Friday, October 18, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

Finally we have a temporary resolution of the government shutdown.  One of my friends has been paying her daughter's mortgage since she works for the TSA.  She is glad that she is able to do that, yet so sorry for those who do not have that backup.  Our national forests and parks are open.  We've had some rain and now expecting sunshine.  So life is good.

I do wish our leaders in government could work together like our two Golden Girls.  They are often in tandem.

Together they look at something (real or imagined) below the deck.

And they are always together for an after-walk treat.

One of them saw something on the deck so both must investigate.

They wait together for my husband to get up.
It's dinnertime and my husband put his book aside.

We have some color although I don't think it's going to be as splendid as in years past.  But it is gorgeous enough.  We don't have to go far...just look out the windows into the woods.  Or, go out the front door and walk to the street.

Autumn comes to our street.

I won't be posting for a couple of weeks.  We're having a special guest who loves these mountains as much as we do.  So we will be hitting the road, following the color and the roads wherever they lead us.

Once again our quote is from Marcus Aurelius:

"Accept the thing to which fate binds you and love the people whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart."

In the midst of this divisive nation, let's be accepting and loving.  With all our hearts.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Almost Time

One of my favorite mountain drives is from Brevard to Highlands.  The mountains are gorgeous and said to be some of the oldest in the world.  There are awe-inspiring views all along the road and several trails and waterfalls a short distance away.

One of the most impressive mountains is Whiteside Mountain, so named because of the rocky cliffs that shine white in the sun.  There is a hiking trail to the top with fantastic views of NC, SC, and GA.  The mountain has inspired legends of all sorts and has an area said to be the devil's courthouse.  (Not to be confused with Devil's Courthouse in our county along the Blue Ridge Parkway.)  That part of the mountain is closed to hikers because of dangerous winds and slides.

Every year in mid-October something wonderful happens on Whiteside Mountain.  The sun slipping down in the west casts shadows from the mountain to the valley below.  And the shadow greatly resembles a bear, said to be searching for a winter den.
AP Photograph by Jerry Jaynes

The Shadow of the Bear has  a short life every afternoon near 5:30.  Obviously the shadow appears only when the sun is shining and only for a couple of weeks.  We have never seen the Shadow of the Bear.  We are content to see photographs rather than take the drive, take a chance on clear sunset, and then drive home in the dark.

We love the mountains in all seasons and drive them as often in winter as in summer.  The following photograph is one I took in January.  Whiteside Mountain is white not because of snow but the face of the cliffs.  The trees are bare with a coating of ice.  Unfortunately the sun is not shining on the white cliffs.  But where else can you find such beauty in all seasons?

Hope your week is going well.  Try to avoid the "news" if you can and focus on the beauty around you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Customer Service

My husband wanted a new laptop.  And he thought he would like one with a touch screen.  So off we went to look at computers.  He "needs" a large screen so that eliminated many of them.  He decided on one that he liked.  We have bought many computers in the past.  And we have always bought the extended service contract.  And we have never once used it.  So this time we decided to pass.

We brought the computer home and put it on the dining room table so I could set it up for him.  My husband is not techno-savvy.  Not because he isn't clever enough but because he chooses not to bother with such detail. The plan was for him to go through his "favorites" on his old laptop.  Then I would copy them and send to myself in an email.  After that, we would set up a new email for his new computer and email the links back to the new computer.

My husband periodically played with the new laptop, marvelling at the screen resolution.  Until one day when he opened the computer and pressed the "windows" icon.  The screen went black.  The power light went off.  The computer would not turn on.

We tried various combinations of unplugging the power cord, letting the computer rest, plugging in the power cord, moving to another outlet, moving to an outlet in another room and nothing worked.  The computer just sat there, clearly not getting any power.  My husband fretted that he might have done something.  I reassured him that we could have put a two-year-old and let him bang on the computer and it should not have resulted in a total shutdown.

I remembered that we could return the computer within 14 days of purchase.  So I looked at the receipt.  Sixteen days!  You are on your own with the manufacturer if you did not purchase the extended service contract.  Bummer.

