Friday Felines

We’re a little late again. Mark says it’s because once you retire, every day is Saturday, so we keep forgetting when the rest of the world is on Friday.

Anyway, this is what Zoe looks like a lot of the time since he’s been staying outside.

Leafy cat

Leafy cat

This is not the worst he has been. He likes to stay under the two big loropetalums at the side of the house. The cold snap we had killed almost every leaf on the bushes, so the ground under them is littered with dead leaves. Zoe’s fur picks them up pretty well. He usually has one or two near his rear end. We say it’s the latest new fashion trend among cats, the butt leaf.

An afternoon on the deck

One of the reasons Leah and I are talking about moving is that our house requires a lot of maintenance, and I can’t see myself doing it indefinitely.

We have two decks in the back that are about 10 by 30 feet, and a front walk constructed like a deck that is about 25 feet long. They are seriously weathered and I am currently in the process of re-staining them. I bought a gallon of gray for the decking and a gallon of white for the railings. The salesman said a gallon should cover about 300 square feet. I knew I would need more of both, but it’s not going as far as I thought. I have just now run out of the white stain and am about two-thirds finished with the railings on the front walk.

It seems to go on forever

It seems to go on forever

The front walk slopes up so it’s about seven or eight feet off the ground at the front porch. That means I need a ladder to reach the outside part of the railing. The floor of the upper back deck is about 13 feet off the ground at the highest end. I’ll need an extension ladder to reach it. This does not make me happy. The last time I did any staining of the back deck, I fell off the ladder and tore my rotator cuff, an injury that required surgery.

The other part of this task that I don’t like is that each side of every baluster has to be stained individually, and there are a lot of balusters on our decks. That makes it a tedious, repetitious job. On the back deck I’m going to have to do the outside parts on a high ladder, which will be tedious, repetitious and potentially dangerous. So to do the whole deck, I’m going to have to lie on my back, crawl around on my knees, stoop, stand, reach, climb and descend. I will have to swap between brush and roller, and when I’m doing the outside of the railing I’ll have to do that on a ladder.

Painting the roof overhang would be even worse. Not only is it higher, but I decided to go for the farmhouse look, so there are no soffits to enclose the rafter ends. That means a lot of detail painting, done from a high extension ladder. We hope to have moved before that’s necessary.

I mentioned that we will probably make an offer on some land just down the street from us. Based on that possibility, I have been thinking of what a house would look like there. Unfortunately, the lot slopes, so a house will almost certainly have to have a daylight basement, and that means parts of the house would be two stories above ground. We also like decks, so they will be high off the ground, too. I don’t want to have to do this kind of maintenance 10 years from now, so if we get the property, whatever kind of house we build, it’s going to have to be different from this house and its decks.

This is going to take some thinking.

Friday Felines

Special Saturday Edition

Where in the world is Zoe?

zoe hidingHe has started making himself a little nest between the two gardenias next to our driveway. This photo was taken a while back. The gardenias have both filled in a lot since then. Now it’s even harder to see him when he’s in there.


Projectile points

Finding an Indian arrowhead in this part of Georgia is exciting but not particularly unusual. According to the archeologists, Indians have lived in this part of Georgia for more than 10,000 years and they were making stone implements for essentially all that time. For most of those thousands of years, the stone implements were spear points, axes, scrapers, knives and maybe other things, but not arrowheads. Arrowheads appeared only around 2,000 years ago.

Here is an arrowhead fragment I found around here a couple of years ago along with a complete arrowhead that Leah found when her parents were building their house in the early ‘60’s. I outlined the complete point and laid the fragment in it.

two points compared

It seems clear to me that the fragment is part of a full point that would be very similar to the complete point. I’m going to call the point I found an “arrowhead” because it seems to be the right size and shape, but it might, in fact, be something else. I suspect that an expert would be able to identify the marks that the maker left when the point was chipped from the original source stone. But to me the shape in general is enough to convince me that it really is part of an arrowhead.

Here the fragment is in my hand to give an idea of the size.

point in hand

The fragment appears to be made from chert. One Web site says that brown chert is common in southern Georgia, while gray or black chert is common in northwestern Georgia. The same site says that brown chert turns reddish when heated. The fact that Leah’s arrowhead is black is consistent with where she found it, but what about the reddish color of the fragment I found? Was it obtained in trade with Indians living further south?

I don’t know how many Indians lived around the Rome area through those thousands of years, but if you assume that as few as a couple of people who made or used projectile points lost or broke a couple each year, that would mean there were tens of thousands of projectile points scattered in the area. Maybe not as many arrowheads, but I’m going to make an uneducated guess that Indians might have lost or broken arrowheads at a higher rate than other stone implements. My guess is based on the relatively small size and the fact that arrowheads are shot from bows in ways that might make them hard to find if they missed their target. Even if that assumption is not true, if you assume a couple of lost or broken arrowheads every year from a given small population, there should still be at least a couple of thousand points in the area where that small population lived.

