Friday, February 24, 2017

Joke of the Day

This one comes your way from a Brit - a Scot, technically - who just came back to Sun City after a visit home.

Donald Trump went on a trip to Israel, returning the visit of their Prime Minister. During the visit, Trump died. The local undertaker promptly arrived. He spoke to those accompanying Trump, offering a local funeral, burial, the whole works, and would only charge them $100.

They asked, what about returning his body to the U.S.? That, the undertaker regretfully informed them, would cost $3 and a half million. They retired to a private corner to discuss their options.

Returning, they informed him that they had decided to return the body to the U.S. The undertaker was surprised,  repeating that he would only charge them $100, and that was going to include everything.

The entourage regretfully declined his offer, saying, "A long time ago another man died and was buried in your country, and he came back to life. We don't want to take any chance of that happening again!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Some Things I Learned Today

You're never too old to learn something new. At least I can hope "never" is part of the lesson. At the very least, I haven't reached that too-old stage yet.

I learned I was wrong. When I set up an appointment with an allergist, since I haven't seen one in years and wanted to find out what's going on, whether my symptoms are well controlled by the meds or have maybe diminished, I was told to take a break of 10 days from my meds before coming in. Oh-oh! I imagined all the different ways I could be miserable from cutting that safety line. It turned out I barely could tell the difference, except for two fewer pills to take.

I learned that there are all sorts of stupid questions that can be asked on one of those give-us-your-medical-background booklets they send out before you set foot in the office. Just one example: marital status. Is it U, M, S, D, W....? Oh wait a sec: back it up. What the heck is the "U" for? Nobody knew. Hey, maybe "Undecided"? How about "Unappreciative-of-the-stupid-form"?

Another example: What color is the stuff draining down the back of your throat? Hey, I'll let you know as soon as I grow an eyeball back there, presuming I don't choke on it. Those eyeballs take up a lot of space, you know, and if I could grow another one, don't you think I would have found a way to avoid my recent cataract surgery? Pull out the spare, pop it in where the blinded one used to be. Voila!

I learned that when one omits plugging in the Kindle overnight before an appointment, it's sure to flash "low battery" within 5 seconds of turning it on, freezing up the screen until you get it home and recharged. I guarantee it.

I learned that the way to make the PA giggle while we were going over all the stuff she needed to ask me before the allergist showed up was to describe what my skin reaction to the EKG leads' adhesive looked like. She will never get that visual of the aftereffects of having sex with an octopus out of her head. She's probably still giggling.

I learned a whole lot about what they think is important that I haven't even thought about for years now. The dermatographic uticaria hasn't shown a hint of itself for years. But it's the very first thing they had to test for because it would make a major difference in however else they tested me, and how they could read the results. I also learned it still wasn't about to come out and play today either.

I learned my allergist seemed disappointed that nothing in the 30+ needle pokes in my back -not my arm because there were too many - showed any reaction to the allergens they'd just embedded under my skin. I also learned which parts of my back were really really sensitive to those pokes. For the record, top center, first three rows down. Rest, not so bad.

I learned that my beta blockers kept my allergist from performing the next test she wanted to do. No, I forgot what exactly it was, just that it could possibly garner a severe reaction, the kind where somebody yells, "Epi Pen! Stat!" But the beta blockers would slow down the ability of the pen to work, and, even near as we were to the hospital, bye-bye me. Not exactly optimal.

I also learned she was determined enough to find my current allergies that she sent me over to a lab for a blood draw, along with a two page double-column list of stuff to test for. If my blood has a severe reaction, being out of my body, it won't kill me.

I learned the lab she sent me to moved, but didn't find that out until after I tracked the building down, found parking which was not available in any close position, and hiked inside and upstairs only to see an empty suite. Luckily, the sheet giving directions listed a phone number, and it only took another 20 minutes to locate the new building. It had no close parking either, perhaps because the waiting room was already full of folks who weren't reading from their Kindles either.

