Numbered Lakes an E-book

JP Pond

I finally finished and published Numbered Lakes as an e-book.  Check it out, won’t you?  For details, see the Numbered Lakes tab on this website or follow the link below to  preview on Amazon.

Numbered Lakes Preview


A gallon of anything probably not too healthy


A man from Arkansas ruined his kidneys by drinking a gallon of iced-tea a day.  That’s a lot of iced-tea.  I think I’d drown if I drank a gallon of anything, even water.  I probably don’t go through a gallon of gas in a day. Now, the critics say the guy, who was also said to be diabetic, was nuts for consuming so much tea, no doubt sweetened.  But I say don’t be so quick to judge.  In the Arkansas heat, and it’s hot there let me tell you, one could easily throw back a gallon of just about anything – beer, bourbon, iced tea, white lightening or anything in between.  That the man drank a gallon of tea is not surprising, especially if he spent a lot of time outdoors, as many Arkansans do.  And iced-tea, as strange as it may sound, is a staple for many southerners, and it’s not necessarily sweetened.  Growing up in Arkansas, we always had a pitcher of unsweetened Lipton iced-tea with lemon wedges at the dinner table, especially during the sweltering summers.  We never had sugar at the table, ever.  But no one I knew drank a gallon of the stuff in a day, and good thing because black tea contains a chemical that is apparently toxic in high concentrations.  And though rare, the chemical can clog up kidneys and cause them to shut down.  The poor man will have to be on dialysis for the rest of his life.  But again, I’m not calling him crazy for drinking so much.  The article called his consumption a habit, although it may have been more of an addiction.  But who doesn’t have a bad habit, or addiction?

Now I don’t drink a gallon of anything but I do watch a gallon’s worth of M*A*S*H reruns and frequently binge watch stuff on Netflix.  I watched three gallons worth of House of Cards in 3 days.  I downed all the available episodes of VEEP and The 100 in little under a week, feeling quite hung over afterwards.  As a result, my eyesight has suffered and I believe I have a real case of text neck from bending so much, as much as 60 degrees, to view my devices.  Some would say I’ve broken bad flattening the natural curve in my neck by binge watching Breaking Bad on my Samsung Galaxy Tab. However, unless all those rare earth metals in my devices have done a number on me, I believe my kidneys are still intact.

Arkansas and UNC: a Preview and Prediction


The two teams are pretty evenly matched in most categories, except strength of schedule. UNC was 7-10 against ranked teams during the regular season.  By contrast, Arkansas played only 2 teams that made the round of 32:  Dayton and Kentucky, beating the Flyers and falling twice to the Wildcats.  With common opponents, Arkansas is 1-4 beating Wake Forest and losing to Florida, Clemson and Kentucky twice.  UNC is 3-1 beating Clemson, Florida and Wake Forest and losing to Kentucky by 14 points.

And while Kentucky is arguably the more battle tested team, Arkansas may have an edge with its press.  UNC is more of a  turnover prone team and may be bothered by constant pressure.  However, it should be noted that Arkansas’ press had zero impact on Wofford in their second round meeting; the Terriers only turned the ball over 7 times.  In fact, Arkansas turned the ball over more than Wofford; It turns out that turnovers in basketball are less of a factor than turnovers in football.  In half of the 32 games in the second round, the loser committed fewer turnovers than the victor.  Case in point:  Coastal Carolina only committed 6 turnovers and still lost to Wisconsin by 14 points.

The Razorbacks and the Tar Heels have a history in the tournament dating back to 1990, each with 2 wins and 2 losses.  Arkansas will be looking to take revenge for being blownout the last time they met Carolina at the Big Dance in 2008. Simply put, the Hogs are hungry.

In the 2015 edition of the tournament, with all the passing, fouling, poor shooting and strong defense we’ve seen so far from most of the teams, look for a low scoring and very close game.  And look for Arkansas to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996:  AR 66 – UNC 63.

