.  That is, he secured the head, grasped it firmly and plunked it in a can.

Behind Blue Eyes

One of the right things was to secure the little guy and then wash his hands.  Next step was to find mom.

“Mom, you got to see this.  I found a snake.”

“Oh, cool.  Where is it?”

“It’s in a can by the garage.  Check it out.”

The first thing that I noticed was it’s eyes.

“OK, see how blue the eyes are?  This little guy is shedding so it is probably pretty miserable.  Did it try to bite you?”

“No, but it peed on my hand.”


“Can keep it? I can put him in the terrarium in my room.”

It’s like a double exposure.  I see him at 17, I see him at 7.  Chris has always had an uncanny relationship with living beings.  He is the one to find turtles and crabs and snakes.  He leans in close, he has never been afraid, never squeamish.  Once when he was 9 he was walking in a field and a brand new butterfly, wings still damp brushed onto his shirt sleeve.  It crawled up to his shoulder.  He slowly walked up to the driveway, showed me then stood motionless in the May sunshine for more than an hour until its wings hardened and it took it’s first flight, brushing the softness of Chris’ cheek in farewell.

“Do you remember the rule?” I asked him.


“Yeah.  I can keep nature for one day.”

This rule goes way back.  As soon as Chris began toddling in the yard he started making friends with ‘nature.’  This was a challenge on a couple of levels, not the least was a copperhead that hunted in the garden next to the house.  I had a system of remembering events by an adapted Chinese calendar based on nature that found it’s way indoors.  Helen still shudders to remember the Year of the Giant Possum.  There was the Year of Chimney Swifts.  The Year of the Rats.  The Year of the Blue Tailed Skinks.  And my favorite, the Year of the Mating Black Snakes.  The rationale for keeping critters for just a day in a permanently installed terrarium on the porch is that often we couldn’t feed these visitors and after a couple of days we would have dead new buddy.  Chris understood this.  He could not keep anything for longer than he could go without eating.

“Tell you what.  You need to find out what kind of snake this is and what it eats.  If you can feed it, you can keep it.”

You know somewhere during adolescence as little boys become young men they lose that way of smiling that is like sunshine breaking out .  The kind of happiness that you see in puppies when they wag their tails so hard their nose quivers.

Chris gave me one of those looks.  Double rainbow.

Posted by: zhak39 | July 17, 2010

Nicely Choreographed

I’m not sure how I came across this one. Just random surfing. I think Helen used to watch this show a couple of years ago.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Posted by: zhak39 | July 17, 2010

Cue: Lara’s Theme

It begins with an algorithm devised by a Russian software programmer, a young man of 27 who speaks English reasonably well although his native language is Russian.  His motivation, to present a tool to allow people to develop writing proficiency.  The result? a website that analyzes writing samples and forms a comparison with writers of some accomplishment.  It is a simple cut and paste experiment that yields fun if not necessarily useful results.

Accuracy?  According to an article on Yahoo Margaret Atwood writes like Steven King.  President Obama’s speechwriters channel David Foster Wallace.  Lady Gaga reveals her inner Shakespeare.  Oh, and transcripts of a ranting abusive aging actor?  Margaret Atwood.  Work in progress.

So who can resist?  I scrounged an earlier blog post, Daddy, and dutifully plugged it in.

I write like, I don’t want to say.

Surely it’s a rite of passage for every American girl to struggle through adolescence leaning on the crutch of the Great Russian Authors.  Did any of us make it through tenth grade geometry without taking sanity breaks between memorizing formulas by skimming passages of The Brothers Karamazov?  How else to deal with dateless Saturday nights then to take cold comfort in the company of  dutiful Tonya or perhaps  guilty vicarious pleasures with torn Lara?  There is no obstacle of puberty that can’t be eased by a stroll through hard frozen fields ruminating on essays of  Nikolai Alexandrovich Berdyaev.  (Yeah, because I said so.)

So I write like….no.

Then we limp down the auditorium aisle to the strains of pomp and circumstance and make it through the summer somehow until our parents drop us off at a bland bare dorm room with a suitcase and a homemade comforter (and then they take a well deserved two week break from parenting on Cape Cod).  And we stand tall, without our crutch and immediately head to the Humanities Building to sign up for Fear and Trembling: A Review of Modern Literature and Devices.

And we love our literature classes for a semester or two.  We love these grim guys and their toady phrasing and their sharp beards and their feckless women.  We sneak macaroons and march determinedly into mouldering mansions with backs rigid, dignity intact and emotional lives shredded.  We think we understand Vronsky and are comme ci comme ca with Anna. And eventually we begin to realize that these men that write great portraits of women are, men.  And not only that, they are men of their time.  And we get interested in their time and support them and march on until we get to…

(I write like, Vladimir Nabakov).

…that evil little bitch, Lolita.  And we try to be sympathetic to Humbert Humbert and end up throwing the book against the dorm room wall, vowing to march right down to the Registrar and switch to a math major.  And it’s precisely because we have no experience and no distance (and apparently no sense of humor–Humbert Humbert?) so we just don’t get it.  This is just beyond us.  This is Harmonic Analysis in Euclidean Space and that’s right, we were reading novels tucked under our Geometry books back in tenth grade.  Ooops.

So we do march on, our backs rigid.  And at some point we do grow a sense of humor.  And we put aside fear and trembling for belly jiggling giggling.  And we continue to write for friends and family and don’t try to re-order the world.  We accept absurdity and we smile.

Nabakov.  OK. I can live with that.

Posted by: zhak39 | July 16, 2010

Old Spice Guy–Redux

Kaitlyn–thought you’d get a kick out of this one….

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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