I learned how good the lab phlebotomist was at not only locating a usable vein despite my scar tissue from years of blood donations and draws, but that it actually can be done with my not feeling it whatsoever! That was a first. Usually even the best leave you with a little sense of being touched. I also learned that it takes 8 full tubes of blood to be able to complete that whole list of tests. It was OK, though. I haven't had a significant blood loss since last May with my knee replacement, so I was well stocked.

I learned it's possible to head out the door for an allergy evaluation at 10:00 AM and not arrive home until 3:00 PM. Admittedly, there was a very brief stop at WalMart for a couple things, but after my day so far, I managed to totally space the dog food which is why I went there in the first place!

Finally, I learned that I don't want to learn quite so many things tomorrow.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Grandmother(s) For Peace

Only four of us made it out today. After all, it was cold, it was windy enough to hold wet flags horizontal, and yes, they were wet because it was rainy.

Make no mistake: celebrate the rain. The Valley of the Sun needs every drop it can get. This isn't the disaster of California right now. We're just getting the storm's leavings. But cold, windy and rainy makes for some very chilling demonstrating.

Most of us don't march, however much we support various other causes. We don't stand for hours, chanting. We spread out along the sidewalk, avoiding blocking it, with our folding chairs, holding our choices of signs du jour in a setting with a scattering of sandwich boards, banners, and flags supporting our cause, and smile and wave back at those who honk and wave.

We try to ignore those who give us dirty looks, those who signal we're number one but forget which finger to use for that, those who feel a need to yell at us their version of how wanting peace is opposed to what their version of Jesus stands for. Somehow they're never complimentary, leaving us to wonder: just who would Jesus bomb?

We will talk to those who stop to discuss what we're doing in a serious manner. We even try to give directions where possible, though we found it impossible to assist one elderly lady today who was trying to figure out how to find the repair shop she left her car at when she didn't remember its name. This area, after all, is not one we regularly inhabit, not filled with businesses we frequently patronize... aside from a couple who don't mind if we use their restrooms.

Most people smile as they pass, waving or flashing a peace sign with fingers if they're too shy to honk as most of our signs request. But today was not a "shy" day. Perhaps it was our fortitude of being out even in this weather.  Last time, two weeks ago, they weren't very shy about honking either. The weather was fine then. We believe they're becoming scared, outraged at what's happening with our new king... uh, President, and more willing to be seen and heard supporting nearly any cause that shows other folks around them who are willing to be out in public and take a stand.

Our group has been demonstrating for years. I started a couple years ago, back when I rode my scooter from the car to the site. I needed to take time off when I was recovering from my new knees, taking those really really good drugs. But I didn't take today off despite the weather. The others had rain jackets. Not me. I mean, who are you kidding: Arizona? Rain? I did have layers, a windbreaker to cover my legs, and a brand new umbrella. I bought it for last time because it was actually supposed to rain then, but, hey, Arizona. Today it got some use.

And I got chilled.

I didn't realize how chilled for a while. Most of the group drives about a half mile to our usual restaurant for brunch afterwards, and we sat there talking for over two hours. Nice and cozy. You'd think I'd have thawed. But once I arrived home, even under a blanket and the dog, I couldn't get warm. So I went to bed and slept away a couple hours, waking up nearly warm.

I'd do it again, though, grateful for both the rain and a chance to be out there publicly for at least one of the causes I support. But I'll have to check stores around the area and hunt for a rain poncho. They are great at keeping the wind away too. I know, from having and using a couple in the closet up in Minnesota.

You know: where it actually ... rains! Even if it's just to provide us an abundant supply of mosquitoes.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Must Be A Guy Thing

I only needed two things from Home Depot: painters tape (for wire wrapping, not painting) and a particular saw. One of the trunks of the "thorn tree", aka the foothills palo verde, had been so rabbit damaged despite its fencing, that I decided to take it out and turn it into a one trunk instead of multi-trunk tree.

It made sense to me that a tool for trees and medium branches would be in the lawn and garden area. And while my knees are much improved, I still try to avoid hiking through dozens of isles to find a single product. Especially when there is someone to ask.

