Archive for category Leisure

At Group Sex Parties, Strict Rules Make for Safe Spaces – The Atlantic

Now this just raises so many questions.

The first of which is: Why am I never invited to these parties?!

But seriously….At Group Sex Parties, Strict Rules Make for Safe Spaces – The Atlantic.

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Happy Friday the 13th!

Find 13 things to smile about today.  Here’s some help:

Urban Dictionary: triskaidekaphilia.

Some people think Friday the 13th is unlucky.  I am not one of them.  My wife and I had our first (and only and ongoing without interruption) date (beginning) on Friday the 13th.

Looking for something to do today (which is not birding)? Maybe you could check out this movie.  (No, it’s not the horror film…).


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The Big Year

As a birder who has just finished his “First Year”, I was very excited to see this movie. I read the book, and I was both delighted and disturbed by the obsession to see as many species of bird as possible in a year’s time – the goal of a “Big Year.” Delighted, because there are so many species, each with its own beauty and its own story (“life history,” we birders say), and the book fascinated me and helped me learn. It certainly stoked my desire to see all of the birds there are. Disturbed, I must admit, because I find I not only want to catch just the tiniest glimpse of a bird to get it onto my life list, but I want to linger over a bird, if possible, to watch it, to delight in it. This is a recipe for losing a Big Year competition. For me, the “big” in big year would be the amount of time afforded to birding, not to the length of the list that results.

The movie did not make fun of birders, did not depict us nerdy goofballs, although it might easily have given in to such temptations. The actors, Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson, are always fun to watch, and this movie was no exception. The filmmakers conveyed the excitement of seeing a sought-after bird quite well. And the movie asked the right questions: What does it mean to succeed in life? What does it take…and what does it mean…to “win”? This is a family movie, I think, and I can easily imagine it would spark an interest in birding in its viewers. I enjoyed it very much.

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Philosopher at work…

Now blogging with Blogo…philosopher hard at work!

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Well, they got me with the bug.  Between sneezing, I’m reading.  Why not?

 reader by chagall

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My Summer of Facebooking–Is it OVER?

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.



Well, another summer come and (almost) gone.  What did I do on my summer vacation?  I climbed a mountain.  I swam in the sea.  I wandered the desert.  I gazed into an abyss.

No, I don’t just mean the Grand Canyon.  I mean the abyss of Facebook and Twitter.  And this abyss has been gazing into me.  It gazed into me as I climbed mountains, tangled with wild animals, watched sunrises and sunsets, sweated by the Saguaros, dodged lightning, feted my children’s successes, did my job, aired my grievances, expressed my hopes, cracked a few jokes.  I know I left out a bunch, but since I know the full context of all my postings it feels like nothing got left out at all.  Yes, it is true that I often don’t have the faintest idea what my “friends” are talking about in their posts…most are just in-jokes of various degrees of levity or angst.  I don’t have the context.  You had to be there, I guess.  But by posting my own inscrutabilites, I have this sense I’ve sent it all out there into the e-byss of virtual relationships (perhaps an oxymoron, that).  Now why would I have done that?  Why would anyone?

Facebook turned “friend” into a verb (“friending”).  By their count, I have friended or been friended by a mere 53 “friends”–the page with the list more modestly calls these “connections,” now.   My FB friends include:

  • 1 wife/soul-mate/love-of-my-life/BFF
  • 0 ex-wives (imagine that!)
  • 2 blood relatives (my parents)
  • 2 step-kids
  • 15 step-relatives
  • 2 ex-girlfriends, who, though well rid of me both then and now, really seemed to have meant that old “we’re just good friends” line…at least virtually
  • 2 women (but they were girls back then…) who I would have liked now to be calling ex-girlfriends (I mean that in a good way…) but who would probably have known this back then, thus explaining why they kept a wide berth at the time; i.e., to avoid being referred to decades later as an ex-girlfriend of mine
  • 1 woman (but she was a girl back then) who would have had NO IDEA that I’d have liked to have included her in the preceding category–she kept an even wider berth
  • 1 ex-girlfriend–I guess that’s the right designation–of my stepson (for some reason)
  • 11 professional colleagues, some close, some more distant…one of whom apparently counts for TWO of my friends (c’mon, H-H…pick one profile and stick with it!  I’ll be accused of padding my numbers…)
  • 1 son of a colleague (that is not an epithet, btw)
  • 3 pretty good pals from my youth (whom I more or less hadn’t seen or heard from since youth)
  • 11 various and sundry acquaintances from high school days and just after

Of the “friends” I know (I admit I don’t really know all of them–even most of them, truth be told), there isn’t one I don’t at least think I like.  I’m glad to be “friended” to all of them (if that’s how you say it).

Having so few friends/connections makes me “unpopular.”  I confess this does not bother me in the least.  At one time, perhaps it would have, but this is not that time.

I have twittered this summer, too.  I have two “followers.”  I like the sound of that: FOLLOWERS.  Anybody can have friends, but to have FOLLOWERS!  But I digress.  My followers consist of one of my FB friends (to protect reputations and fallout from my fading yet opportunistic memory, I decline to say from which category), and  my brother, who is not my friend, FB-wise.  I noticed, too, that I picked up a couple of faux-“followers” who glommed on when I tweeted about someplace I visited in Arizona (hotels and tourist services).  I found that a little creepy, really.  I like to know my followers.

On Facebook, I was often invited to take challenges, answer poll questions, pass virtual drinks around, test my knowledge of music or films, check my compatibility with other people’s tastes in music or films, and on and on.  I declined.  Nothing personal.  No, really, it’s nothing personal.  I like personal, and those little Hallmark-y type mechanisms for interacting are not needed among actual friends, so I refuse to make use of them with my virtual friends (if there are such things).