I grabbed a phone that was fully charged and began the ordeal of calling customer service.  I was on hold forever.  I finally reached a customer service representative with a heavy accent and soft voice.  He asked for the serial number.  I had to remove the battery and try to read the serial number which is in very small white print inside the battery compartment.  He asked all sorts of obvious questions and sent me though all the same maneuvers.  I spent fifteen minutes on the phone with him and another representative only to be told that he would send my call to the supervisor.  The supervisor finally answered with a heavy accent and soft voice and asked the exact same questions I had just answered.  It was a harrowing ordeal for both of us.

So the manufacturer will send us a box with a FedEx pre-paid label and we will send back the computer.  They will either repair or replace the defective laptop.  So how many customer service representatives do you have to talk with when your computer dies?  Three  And how long with the call take?  About 40 minutes.

Do I regret we didn't purchase the extended service contract?  Not really.  The laptop is under manufacturer's warranty.  Had we taken it back to the store, they would have kept it for a week or more trying to identify the problem before fixing or replacing it.  We will probably get a new computer as quickly.

Do I regret all the time spent on the phone?  Not really.  That's what "customer service" has come to be.  You have to start out with that in mind.

Here's what I really regret.  It wasn't until I finished the phone call that I noticed the side of the box the computer came in.  There in big bold black easy-to-read letters is the serial number!!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

We are having perfect Autumn weather.  It rains a couple of inches per week, always at night.  Mornings and evenings are crisp with nice sunny days.

Good news for those who drive the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).  A few establishments are open.  It began with the Pisgah Inn whose owners defied the shutdown.  Then police officers came and blocked the entrance.  The owner brought legal action and the Park Service indicated that he could remain open in exchange for dropping the legal action.  The Pisgah Inn, like several properties along the BRP is privately owned and managed, leasing the land from the National Park Service.  They do not employ government workers.  Following the opening of the Inn, several other businesses decided to open and were assured that the Park Service would not interfere.  So the wonderful Folk Art Center near Asheville is open again.  Obviously the Park-run campgrounds, visitor centers and facilities will remain closed.

I've mentioned before how much the Golden Girls love the cool weather of Autumn.  There are several places where we can allow them off lead and they run and run and run.

Deep in the forest, Ellie runs on the trail.

We have to make them stop periodically to rest.
Look at the sheer delight on Lucy's face.

And so they take off again.
(Sorry about the eyes.  It was a dense forest so the flash reflected in their eyes and I don't a have fancy photo-fixing program.)

Our quote this week is from George Eliot:

"Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

Write your Senators and Representatives again.  I'm not saying it's a canned response, but I have received four identical letters from Mark Meadows in response to four different emails I sent.  But that won't stop me.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

You Can Drive on the Parkway

An old joke asks, "Why do we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway?"  Well you can still drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).  The amenities are closed, but the BRP itself is open.  Well, except for a couple of areas in which repairs have been delayed by the government shutdown.

No matter how often we drive on the BRP, it is exhilarating every single time.  The scenery changes with each rise in elevation, each one more spectacular than the next.  A drive to Mt. Mitchell last week proved that some color is coming, although many areas are still green.

[Photographs taken by my husband.]

Morning fog is a given.  Driving above it is beautiful.

In summer, this area of Craggy is ablaze with color from the rhododendron in profusion.

As the elevation increases, so does the color.

Looking back at one of the many tunnels cut through the mountains.

My parents took us on the BRP several times a year when I was a little girl.  I was fascinated by the beauty and thrilled with the tunnels.  Every now and then my dad would give in to our pleas and honk the horn inside a long tunnel.  What an adventure.

As an adult I am still amazed at the sights along the BRP.  The lack of bathroom facilities may limit some travelers.  But us mountain folk know to take paper and plastic bags, walk behind the shrubbery and pee in the woods.  After all, we are accustomed to lack of facilities on the trails.  I must admit I get a chuckle every time I see a car parked along the side with someone standing guard.  I know that there is another behind the bushes out of sight.