Let the madness continue! #Marchmadness #WPS

Red Rover, Red Rover send the Piping Plover Right Over….the edge

Photo by mdf (not associated with this blog)

Photo by mdf (not associated with this blog)

Well, the XL pipeline is back in the news.  You may have no problem with the concept of an oil pipeline, until it comes to your town and breaks.  All that crude and synthetic oil with nasty byproducts is not easy or even possible to fully clean up.  Just ask the good folks of Mayflower, Arkansas.  But the prospect of an expanded XL pipeline wouldn’t just be a threat to the people and the environment directly in its path.  There are critters too of concern – fish, birds and beetles, who would loudly object if only they could.  I’m not talking about the run of the mill variety.  Frankly, if the pipeline took out some of those invasive jumping fish and colonies of fire ants and swarms of killer bees and as many giant green flies as possible, I wouldn’t lose much sleep.  But I’m talking about some of nature’s finest and most obscure and endangered creatures who call our fair country home and who would be adversely impacted, perhaps even wiped off the species list entirely were the XL pipeline fully implemented, at least according to Noah Greenwald, Director of the Endangered Species Program at the Center for Biological Diversity as reported by Talia Buford in a Politico article.  Greenwald’s list includes the pallid sturgeon, the American burying beetle, the piping plover, “six geese a laying” (just kidding, but maybe, who knows?) the whooping crane and the interior least tern.

One would think the piping plover could thrive near a “pipe”line, and that the burying beetle would simply dig deeper and find comfy bedrock for shelter.  But they are not as resourceful and resilient as I imagined.  I am not at all surprised though about the pallid sturgeon, who has been looking quite faint and sickly for years. The same can be said for the whooping crane who has had a mighty cough now for a few generations running.  The least tern, as its name implies, is the smallest of the terns and is in need of constant protection, but despite it’s diminutive size, it has quite the bill for foraging, which could be a problem.  Curious by nature, the least tern might do some exploring of its own and encounter some slug or insect that had been marinating in a pool of toxic goop from a leaky pipeline.

Of course as more pipeline is built, more and more of these delicate and iconic creatures could lose their natural habitats and be wiped off the planet for good. So let’s stop this thing.  I say power to the piping plover, to the sickly sturgeon, to the shy burying beetle and last but not least to the tiny interior least tern, all of whom don’t depend on fossil fuels like their foolish stewards.

Can You Learn To Like Music You Don’t?

GH CT_Concert

Can you learn to like music you hate?  Research suggests you can.  But I’m a skeptic.  Country music?  NEVER.  And I’m a country boy (of sorts), having grown up in Arkansas and having spent summers and my college days in rural NW Arkansas.  The truth is, I probably could learn to like music I hate if I tried.   According to a research study, people react negatively to certain kinds of unfamiliar music.  They may not recognize a particular chord structure in the music and simply can’t hear and process it.  Researchers argue that it’s like encountering a foreign language for the first time. In the study, subjects with no musical background took a crash course on music theory and then listened again to music they had previously rejected.  On the balance, the “trained” subjects were better able to process dissonant chords.  Now this doesn’t mean they loved the music, but they apparently understood it better which is the first step toward acceptance.

This brings me to an interesting question:  how does one acquire musical taste?  Need one be a musician to enjoy a diverse palate of music? I submit that it helps, but is not a requirement.  Think of the language acquisition analogy.  Children consistently exposed to rich inputs of multiple languages in the home or school stand a much better chance of acquiring the languages (and without an accent) than children from monolingual backgrounds.

I can trace my own musical tastes to early exposure.  Jazz.  My dad used to come home from work and play jazz records – Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck were two artists I remember.  I didn’t really like the music much as a 6 year old, but I liked my dad.  I wouldn’t begin to listen to jazz in earnest until my late teens, but my dad paved the way.  Same is true of classical music.  I didn’t like it much growing up, but it was around me all the time.  My mother was a musician and music educator – still is.  She sang in church choirs and chamber orchestras. And she played the piano, as did my sister.  They played a lot of classical music.  As a kid, I took piano lessons from a  world class bell choir instructor and arranger and church organist.  This lasted about a year because my older sister, who also took lessons, was a much better keyboardist than I – plus I didn’t like being compared to her, or to practice.  The only thing I can play on the piano today is “Strangers in the Night” (with my right hand) and I learned that by myself before I began taking piano lessons.  I daydreamed and doodled a lot during church services as a kid, but when the church organist played, often Bach, the music dramatically soared out of hundreds of pipes and caught my attention.  I didn’t begin to seriously listen to and buy classical music until my 30’s, which was right around the time the CD was starting to compete with and overtake vinyl.

