Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Off into the wilderness

The Royal Blue and Sundquist State Forests
The area north of Oak Ridge contains about a quarter million acres of state forest wilderness. The Royal Blue and Sundquist areas are state 'wildlife management areas' (WMA's) - essentially hunting grounds, but are also part of TN's largest system of trails for off-road capable vehicles. Contained in this system are: Brimestone, Royal Blue WMA, Sundquist WMA, and Windrock. Each has a system of trails and in total, there are hundreds of miles of interconnecting trails.

I'll be riding there this week, based out of Caryville, TN. I've been asked to write an article about this ride for Adventure Motorcycle Magazine's June issue.

Regarding motorcycles, I'm in agreement with the magazine's slogan:

"Adventure begins where the pavement ends"

I sometimes feel sorry for those motorcyclists confined to the pavement.

An area as vast as the Royal Blue/Sundquist wilderness can't be traversed any other way but by a rugged off-road vehicle. For me, I much prefer my dual-sport motorcycle to 4-wheeled ATV's because it's quieter, more nimble, street legal, and it treads lightly - not ripping up the environment. It's also light enough to lift over logs blocking the trail. I've even dragged the bike under trees over the trail. Judging by pictures I've seen, ATV riders seem to like 'muddin' ... personally, I'll leave it to other types of animals to wallow in the mud. But, I can handle mud if I have to.

This is my bike of choice: the Kawasaki KL250 Super Sherpa. Light, tough, and strong.

I'll have a post and photos later this week of the upcoming ride. The top and bottom photos are by Shirley of me riding the steeps at the Cheatham WMA. If you ever try to ride these pipeline trails, make sure you have complete confidence in your machine and riding ability, because these valleys are v-shaped, once you go down, you must climb out, it's not so easy as the trails are rugged and the underbrush hides boulders and logs. The pictures don't do justice to the steepness.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Silviu Ciulei - flamenco guitarist performs on WPLN FM 90.3 - Tues at 11:06am - 'Live in Studio C'

Award winning MTSU Guitar Student performs on WPLN Tues May 29, 11:06 am and rebroadcast at 8:06 pm.

Flamenco, the earthy and rhythmic Spanish gypsy style of guitar playing is not a style heard much in Nashville. Listen to Silviu Ciulei perform a mostly flamenco guitar program on Tues, live on WPLN 90.3 FM.

Silviu is an award winning classical guitarist and a 'real deal' flamenco guitarist who has studied flamenco with top flamenco guitar masters Adam del Monte and Oscar Guzman.

In case you miss it, you can listen to Silviu's program anytime this week on the internet at WPLN.org

Silviu is a Romanian student attending MTSU on a full international music scholarship. This semester, Silviu won 2 major classical guitar competition prizes in the Texas Guitar Competition and the Appalachian State Competition.

Whenever I've played this show, I've always got up early to practice my program before going on. Silviu won't have that luxury, he'll be at work at 5 a.m. Tues, mopping floors at the MTSU cafeteria up until the time he has to leave to go play.

He'll be great, I guarantee it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Great dried flowers

Peonies ... such a short-lived flower. Blooming in the spring, just one rainstorm and they're finished. But you can make them last a long time.

Check out this photo of three dried pink peonies.

Two of these three flowers were picked two weeks ago. One of these flowers was picked one year ago. Can you tell which is the year-old flower?

The flower on the right (with the brown stem) was picked last year and looks just as good as the dried peonies picked 2 weeks ago.

Peonies look great on the bush about a maximum of 2 weeks, but when picked just after blooming, the dried bouquet will last more than a year. For the peonies to last a long time after drying, they must be picked within days after full bloom.

One of my pet peeves is fake plants and flowers, I hate 'em. I prefer having a real dried bouquet which is much more natural. To me, real is always better.

Missing Paris
Look at the architecture in this closeup of a dandelion. What a grand design. (click photo to enlarge)

The design reminds me of the ceilings of Gothic cathedrals in Europe, like this photo (below) of the chapel ceiling in the "Hôtel de Cluny" in Paris, now a museum. This chapel which was built around 1490, is a great example of the Flamboyant Gothic style.

May is such a great month of the year to be in Paris. Oh ... the coffee and pastries, the museums, flowers, architecture, cathedral concerts . . . I need to go back to play another concert.