I uploaded a few pictures.  I looked at pictures from my friends.  I like looking at pictures, even if I don’t know who or what I am looking at.  I just enjoy a good picture.  There rarely are any good pictures, though.  Just pictures, snapshots, some a little embarrassing to tell the truth, but mostly just photos of people doing people stuff or places that looked like they needed to be photographed at the time one of my friends was standing there.  But good or bad, I do look at the pictures.   Beats reading, really.

I was just thinking that if I got all of my FB friends in one room for a party, it would be a weird party.  I like weird parties as a rule, so maybe it would be good.  But it would definitely be weird.  It reminds us that you can have lots of different friends, have friends of widely varying personalities, but that you wouldn’t necessarily want to have them all over on the same night.  You can like lobster.  You can like peanut butter and jelly.  But you won’t like lobster and peanut butter and jelly, if you catch my meaning.

Some of the postings from my friends were thought provoking…not just the Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot kind of provocation (“Wha???”), but the kind that actually provoke thought.  Not often, but now and then.  Sometimes the postings were downright hilarious.  Yes…I was LAUGHING OUT LOUD!  But again, not very often.  Some people wrote nice things.  Some people wrote ambiguously nice things, so I chose to take them in the nicest possible sense.  Nobody said anything too mean or negative.  Only the occasionally e-burst of boredom or quotidian frustration.  These things pass.  Nothing of it will mean anything in a few hours, let alone months or years.  FB postings are as ephemeral as water cooler conversations.  Or text messages.  Or tweets.  Or sneezes.  I was once directly asked a serious question–off line, in the email functionality of FB.  The question required effort–I had to watch a video and give my opinion.  I did that.  I didn’t hear anything more about it.  That’s the way it goes.  Even if you have a good question or thought, by the time anyone gets around to commenting, the moment of your own initial interest is probably gone.  As it probably should be.  FB is just something to pass the time.

I am probably violating some code of FB conduct by talking about FB, rather than just talking on FB.  Who wants to be asked why they’re doing what they’re doing?  Who even wants to know why, themselves?

Anyway, the fall semester is at hand.  Back to learning/teaching philosophy (as if that’s not what I’ve been doing all along…).

So the question is this:  Do I continue with Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking activities?  I’ll leave it up to you.  Just leave a comment and a vote.

Oh…wait…I forgot.  I’m BLOGGING.  Probably to myself.

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Saturday Nights in Floyd

Why, Saturday nights you want to head on over to the Oak Grove Pavilion.  There you’ll  be treated to a great show and, with your free-will offering, maybe do a little good in the process.  Here’s a sample:

That’s Mike Mitchell on fiddle and vocals, Abe Goorskey on mandolin, and Bernie Coveney on guitar.

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Friday Night at the Floyd Country Store, Floyd, VA


The Floyd Country Store on Friday night.

There’s no place I’d rather be on a Friday night than the Floyd Country Store in the “People’s Republic of Floyd, VA.”  And you don’t even have to go inside.  You can hear first-rate musicians like Mike Mitchell (and lots of others) jamming here and there up and down the block.  Won’t cost ya a thin dime.

Fiddler Mike Mitchell and Friends

Fiddler Mike Mitchell and friends

I promised Mike I’d tell all my friends about his excellent CD, Thirteen Hours.  I’m a man of my word.  Buy it now at County Sales and enjoy!

Or how about Heather Berry and Tony Mabe?  Here they are on Route 8:

Heather Berry (guitar) and her husband, Tony Mabe (banjo)

Heather Berry (guitar) and her husband, Tony Mabe (banjo)

When we got done listening to them on the street, we returned home to find these same two performing on television with the legendary Tom T. Hall in a concert recorded in 2008!  Here’s a shot from that show:

At the Lincoln Theatre

At the Lincoln Theatre

While you’re shopping at (or at their headquarters in Floyd), a goldmine for bluegrass connoisseurs, you might pick up their Before Bluegrass CD.

There are very few street corners in the world where you can hear this much talent all at the same time.  You don’t have to take it from me.  The Smithsonian magazine thinks so, too.  Check out their feature on Floyd.

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Buffalo Mountain


Me ‘n’ K on top of Buffalo Mountain, Floyd County, Virginia:


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The BEAR Whisperer

The forest was angry that day, my friends.  There we were, deep in the dense woods, just my dear wife and myself, unarmed, alone…when all of a sudden:  a mighty crash and roar!  We had come face-to-face with the monstrous beast, the ruler of the forest, the mountain king–the mighty Black Bear!


As my dear wife cowered in (quite understandable, non-gender-specific) fear, I approached the beast.  He glowered.  I genuflected.  He looked puzzled.  I kneeled.  He kneeled.  I folded my hands.  He folded his hands.  I raised my eyes to the heavens.  He raised his eyes to the heavens.  I figured that such a spiritual bear might be reasoned with.  I said to the bear, “I see you are the praying kind.”  The bear said, “Yes, I always say grace before a meal.”


This was not going as well as I had anticipated.  I said to the bear, “Don’t be afraid.”  The bear smirked.  I said, “I just want to whisper one thing in your ear.”  The bear shrugged, allowing me to approach.  I whispered in his ear.   With that, he smiled, turned, and gamboled off into the forest.

My dear wife embraced me, and with tears in her grateful eyes, cooed, “My hero!”

All in a day’s work for…THE BEAR WHISPERER!

p.s.  Just what DID I whisper to that bear…?

p.p.s.,  Here’s another photo…might be a bit more accurate than the others:


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