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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Virginia Tech Professor Sheds Light on Darkness

I may be weird but I want to get my hands on this book. I found it featured (here) on the Virginia Tech News website.
A. Roger Ekirch's book releasing to rave reviews

Blacksburg, Va., June 6, 2005 -- A. Roger Ekirch, professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, unveils the mysterious history of night in this meticulously investigated book of how we survived in the centuries before electric lighting. Based on 20 years of detailed archival research, At Day's Close: Night in Times Past (W.W. Norton, 2005) is an enthralling, compelling study of the darker side of human history.

Ekirch writes in his preface: “Darkness, for the greater part of humankind, afforded a sanctuary from everyday life, the chance, as shadows lengthened, for men and women to express inner impulses and realize repressed desires both in their waking hours and in their dreams, however innocent or sinister in nature. A time, fundamentally of liberation and renewal, night gave free reign to the goodhearted as well as the wicked.”

At Day’s Close spans from the late Middle Ages to the early 19th century, and is divided into four separate parts. The first section of the book, “In the Shadow of Death,” focuses on the dangers to both body and soul that the night could bring. Part Two, “Laws of Nature,” considers both bureaucratic and popular responses to nighttime, such as curfews and watchmen to control and restrict activity. Citizens themselves relied upon magic, Christianity, and natural lore to counter the darkness and safeguard their families. “Benighted Realms,” the third section, investigates the nocturnal retreats of men and women, and analyzes the personal freedom, pleasures, and pursuits that nighttime afforded them. Lastly, Part Four, “Private Worlds,” unearths ancient bedtime rituals, sleep patterns, and midnight revelations.

This is one of those off-the-wall topics that leads one to wonder, "Where on earth did Mr. Ekirch get the idea to write a book about night?"

I love it.

I Enjoy The Wildlife but ...

I mentioned my grandson's encounter with a rattlesnake earlier today and Paula's confrontation with assorted snakes the other day. Those instances are enough to give one pause. This makes you want to lock your doors and hide.

Confirmed case of rabies in a cat in Tazewell
By Angie Arms, Media General News Service

TAZEWELL – Tazewell County has had six confirmed rabies cases so far this year, and more could follow, health officials said.

Wythe County also has had six cases, while the remainder of far Southwest Virginia has had none. (

Twelve cases of rabies already this summer. Not good.

Kaid Finds a Rattlesnake

Three-year-old Kaid Fuhrman was out tooling around the yard in his battery-operated automobile the other day when he happened upon a snake. And not just any snake. It was a rattlesnake, or to the aficionado of such stuff, an Eastern Timber Rattlesnake. Three feet long and in a foul mood was the way it was described to me.

What makes the story charming (can a story about a venomous snake be charming?) is that little Kaid, who'se still working on developing a broad vocabulary, jumped off his ride and came running into the house (my son lives up in Roanoke County) screaming, "Rattlesnake! There's a rattlesnake in the yard!"

My son, as it turns out, had warned Kaid and Kaid's twin sister about bad snakes, one of which - the biggest, baddest of which - is the rattlesnake and warned them to never go near them. Nobody's sure how Kaid was able to recognize the breed but, sure enough, when my son and daughter-in-law went out to inspect Kaid's find, there lay, at the side of their house, a chubby little rattlesnake.

After the initial shock wore off, my son retrieved a garbage can, scooped the surly monster inside, drove down the road, and released it into a creekbed.

Before you ask, "Why didn't he shoot the snake?" understand that that is not how we do things in modern America. We love all God's creatures; even those that choose to kill us and eat us.

Anyway, we're all proud of little Kaid. Most adults wouldn't be able to recognize a rattlesnake when they came upon one. But then most people don't live in Rattlesnake Central either.

Photo courtesy of Tom Spinker, southalley.com
Click on image to enlargePosted by Hello

Roanoke Times 'Twisting In The Wind'

I know I'm spending too much time reading newspaper articles and editorials when I can read the title of some offering and predict its content right down to the phraseology.

Take one of today's editorials in the Roanoke Times. When I read this:

Twisting in the wind over energy

The windmill proposal dividing Highland County presents a tiny piece of a much larger problem: America lacks a sensible, realistic energy policy. (link)

I said to myself: The Times editorial staff will take the opportunity via this editorial to trash the Bush administration over its energy policies - or more appropriately, the lack thereof - but will offer no solutions of their own to our energy problems. Of course I was exactly right.

This is as close as the Roanoke Times, and really all those who consider themselves to be environmentalists, get to providing an alternative to oil, gas, coal, and nuclear energy.