Funny how a dried flower can conjure images of a Paris cathedral. I guess I'm just missing Paris.

Man imitates nature.

Photos courtesy of my my new Canon 10 megapixel SD900 pocket camera. It's made out of titanium and carries a 4 gig chip. It's amazing, it'll capture a 35 minute movie with sound or more than 1000 high resolution photos.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Guitarists -- so you think you've got chops? Check out my student

Matt Palmer: MTSU Guitar grad from 'the middle of nowhere,' TN -- a world-class guitarist, competes internationally

Matt performs Etude #2 by Heitor Villa-Lobos
If you do not see the embedded video, click here to view it directly on Youtube

Matt is from Fall Branch, TN - a small town in the East TN mountains where guys his age talk mostly about cars and guns. After winning 3 major U.S. classical guitar competitions, Matt is competing this week at the Koblenz International Guitar Competition in Germany.

I dropped in on Matt last July at his garage in Fall Branch, he was pulling an engine out of a Chevy.

If you're a guitarist who has studied the Villa-Lobos etudes, you'll appreciate Matt's level of virtuosity. There are very few people in the world that can play that Villa-Lobos Etude #2 with the speed, evenness and clarity you hear in the video. It's just a small sample of what he can do. Matt is not just chops, he plays with great phrasing, tone and lyricism. Guitar competitions can not be won on chops alone, you have to be musical.

Matt is not exactly what you'd expect from this guy in the garage. Matt graduated Summa Cum Laude from the MTSU McLean School of Music, Appalachian State University for his Masters, and is on a full Doctoral Guitar Assistantship at the University of AZ.

I think it's safe to say, Matt, who's still in his 20's, is likely the best classical guitar virtuoso ever born in the state of TN.

I wish Chet could have seen him.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The secret to real Italian salad dressing

Bill's secret to the best Italian dressing

What is it about the south that real Italian food is so hard to find? I'm talking about family-owned Italian restaurants that have been in business 50+ years, whose traditional recipes come straight from the old country. Sorry, but chains like Carraba's, Macaroni Grill and Olive Garden just don't cut it. This is painfully clear when you ask for Italian dressing and they give you some white, mayonnaise-based crap . . . gross! There is no such thing as 'creamy Italian dressing' in my book. (And guess what, there is nothing from Italy called "Alfredo sauce" - completely an American invention, probably by Shoney's)

Although traditional Italian is just oil and vinegar, Italian family restaurants improved on that theme with a tradition of making their own great dressings by adding garlic and spices. Now you can have that Italian dressing with great garlic and herb flavor but you must have the tools and #1 is: the mortar and pestle (photo). So, here's how you do it, it takes less than 5 minutes:

Basic method -
  1. Get one or two pealed cloves of fresh garlic and a few teaspoons of Kosher salt or coarse sea salt and put them in the mortar.
  2. Grind with pestle until garlic and salt become a paste.
  3. Add fresh extra virgin olive oil and Italian spices (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary).
  4. Grind some more, infusing the oil with the garlic and spices.
  5. Add red wine or balsamic vinegar, grind some more and presto, you're done.
There you have it. A great salad dressing, dipping sauce or marinade. Great for grilling too. The proportion to oil and vinegar is a personal choice, I prefer 50/50 but most people like slightly more oil than vinegar.

Variations - for a more Mediterranean flavor, add lemon juice instead of vinegar. For a summer salad (like spinach with pear, died cranberries and nuts) add orange juice and a few drops of sesame oil. For spicy marinades, grind hot pepper in with the mix. Add honey for a sweeter dressing. You can also grind raw peeled ginger with honey and sesame oil, add rice wine vinegar for a great Asian dressing. The possibilities are endless, but you gotta have the mortar and pestle.

The bottom line is - the only way to prepare garlic is to grind it into a paste with a mortar and pestle. It is the best way to completely infuse the olive oil with the flavor of Italian spices and garlic. Garlic presses, minced, or smashed garlic just isn't as good. And stay the hell away from pre-pealed, and/or pickled garlic. It has to be fresh. Speaking of fresh, try Penzey's for great quality spices. Good spices make a difference.