Commercial radio, the Midnight Special and American Bandstand probably influenced my tastes the most as a kid.  I worked throwing a paper route and mowing lawns to feed my thirst for records – 45’s, and LP’s.  One of my first 45’s was Stevie Wonder’s “You are the Sunshine of My Life” and one of my first albums was his landmark Innervisions, which ranks up there as one of my favorite LPs.   My dad turned me onto Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake in my mid-teens.  I felt some liberation from commercial radio when my sister brought home a Jeff Beck album, Blow by Blow.  And that led to my interest in jazz rock fusion, back to Miles and on to Weather Report and Herbie Hancock.  I discovered a lot of music on my own, often quite randomly; sometimes I bought an album of an unknown (to me) artist for the cover art or photography.  This is how I stumbled across the music of the Pat Metheny Group below:

Pat Metheny_Fayetteville AR 1984

I often joke that I have musical genes but no gift.  I may have an ear for music, but apart from some piano lessons at age 7, no formal training.  I owe my ability to appreciate and understand jazz and classical music to early and constant exposure.  I am proof that an average person can learn to like music that he previously rejected. But this process takes time, in my case, it took years.  Will I ever learn to love country and folk, rap and heavy metal?  Probably not due to the lack of early and consistent exposure; respect yes, love…love is such a strong word.

Here’s another self-indulgent look at the influences on my musical tastes:

  • Rock, Pop and R&B – Commercial radio, the Midnight Special, American Bandstand, Soul Train, friends, record stores and album covers
  • Jazz – my dad, my sister, Guitar Player magazine (the John McGlaughlin edition), KUAF, and a Miles record
  • Alternative and Punk – MTV, KUAF and KRFA DJ M.A.
  • Classical – my mom, ML Thompson, church organists, music appreciation class in college (an easy A),  Menotti’s Amhal and the Night Visitors and Star Trek
  • Blues – Muddy Waters with Eric Clapton one night in Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Industrial, Ambient, Minimalist and Odd Sounds – the drone of the industrial strength fan on a hot day in elementary school, church organists, WZBC and the laundry room at home where I used to chill and listen to the washer and dryer.

A Fish & Bird Mystery in the Natural State

Photo by Wmpearl

There’s some strange stuff going on in my home state of Arkansas.  First, CNN reported that as many as 5,000 dead starlings and red-winged blackbirds dropped from the sky around midnight on New Year’s Eve in the town of Beebe, a small hamlet northeast of Little Rock.  The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) has begun an investigation.  One theory is that the birds were struck by lightening.  Fireworks activity may have also factored into the bizarre incident.  In a BBC article, Fireworks may have caused Arkansas bird deaths, ornithologist Karen Rowe of the AGFC, suggests the birds may have flown low to avoid fireworks explosions and crashed into trees, houses or even into one another.   Apparently, blackbirds don’t have very good vision.  At least the birds weren’t radicalized like those in the Hitchcock film.  That was one of the cheesiest films of all time but positively horrifying.

In another disturbing incident from the Natural State, 100,000 drum fish washed ashore the banks of the Arkansas River, not far from the bird catastrophe.  The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission believe the fish to have fallen prey to disease, not water pollution.   For some, good riddance.  The Drum is not the most prized fish in lakes and rivers.  As far as I know, there is no Drum Club or a fishing show devoted to catching these bottom dwellers.  If it had been a mess of crappie or bass, fishermen from all over would have mourned their passing.

Dems Who Voted No To Health Care Bill

How did your representative vote on the Health Care Reform Bill? Surprisingly, 34 Democrats did not stand with the President and voted no.  I compiled some interesting facts on some of these naysaying Democrats and the states from which they hail.

2 of the 3 Arkansas Democrats voted no.  Marian Berry and Mike Ross.  In the Land of Opportunity, 20% of the population has no health insurance at all according to the Center for American Progress.

