Friday, June 27, 2008

Warning Signs

I am still trying to figure out how to get around here in Nashville. As big cities go, it isn't very big geographically, but I am still confused most of the time. Many of the roads go back pretty far into history, so they meander in ways that might have been convenient to drivers of horses and buggies, but make little sense to drivers of automobiles. This meander means that you will often encounter specific streets in places you would not expect.

Perhaps in an effort to atone for these oversights in Regional Planning, many streets in East Nashville have what I call "Warning Signs" in addition to street signs. These signs are posted 20-30 yards before an intersection to warn drivers (I suppose) which street they are approaching. Very handy given that it is easy to come unexpectedly upon and intersection, and given that a tree can easily obscure a street sign around here in only a week's growth.

Great Idea, Poor Implementation. Click the photo for an illustration. Warning signs are indistinguishable from street signs. And they are usually placed injudiciously. In the photo, Harwood Ave isn't the street indicated by the red arrow, that is a driveway. Nor is it the street indicated by the yellow arrow, that is also a driveway. It is in fact, the street indicated by the blue arrow.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tennessee Fainting Goats

By most accounts, John Tinsley came to middle Tennessee in the mid to late 1800's to work as a farmer brining with him, among other things, a handful of goats.  These goats, the ancestors of the "goats-at-hand" were slightly smaller than your typical goat and had some odd characteristics.  They often walked stiff-leggedly, were not prone to wandering off, and didn't climb low fences or walls.  And they fell down. A lot.

Mr. Tinsley's goats, which he sold before moving on from the area, suffered from a hereditary condition which at the time was quite rare, but has now been selectively bred to produce today's Tennessee Fainting Goats. This condition, Myotonia congenita, causes an involuntary muscle contraction in times of alarm or distress. When these goats are startled the brief moment of panic causes their legs to stiffen, whereby the goat falls over.

Highlights of that video are the mullet at :30 and the mass debilitation at about :50.

In the years since Tinsley showed up, Fainting Goats have been bred selectively, but I can come up with very few reasons why. They are considered Meat Goats by those to whom these things matter, but they tend to be smaller and thus, not so great for meat farming. So their practical value would be limited. Certainly, they would be an acceptable Lawn and Weed Service.  There seems to be a history of using them as Bait, as it were; if a wolf shows up, the goat will faint and be eaten (Circle of Life) allowing other your other animals, who are not hysterical, to escape.

Or the use I would put them to: when you're having a difficult day, head out to the yard and scare the bejesus out of your goats.  They faint, you laugh.  Suddenly the world isn't such a bleak place, yes?

Cruel jokes aside, they remain popular today, the Nashvegas Craigslist regularly features them for sale, which is how I stumbled onto this oddity in the first place. Since everyone gets a festival of their own these days, Lewisburg, TN, hosts the Fainting Goat Festival–featuring a Fainting Goat Show, of course–every October. There are plenty of specialized breeders, and, absurdity of absurdities, an International Fainting Goat Association dedicated to tracing pedigrees (of a genetic disorder mind you) and increasing public awareness and understanding of the Fainting Goat.

For a little more fainting goat entertainment, check out more fainting goat videos and the Fainting Goats wiki page.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Late Night Traffic Patterns

Being a husband and father means that I am not out late at night like I used to be. This week, however, I was out late the night we flew into Nashville after spending a week in Cali, and again to pick up my brother-in-law and family from the airport the night they flew in.

I noticed two things. The first is that it is still very hot and very humid at 11PM this time of year. Like being hit with a hot wet towel, but we have discussed this many times before, and while uncomfortable, it wasn't surprising.

What I did find surprising is that at some point in the evenings, and I don't know when because I rarely venture out after the kiddie's bedtime, the traffic signals go from the normal "Green Means Go, Red Means Stop, Yellow Means Speed Up" mode to a "Don't inconvenience anyone out this late" mode.

On larger streets–Gallatin Road in this case–the signals were all flashing yellow rather than cycling through the normal routine. Cross streets were flashing red. This may be common in bigger cities, Nashville is the largest city I have lived in, so how would I know?

It does seem like a good idea, people are just going to run those lights anyway.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back in Cali

I'm back in California this week.  This was cemented not by the long, full day of travel, not by driving from the airport directly to In-N-Out for an Animal Style Double Double, and not by driving past Montecito, or rolling into SLO, or stopping at Trader Joe's.

It was cemented when, driving North, as we approached Rincon, I saw in my rear view mirror a BMW 325 cruising up the 101 with a surfboard sticking out of the sunroof.

Ahhh, home.