This is from a guy who lives on salads... happy, healthy and flavorful eating!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Secret Place #1- Murfreesboro at my feet

Imagine a place...
in the flat city of Murfreesboro, just 3 miles from the MTSU campus where you can stand at the edge of a 300 foot cliff, overlooking a blue-green lake, with a commanding view of the sunset and the 'Boro city lights at night. A place that seems perpetually breezy, completely private, where mountain goats walk along the cliff edges and where it's so quiet, you can occasionally here voices from a mile away. On a clear day, you can see 25 miles from horizon to horizon. Yes, this place exists, I go there often.

We all need secret, quiet and beautiful places to go. It's especially nice when such places are 10 minutes from home. Only I have the secret passage to get there, and it's only accessible via my magic carpet ride.

Photo below - looking down at mountain goats on the cliff edges 150 feet above the lake.
Click to enlarge:

BIG NEWS: Bill's TN Paradise turns over a new leaf

Bill's TN Paradise is changing format.

No longer will politics be discussed here at Bill's TN Paradise. This blog will now serve as a personal log of adventures, photos, and experiences that make life here in Tennessee a true paradise.

This serves to announce a new blog devoted to debate on politics, social issues, religion, etc... appropriately titled: Loose TN Canon. Please adjust your site feeds.

The new Bill's TN Paradise will be what it was originally intended to be, things that make life rich - living a life less ordinary. Look forward to articles about music, art, culture, nature, travel, and adventure with plenty of photos. Hiking, boating, water skiing, kayaking, and dual-sport motorcycling are some of the outdoor activities I'll be commenting on. Also, topics about music, especially classical guitar and classical music will be mentioned occasionally. This is what life is all about, not debating with idiotic and immobile conservatives.

Some of my favorite places will be discussed, some locations will be kept secret while some will be revealed.

In this first installment of favorite places, we have my ship beneath Burgess Falls, and my Sherpa dual-sport motorcycle at Prentice Cooper State Forest.

Friday, May 11, 2007

"We've to get out of the combat business in Iraq ... " - Sen. Lamar Alexander

GOP breaks with Bush on Iraq

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), “a loyal Republican who’s always voted with the president on Iraq issues,” said he and Democrat Ken Salazar will “draft a bill that implements the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report…which included benchmarks and a timeline for troop withdrawal.”

This comes on the heels of the Monday White House meeting of 11 Republican Congressmen who have said they don't trust Bush because he has no credibility to report on Iraq:
"The word about the war and its progress cannot come from the White House or even you, Mr. President. There's no longer any credibility. It has to come from General Petraeus." - Republican Senator, quoted by Tim Russert
Now we see ads by Iraq war Generals including lifelong Republican John Batiste who says that Bush didn't listen to the Generals as he said he would and that the president has "placed our nation in peril." In an interview on MSNBC, Batiste said:
"The President's strategy relies almost wholly on the military and ignors the important components of diplomatic, political, and economic hard work. If we don't get this right, we're going to break our Army and Marine Corps."
Speaking of the damage Bush has done, Lawrence Wilkerson, on NPR proposed impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Wilkerson is a Retired Army Colonel, Colin Powell's Chief of Staff at the State Department from 2002 to 2005, a Vietnam War vet, the former Acting Director of the Marine Corps War College at Quantico, and currently a teacher of national security at William and Mary College.
"The language in that article, the language in those two or three lines about impeachment is nice and precise – it's high crimes and misdemeanors. You compare Bill Clinton's peccadilloes for which he was impeached to George Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors or Dick Cheney's high crimes and misdemeanors, and I think they pale in significance."
Let me repeat that: "George Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors." America wants accountability. Impeach.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Death of a Japanese Maple

It's been a tough year for trees

Bill's TN Paradise lost a beautiful Japanese maple tree this month. (The photo shows the tree in spring '04). After two bad years, the tree was just a crispy skeleton by this May. For 2 years, the tree didn't lose it's leaves as normal. The leaves simply curled up and died, remaining on the tree all winter. Last year, only half of the tree had leaves on it.

The big frost near the beginning of April was the final blow to the cherished maple. Many trees were hit hard. Even the many 100 foot tall oak trees on the property looked dead all through April. But now, they're finally coming back, and soon the forest canopy will be complete and Bill's TN Paradise will return to summer shade.