[Washington] believes America can produce its way out of trouble by opening protected shorelines and wildlife refuges to oil and gas exploitation, building new nuclear plants and burning more coal. Not coincidentally, that meshes perfectly with the interests of powerful energy industries.

Meanwhile, conservation and alternative, renewable sources get short shrift.

The "conservation" suggestion I understand (I've always found it a bit ironic though that left-wing newspapers promote the concept of conservation as being a worthy goal while at the same time they denude whole forests of perfectly healthy trees in order to manufacture the paper that is used to print their sentiment, followed close on by lining the floor of hamster cages with same) but I've always viewed "conservation" as nothing more than lame pie-in-the-sky drivel masquerading as an alternative energy policy.

The closest the Times comes to advocating an alternative is the reference to "alternative, renewable sources." Hmm. Are they referring to ethanol? Corn is a renewable resource and we have it in abundance. I doubt it. It still must be used in conjunction with petroleum. Are they talking about solar power without making mention of the term? Actually I wouldn't mention it by name either, what with the poor impact its research and development have had on the overall energy marketplace. They already trashed the windmill concept in this article as being something that will never generate much electricity. Besides, windmills are notoriously destructive to winged creatures, sometimes even being referred to as "bird guillotines." "Renewable sources" can't include any of them.

No, by George, I think, when they allude to "alternative, renewable sources," they must mean wood. as in trees. Forests. As in fireplaces. As in wood-burning power plants. It would be consistent with their insatiable need for timber in order to manufacture their product and would make for shrewd public advocacy, since environmental groups will otherwise turn on them one day and demand that they halt the destruction of the world's forests.

It's all so predictable. Especially the part about the Roanoke Times coming under attack by environmental groups around the country some day. These people always eat their own eventually.

I'm going to enjoy the day ...

Turning On The GOP Turncoats

I'm probably not unlike millions of other folks around the country who tend to vote Republican based in part on a few litmus tests.
  • Where does the candidate stand on the issue of abortion?
  • Has he or she raised my taxes or advocated raising my taxes?
Remember "Read my lips, no new taxes"? I never voted for that character again. Nor did a few million others who had thrown their support George HW Bush's way in 1988 based upon his commitment to holding the line on tax rate increases. Not that he gave us that many other opportunities.

Here in Virginia, we were saddled with the largest tax increase in history two years ago. Pushed by every Democrat in the state and championed by Governor Mark Warner, the Republican-controlled legislature could have stopped the Dems' effort and called for fiscal discipline instead but, as often happens with the Republican party, a handful of liberal GOPers banded together with the Democrats, and raised an array of our taxes.

And now the state is experiencing a tax revenue surplus the size and scope of which the state has never seen.

I vowed at the time to vote out the turncoats who betrayed their party membership but, you see, we're not allowed to have Republican representatives in the legislature from Southwest Virginia (there must be a law). I have a Democrat for a state Senator (Puckett) and a Democrat for Delegate (Keister), both of whom I'll continue to vote against until they're driven from office ... or die of old age, which is probably more likely. Each gleefully voted to raise my taxes.

Which brings me to the movement afoot here in Virginia to bounce the turncoat GOP legislators who voted to raise my taxes.
Tax-Cut Campaigners Vow To Topple Virginians
By Christina Bellantoni, The Washington Times

Anti-tax groups promised that Virginia lawmakers who voted for the largest tax increase in state history would pay for it at the polls.

As it turns out, only six of the 19 targeted Republican delegates face challengers in Tuesday's primary election.

Still, the results of those six contested races will signal whether Virginia is headed for a tax revolt or voters really didn't mind the $1.38 billion tax increase passed in May 2004, observers say.

The Republican delegates involved defend their vote to raise the sales, cigarette and real estate transaction taxes as the only way to avoid a government shutdown over a budget impasse. (link)
I guess they want us to thank them.

The fact that the state now has more money in its coffers than it can spend (no small feat for politicians) tends, in hindsight, to make the budget imbroglio to have been well worth it.

So, what are the chances that this group will bring about the defeat of the GOP turncoats? Probably slim to none.
Some seasoned observers predict all six of the challenged incumbents -- who have raised much more money than their opponents -- will keep their seats.
Still, the Republican party, unlike the Democratric party, if it stands for anything, it stands on principle. And a primary tenet of the party - even in today's tax and spend era - is to bring about the reduction of the tax burden of the citizenry. Regardless of Tuesday's outcome, I'm glad to see the heat being applied to these unprincipled Republicans.
"If there is even one upset, it would be a bellwether for the anti-tax movement," said former Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican who opposed the tax increases. "Still, there is a sense of betrayal out there."
Yes. Tuesday. Be there.