Friday, May 31, 2013


I'm sure he thought that was the position he held when he tried to tell me how I should drive. He had just passed me. I had been in the left lane, westbound on 94 approaching St, Paul, about to make a left exit in a couple miles. I was already going never-mind-how-much over the speed limit at the time, slowly easing past traffic in the center lane. Passing me meant he was going about another ten mph faster.

Ticketable, had there only been a cop watching.  Oh well.

He came quickly up behind me, giving me no reaction time, swung sharply right, passed, and swung sharply left again in front of me. While making this last move, he stuck his arm up and out his window, exaggeratedly pointing over the top of his pickup cab to the right. Clearly he thought I should have been in that lane, and he was the one to school me in how to drive.

I kept my eye on him for the next mile or so. Just before the road curved, he zipped across two lanes, causing brake lights from the cars in those lanes just behind the path he took. Yep, just another example of his superiority in driving judgement.

I think I'll continue to trust my own.

Service Failure

While traveling and making a motel reservation via the phone, I succumbed to a sweet talking offer to join a service which gave discounts on travel expenses, including $40 of that night's room. It would cost $1 the first month, $16.95 each one thereafter. If I canceled  within that first 30 days, I'd only owe the buck.

Seemed like a no-brainer. But knowing how mail and email can sometimes go astray, I thought to hedge my bets and ask for the phone number to cancel, just in case. I was given one, read it back to the gal on the phone, and had it confirmed. If you care, it is 1-800-658-3524. Heck, that's the number even if you don't care.

It was time to cancel, having assured myself that none of the services and discounts offered held any interest or value to me. I punched in the number, getting the expected voicemail list of options. But the options themselves were a bit unexpected. It seems I had the choice of speaking with either a male or a female, both of which, I was assured, were hot and ready to have a long chat with me!

Not quite the service I was looking for.

As a side note, I made sure, after getting the real number, that the manager I got kicked upstairs to, heard about my experience. I suspect it was embarrassment which rendered him nearly speechless.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mystery Bird X2

Yesterday I saw a bird I've never seen before. In itself, that's nothing special. I'm sure lots of birds inhabit my area or even just migrate through and I've never noticed. I enjoy finding new birds, such as egrets, sandhill cranes, or even turkeys, which haven't been here before, and now suddenly are. So what was this one?

It was perched on a fence post on the side of a road. Passing birds at 55 mph is not the best way to identify them, but it happens often enough that I've learned to try to memorize certain features instantly, fixing them in memory as the birds themselves recede. So, category: hawk. Size: small for a hawk, perhaps pigeon sized. Coloration: startling. I know, not helpful, but it's what drew the eye in the first place, shouting, "New! New!" Head and body were light brown, even in color rather than spotted, speckled or striped. The brown belly was a surprise. I'm used to whiter bellies in raptors, keeping the bird from being seen by prey below it while it's getting ready to swoop. But while different, that wasn't the startling part. The wings were. Black all through, very vivid against the light brown, but with even more vivid white all through. I'm not talking little flecks, but chunks of white. And not stripes, either.

Nothing I've ever seen before.

While I'm driving further down the road, mulling it over, I pass another one! Whatever they are, I've gone from zero to two in 15 minutes. This one, however, was clinging to the side of its fence, rather than on a post.

Weird. But it's just another little helping of weird at the start of a very busy day. Some time later I decided to call my brother, the bird expert of the family. He came up with three possible hawks I might have seen, using his own field guides as a reference, but wondered whether I hadn't seen a woodpecker? I insisted on backing my initial impression of raptor.

At home last night I looked through the field guide. Nope, not a female harrier. Not a red shouldered. Not a ... what the heck was the third bird? Well, I knew last night, and that wasn't it either. Oh yeah, broad tailed. Not one of those. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Pouring through the descriptions for variations wasn't helpful either. About to give up, I recalled the position of the second bird and my brother's question about woodpeckers. Why not check?

Wow, this book is old! It still references the ivory billed woodpecker! Oh my, 1980. Put a new one on the shopping list. Later. And as I thought, red heads, red heads, red heads, white speckled bellies...


Would you look at that.

Much as I want to swear I was seeing hawks, the immature red bellied woodpecker matches my birds' color scheme, thought the black and white wasn't quite a fully striped as shown in the pictures.

