Monday, August 7, 2017

Daylily Mystery

Anybody who's grown, deliberately or not, the original, non-hybrid daylilies, knows how hardy and invasive they can be. Depending on your preferences, that's either a curse or a bonus. It holds true also with the semi-wild variant that has double flower petals. Same orange, same height, same habits, just prettier. At least to me, anyway. That holds double for the patch in the Minnesota house's yard. The originals came out of the backyard border from my folks last house, before they cashed in and switched to senior rental living.

These started as clumps carried home in a box the summer I had the house built, 1991. Since I wanted them in front by the driveway and the house wasn't finished until late July, they got dug in way back in a corner of the yard, out of the way of all the contractors. In fact, a lot of transplants from garden catalogues, friends, and my previous yard got moved that way before getting their final locations. The contractors took an extra month, so I had a lot of plants needing to be heeled in.

The first few years there were a lot of weeds in the daylily patch. But true to form, they spread into each other tightly enough that there was no longer a place for any weeds to grow after just a few years. They were kept in check by the asphalt of the driveway, the mown grass toward the street side and deep tree shade on the back and sides.

As an aside, when the latest neighbors had moved in, we had a discussion with them because the patch was reaching the edge of our yard and about to creep into theirs, and I assured them whether they mowed them or kept them, hey! It was their yard. I tend to have the same discussion with all my neighbors about other vegetation crossing the property line. Tree branches in their way? Apples or hazelnuts hanging over their side of the fence? Lilacs moving over full of blooms that beg for cutting for a vase? All yours.

Just don't mess with my side of the property line!

That spot in the back yard where the originals had been parked still had bits of rhizome left underground here and there, and it took several years of mowing the spot to finally discourage them. They are damn hard to kill! (The original raspberry site was the same way.)

That's why yesterday afternoon was such a shock. Paul and I were swapping cars in the driveway so first one out in the morning was closest to the street. Walking back to the house, I noticed something very peculiar. It hadn't been there the day before, which I know because I was admiring them while I was backing my car out to go visit family. Now, with only a couple of exceptions, the entire patch was laying flat, every bit of vegetation dead. Completely brown and dried!

You can't kill daylilies. You just can't. But...  somebody had. We don't know who, nor with what, nor why. I even spent time online trying to find out what's out there these days that might have done the job. There was no information beyond complaints that they weren't killable without working at the job for years.

I went next door and had a friendly chat with the neighbor. It wasn't initially intended to be, since I figured he must have sprayed them with something, deliberately, or as a victim of drift. However, the first time I went over, the neighbors were gone. It gave me time to cool off. So later I approached the issue more with a "Did you notice...?" attitude than a "How the hell dare you...?" one.

By the end of our chat I left willing to believe he had nothing to do with it, hadn't noticed anyone else messing around, and had actually liked watching them bloom every summer. Neither of us knows what could have done the job so quickly, no yellowing or wilting first, just sudden death. The only thing I am aware of that could so thoroughly poison a patch of ground is arsenic, but that's so indiscriminate, and moves through the ground affecting everything for years, that only a fool or someone overflowing with deep malice would use it,  and I still don't know if it would work so fast. I've never been that particular kind of malicious fool. If indeed the ground has been poisoned, we both will be watching our trees and shrubs along the property line, as the patch slopes downward towards it, and everything's roots go under it.

Meanwhile, we're hoping. Hoping that whatever was used was just something to kill back the foliage. Hoping that even if it were a root killer, there will be some rhizomes not affected and the patch will grow back. Paul might be able to tell before the ground freezes, but if not, for sure next spring.

But barring a confession, the sudden die-off will remain a mystery.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Endless Cemetery

I finally got around to visiting my folks' grave this afternoon while running errands with Steve. They were buried, both urns together, in Fort Snelling National Cemetery. For those not familiar, it's located between MSP airport and the 494 freeway.

I remember it from the military ceremony (21 gun salute, flag presentation, etc.) as being huge, and called ahead for the grave location. Given a section and site number, I went online to view their map so I could follow the proper roadways to actually accomplish the task. Of course, the gate that would have made the route simple was closed. All I would have had to do was enter Gate 3 and take that road all the way to the loop at its end, then follow my mental picture of where in the loop section 27 was. To put that in scale, they switched to numbered sections after going through the alphabet, and then throwing in letter-number and number-letter combinations. (And FYI I got a tiny bit lost trying to leave. My changed mental map wasn't up to the job. Just what street had we come in on? Did you notice a name? No? Too busy looking for the way to the originally planned route, that one particular street name.)

