Friday, January 22, 2010

Thank you for the Improv.

It's been percolating in my mind for the last couple of months that I owe Robin Armstrong an enormous THANK YOU! for letting me be part of the Roustabouts. It was an improvisation group that she put together, in Natchitoches, LA, oh so many years ago.

So why, after 14 years, would an expression of gratitude be on my mind NOW?

Clear as a bell, I can remember doing a rehearsal, and she stopped me to explain that good improvisation is about the "Yes, and", meaning, accepting the idea that someone presents, and rolling with it; Bad improv is "No, but". Basically, it's the ability to take what you're given, and make more with it.

I don't know if you've noticed, but watch pretty much ANY action movie/ thriller/ etc. And what separates the leader/ the main character/ the ones who live from everyone else is their ability to improvise. They take what is available and do the unexpected with it. I'd provide examples, but if you actually think about it a moment, I don't need to. (:

"But that's just in the movies," you counter. Okay-- then how about Survival experts. Again, there are plenty of television shows following them around-- but actually LISTEN to them. The difference between alive and dead is 1) staying calm and thinking and 2) improvising with what you have.

Okay, so my chances of needing those skills as a suburban-ish dweller are pretty unlikely.

But it turns out there are real life chances for improvisation all the time: Making up stories for my kids, or playing with them; Reveling in our imaginations. Or last semester as I was teaching my lesson plan-- and realized I could incorporate the cultural display they had just been to into my lesson to give them yet another way to connect with it. Or in the last week as I'm working on my soapstone sculpture-- I'm learning about the stone as I go, and the idea I had when I began is still -basically- there-- but it's grown into more. I almost never follow a cooking recipe exactly-- and anyone who's ever seen my 'original' recipes can attest there aren't many real measurements in them-- just guidelines.

Improvisation gives you the ability to make flash decisions, to assess the current situation, and make the most of it-- usually in very positive, creative ways. And Robin, I wanted to say Thank You, for helping me develop that skill.

The friends, laughter, and experiences are also all fondly remembered (;

Bob Riley and

Okay, so this probably isn't going to matter to anyone outside of Alabama-- and perhaps, not even to anyone outside of the Wiregrass area, but recently, on 231 South of Dothan, they created an entertainment destination called Country Crossing.

Now, the big hubbub has been over them having electronic Bingo machines. First, I need to mention that Alabama, being deep in the bible belt, is a blue law state. No alcohol sold on Sundays, no gambling, no importing alcohol and a vast variety of other things from other states.

And Governor Bob Riley is touting himself as the anti-gambling Governor. What? Our schools need more money and more room and the local high school has sewage backing up in it's drinking fountains, you say? (Insert your local Alabama government related concern here.) Nah. Shutting down electronic Bingo games is WAY more important. SO important that we're going to focus the general election and all current meetings on it.

It's been going on all month. I get to listen to it as part of my news on my drive to school each day. And my station of choice is

Before I can get the real reason for this blog, I want to share one last link:

that deals with the motivation for Bob Riley jumping so hard on Country Crossing. There is a LOT of aligation that he's involved with casino gambling on the reservations, and closing Country Crossings is a payoff.

So, all of this back story is to tell you about one of the biggest reasons I listen to 99.7 as I head in to school in the morning. I absolutely adore "The Morning Mind Bender" with John Houston and Amy D.

This morning, the clue was (and I'm paraphrasing because they haven't posted it to their website yet) "Experts are saying this is our biggest kept secret, but Native Americans have known about its beneficial properties for years."

....And at this point, John Houston quipped, "Gambling".

Fog, Smog and Haze

For the past week, as I'm driving into school in the morning, when it hasn't been raining, it's been foggy. Now, I've driven through plenty of fog in the last 16 years, so if you'd asked me before this morning, I would have considered myself pretty fog savvy.

I'd have told you:

Fog is thick, dense-- pretty much clouds sitting on your road. So it comes in two colors: white, and gray. Right?

Smog, though I've never actually been in any that I can recall, is much like Fog, but man-made and made up from car exhaust and other air pollution. And somehow, I'm not seeing having avoided this particular phenomenon as a bad thing....

And Haze is like Fog, but thin. Not clouds on the road, but maybe just huge puddles evaporating-- you can see through that stuff, where Fog might mean you don't see the red light until you're slamming your breaks on (not that I've ever had to do that, but it's a great example.)

So today, I hop in my truck and start heading to school, and begin my traditional, "Oh. It's foggy." driving prep.

Head lights on: Check.
(Now that I know my truck has it) Fog lights on: Check.
Paying attention to my peripheral vision: Check.
Watching the "fog horizons" (That's the name I've given the furthest point you can see things. There are three. 1: the furthest you can ACTUALLY, clearly, see things. 2. the furthest you can still make things out. 3. the furthest you can see large shapes-- read "trees, buildings, etc." in the distance.) : Check

Now, as a side note on "fog horizons" I'd also like to mention the "vicarious fog horizon". This one can only be employed when there are other drivers on the road with you-- who are a) heading the same direction you are, and b) in front of you. When they're at the furthest edge of your ACTUAL fog horizon-- their actions and tail lights will give you advance warning for crap you just can't see yet-- but they can.

So, all my fog safety requirements taken care of, I begin the arduous, semi-tedious 45 minute drive north.

Not 5 minutes into it, I'm out of my mental fog (you know-- where your auto-pilot is starting to take over because you drive this road so often) like lightning and sitting up straighter in my seat actually looking AT the fog: I passed from fog being the traditional blue grey fog that I've known all my life-- to a lighter fog, that was peach orange in color! You can see farther in it. You can tell the sun was up and coming through it a little bit. I was fascinated!

During the entire drive to school, patches of fog alternated on the drive between the traditional dense blue gray fog, the also traditional white fog, and the new peach orange fog. It was almost surreal!

Wondering about it, I spent over an hour attempting to search fog color-- turns out there's a wealth of them.  (Particularly with the help of photoshop).

Anyway, after finding no real "This is why the fog outside was three different colors" answers, what I did find suggested that it was caused by a couple of things. First-- the density of the fog-- denser = gray blue. Not as dense, but still harder to see through= white. Hazy (and therefore really not dense at all, and why it was easier to see through) = the peach orange. Because the sun heating up the air is what makes the fog appear to lift, and the reflection of the light on the water particles that make up the fog/haze is what determines the color.

As to why I passed through multiple fields of each on the drive, I believe the explanation comes down to land vs. water. Where there was water-- be it lakes, streams, etc. would be the peach haze, as they were like the water evaporating off the the bodies of water. But the real fog was over the 'land' portions of my drive. All of this based on information from Argonne National Laboratory and USA Today.

The end result, of course, was a short lived, multi-colored fog that made my otherwise hum-drum drive a lot more interesting.