But I'm ready to believe.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Dream of Dancing

I dream.
I dream of walking
Carefree and unfettered
Unrestrained by pain,  by distance or reality
Walking like I can or like I used to
But then I wake.

I dream.
I dream of running
Running for pure joy of movement
Running in slow motion
Flying leaps with landings that don't count
But then I wake.

I dream.
I dream of flying
Floating on a bed of air
Hovering o'er a world and touching nothing.
But then I wake.

I dream.
I dream of dancing

Eyes and arms locked  
Madly whirling 'round the traveling axis
Of our giddy waltz
But then I wake.

I dream.
I dream of singing
A voice that always finds the notes
Recalls the words
With tone that lifts the soul
But then I wake.

I dream.
I dream of swimming under water
Knowing I must hold my breath
Yet feeling air move through my chest
So I can stay for hours
But then I wake.

I dream.
I dream what was and is no more
I dream what never was
I dream of being blind but seeing all
Of knowing always how the story ends
And guiding it to stay the same or change
Stride familiar landscapes no one's ever trod
Grown with mountains where they never rose
Of being loved by those who've never cared
But then I wake.

When waking day
So long and hard has ended
Stretching out my aches across the bed
Sandy eyelids close
And wait for dreams.

Cat-Tard Follies

Yes, we love her, and yes, the nickname is not PC. But she's earned it. You've heard about her before: abandoned, half-starved, mentally handicapped for a cat, lacking many usual instincts, sees things that aren't there, runs into walls. She's in the family news again.

Steve recently moved his desk into the living room. The wall space opened up after clearing out the furniture and boxes heading to Arizona, and was finally cleared of the stuff that piled up just because the space was empty. Cat-tard noticed.

She walked into the room, stopping short with a "Hey, that's new!" reaction. Then she walked forward to check it out, failed at her try to climb it, and left the room. A few minutes later she returned, and... "Oooh, New Thing!" After exploring it, she again left. A few minutes later, "Hey, New Thing!" And again.

She's gotten used to it now, and isn't nearly so entertaining. But the tale lives on.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kudos for Coburn

Senator Tom, that is, from Oklahoma. Why the kudos?

Let's first go back to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which, should your memory be short, demolished much of the eastern seaboard last fall, especially around New York and New Jersey. Federal aid was needed, but Coburn held it up for months citing the need for holdbacks. Or in plain English, the budget was a fixed sum and if we were to spend some of it on one unexpected place, we needed to cut it someplace else to make up the dollars spent. We needed to hold some back. You know, cut something unnecessary like food stamps or Medicare. The holdbacks issue delayed payments for rebuilding so long that many businesses along the shore whose economic year is compressed into a few summer months won't be able to rebuild in time. Think of it as a double whammy.

Now, we have the EF5 tornado that hit Moore, in Coburn's home state. Again federal aid is needed. And guess what? Again Coburn says sure, just as soon as we figure out what the holdbacks are going to be to balance the unexpected expense. So kudos to Coburn for being consistent, an equal opportunity asshole.

I wonder how many of his constituents properly appreciate him for that?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Back to E85

Yeah, I know: Minnesota gas prices: GRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!

I'm going back to something I haven't done for several years: adding E85 to my tank when I fill it. It's about a buck a gallon cheaper right now, and that more than makes up for a small mileage decrease.

Here's how it works: when the tank is nearly empty, I try for about a 60/40 blend, the 60 being the percent of regular unleaded, the 40 being E85. Always add the regular first. You never want to go over that ratio. We've been warned for years not to increase the amount of ethanol in our cars. Oooohhhh, scary!  Something might happen. Well, I've done it in 10-year-old cars, or rather as much as ten years ago, and nothing happened. They ran fine, nothing broke down, nada. I based the ratios on advice given on a local NBC morning news program. Don't recall who the expert was, but I tried it and everything was fine.

Nobody who's advised against it was able to say why it shouldn't be done. "Cars weren't built for it" is what they said. My Hyundais handled it just fine, thank you very much.  Not a whisper of a problem. When it wasn't available, regular gas went in. No biggie, unless you count the price, and ten years ago it was nothing like now. So I'm back and running, on unleaded and E85.