They would have to have been lost mainly in areas where they were made or used, so they are probably concentrated in some areas and scarce in others. The Rome area should be such a point. We know for sure that there was a reasonably large population not far from Rome, up the Etowah River near Cartersville, because they built large earth mounds there somewhere around 1,500 years ago. We also know that Indians caught fish in the rivers around here, because of the fishing weirs that still exist in the Oostanaula and Etowah rivers. It seems reasonable that the two rivers that meet in Rome would have provided a constant, reliable source of water for human and animal needs. Today there is a lot of game around our mountain, deer, squirrel, rabbit and turkey at least. I assume, maybe wrongly, that the same types of animals would have been here for thousands of years. There seems to be good reason for Indians to have uses their stone implements in this area, so, in my view, it’s not surprising that I found a projectile point. And the simple fact is that I did.

That leaves only the question of how I found it.

I was looking down as I walked. The arrowhead was lying on the ground surrounded by pieces of rock about the same size and color. If you had been trying to find a good place to hide an arrowhead in plain sight, it would have been a good choice. But my eye was drawn to it, and when I saw it I knew immediately what it was, despite the fact that it was not even a complete arrowhead.

I know in general how I did it. Humans have a remarkable ability to recognize patterns. The human visual system – the eye and brain – do this job so well that we seem to be forced to find patterns even when there are none. For example, constellations and images of Jesus on a piece of toast. But still, finding it was an amazing feat, even if I do say so myself.

I didn’t have a camera with me when I found the fragment, but I went back some time later and put it down in an area similar to where I found it. After putting it down I’m not sure that I could have found the fragment if I had walked away and come back the next day, even though I knew where I put it.

hidden point Here it is with a cheater arrow.

hidden point pointed out

Here it is with a few rocks chosen from the area in the photograph.

point with rocks

It’s still kind of hard to see it, but you do the same thing pretty much every day. If you have ever become interested in something, say nice, round rocks, or box turtles, you are probably familiar with the way it seems like you start seeing them everywhere. They were always there, but your pattern recognition system has been trained to see them. Unconsciously you have identified some features of the thing you’re interested in, and your visual system automatically, with no conscious effort on your part, uses those features to discriminate between your object of interest, and everything else in the world.

I was not looking for anything in particular, much less arrowheads. And besides, it wasn’t even a whole arrowhead. Leah remains unsure that it is an arrowhead fragment. I understand pattern recognition, but I still don’t know how I recognized it so quickly and easily.

I do know that if you could turn what I did into a computer program, you could probably get a job in the field I used to work in (missile defense).

Summer in Savannah

Leah and I took a trip down to Savannah last week. We stayed in our travel trailer in Richmond Hill, south of town. We arrived just in time for a heat wave. It was in the 90s every day, with humidity to match.

Savannah, which was founded in 1733, is the oldest city in Georgia. It has some very beautiful historic neighborhoods in a fairly compact area. It’s probably best known for the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We didn’t go looking for the famous Bird Girl statue because it has been relocated since the movie was made.

We didn’t have any particular itinerary for our visit, so every day we just picked something to do or see.

The first day we went to the riverfront and walked around a little. The highlight of that day was stopping for a midafternoon beer. The bar claimed that they had the coldest, cheapest beer in Savannah but the claim was not true. The beer in our refrigerator was colder and cheaper, although I suppose technically the refrigerator was not actually in Savannah.

One of the nice features of downtown is all the squares and parks. Here’s a well-known fountain in one of the better known parks, Forsyth Park.


A nice couple took our picture next to the fountain. If you look carefully you might be able to tell that I have lost weight lately. I have to cinch up my pants with my belt to keep them on. Leah is her usual lovely self.


What does the fountain in Forsyth Park have in common with a toilet? They use similar floats to maintain the water level.

float valve

This church, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, is near Lafayette Square. It reminds me of the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, but really doesn’t have much in common other than being large, ornate churches near downtown in an old Southern city.


Wormsloe Historic Site has ruins of one of the oldest structures in Savannah, but the most dramatic sight there is the mile-long drive lined with 125-year-old live oaks.

wormsloedrive Savannah’s beach is actually on Tybee Island. We drove out there one day, but I think both of us have outgrown the desire to walk on a beach in the kind of heat we had for this visit. We did climb the Tybee Island lighthouse. When we got to the top I found that my camera battery was dead, so I took some pictures with my phone. Here’s a panorama from four of them. Click to get a little bigger image.


Leah is not in the picture because she stayed inside at the top of the lighthouse. She is not fond of heights, so she decided to experience the view vicariously.

We both like seafood, but Leah really loves it. Savannah is on the ocean, so naturally we expected to get good seafood there. I feel that the most noteworthy aspect of the seafood we ate was its price, but maybe that’s just me. But instead of seafood, let’s talk about weather.

One evening we ate at a restaurant situated along a nice, wide, calm river. We were seated at a big window looking out over the river. This is what we saw.

storm coming

I have an app on my phone that lets me see the last hour of weather radar images. This is what it looked like then. We’re at the blue dot at right center of the image.

weather radar

There was a severe thunderstorm warning with a notice to prepare for 60-mph winds, but the storm basically split as it reached us. We got a little wind and rain, and there were a few whitecaps on the river, but we missed the worst of the storm.

The worst part of the trip was the heat. June is definitely not the right season to visit coastal Georgia, but we had to schedule our trip around our petsitter’s availability. I think it would have been much more pleasant in April, or maybe October.

On the bright side, it was only 84 when we got back home, and that felt cool after Savannah.