This is an odd fad that I have seen people use on social media. Somehow the program will sum up all a person’s posts in a year or some specified time frame into a conglomeration of words. Not sure how the program knows which words to pick out, but the upshot is meant to be a summary of attitude based on words used in posts the person made. There are programs online (WordClouds.com is one) where you can copy and paste an essay or list or whatever and the program will mash it into what you said. Or something.

I remember many times when I worked for my dad’s company training new employees. In addition to my working with them I had fashioned manuals for each position of production, explaining what the job was, why it existed with keystroke-by-keystroke instructions on data entry and submission. This was a painstaking process but greatly facilitated the assimilation of any employee we hired, thus enabling their joining the company a seamless process.

IMG_0448.JPGCoast Guard Cutter Returning to Base up the Cape Fear River

It also made my father very happy because if I happened to be out of the office and any questions arose these manuals were designed so anyone who could read could walk in, read this manual and do whatever the task was. Thereby alleviating any awkward “I don’t know” situation for my dad, which was a rare occurrence anyway. This was also how my mother taught me to cook. I once asked her, as a small child, how do you cook? “If you can read you can cook,” was her answer. She was an amazing cook, and I know there was way more to her cooking than just reading.

Life is kind of that way. You have to live through a substantial amount of experiences before any sufficient measurable wisdom is attained in order to see a pattern or theme I think. Some situations I wished I had an operations manual. Like when my son was born. His birthday was yesterday. I was telling him what that day (the greatest day!) was like. I especially recalled the day after when I was being prepared to go home. They brought my brand new baby to me and showed me how to give him a bath. I watched in horror as they slung him side to side in the little tub sloshing him all over with soapy water. Later when he was bundled in his little onesie and blankets they handed him to me. I looked at him a moment, then asked the nurse could they not keep him longer, say till he was ready for school? I was terrified I’d break him.

I didn’t.

IMG_0447.JPGLate-blooming Christmas amaryllis

But life doesn’t come with manuals. Which is why some may like being perpetual students. Being in school you are learning, but what does learning something matter if you never apply it to anything? And I know plenty of people who did not go to college and are smarter than many that did. That’s likely more a matter of personality than intelligence. Both help.

IMG_0449.JPGLulu’s wordcloud is always growing


Plants Go To War – A Book Review

Reblogged on friendwise.wordpress.com.

The Herb Society of America Blog

By Maryann Readal

To quote author Judith Sumner in the preface to her new book, Plants Go to War: A Botanical Plants go to war coverHistory of World War II, “The war could not have been won without rubber, but the same might be said about wheat, cotton, lumber, quinine, and penicillin, all with botanical origins.” In her book, Sumner documents many of the plants that were critical to World War II efforts on all sides of the battlefield. Indeed, her research is exhaustive in that she covers not only the military uses of plants but also civilian uses as well by the major countries involved in the war.

As the war disrupted supplies of plants needed for medicine, food, and manufacturing, governments had to look for alternatives. Some were successful in growing tropical plants and food crops on their own soil; some began to look for chemical alternatives. A chemical synthesis of quinine…

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gangsters of the bird world

F998D4BD-7E52-44A6-8179-AD6B88962BADCrows have been yelling all week! When it was warm, when it rained, when it got cold. Folklore says crows can be good and bad omens. They are tricksters. They show up in groups or one at a time.

I could never get a picture of one. They were flying around everywhere and I could not capture one.


I have raised orphan birds in my life, doves, starlings but never a crow. They have communities so if a baby crow loses its parents other crows adopt the orphan. Same for cardinals but cardinals don’t go around eating other birds’ babies or steal their eggs.


If you find a dead crow it’s good luck but if you accidentally kill one it’s bad luck unless you bury it. And you have to wear black.


Groups of birds have descriptions that seem to fit their perceived nature: a mewing of catbirds, a cauldron of hawks, peep of chickens, banditry of chickadees, charm of finches, but it’s a murder of crows.

See my point?


Personally I think crows get a bad rap.



This once was considered a safe topic. Now it seems to spur arguments over global warming or climate crisis. I try not to get into hot water at all costs. There is too much unknown and I am always skeptical of proponents of a thing with mega millions, private jets and many mansions.


I remember as a child sometime between late January – mid February hearing the term “false spring”. This was a balmy break in the chilling frozen of winter. Suddenly daffodils sprouted, songbirds sang all day and there was a delicious fragrance on a light, spring-like breeze.  It usually lasted only a few days. No more than a week. Then grey, cold days returned well into March.


This week has been a gift. Mild temperatures around 60-70. I can count on one hand the number of mornings I have seen sparkling frost the entire winter so far. I know, it’s only January. But this has been a milder winter than I can remember in the coastal southeast.


We’ve had rain but retention ponds that normally have water all year are dry. Marshes and bogs are dry. Peeper frogs are silent.


There aren’t as many of these signs here as in Florida, or even South Carolina or Georgia. I have never seen an alligator here, but there is a small pond in the neighborhood where I live and others have said they have seen a gator in there. I am cautious walking my dogs around here. But I have not seen it.


I spoke with a couple we met on one of our walkies this week. The husband was wearing shorts but also wore a light jacket. His wife had on a warm jacket. They both commented that their brains tell them it is winter, and where they moved from to come here that meant weather much colder than we are having. But they were not complaining.


So again, I am learning to take each day as it comes, one day at a time. I learned to slow down last year thanks to Lily and her injuries. This year it is the weather.

Our teachers are everywhere, if we are willing learners.




Some things are universal in their beauty. Then there is beauty that is purely subjective. As Benjamin Franklin said in Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1741, “Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion.”


Isn’t this true? Mysteries, complicated things, hard work, puzzles, riddles we tend to avoid. Well, some of us. Many are confident and up to great challenges. Some are spurred on by nobility and justice. Some stand and fight for truth. But we all have something we find as beauty.


Some find beauty in terrible storms. Swirling dark clouds illuminated by jagged, blinding flashes of lightning. Crashing rumbles of pounding thunder. Chaotic whipping winds. The thrill of natural fear that exists larger than controllable events.


And calm. Serene peace. Quiet so profound it has a presence. Pervasive and soothing.


A season of sleep. Rest. Recollection of strength. Deepening roots. Restoration of life.