I have found one drawback: the pump handles themselves are very stiff. Under-usage? Or is it a subtle way to get us to buy more expensive fuel? For sure the all-new pumps at a local station don't have that issue with any of their other gas pump handles. Of course, I haven't checked the diesel handles. But it's not the only station with that issue.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Empty Quiverfull

Some days all it takes to annoy me is listening to the BBC at 2PM on MPR. They are mostly just plain annoying. Today it was more then just them which got me going. They were busy explaining the Quiverfull movement, starting with an audio clip of some woman preacher warning about how Satan was responsible for feminism and birth control. The only "godly" path for a woman is pregnancy, as a part of full subservience to her husband.

The name was new to me. The ideas, unfortunately, not so much.  The are so old, in fact, that I thought they'd gone out decades ago, justly victims of a more enlightened age. But there is a movement out there to bring it all back, and we're not talking the Catholic Church here, still adamant about birth control prohibition. This is an evangelical movement, and realizing it is out there helps explain a lot of what has seemed more than a bit crazy in, say, rabid right wing politics.

This movement has some effects, should it ever catch hold in law. It would outlaw marital rape. Not by making it a crime, as it is now, but by defining away its existence. If a woman must be in subjugation to her husband, he has the only rights, and cannot be guilty of rape, no matter how unwilling the wife. With no birth control and no right of refusal, she must be constantly pregnant, regardless of any consideration to her health, economic strain on the family, or considerations of strain from overpopulation on the planet.

The movement relies, if it considers these issues at all, on the wisdom of the husband. However, there is truth in the saying that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It would take us back a century in women's rights, and rush us forward a century in making this planet unlivable. All in the name of "God's will". No, more like the will of collective individuals who find a need in their lives for more individual power and carry a belief in their personal supremacy. I find the adherents to be foolish, corrupt, greedy and scary.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Leaving Town

Once the Minnesota House voted to pass Marriage Equality, it became almost a sure thing that we would - as proven true now - become #12 to have it. One of my favorite radio shows, glitches and all, the Nancy Nelson Show, read an article from an email about Michelle Bachman's response.

Appearing on KSTP, she talked about how God was going to punish Minneapolis and  St. Paul for promoting homosexuality, just like he did for Sodom and Gomorrah. She didn't know whether it would be with an earthquake, a volcano, or a flesh-eating virus. As she spoke a friend of hers in Eden Prairie had already packed up the household and family and was driving to Montana. Michelle didn't want to be the last to leave her family unprotected, and while she regretted leaving her constituents unrepresented, she was going to do the same thing herself.

Imagine the celebration. One caller even offered to help, due to Michelle's money problems after campaign violations investigations, to set up a Help-Michelle-Move Pac.

While this seems a bit over the top, even for Michelle, she's been so over the top so many times already, that nobody suspected what was soon announced, that it was all a hoax, published on a site with a reputation akin to The Onion.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Worse Than Capitol Punishmant

Something else in the news lately. Is death appropriate for the Marathon bombers? For the Cleveland kidnapper/rapist? For the woman who stabbed her former boyfriend 27 times and slit his throat after shooting him in the head? She's actually asking for death. She doesn't want a long punishment, poor baby.

There are certain people for whom death may seem to be just. Timothy McVay, for instance, convicted of killing 168 including day care children after a trial with overwhelming evidence. No DNA to come back years later and offer proof of innocence. Forgiveness comes hard for many of us. Some people just don't offer the suggestion of a possibility for remorse or rehabilitation.

Other people act once in haste or rage, and would never be likely to offend again. Others get convicted by mistake, proven years later. Fewer people argue that these deserve death. (Yes, some argue exoneration isn't valid. Hard to believe, but they're out there.) More argue that life without parole is enough to protect society from them, and the innocent may get a second chance to have a life.

Some of has have hard and firm opinions about death as a penalty, either for or against. Others say yes in some circumstances and no in others. I'd like to offer up another possibility for punishment, one that's not actually technologically possible today.

Star Trek had an episode where Miles O'Brien had a life sentence imposed for something he was proven not guilty of. When released, it was effectively too late. Though only a few days had passed, the advanced technology of the aliens forced him to subjectively live out that full sentence. It stuck in my mind.

Of course, my mind is a bit twisted, and my version of an ideal punishment would be somewhat different. What if, instead of spending 70 years mentally in prison, you spent your mental time in the mind of your victims as they suffered whatever you had done to them?

