Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Help Fund A Minnesota Movie

You can help. There'll be info at the end. But first, the who/what/why.    You may never have heard of The Uptake. Or thought you hadn't. It is an amazing example of citizen journalism, so good they are the only non-commercial media allowed in the state capitol building, even having their own room next to those TV and radio outlets. Better than any of them, they are filming all the time, and broadcasting on line. Sometimes they are the only media on a story. You get the whole story, not just the 10 second sound bites. If it's politically important, they are there.

Remember the Franklin/Coleman recount battles, which kept Al Franken out of the Senate for 8 months? The Uptake was the only media there the whole time, showing the world how the count was going, assuring all of us who cared that everything was legitimate, showing us how the ballots were counted or rejected. They are non-profit. Yes, they live off donations.

They have a project in mind. They wish to make a documentary movie, using film they've shot in the legislature and at rallies, etc., showing how Minnesota went from the proposal to put anti-gay marriage into the state constitution to the actual legality of such marriages starting this week. Most of the footage is already in their archives. There will be weddings and interviews to shoot, and editing. The goal is a 90 minute documentary, which they want to send to the film festivals, and hopefully get picked up on TV. With so little left to do, the cost of the finished project is about $21,000.

We can help. They have put the project on KickStarter, a website where small contributions from a lot of people fund projects. Nobody will be charged if the money isn't raised by the September deadline. You can pick the amount of your donation. The financial part is actually handled by with all their security guarantees. And if you like, a $50 donation will get you a copy of the movie on DVD once it's finished. $100 can get a T-shirt added. They won't turn up their noses at smaller donations. Or bigger, either.

At the bottom is the link to their site. Please check it out. Donate. Spread the word on your own social media sites. Tell your friends. Let's show the world what Minnesota did.;postID=4900724404729602854

Friday, July 26, 2013

"Hot Wire Guy" Returns

Silly me, to believe telling somebody that they have the wrong number will actually bring an end to communication. Even the second time.

The first time, Wednesday evening, I sent that info just before I turned off the Blackberry. Thursday morning once I turned it on again, the reply waiting for me assured me that "he' (I'm guessing) knew I was coming over. However much I hoped he was holding his breath waiting for me - well, for whomever he thought I was - to show up, he survived long enough to start texting me again this afternoon. I recognized the number.

"I need you now"

Yeah, I'll just bet you do. I can come up with several ways you might mean that, buddy, but would you freak if you knew you were waiting for a card-carrying member of the Medicare set? (Yes, my card arrived, can use it in 35 days.) But I don't feel like explaining all that to a stranger.

"This is still a wrong number. You do get that, right?"


"Thank you. Good luck finding the real number you're looking for."

I'm trying to be polite, heaven knows why. Training, I guess. Mom would be proud. But good, now I can get back to work. But as soon as I think that, the red light blinks again.

"Come on over now."

How dim is this bulb? Come over? Yeah, to where? Nevermind, I'm not budging,  even if I knew. It is so-o-o not going to happen. Maybe I need to be more direct.

"What part of wrong number don't you understand? Trying to be polite, but PLEASE GO AWAY."

I waited. Nothing. Flipped back over to the work app, and... blink. blink. blink. Now what?

"I sorry"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Voicemail Follies Redux

It's actually gotten crazier, though I've had the work Blackberry for nearly 10 months now. I'm still getting calls for the last owner of this number, wrong numbers, weird messages, and all kinds of odd communications meant for others. Last night I received a request to help with a hot wire job. This morning a collection agency left a message for Victor. It was time for a new answer message:

"Hi, you've reached Heather's work phone. I am not Victor, and I don't owe anybody money. I am not the person handling Ben's medical appointments. I am not coming over to help you hot wire a car. And I am not Bree, who was so-o-o not into your drunken sexual invitation that she passed off a bogus number to get rid of you.

I said this is my work phone. If I'm working, I'm driving, so I'm not going to answer this. If I'm not working, it's off. The ringer is off anyway. If you are somebody I know and want to talk to, you have my personal cell number. Call me there. Or you can text me here, and in a few hours or days when I notice I have a text, I'll get back to you. After all that, if you still want to leave voicemail here, I'll just assume you are too stupid to learn, and won't call you back anyway."

But if it's entertaining enough, I may blog about it and make fun of you.