Not to be outdone by Arkansas, Alabama’s entire House delegation voted no – 2 Democrats and 5 Republicans, a state in which 21% of its residents are without health insurance.

Two Barts voted in favor of the health care reform overhaul: Bart Gordon of Tennessee (who voted no the first time around) and Bart Stupak of Michigan.  One of Mr. Stupak’s constituents by the way is filmmaker, author and activist, Michael Moore.

There are no Republican members of the House in Massachusetts.  Of the 10 Democrats, 9 voted yes.  Only Stephen Lynch voted no, directly snubbing Ted Kennedy’s family and legacy.  Many from Lynch’s congressional district voted for Scott Brown in the special Senate election.  Lynch could be looking to replicate Brown’s success by focusing on fiscal restraint and job creation.  Lynch justified his vote against health care reform by saying essentially that what’s good for the country is not necessarily good for his constituents, who mostly have health insurance.  He argued the bill didn’t go far enough.  But that’s a tough message to sell to the constituent who believes affordable health care should be a right for all, not just Massachusetts residents.  Lynch is rumored to be interested in running for the Senate in 2012.

3 of the 8 Democrats from North Carolina including former NFL quarterback  Heath Shuler voted no.  A young Blue Dog Democrat, he may have more in common with his Republican colleagues.  Interestingly, he received pac money from pharmaceutical companies including Merck, Novartis and Gloxosmithkline who stand to profit considerably from the legislation with increased business and subsidies.  On the other side, he received contributions from Blue Cross and Blue Shield, giants in the health insurance industry that might not be as enthusiastic about government regulations.  If he’s re-elected, I’d say Shuler is a better politician than football player.

Democrats from 24 states voted no.  Alabama and North Carolina tied for the most Democrats in opposition with three.

Half of the states in the original Louisiana Purchase had 1 or more Democrats who voted no:  Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico, South Dakota and Minnesota.

“Liberal” Massachusetts was the only New England state with a representative who voted no.

Why So Little H1N1 in AR, WV and VT?

The Natural State

While looking at some of the H1N1 flu data on the CDC website, I was struck by the fact that West Virginia had been completely spared, and that out of the 6,754 cases reported nationwide, Arkansas and Vermont had only 6 confirmed cases combined.

So what do the three states have in common that might account for this clean bill of health?  Not much on the surface.  I was thinking that both Vermont and Arkansas were given their names by Frenchmen.   But what about West Virginia?  No, no French connection there.   Vermont is named after a mountain.  Arkansas has the Ozark and the Ouachita mountain ranges; West Virgina the Appalachians.   Could it be the rarefied mountain air?  Or that the states are landlocked?

I have a theory, not entirely my own, that is a product of a little research and common sense.   First, what do the states with the most cases – Illinois, New York, Texas and California have in common?  They are densely populated. Mexico City fits this description too.  The virus can spread quickly when people are confined in close quarters on buses, subways, at school and work and in busy supermarkets and shopping centers.   Arkansas, West Virgina and Vermont are three of the least densely populated states in the country and there are simply fewer opportunities for exposure.  Makes sense?   Before you say duh, consider this:  these three states have something else in common – they have an aging population.  The median age of an Arkansas resident is 37, 40 for West Virgina and Vermont.   What does this have to do with anything?  The median age of the H1N1 victim is 15.   The theory here is that younger people do not yet have a fully functional immune system and will not have had the developmental benefit of exposure to many types of virus threats as have adults and the elderly.  California, Texas and Illinois, with the lion share of H1N1 victims, are three of the youngest states.  The median age of a Texas resident is 33.  Simply put, in these heavily and densely populated states, there are more high risk youth who will have much greater exposure rates to the virus than their counterparts in smaller, more sparsely populated states.

And there is another intangible that just came to mind.  The ArkBenJerry-UnitedSquare (Small)ansas mascot is the Razorback.   Arkansas hogs are treated with the utmost respect.  Go hogs! And in Vermont, they feed their pigs Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream.  It’s true.  Vermont pigs are a little bit spoiled and apparently don’t like mint chocolate.  They don’t!