Imagine Timothy McVay, for example, in the mind of each of the 168 dead and each of the injured, being forced to live a couple hours before the blast, knowing what was in store, unable to avoid it, and going through the fear, shock, pain, loss each went through. Of course the dead can't tell us, but it would open up a whole new set of careers for those who could imagine and "paint" each moment for maximum effect. It could be stretched out longer appreciation, and with variations for each victim. It could even be repeated countless times, each repetition adding the fears of anticipation to the experience. Every moment would be happening to you.

The Marathon bomber could be forced to suffer each wound, each amputation, each death, each long slow recovery, starting about half an hour from the finish line, running towards each fate with no possibility of turning aside. The Cleveland kidnapper/rapist could be forced to endure the ten years of captivity of each victim. The more horrific the crime, the more horrific the punishment.

At last, we could truly exact an eye for an eye. And that would likely be worse than capitol punishment for many.

Dear Talk of the Nation,

Anybody passing within 30 feet of a news outlet in the last few days has heard of Charles Ramsey, the fellow who helped rescue those 3 kidnapped women held in Cleveland for ten years. It's a pretty grim story, more so as news comes out. One bright spot, in addition to his heroism, willingly entering what he thought was a domestic dispute situation, notoriously dangerous even to cops, is his colorful language. His 911 call has to be bleeped in order to air on radio or TV. His use of language when speaking to reporters can be amusing - and telling - as well. Auto Tune has even given it a soundtrack and made it an instant hit.

This apparently bothers some people. How they addressed it on today's first hour of Talk of the Nation annoys me. Now, trying to be fair, they only had the last 10 minutes or so of the program to address it. Perhaps they could have said something better given more time. I doubt it, however. I think they were quite clear in their point. That's the part that bugs me.

They worried that due to race and lower socio-economic status, the colorful language and direct speech are entertaining the rest of us for all the wrong reasons. Apparently (I'm culturally deprived here, so this is news to me) this is the 4th such episode of taking someone's colorful words and turning them into entertainment. "Worse", the other three times the people happen to also be black. I guess this means there is no good way to find them entertaining. So shame on all of us.

The rest of the show was spent telling us that they also listened to Mr. Ramsey. They also laughed. And here's (rest of the show) why they were so much more morally superior to the rest of us for doing the same things we did. All I got from it was they knew they were noble and assumed we weren't.

So what am I missing here?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Toy Guns Don't Kill People.....

Anybody else sick of the mindless platitudes ultimately meant only to scare folks into buying more and more guns?

In Kentucky a couple of parents buy their five-year-old son his very own 22 rifle. It's kid-sized. It looks like a toy. TV ads and bright colors tell how much fun it is. They teach him to shoot it. They manage somehow to overlook making sure it's not loaded.

What could possibly go wrong?

I have to wonder what it's going to be like growing up knowing you killed your little sister while "playing" with your very own perfectly legal itty bitty terminally cute 22? But hey, guns don't kill people. Nasty naughty little boys at play doing what they see all around them and what they're taught in homes with stupid careless parents are the ones that kill people.

Have a great life, kid.

Welcome to Winter

It's going to be 91 in Sun city today. Sound like winter? No? OK, how about 34 right now in St. Paul, snow overnight still sitting on the leaves scattered across my lawn? Still not impressed? Go a bit south and east and try shoveling the 18" which fell Wednesday/Thursday in a few places, heavy wet stuff which is collapsing roofs, breaking trees, creating power outages. Now are you impressed?

Yesterday I drove Canon Falls, to the edge of the do-not-drive-here area, making a pick-up for work. Not knowing the road conditions, I left in plenty of time to tolerate delays. I arrived with time to look around. The tall clumps of snow the plows left along the roads caught my attention - and my camera. Small breaks in the piles letting light through glowed in that beautiful glacier blue, indicating how high a water content they held.

My yard is confused. Normally my snowdrops and scillas bloom first, then crocus, then daffodils start. Things thawed so late they're all taking advantage of their chance and blooming at once. Kinda nice, actually.

Ice out? One of the bays in North Lindstrom lake was still filled last night with those last dregs of ice which move around depending on wind direction. Usually you see them for maybe a day. They've been traveling without significant melting for three now. You can take a boat out if that bay doesn't happen to be the one with the boat launch, but why? Brrrr!

This weekend is Cinco de Mayo. Richard usually has his first gig of the year setting up in St. Paul. Not only will it be cold and rainy, but the vehicles are stuck south of Rochester in deep snow where they have been parked for the winter. The boss is trying to figure out if he can get them plowed out and on the road. I suspect he's also wondering why.