I wonder if the cops would like that hot-wire phone number.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What You Asked For

The national discussion continues on race. Following President Obama's comments on being followed while shopping because he is black, I've listened to many others call in to the radio shows I listen to and echo that experience, and many others, generally with strong feelings attached.

One added a little irony to his comment. While a store clerk was following him around, watching him like a hawk to see what he was going to steal, he in turn was watching a pair of white teens shoplift whatever they could get their hands on. Needless to say, they weren't caught.

I'd say the store personnel got exactly what they were asking for.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Well, OK, One More Thing...

Despite the overkill on royal baby news, there was one comment today that is worth passing on. It was attributed to Comedy Central - no program, no person, just the network. Since I only heard it, and that being hours ago, the best I can do is paraphrase:

The baby is eight pounds, or about $12. U.S.

Pomp and Circumcision

OK, it's a boy, maybe a king in 60 years or so. We have length of labor, birth weight, analysis of notification protocols, everybody healthy, man-on-the-street interviews, reporters interviewing reporters. We're still drowning in the coverage. So give us a name and go away. Enuff said. Seriously.

Monday, July 22, 2013


It's hard to come by these days, particularly on the large scale. So I've learned to love it in tiny pieces when it comes. Saturday I finally got my fishing license for this season. Yesterday afternoon I joined Steve and some of his family sitting along the banks of the St. Croix River to drown some worms.

We'd all been hearing about the great fishing once water levels dropped from this wet spring and early summer. That meant the shore along a public access south of Taylors Falls was exposed, allowing one to drive down the ramp and park next to the water so those with wobbly legs can have a very short walk to set up a chair along the shore, along with all the tackle, poles, coolers, etc. There's plenty of parking back along the top of the ramp once the car is unloaded, if you want to avoid the National Park Rangers who chase cars off the shore after a quick license check. Having one fisherman along with sturdy legs is a bonus.

Once set up, there's plenty of watching to do. There's people, boat and dog watching, particularly on nice-weather weekends, as this is a popular landing. The most interesting was a homemade catamaran rigged with two canoes and platform pieces across the top, graced with deck chairs, and one adorable Westie in a life jacket with a carry handle on top. Most of those arriving for pullout late afternoon had the sense and courtesy to pull in on the other side from us, but one set of kayakers pulled up to shore right next to us after cutting across our lines. We thought we had set up way out of the traffic lanes, but there are always idiots out there.

There's plenty of bird watching, including herons, turkey vultures, osprey and eagles, along with smaller birds defying identification. A barred owl could be heard  across the river along with local dogs. Had we stayed later, coyotes would have been likely.

The riverboat out of Taylors Falls passes by but stays on the far side of the river in deeper water.

And of course, there are the fish. Red horse suckers, channel cats, and bluegills got hooked on  our rigs yesterday. The previous night's fishing also brought in small sturgeon. By reports, all Saturday night's fish were much larger than anything caught Sunday - but that's always the way with fish tales. I wouldn't dream of suggesting there was any exaggeration going on, but the one picture I did see was fish, line, and background, with absolutely nothing to show scale.

A couple peaceful turtles hung out for a closer look, one tiny, and one huge and close enough to see the top of its shell emerging from the water and a detailed look at the texture of whatever was growing on it, while the standing members of the group got a good look at the submerged portions.

So with all that activity, you might be wondering where was the peace? It was in the pleasant weather, the shade on our side of the river slowly stretching across and up the trees  on the opposite bank, the silence between boaters, the reflections in the gently flowing water, the sunset colors in a few clouds obligingly showing up for the occasion, the nearly full moon rising behind the trees, and the great company.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Seems A Bad Idea

Steve went fishing earlier this week with a buddy who has a boat. They went out on South Center Lake. Last time they were there the fishing was excellent, lots of small sunnies, great sport for guys who love catch-and-release. This time, though they were out for hours, trying a variety of spots, not a single fish could be seen. Not a nibble. Not a jump.

Now I know as well as the next how possible it is to get skunked. Been there, done that, didn't need the filleting knife. But this time there was something else going on that may have had more to do with the bad fishing.

A sign was posted by the boat ramp, informing the users that a chemical had been applied to the lake for weed control. It worked.

It really really really worked.

Every plant in sight in the water was dead.  Every plant they hooked and pulled up from the deepest bottom was dead.  Every plant in any part of the lake where they traveled that day was dead. It's a really good sized lake. They traveled all but one bay. No plants.

And in case you forgot I mentioned it, no fish.

