Arkansas, the worst state to live in?

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Whoa now big boy…. that’s a quote! That’s not my own personal opinion. That’s according to a piece written by Scott Cohn who develops in-depth features, special reports and documentaries for CNBC and CNBC.com, including the influential annual series America’s Top States for Business, which he created in 2007.

At any rate that’s the news that greeted me first thing this morning as I was reviewing the latest news on some of my personal news sources. Reading that your home state is considered the worst state in the United States to live in is not the news one cares to be greeted by first thing in the morning but this morning that was indeed the case. I’m sure many of my fellow Arkansans will be just as shocked as I am when they find out about their poor choice of states to live in. 🙂

During my tenure of some almost 75 years on this planet, during both my military service and civilian career I have lived and/or worked in several states to include Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas. And as for Arkansas, well I was born and raised here and that is where my family has always lived. As reflected in the referenced news release, the worst ten (10) states to live in are listed below with Number 10 being the best of the worst and Number 1 being the worst of the worst. And it seems I have lived in most of them. For more detailed information and the news release itself, you may click “here”. Additional information is also available in links available in the article itself.

  1. Arkansas
  2. Missouri
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Louisiana
  5. Tennessee
  6. Indiana
  7. Mississippi
  8. Alabama
  9. Kentucky
  10. Nevada

According to the author and the statistics used in the compilations, Arkansas’ “Quality of Life” ranking was 44th out of 50; it’s primary weaknesses were crime rate, air quality and health citing the high rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer; and it was concluded that Arkansas had ‘no strengths’ whatsoever since it was rated at the bottom in every metric used in the ratings.

When I decided to go into semi-retirement and move back to Arkansas it was certainly a conscious decision but admittedly, I have always been partial to Missouri since living there. I have to honestly say it was probably in total the state I most enjoyed living in of all the places I have lived including my home state of Arkansas. But if you refer to the list above you can see I’m not very good at picking favorite places to live since Missouri is only saved from last place of the ‘worst places to live’ by the grace of Arkansas!

Then there is the Pacific Northwest which I have almost always been attracted to although I have never actually lived or even visited there. But that’s a place I shall never see, at least not in person. But then that’s why Al Gore invented the Internet I suppose, so we could visit places via Cyberspace we couldn’t otherwise visit!

But that is all water under the bridge at this point of my life. Here in Arkansas is where I live and here in Arkansas is where I will die. And although I haven’t as of yet run across any statistics addressing the fact, I hope Arkansas ranks a little better as far as the best states to die in, or maybe I should say buried in. I suppose as long as Arkansas is ranked somewhere above “Boot Hill” I’ll be gratefully dead (no pun intended)! 🙂

A Piece of “Middle Earth” Found In America….

Rivendell

As is reflected in the painting above, that wonderful secluded and picturesque cottage is located in “Rivendell” which is part of a quite fictional location known as Middle Earth which is located on the planet Arda. This locale was well documented in the film series “Lord of the Rings” as well as “The Hobbit” with which many are surely familiar. This particular cottage rendering has for some years now been the only physical representation of the location where I have so wanted to spend the final days of my life after retiring. A place especially inviting to someone like myself of a reclusive nature, fictional or not!

Of course as one who has their feet firmly planted in reality, to dream and fantasize about such a place is at best all one can do. Or at least so I thought until a few days ago. It was then that I came right up against the moment when fantasy meets reality. My dream cottage did in fact actually exist and it wasn’t located in Middle Earth on the planet Arda but rather near Olalla, Washington on the planet Earth. And its present owners had it up for sale in all its glory for only $825,000.

But of course, as home costs go that is quite expensive but it seems quite a cheap price to pay for a dream. The pictures of the home almost don’t look real but they are quite real and oh my, so very inviting. See for yourself and be sure and click on the pictures to see a much larger version….

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According to media reports the original owner built the home in stages beginning in the 1970’s. The most current owner who purchased the property in 2005 converted the home into a ‘bed and breakfast’ catering primarily to weddings. The property operated under the name “Storybook Cottage Inn” during its tenure as a bed and breakfast as I understand it. It is also known locally and referred to by recent media reports as “Snow White’s Cottage”.

And as previously mentioned, the property is now listed for sale for $825,000. Now granted I am not of such financial status that I can even in the least consider such a purchase but I have to say the price seems quite reasonable to me. But then it’s my kinda’ place! 🙂

Just for informational purposes only, I have included two very short videos below apparently created to advertise the property as a wedding venue, one showing mostly property assets while the other more of the interior. If you are as interested in the property as I was, then you can see the actual real estate listing “here“.

Chimney Swifts & Childhood Memories….

Flying Chimney SwiftRecently while sitting on my patio and sipping on a cup of coffee I looked up into the sky above me and was quite startled at what I was seeing. Something that I realized in the moment I had not seen for many, many years. It was two unmistakably identifiable “Chimney Swifts” flying high above in the late spring sky. Their circling and unmistakable silhouettes brought back a flood of childhood memories. It also brought to light the fact that I had neither thought of nor missed their existence in my life for some sixty years. On this day however of making their re-acquaintance, they were there briefly, then gone and not seen since.