The loss of revenue for towns and communities along the BRP is staggering and will only increase if the shutdown continues into peak leaf season.  So if you live within range, plan a trip to one of those towns.  Stay there overnight.  Spend some money dining and shopping and then drive on the BRP.  Just don't forget your paper and plastic bags.  Oh, and make sure you can recognize poison ivy!

Monday, October 7, 2013


You know your state really is a laughingstock when you appear in the Sunday Funnies.  And so my own dear North Carolina was the subject of yesterday's Doonesbury cartoon.
(Click the picture to enlarge)

Here is the text:
A Congressman is being interviewed and he says to himself, "The Power of No, The Power of No."
Asked if he is ready, he responds "No," then adds "kidding.  Let's do this."
"Hey folks who look like me.  Negative Ned here for the state of North Carolina!  Here in Raleigh we're on the move - backwards!  338 regressive bills and counting."
"We've said no to young people by banning pre-registration!  They're just not mature enough to vote the right way.  And no to the teachers by cutting public school funding and giving it to our fine private academies."
"No to the unemployed by slashing overly generous benefits!  No loafers welcome here.  And no to women by passing restrictions that will close most abortion clinics."
"No to minorities by imposing IDs and restricting early and Sunday voting.  And no to college students by making it harder to vote at school."
"And no to law enforcement by permitting guns in bars, parks and playgrounds.  And no to scientists! If you use climate change data in your projections, you will by punished.  It's the law. "
"So come on down and experience the power of no!  North Carolina - where progress is a dirty word."  An assistant aside whispers, "Psst! Ask about our new tax cuts for "job creators."
So, what can I do?  I have written my representatives and contributed to causes challenging some of these "no" laws.  Other than that, I try to put it out of my mind.  Since I can't do much else, I'm not going to let them destroy my love for this wonderful state.
And the birds are helping a lot.  The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are still around, delighting us with their color.  I saw a female yesterday, so I know the more brilliant males will soon depart.  Such a treat to have them for a few weeks.

Looking proud and lovely.

He heard the camera click.

But decides to look the other way.

Thank you birds and trees, wildflowers and waterfalls.  You give me so much pleasure in these times of frustration.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fridays Are Golden

October has arrived, bringing another week of gorgeous weather.  That will change soon, but we enjoy it while we can.  The girls are active and happy when the weather is cooler.  They often wrestle and romp.  It's hard to tell what starts the fracus, but suddenly one will look at the other and so the fun begins.
This one starts with a chase, Ellie after Lucy.

They make awful faces and bare their teeth.

Ellie's ears always end up wet.

They do a lot of circling.

And suddenly, as if on signal, the match is ended with no victor.  It's simply over as quickly as it began.

The quote for the week comes from Mohatma Gandhi:

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"

This week many favorite annual Autumn activities around here are canceled because they take place in a national forest.  Let's hope this is the last weekend our government is shut down.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Start Writing and Calling

Unprecedented in our history, a law is being held hostage.  A law; not a bill.  One that was passed by the Senate and Congress, signed by the President and has been tested by the Supreme Court of the United States.  The hostage takers have shut down our government, whose very operation is their job.

Much as I fear the effects of the shutdown, I firmly believe we cannot allow this behavior to prevail.  What law will be held hostage next time?  And I assure you one will.  Will it be removal of the Civil Rights Act?  Or laws protecting minorities?  Or laws protecting women's rights?

Political Cartoon by Mike Luckovich

I know that some of you may not agree and that is your right.  But I do encourage everyone to learn as much as possible about the consequences of this shutdown.  Go to all reliable sources and get informed.

And then, regardless of your position, I urge you to contact your Representatives and Senators and let them know how you feel.  If you have already done so, another contact won't hurt.  You can find contact information about your Representatives at and your Senators at

The voice of the people is crucial to an end of this standoff.  Make certain your Congressman or Congresswoman knows you are from his/her district and that you vote.  Write the others and tell them you are from his/her state.  Don't just rant and rave.  Give honest talking points in a calm but determined manner.  And try not to blow up when you get a canned answer as I have.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  You may think your one voice doesn't matter, but it does.  E pluribus unum.  Out of many, one.