 No way was I ever in my life up to the task of wandering through that cemetery trying to track one grave down without a lot of information, and even with my new knees I was hoping that once I readjusted my mental street map to find the right section, locating their site would be self explanatory.

Ummm, not so much. After pulling over to park, all I saw was a block of rows and rows of grave markers. No row signs, no visible numbers, no clues to how it was organized. I snagged the attention of two people leaving and asked them what the trick was. The pair, consisting of a middle-aged woman and a teenager, were very willing to share. She had already utilized his youthful energy to hunt through the rows to locate their own family member. The trick is that, from the road, all the numbers are on the back of the stones. They sit in numerical order, across one row, then starting over across the next row, etc. It's still a hunt. Even in that "small" section, we didn't need to go too far back to find our stone relative to the section size. Our number was in the 900s so you can imagine the number of gravestones in just that section.  Luckily, the teenager took our number and started going through the rows until he located it for me, not too far in from the left side boundary. After thanking them I trudged in with my camera. Steve declined the hike, waiting in the car for me.

Even knowing they were supposed to be buried together, I was surprised by how it was done. I found Mom first, as her name and information were on the back side of the stone with the locator number. I looked to both sides, thinking that a lot of cemeteries define "together" as side-by-side. That wasn't the way here. As I walked around the stone to the front, there was Daddy's, the soldier's, name and info. They truly were buried together, as they wanted.

It was also the only feasible way for Fort Snelling to accomplish it's task. Even though it went through all kinds of channels to expand a few years ago, it's running out of room.

I don't know how early the first soldiers were laid to rest there. We still have several wars worth of veterans alive, owed a free burial by our country for their service. And unfortunately, we're still making more. Way too many more. My Dad was one of the dwindling number of remaining WWII vets. Looking around for just a short space I found vets from Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and other places and times our men and women have served, though these were just the ones who died around the same time he did and were cremated. The rational part of my brain started filling in the data, taking over for the emotional part that was both awed and overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place. It kicked me in the gut when I first entered, grew as we drove further in, all the while being unable to see to the ends of the collection of gravestones. Section after section, up and down, back and forth, they were only dropping out of view when the land started sloping. It never ended.

It looks like it never will.

And this  is only one regional military cemetery!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

And Now For Gutting The Military

Yeah, Trump again. Another broken promise. More encouragement for us to hate. Why is it a surprise? Just because it's another broken campaign promise? Haven't we gotten so used to them by now that it's just another day in "paradise"?

So the latest verbal vomit is keeping out and/or kicking transgender people out of the military. He did promise to be a friend to the LGBT community. It's on video: go watch it. Did he not know what he thought he was talking about? Did he think the "T" stood for teddy bears? Or does he just think they are easy targets, without defenders, as a subject for another midnight tweeting spew that would distract us from any of the other awful things he's doing or trying to do? You know, like a shiny thing over there to draw our eyes from, say, Russia? Dismantling laws? Destroying our clean water and air?

Looking at our military now, post draft era, we have volunteers, either brave or foolhardy souls willing to give their lives, or maybe just an arm and a leg or two, in what they believe is the defense of our country. (Sometimes they're right about the "why" of it. Another rant for another day.)  Volunteerism wasn't the first or only change to who served in our military. It started with allowing African Americans in, once enough folks put aside their prejudices to fight alongside fellow soldiers whose contributions didn't depend on skin color. We allowed gays in, since a few smart somebodies finally figured out, like somebody once said, that it doesn't matter if they are straight, just whether they can shoot straight. (Too bad it took so damn long!) Besides, they'd been there contributing all along, just hiding who they were. Now we even allow women in some combat roles, because they found out we don't lack courage and can shoot straight too, besides changing tires and fixing engines, etc. Of course, we still have to prove our combat readiness in high status positions, but growth is happening.