There was. Right inside the door of the garden area was a young man stacking bags of fertilizer. As soon as he finished his last four bags, I asked him if he knew where the saw I was looking for was. I told him that, depending on which part of the country you come from, it's either called a Swede saw or a bow saw.

Of course he knew where they were, pointing to the long-handled loppers hanging right next to the fertilizer bags.

No, I needed a saw. He asked what I would be doing with it, and I explained I'd be taking down a large branch. (I figured if I called it a small tree we'd wander way off into la la land. Besides he didn't really need to know all the details.) I had already offered not one but two names for the same saw. I was silly enough to think he might recognize one of them. I even shaped with my hands what the thing looked like: curved handle, about so big, straight blade, big teeth.

Oh, now he knew what I was talking about. We went back inside the main part of the store, past rakes, shovels, a whole rack of long-handled yard tools. He stopped and pointed at a long handled pruning saw, admittedly handy for tall tasks.

Nope, not that either. Didn't he have a clue what a bow saw was? By now I'd dropped the name "Swede saw" in hopes of less confusion on his part, and again shaped with my hands what the thing looked like: curved handle, about so big, straight blade, big teeth.

Oh yeah, now he knew what I was talking about! We walked a little further to where a display of short handled long curved saws were. He was trying to convince me this was what I was talking about, when, completely zoning him out by now, I looked at the two boxes right next to what he was trying to sell me. Both were labeled, quite plainly, "Bow Saws". Two sizes.

I pulled out the size I wanted, touching the names on both labels, and couldn't resist saying, "See? Bow saws.  Round handle, so big, straight blade, big teeth."

I'm still not sure he knows what a bow saw is. Or cares. As I headed off to the register to pay for my items, I couldn't help thinking it must be a guy thing. I'm pretty sure a female in a "guy store" would have actually listened, and if she didn't know where they were, would have asked. You can call me sexist about that all you want. I don't care.  I now own a bow saw.  Or you can call it a Swede saw.

I also know how to use it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

OK, So I'm Impressed

So, not only did they not drop any part of the tree on anything but the ground or parts previously chopped off, but after filling two trucks with its remains, all the way down to needles, cones and sawdust, and cleaning the back yard as well, all they left was a smooth front yard.

No stump bits poking up. Not even though we asked them not to go down and dig out the root remains, since it was only a pine tree which was never going to resprout, and I didn't feel like paying for that extra bit.

No brick ring around where the tree used to stand, a popular landscaping feature down here. I'd say it was to tell you where not to mow, but there's no grass. It may have been used to catch water and hold it in place until it could soak in to the roots, but it was decades past being useful for this tree.

Best of all, no hole. There had been a big one around the tree, inside the brick ring, one where any idiot crossing through the yard at night instead of staying on the sidewalk could have tripped, fallen, and sued us for whatever they broke in the process, now that there's no tree to divert traffic. No, by the time the crew left, the ground was leveled, rocks either moved or added, and no sign there had ever been a tree there.

It's been funny watching folks the last couple days. One fellow driving by yesterday was two houses past with his head cranked back around watching the action. Still moving, too, the idiot. A couple cars today have slowed way down going by, looking perhaps a bit lost like they were no longer sure where they were without that big landmark standing there anymore.

I bet we'll do that too. More than once.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Macho Estupido?

I want it on the record: I tried to warn them. If it goes wrong, it's not on my head. So be it.

Our front yard pine tree has been turning yellow, brown. It needs to be taken down before it does on its own and does some damage. It leans out towards the street, where its generous shade provides two car lengths of wonderful shade, providing a favorite parking spot for untold strangers, and occasionally, if they get there first, some friends.

We got a decent price for its removal from the company who does the annual yard clean-up. Note that that consists mainly of removal of fallen pine cones and dead needles. This afternoon is when they started, felling the tree before cleaning everything up. That part, at least, makes sense.

I went around to the neighbors yesterday, warning them if they were expecting visitors today, that this would not be the spot to leave their car. I kept watch all through the day to make sure nobody had parked there anyway, because even though the high is forecast to be only in the low 70s, the sun still heats up cars pretty fast and shade is welcome. Nobody parked there.