Back in the 40’s and 50’s on any given moment in the summertime you could look up in the southern skies of Arkansas and see varying numbers of the birds sailing the skies and pursuing their illusive insect prey. From early morn until late evening they were always there as their silhouettes peppered the summer skies.

Chimney swifts are probably not on anyone’s list of favorite birds. I can’t recall in recent memory ever seeing any report or wildlife documentary on television inclusive of any measure of information regarding the species. I suspect the bird’s lack of popularity is pretty much due to its overall secluded nature and nesting habits. After all, you will never, ever see one at your bird feeder or on a nearby tree branch bursting forth with beautiful song. They never land except to return to their roosts or nests which are almost always chimney type structures where they cling to the sides of the structure. They also congregate in these roosting areas much in the same manner as the familiar communal bat.

Chimney Swift In-Hand 02I have actually only ever seen one up close when a neighbor of ours back in my childhood days came over with one he had found outside in his driveway that had been hurt. Knowing that most people have never seen one up close and personal he brought it over for us all to take a gander. That would be my first and my last time to ever see one of the winged creatures up close and personal.

Chimney Swift RangeGiven my curiosity into my perceived disappearance of the Chimney Swift from my summer skies, it was only fitting that I do a little research on the subject. It was noted by one reputable source, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, that the species has suffered sharp declines in decades due to the disuse of chimneys across their summer breeding grounds. In 2010 it was noted that there threatened species category was elevated from “least concerned” to “near threatened”. Now that is nowhere near the ‘endangered’ category but nevertheless, does reflect significant decreases in the population. It was also noted in my research that large weather events such as hurricanes can have serious impacts on the populations living in their paths. The migration map noted on the left reflects the migration of these birds, the ‘blue’ shaded area in South America reflects their winter resident area while the ‘yellow’ shaded area in North America reflects their summer breeding grounds.

As I often these days find myself reflecting on the memories of days gone by, I could not forsake the memories of looking up and seeing these birds, always there in flight and simply a standard fixture to any summer day. So when I look up these days into that same old summer sky, I now ponder the stark realization that it too no longer reflects those remembered and cherished childhood days for those chimney swift silhouettes are no longer painted across my elderly sky.

Movie Review – “Sweet Land” (2005)

5-Star Post Master

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It has been sometime since I have done any sort of movie review. In fact, it has been sometime since I have even posted on this blog at all. But this past evening after watching the subject movie of this review for my third time since March 14th of this year its injection of exuberance from the entertainment factor of this film has simply gotten the best of me.

Set in the early 1920’s of post World War I, a mail-order bride travels to America to marry an immigrant Norwegian farmer who has procured a homestead in Minnesota. The young woman, being of German descent, is immediately ostracized by the local community and the local church’s minister. The minister refuses to marry them and local officials refuse to issue government documents to her which would resolve the communities perceived suspicions, again all because of her German heritage and the lingering raw feelings regarding Germany and the aftermath of the war.

The young woman’s husband-to-be must grapple with his own religious convictions and the critical eyes of the church in dealing with how he and the woman are to cohabit in an unmarried situation. She speaks little English and must personally deal with trying to understand all that is going on in all the social turmoil.

The farmer’s young bride-to-be turns out to be a very strong and formidable partner as they vie for acceptance into their community and their own relationship blossoms. All and all, it is a very heart warming love story peppered with humorous moments and a film which will slowly draw you in and then won’t let you go until the very end.

By the way, who put the grunting in tennis?

sharapovaI seldom if ever write anything regarding the sports world but today is one of those special occasions. My little darling of tennis, Maria Sharapova, has apparently gotten herself into a bit of a pickle it would seem. She took a required drug test in late January and on March 2, was charged with using a banned substance. Sponsors are already bailing and this will definitely have a serious effect on her tennis career.

It is somewhat funny how we as fans react to such news. Had this been anyone else, say Serena Williams, I would have been calling for her head. But since its my pretty little Sharapova, not to mention the fact she’s a pretty good tennis player, I was been a bit taken back by the whole thing. In her case its best I think if we just forget about the whole thing.

There will be a lot of fans however who I’m sure will be quite gratified at this development. My pretty little Sharapova is somewhat disliked for her on court manners, to be specific her grunting during play. Holding that thought, it got me to thinking… how did all this grunting in tennis even get started?

Well, after a little brief research I found a video on YouTube that left me pretty much laughing right in the middle of my Sharapova doping miseries. To address the question posed in the title of this post, it would seem Monica Seles and Jimmy Conners are credited with starting the obnoxious phenomenon. And since then it has been incorporated into the game of many of the well known men and women players. I thought the accompanying video was both humorous and enlightening on the subject….

My favorite by the way is the very last one who the commentator equates as to what sounds like a little girl falling off a cliff. 😀

My bad…. David Muir is a bust!