Now we turn to the least understood, most belittled minority in our society, the transgender individuals. (Hey, was your first thought "drag queen"?) Try to get past that nonsense mantra about God not making any mistakes. Think, instead,  evolution still trying to see what works towards survival and what doesn't. Read a bit, take a sociology or anatomy class, and you'll find out about plenty of anomalies in how we humans are put together.

Start with, say, genetic diseases. You can all name half a dozen, even if you don't quite realize the genetic component. While you're doing that, recall that nobody calls any of them lifestyle choices. Add in other anomalies like, say, a sixth finger. (Remember Anne Boleyn?) That was neither a choice nor an indication of witchcraft as thought at the time, just genetics doing something different again.  Did you know, being mammals, some of us are born with rows of nipples rather than a single pair? Do you call that a moral fault?

Just like other body parts have variety, so do genitals. Some babies are born with ambiguous parts, and somebody decides for them what gender they will grow up to be. They could be wrong. And some people with perfectly typical genitals grow up knowing that's not who they are.

But they are still as human as the rest of us. They have the same rights and obligations, the same capabilities and flaws. And if they want, under our volunteer system, they can still make perfectly good soldiers. You know, so you don't have to if you don't want to. And if you do want to, they'll have your back just like you'll have theirs.

Right now, estimates range as high as 15,000 transgender individuals serving our country as soldiers. But Trump wants to kick them out. He "claims" he made the decision after consulting "his" generals. But the Pentagon was in an uproar after those tweets, as nobody had heard a whisper of this policy change, much less been consulted. And by the way, though he is Commander in Chief, those are our, the country's generals, not his.

Besides Trump showing off his dishonesty and flagrent prejudices, what would be the consequences of such a move? Well, how would those soldiers be replaced? Have we got another 15,000 folk out there just dying to become soldiers (Yes, Virginia, pun intended) whom we've put on waiting lists because "their" slots have already been filled? If so, how long would it take to train them to the current levels of expertise of the soldiers Trump wants to kick out? And let's just imagine what, say, Kim Jung Un would think are his new possibilities for attacking us in the meantime? What could Putin get away with? Syria? Fill-in-the-blank?

How would these soldiers be removed? They joined and served just as honorably as their fellow soldiers. Would we force them out under a dishonorable discharge just because of a policy change, along with all the losses of rights and benefits that would go along with that? (Hey, NRA, you want 15,000 folks suddenly unable legally to own a gun?) Do they lose college opportunities? Health benefits? Employment chances?

What about the so-called extra cost of having transgender soldiers? First, statistically few of them chose surgery, opting for hormonal treatments. Compare that to the "simple" cost of dealing with limb loss or brain injuries happening to our "regular" soldiers? Hell, even supplying Viagara to soldiers costs us way more than the needs of transgender soldiers. And while on that topic, why the hell are we supplying Viagara to soldiers? I thought we were supposed to be keeping their minds on their jobs. And don't we already have too many cases of rape in the military, as well as with residents of countries where our soldiers are stationed? Are you telling me that erections win wars? Seriously?

Trump has been so wrong and so awful in so many ways. Can we stop him this time?

Can we?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Boy Scouting? Boo Hiss!

I guess I was very naive when I was a girl scout. Even when I was a girl scout leader. I just didn't get the messages. Ones like nobody gay was welcome. Of course, back then it was "Dyke" but I still never heard the word, much less the exclusion or its so-called justification. Were we that different from Boy Scouts? I just saw moms and daughters, never thinking some might be excluded by anything other than lack of interest in joining, or lack of interesting things to do. Race? Religion? So far as I knew, since they never entered into the equation for me,  I can't tell you if the girl scouts had those policies back then, or even now. I hope not. They were boring, but idealistic, so that was the standard I set for  myself as a result. (Yes, the boring part too. All those icky girly role aspirations.)

The boy scouts caught my attention, and not in a good way, when they tried to exclude gay scouts and leaders. First, who knows if they're gay when they join cub scouts? More to the point, who cares? And by the time one goes through the whole system and becomes a scout leader, why should sexual orientation be an issue? It's not like gay equates with pedophile. Priest, maybe. Coach, maybe. Next door neighbor, maybe. Pedophiles are out there, after all, but sexual orientation does not a predator make.

So the organization of boy scouts lost my respect. And silly me, I thought that was the end of it.