Imagine my surprise when the yard crew rolled up and stopped - you guessed it - immediately under the tree they are taking down! I went out to talk to them, suggesting that it was both a stupid and dangerous place to leave their company truck. Their english was pretty good, but I still emphasized my point with "peligroso" and "estupido".

They, in turn, looked up the 40 or so feet of the old pine tree, and laughed. They assured me that nothing bad was going to happen to their truck. They'd be starting at the top, so whatever fell would not hurt their truck.  Even my, "Hey, stuff still happens," didn't faze them a bit.

So right now, the chain saw is roaring, and I see the bottom branches drop to the ground. Their step ladder only goes up so high. If they cut the top off from there, 2/3 of that tree will still fall. So, for the record, whatever happens, it's on them.

Good luck to 'em!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Constitutional Originalism

"We" are in the process of confirming a new Supreme Court Justice. While there are a lot of reasons to be pissed at how the Republicans have handled this process in the past, there is one point I'd like you all to think about. They bring it up in every inquiry into the qualifications, i.e. political leanings, of all candidates this century, and probably earlier. I just wasn't paying attention to the term then.

The question raised is about Constitutional Originalism. Sounds great, doesn't it? Does this potential Justice follow the intentions of our Founding Fathers in how they will make their rulings? I mean, who wouldn't, right? Those guys are up there on pretty sacred pedestals.

Unfortunately, it's a "dog whistle." Meaning, in case you haven't heard the term, that there's information, or code if you will, in the question that is only apparent to those in the know, just like a dog whistle is pitched so high that only dogs can hear it.

Let's start with the obvious, that our founding fathers had different ideas among themselves about how our government should be run. What principles? What philosophy? They fought and they compromised and they contradicted each other, so exactly which parts of the constitution and the explanations behind it are you asking your justice to return to?

And I do mean "return" to. Look at who did and didn't have rights back then. Slavery was not just accepted, but practiced by many of those Founding Fathers we unthinkingly idolize. You want to go back to that? All non-white persons were lesser, as were the poor and women. You had to own property to have a voice. You had to be a white male. Women not only couldn't own property, they were property. You want to go back to all that?

Make no mistake: some do.

In case you're missing the point here, the far right extremes of the Republican party want to do exactly that, think it's a wonderful idea from the standpoint of their personal power and wealth. Those extremists are the ones leading the party right now. They might call themselves the Tea Party, with it's nostalgic Revolutionary ring. By now they've pushed the party so far right that they don't even have to do that any more. They're "normalized."

We weren't watching, not closely enough. All those lovely laurels of our glorious past, all that progress, wasn't it all immutable, carved in stone now?

Our Founding Fathers did realize that the world would change, and the constitution would need to be changed in ways that adjusted to those changes. Originalists disagree. Well, the second amendment was OK, as they reinterpreted it as going away from militias and to individuals, but principals of justice and civil rights as we understand them now? No way! How about the right to my own body and privacy in what I do to it? We're not just talking about eliminating abortions here, but all access to contraception, just because somebody else's religious freedom is being interpreted as their having the ability to force their beliefs on us. Religious freedom should mean my right to chose and practice what I believe for and by myself. I can try to persuade others to my beliefs, but they have the right to their own choices. Or should.

The Hobby Lobby decision means an employer can chose for you what is and isn't permissible for females to do with their bodies, and only the rich have the practical freedom to move around and buy what fits in with their own needs and beliefs. How many folks who work at Hobby Lobby qualify as rich enough? Is this truly where you want this country to go?

There are so many other ways originalists can screw up this country while deluding us that they are doing what is honorable rather than power-hungry and greedy. It's time to dig out your old dusty copy of the constitution, study the amendments, look through the court rulings, and see where this country is heading, learn to hear the dog whistles.

Let's find out just who still thinks this country is worth saving. Then activate to protect it. Turns out progress wasn't carved in stone after all.