The early April frost was not that unusual, it occurred before the time of the normal last frost. However, it was unusual to have had so much warm weather in March, then sub-freezing temperatures for several nights in succession. The 3 weeks of exceptionally warm weather in March that accelerated the growth of vegetation prior to the frost was quite unusual. The freeze was harsh, coming when some of the trees and bushes were at their most vulnerable. One night in early April, the temperature here at Bill's Command Central reached a low of 23 degrees F. Undoubtedly, the mild drought we're having didn't help matters either.

The Japanese Maple will be sorely missed. The red leaves matched the red trim on my log house and provided shade and privacy for the pool area. In the interest of nude bathing and privacy by the pool, 2 large (but unremarkable) Leyland Cypress trees were planted to provide complete privacy in place of the lost maple. These two cypress trees are around 8 ft tall and grow very fast. Nice, but nothing compared to that maple. It took 15 years for that maple to grow to that size. I wasn't willing to wait that long for the pivacy the maple once provided, or spend the thousands to buy a similar tree half that size.

Anyone else lose a Japanese maple? I had heard other Japanese maples were affected throughout TN.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Bumper Stickers: "Bad President ! No Banana"

Bumper Stickers I wish I had thought of:

(Hat tip to Ralph!)

Really now, aren't you Bush supporters embarrassed yet?

  • 2008 -- End of an Error
  • That's OK, I Wasn't Using My Civil Liberties Anyway
  • Jail to the Chief
  • Let's Fix Democracy in This Country First
  • If You Want a Nation Ruled By Religion, Move to Iran
  • Bush. Like a Rock. Only Dumber.
  • If You Can Read This, You're Not Our President
  • Of Course It Hurts: You're Getting Screwed by an Elephant
  • Hey, Bush Supporters: Embarrassed Yet?
  • George Bush: Creating the Terrorists Our Kids Will Have to Fight
  • Impeachment: It's Not Just for Blowjobs Anymore
  • America: One Nation, Under Surveillance
  • They Call Him "W" So He Can Spell It
  • Whose God Do You Kill For?
  • At Least in Vietnam, Bush Had An Exit Strategy
  • No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade Iraq?
  • George W. Bush: God's Way of Proving Intelligent Design is Full Of Crap
  • Bad President! No Banana.
  • We Need a President Who's Fluent In At Least One Language
  • We're Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them
  • Is It Vietnam Yet?
  • Bush Doesn't Care About White People, Either
  • Where Are We Going? And Why Are We In This Handbasket?
  • You Elected Him. You Deserve Him.
  • Impeach Cheney First
  • Dubya, Your Dad Shoulda Pulled Out, Too
  • When Bush Took Office, Gas Was $1.46
  • Pray For Impeachment
  • The Republican Party: Our Bridge to the 11th Century
  • What Part of "Bush Lied" Don't You Understand?
  • One Nation Under Clod
  • 2004: Embarrassed -- 2005: Horrified -- 2006: Terrified
  • Bush Never Exhaled
  • At Least Nixon Resigned

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Bigfoot Discovered - wouldn't it be cool if one of these amateur researchers was right for once?

Canadian "researcher" set to reveal evidence of Bigfoot

Todd Standing says he has 12 seconds of video and has seen Bigfoot 'several times.' He has even convinced Canadian Parliament member Mike Lake to petition the Canadian government for legal protection of the species.

His 30 minute documentary film "The Origins of Sylvanic" is set for release at the Edmonton, Alberta public library on Friday, May 4. Sylvanic refers to a region in the Canadian Rockies. The film is said to contain evidence for the existence of Bigfoot. He is convinced that the animal is real and highly endangered, so he's pushing the government to enact legal protection for Bigfoot. Surely, if true, a dead specimen of a large undiscovered species could fetch many $millions.