But then, Trump. I just heard a few things in the news which decreased my respect for the boy scouts even more, after thinking it wasn't possible. Trump spoke to them. He was never himself a scout, but hey, any president should have the right to address them and inspire them by setting a good example, right?

Good example? Are we talking the same President? First, he puts down our previous president, Obama for any of you with short term memory issues, and gets the crowd to go along with him. That alone violates so many points of the boy scout oath that I don't know where to begin, but let's end with "brave", because the courage to challenge the president's spew appeared sorely lacking. I get it in the kids, somewhat, but the leaders?

Then, Trump, being Trump, insists that the loyalty part of the oath be directed, not at their fellow scouts, not to whichever God they have been raised to worship, not even to their country, but to him. Trump. Again, so wrong on so many levels. Sadly, again cheered not just by the boys but their leaders as well.

In my apparently ongoing naivety, I assumed that once the scout troops got home and out of the spotlight, their leaders would have a good discussion with their troop members on what scouting was really supposed to be about, as opposed to the verbal vomit spewing from Trump's mouth. But when I heard that the leaders were cheering Trump on, I lost all hope.

Hey, didn't Der Fuehrer start with the young boys as well?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Says It All, Doesn't It?

"If I were to run, I'd run as a Republican. They're the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they'd still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific."

Donald Trump
quoted in People Magazine
1998

UPDATE: I've been informed this can't be backed up. What a shame. It so-o-o-o Trump. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Computer Trails: How Stupid Is Stupid?

We see it over and over, in situation after situation. People up to all kinds of  mischief keep leaving computer records of their deeds, as if they left no records behind them. It's not just the Trumps being stupid so publicly, or fraternity brothers after a hazing turns deadly texting their girlfriends.

Having an affair? Texting your honey? Think you'll never get caught?

Cheating your company? Think the transfer of funds is hidden?

Bullying a classmate? Think you're anonymous?

Videotaping your break-in and vandalism or theft for some warped idea of bragging rights? Think nobody can identify you? Better yet, think nobody has security cameras either inside the store or covering the street from two doors down?

Sending nasty comments about your boss over the company email?

Posting sex tapes thinking they're private?

Got your most sensitive company records on the same network as your email and browsers?

Seriously, how stupid is stupid, really?

Remember this: if it's sent over the internet, it's not - NOT! - private.

Somewhere a record is kept. Someone is willing to share it. Somebody is willing to hack your data. Somebody wants to get paid for your information, if not simply using it themselves. You may be perfectly innocent and still perfectly stupid.

Even your best precautions may not be good enough. You can change your most obscure passwords regularly, use different ones for different accounts, install the latest security software, stay out of wi-fi public networks, scramble and encode everything. Somebody can still break through.  Somebody will. Just because you don't know how to, don't trust that nobody else will figure it out.

And by the way, teach your kids, too, that the internet isn't private. It is possible to be a little less stupid, at least for some of us. Some never learn.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Good Bye Five-O, Good Riddance

I know you're more appropriately supposed to say "Aloha", but that has so many meanings with positive connotations that I just couldn't do it this time.

Five-O used to be a staple of Friday night viewing, The last couple years I found myself getting more and more indifferent to it. Steve and Danny were turning into squabbling children, and disfunctional families have never been my idea of entertainment. Three-year-olds with guns, whoopee. There were still a few decent story lines and great scenery that kept they  eyes on the screen most weeks, but the two main characters kept me squirming. No, not in a good way.

Now the last shoe has dropped. If my vote counts, it'll be coming off the DVR schedule. Why now? I just heard they dropped the last two actual adult characters on the series, Grace Park (Kono) and Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho).

The worst part is the reason they were both dropped. Had they gone off to bigger and better offers, starring in better shows, I would have said Halleluia for both of them and followed them both to see how much I liked the new shows where they ended up. But it's a much nastier reason than that. It seems the Hawaiian characters weren't getting paid as much as the white guys, and the show refused to equalize their salaries. So, the two characters I like to watch are gone because the ones I dislike and am totally bored with are paid more?

Chin and Kono, you two are more ohana than Steve and Danny will ever be. I wish you the best in whatever comes next for you two, and hope it beats the hell out of Five-O!