Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Goodbye, February.

2-27-07 SHORT HILLS: Back in warm NJ after a few days at the Dartmouth Skiway in frigid VT and NH. Actually the past two days there were pleasant enough to ski comfortably without losing body parts to the climate. The Skiway got enough snow so that there was no grooming on the original side, and the bumps grew bigger and bigger over a few days, getting respectable. Bump skiing is so much more exertion with all the up-and-down as opposed to cruising the groomed which is just side-to-side gliding. I did do one day with the telemark skis. Don’t ask.

Back in the pasture, I snowshoed a trail three days in a row, which got a lot of use from the dogs. I tried walking it without the snowshoes and would sink in to up my knee every third or fifth step.

I started reading The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg. The book is in twelve chapters, one for each month, I’m into March. It is just beautiful, mostly about weather and his farm. As someone trying to write about similar things, I’m in awe of the originality of his descriptive narrative and am inspired enough, without reading any further, to put it through the shredder.

It’s almost time to say goodbye to February, a most unpleasant, harsh, cold and nasty month this year. I glad it’s the shortest month. I couldn’t have taken another day.

I meant to discuss the Geographic point of the sun on the 21st of the month. At that time, the sun is halfway back to the Equator from its southern-most descent, 23.5° of South Latitude, reached on December 21st. The point on the earth’s surface directly beneath the sun, the geographic point, describes a sine wave on the surface of the earth, over the course of the year, from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. Now we are on the steep part of the sine wave. The sun will go from about 12° below the Equator to the Equator on March 21st to 12° north of the Equator on April 21st. The flat part of the sine wave, in either the north of south, gives us our summer and winter as you know. The mean daily temperature in any region probably follows a similar waveform but lags behind in time.

Are you talking to me?

The Worden trail from the Winslow chair. See the Holt Ledge?

Guess which house has the better insulation in the attic.

Friday, February 23, 2007


2-23-07 VERMONT: We came up the beginning of the week and have had four days with granddaughter Lily who is on vacation. Tuesday we were at the Dartmouth Skiway, Lily snowboarded while I skiied. The snow was pretty good. The original side, the Holts Ledge side, was mostly ungroomed and dotted with small to moderate-sized moguls. Fun for a old codger. The next day I snowshoed around the pasture with the dogs in about a foot and a half of light snow. It was work, breaking trail even for a short distance. The dogs, when they follow you closely, step on the back of the snowshoes which could trip a less agile person than I.

The weather has been fairly kind, midday temps in the upper thirtys, but today is harsh. It is sunny and an inch of new snow has everything looking fresh, but the wind is gusting to 25 mph and 20° feels like 5°. I did try the snowshoeing again, it was brutal. The trail was filled in by the new snow and wind. Fifteen minutes was more than enough outside time. I’m hoping to get more skiing in, but will need warmer weather.

Last night we had a dinner party with Steve, Diana, Eliza and Clara, Bruce and Donna, the birthday girl, Ken and Jane, and Lois and Tony. The company and the lasagna were great.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Night Life.

2-17-07 SHORT HILLS: It remains cold even for February. I shoveled the sidewalk along Great Hills Rd. yesterday, it took 45 minutes because of the ice, and my hands were frozen afterwards—lousy gloves. Today’s pic is from a local paparazzi taken at a popular watering hole of a happening couple. I was lucky to get it for this blog.

New Blooms: none.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007


2-14-07 SHORT HILLS: We did get snow, about an inch, plus, cold, wind, rain and ice. Even the dogs didn’t want to spend much time outside. It’s a day for cold feet, shivers and sniffles. The cure—Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog.

The corn pictures and descriptions are exciting, but the tomatoes, too much. They have cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, strawberry tomatoes. There are red, of course, orange, yellow, greenish and purple tomatoes. Determinate and non-determinate tomatoes, big ones, bigger ones, early and late ripening tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes and even a variety called “Black Prince”. The tomatoes in the supermarket, you know the ones, that feel like rubber balls and taste like putty, as so inferior to field grown and ripened fruit. It’s a pity the season is so short.