Todd Standing says he wants to encourage scientists to accompany him in order to tranquilize the animal and document it. To hear Todd Standing talk about his discovery is somewhat compelling. He is not typical of previous Bigfoot hoaxsters, he wants to be scrutinized:

"It is extremely likely that they are an endangered species, no one really knows how many of these animals are left. It's prudent to us that we get protection for these animals before we release how we've been getting the animals on footage - which no one has been able to do, and we will do again. I know that there have been a lot of people that have come forward with Bigfoot videos, all kinds of hoaxes and I have no reason to want to do this and require this attention. The difference that you're going to see with us, is that we can do this again. We want to go out on our next expedition with professional scientists, a member of the media - we will show them. Come with us, look for yourself, don't take my word for it. ... If you're a scientist and you are reputable, and you want to conclusively disprove me, come on out here, I will show you the area. We've definitely seen these animals several times."

If I were a betting man, I'd bet they'll never document anything. In any case, it should be noted that Todd Standing will donate all proceeds of his film to the SPCA.

He has released some brief video to the media of Bigfoot, but like other Bigfoot videos, it's not very convincing. However, the new "video 3" debuting tomorrow, is said to show the most conclusive piece of Bigfoot evidence ever. He claims his unedited raw footage of a 7' tall 400 lb running bipedal Bigfoot was analyzed by a PhD kineticist who found that the animal ran faster than any human possibly could. Todd Standing claims the 'aft shot' clearly shows an animal with human-like legs - "gutes, hamstring and calf." (Several TV interviews with Mr. Standing archived here).

Like the so-called "Biblical archaeologists" (i.e. Ron Wyatt), UFO researchers, creationists, and devotees of the paranormal, wouldn't it be exciting if one of these far-fetched stories turned out to be true? But, a large new species of N. American primate? Extremely unlikely, but not totally impossible I suppose, particularly in light of recent discoveries of new species of large mammals in similarly uninhabited areas.

Nevertheless, there is something in most of us humans that makes us want to believe in the undiscovered ... mythical animals, UFOs, Santa Claus, legends, and invisible men in the sky. Such belief in the incredible is widespread in America. The reasons for this I discussed in a previous post. Most organized religion is a perfect example of our human need to believe in the incredible. I say 'go Todd'! I'm routin' for ya. Go back and get 'em. Bring back the evidence.

I just hope the guy isn't being duped by his camera man.

UPDATE: I found a review of the previous version of Todd Standing's documentary "Sylvanic". From the reviewer's perspective, it appears to be a hoax as expected, and not a very good one.

Impeachment Poll: 88% of nearly a half million online voters favor Bush impeachment

MSNBC Live online vote:
Impeachment Poll: Vote Now

Do you believe President Bush's actions justify impeachment?
428,207 responses
Results 1:20 pm et 5/2/07:

Yes, between the secret spying, the deceptions leading to war and more, there is plenty to justify putting him on trial.

No, like any president, he has made a few missteps, but nothing approaching "high crimes and misdemeanors."

No, the man has done absolutely nothing wrong. Impeachment would just be a political lynching.

I don't know.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

W.F. Buckley, father of modern conservatism: "The political problem of the Bush administration is grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue."

"There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive this dilemma"
- W.F. Buckley, National Review - 4/28/07

George W. Bush - the candidate that conservative Republicans worked so hard to elect twice to the presidency has proven to be the biggest political disaster for the GOP since Nixon. His incompetence, abuse of power, and culture of corruption has turned all but the most hard-core denialist wingnuts to loathing of the present political situation.

It's not like we didn't see it coming.

The realist and intellectual conservative, William F. Buckley 'called it.' In his 2/06 editorial in the National Review, he wrote "It Didn't Work," where he boldly stated:

"One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. . .different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat. "

It seems there are two choices here for Republicans. If they want to salvage any shred of credibility for their party, they must not only turn away from Bush administration policies, they must endeavor to acknowledge the misdeeds and hold President Bush and members of his administration accountable. Probably an unrealistic expectation for most conservatives. But, the other choice is to go down with the ship, further dragging the GOP down.

W.F. Buckley so aptly points out this dilemma, in his 4/28/07 National Review editorial, "The Waning of the GOP":

"How can the Republican party, headed by a president determined on a war he can’t see an end to, attract the support of a majority of the voters? ... The political problem of the Bush administration is grave, possibly beyond the point of rescue. ...There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive this dilemma. "

In job approval, Dubya's been polling between 28 and 37% this year, but approval of his Iraq policy is just 24% in the latest poll. In his isolation, following the example of Nixon, Bush has reportedly adopted a 'bunker mentality.'