David Muir 2Back in June of 2014 after complaining about the majority of evening news anchors featured on the three big networks of NBC, ABC and CBS, I published a post, Good News… Pun intended by the way!, elated over the change in news anchors just made by ABC. They had assigned David Muir to takeover the position of evening news anchor from Diane Sawyer and I couldn’t have been happier. Mr. Muir had been doing the weekend evening news for ABC and was doing a fantastic job.

Unfortunately, the old adage “be careful what you wish for” jumped up and bit me in the ass to put it bluntly. In the end the change ended up not only screwing up the ABC Nightly News for sure but Muir’s weekend news replacement really screwed up the ABC Weekend Evening News.

Almost from the git-go Muir began starting out every evening newscast with, “Tonight breaking news as we come on the air….” or “Breaking news tonight starting off our broadcast….”. He invariably starts off every newscast with ‘breaking news”…. did I mention “EVERY”! And it’s never really breaking news. It is normally news that happened earlier in the day but to grab attention he has to hype it up. As happy as I was to see him get the job, I almost immediately stopped watching him. He never did pull that crap when he had the weekend news.

Cecilia Vega and Tom Llamas 2And to make matters worse, at least for me, his replacement on the weekend news, Tom Llamas apparently liked the hyping hook so much he started using it on his broadcasts. So now, all their evening newscasts suck as far as I’m concerned. Cecilia Vargas often does one of the weekend evening newscasts and she’s great. They need to replace Muir with her.

There are a couple of our local television weather forecasters here in the Central Arkansas area that have honed their skills when it comes to hyping the weather and 90% of the time the hype is nothing more that an intentional ruse to get people to tune into their weather-casts.

Why it is all these people want to be the bearers of doomsday news beats me… but they love it. This society and our country have enough bad news to bear without these assholes going around trying to create yet more stress and anxiety which is exactly what they are doing.

Well, I can’t say that I now feel better after my little rant because nothing will certainly change because of it, but…. Ooops, you know what? I think I do feel a little better! 🙂

Yep, I’ve redecorated the blog….

Recently, with the help of my little sister and brother-in-law we cleaned out my attic. Actually I prefer to think we rescued many of my treasures that had been exiled from my living quarters for a very, very long time. But now they’re all back with me and cluttering up my life yet once again. But then let’s face it, who wants to die alone?

But enough about the attic and dying. In the process of doing all that I also got the urge to, what I call, repaint my blog. Just like painting your house, it’s the same old house in the same old neighborhood, it just has a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Otherwise, yep, it’s just the same old blog.

My favorite colors have always been a combination of browns, oranges and yellows including their various shades. That can easily be confirmed if you walk inside my home. If you don’t like browns, oranges and yellows you ain’t going to like it there as is reflected in the photos below of my living room (2007) and computer room (2006), respectively….

Living Room - 2006
Computer Room - 2007

And so based on that it should come as no big surprise that if I get the urge to repaint the old blog it’s going to incorporate my living colors. Presently I have chosen to feature an overall burnt orange feel to the old blog with, as you can note, brown highlights. That’s about all I can say other than I plan on cleaning out my storage room next, probably in the spring, so I am not sure what ramifications my blog may endure from that endeavor… 🙂

In Remembrance – Glenn Frey

The Eagles - In The Beginning

Glenn Frey - 1I was shocked this past evening to hear of the passing of Glenn Frey. It seemed I had just checked the latest news a couple of hours ago and had seen nothing regarding his passing. What a storied career he lived, he and his partner Don Henley putting together the California rock group which we would all come to know as “The Eagles”.

Glenn Frey & Don HenleyThe combined compilation of Eagle’s music is just absolutely amazing in my opinion and the majority of credit for it all goes directly to Glenn Frey and Don Henley for the most part. I’ve noted with the release of the news regarding Glenn’s death that most are associating the song “Hotel California” as their chosen musical reference when writing of Frey’s passing. Don Felder actually created the roots of that song while Frey and Henley are credited with writing the lyrics to the iconic song.

As far as I am concerned it is not the Eagle’s song that one would choose to specifically associate with Glenn Frey and his association with this prolific group of musicians and singers. That song in my opinion is the iconic song that normally the group opened their shows with that did indeed feature Glenn Frey. It goes something like this….

Thank you Glenn for all you contributed to our generation along with a number of iconic songs that will forever remain as a part of that legacy. May you rest in peace….

In Remembrance – Alan Rickman

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I was quite saddened to learn of the death of Alan Rickman yesterday. He was such a favorite actor of mine and his demeanor, his rhythm and diction of speech and his acting will truly be missed by me.

Article Lead - narrow65815265138cafimage.related.articleLeadNarrow.353x0.136ndt.png1423434063847.jpg-300x0I remember first seeing him in the film “Die Hard” but at the time I wasn’t particularly drawn to him for any reason. But then I saw him in the film “Quigley Down Under” in the early nineties and that’s when I really began to appreciate him as an actor with great persona. I wasn’t a huge “Harry Potter” fan but it was in part his role as Professor Severus Snape that kept me somewhat interested in the series of films. But when I saw him in the film “Sense and Sensibility” he was amazing and no doubt in his element.

Thank you Mr. Rickman for touching my life through your life’s work, you will be truly missed and may you forever rest in peace…