There are pumpkins, peppers, herbs, sunflowers, forty-two kinds of sunflowers, bulbs, and annuals. You can feel the sun on your face. For a break from the season try: they will sell you seeds for a planter or for fifty acres.

Just a reminder.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


2-13-07 SHORT HILLS: We are waiting for the big snowstorm that is supposedly hitting tonight. Twelve inches are threatened. We’ll see. One year ago yesterday, after twelve inches of snow, I started this blog.

The recent cold wave has had the rhododendron leaves all curled up in cigarette shapes and huddled together. That is their reactions to both cold and drought and is a means of conserving water and reducing cold trauma. Yesterday, when it was warmer, they opened up and today they curled up again.

Shivering Rhodo

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hubris and Nemesis

2-7-07 SHORT HILLS: How’s this for a provocative article from a British neurologist:

Hubris in World Leaders: Evidence of Neurologic Illness?
A prominent British politician gives a candid appraisal of the overconfident attitudes of leaders and their possible basis in neurologic processes.

Lord David Owen outlines a condition of greater public concern than conventional illness in a leader: exaggerated self-confidence and sense of personal destiny coupled with a disdain for other views (hubris), which inevitably leads to retribution and an eventual ignominious downfall (nemesis).

Instead of discussing Caesar, Napoleon, or Nixon, he selects living examples: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, current British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and U.S. President George W. Bush. Owen discusses how their personal self-confidence, sense of destiny, and intoxication with power endanger the democratic process. He adds that neuroscience may in the future find an explanation for hubris, but, until then, constant vigilance and countervailing power are our only assurances.

Comment: The intelligent, acerbic, controversial, and imposing Lord David Owen is also Doctor Owen, medical graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a lifelong quixotic challenger of social and political issues. He so often resigned from parties and prominent positions over matters of principle that he is known as the "the great resigner." His remarks are always illuminating and pointed, and his warning about the dangers of hubris in national leaders is one we must heed. We can see the potential dangers played out in the media every day, especially since 9/11, when the specter of terror allowed Bush and Blair to slip the bounds that ordinarily control the decisions and actions of leaders. In an accompanying commentary, psychiatrist Simon Wessely asks whether this is necessarily a politician's fate. In answer, I refer readers to historian Barbara W. Tuchman's book on the subject (The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. Alfred A. Knopf; 1984), in which she records recurrences throughout history.

Rudolf Virchow, the 19th century physician-politician, said that politics is medicine on a grand scale. If your disdain for politicians leads you to turn away from such issues, you do so at your peril, and at the peril of your patients. This may be one of the most important articles you will read this year.

-- T. Jock Murray, MD, OC, FRCPC, MACP

Dr. Murray is Professor Emeritus, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova
Scotia, Canada.

Published in Journal Watch Neurology February 6, 2007

Owen LD. Hubris and nemesis in heads of government. J R Soc Med 2006 Nov: 99:548-51.
Wessely S. The psychiatry of hubris. J R Soc Med 2006 Nov; 99:552-3.

Perhaps the cure lies in surgery--impeachment surgery.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Feel the Warmth

2-6-07 SHORT HILLS: At least with the reality of Global Warming, those bitterly cold and windy winter days are a thing of the past. I sure don’t miss those. The difference between Climate and Weather: climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.

Gov. Perry gets credit for making the HPV vaccine mandatory for teen girls in Texas. Lets see if it actually happens. Some Texas parents are resisting because they think the vaccine will encourage promiscuity. They would rather see their daughters get cervical cancer than risk pre-marital sex. Is Perry getting a payoff from Merck? What so bad about promiscuity anyway?

Here’s a picture of Vermont that was used by the photographer as a post-card for many years. Since then the house has a metal roof and a paint job.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

February 12, 2007

2-4-07 SHORT HILLS: We back from Vermont and it’s just as cold here, well almost. Winter has arrived in the northeast a month late. I looked back in the diary to last February 12, which was the date of my first blog entry and the date of the only major snowstorm last winter. Readers—to get the total visits up to 6000 for the year, you will all have to re-read the blog about seven times over and over during the next week. So get reading! I will try to post something most every day. Here are pix from the last Vermont trip.

Stays out very late and doesn't call.

Survived the Holidays.