Now lake weeds provide oxygen to the water. Fish use that to breathe. Not enough, and they surface hang where air reaches the top layer. Still  not enough, and they die. And stink. Rotting weeds also stink, though not as bad as fish. Makes the lake such a pleasant place.

Consider also that the rotting releases nutrients back into the water to be used again. First, by algae and other micro organisms. Then by whatever may still be alive after the poisoning. So for the plants, it's a temporary treatment. And in no way does it do anything to stop property owners around the lake from dumping tons of new chemicals on their lawns intended for growing grass but which primarily end up in the lake feeding new plants and algae.

I get that dumping chemicals is cheaper than going around the lake with something to pull out weeds. also faster. However, if you physically removed weeds, they could become fertilizer, or mulch, for gardens or fields. Useful, in a word. But now what have you got? Besides a lot of dead crap, that is?

All in all, it just seems like a bad idea.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dear Florida,

Dear Florida,

I am writing this to inform you that I will not be visiting you. I have enjoyed gathering shells on the shores of Sanibel Island, watching anhingas dry spread wings on Captiva, watched glorious sunsets along the Gulf coast and pelicans gliding over the surf on the Atlantic coast. I've watched and photographed gators and manatees, herons and storks. I've enjoyed visiting much of your state and looked forward to visiting more. I have friends who live there in two different cities.

When I visit, I spend money in your state. I tend to rent cars, buy gas, stay in motels, eat in restaurants, visit attractions, buy souvenirs. Once back home, I tell others how wonderful my trip was.

But no more. I no longer feel safe in your state. You have the most extreme "stand your ground" law in the country. Anyone can think I am a threat to them and get away with murdering me. Who can tell what somebody else thinks is threatening? It doesn't require a "reasonability" test, just a perception. No one in your state should feel safe with that law in effect. And lest you think it may have benefits in the case where somebody may really need to defend themselves, let me remind you that in the same county in which George Zimmerman murdered a child due to his skewed perceptions and walked away, a woman who really needed to defend herself against an ex-husband invading her home to do her harm is now spending 20 years in prison.

You are insane, and I do not feel competent to cope with such insanity. So say good-bye to any future money I might have spent in your state. There are other places in this country to visit. Yours is no longer on my list.

Most sincerely,

etc. etc.

*     *     *     *      *

Dear Texas,

I am writing this to inform you....

Monday, July 15, 2013

A More Broken Family

It was a pretty typical family portrait: two beaming little (probably preschool) boys in the foreground, happy handsome daddy behind them. Everybody was neatly dressed, though not with the overkill of suits. Haircuts were current and neat. Everybody was relaxed and obviously happy to be together, showing none of those stiff self-conscious smiles often seen in family portraits. I don't know why Mom wasn't part of the family, for though it'd been mentioned, it was years ago and not part of the story, thus didn't stick in my memory.

I can date it back to the day the bridge fell. August 1st, whatever year that was. The story was one of the things I was thinking about it coming home that night, having just heard that because I'd picked the other way home I was safe, contrasting how lucky I was with those involved on 35W, and with the story behind the picture. The two will always be linked in my mind.

The woman telling me the story was a receptionist at a Minneapolis company that I delivered to and picked up from fairly frequently for several years. She and I had started talking, brief snippets here and there, and over the months and years began to know a bit about each others' lives. Each time I walked in I was greeted as a long-missing friend, with questions about how the people I'd talked about last time were doing now.

This day was different. She'd been absent a bit recently and I hoped she'd had a nice vacation. But that wasn't why she'd been absent. The man in the picture she was showing me was her son. He'd just been murdered, not for anything he'd done, but one of those tragic cases of wrong place, wrong time. Those two darling little boys just had their world turned upside down, and where they would now live was in question. And would they find somebody to love them as much as their father obviously did? It fairly shone out from the picture, and I said as much to her.

My comment triggered anger from her, though not at me. Rather, at a comment from one of her coworkers upon seeing the same picture, in reaction to her son: "Wow! He looks scary!"

Did I mention they were black?

The story memory came back to me today listening to all the radio show callers commenting on the Zimmerman acquittal starting with, "I'm not prejudiced but..." and explaining just exactly in what way they were. Black men get arrested more, explaining it as a racial failing rather than profiling by non-black police. Black juveniles wearing hoodies are thugs/gang members/scary however you look at it. Mothers of black sons called in to express their fears for their children in this society where we have, as one person so eloquently stated, a legal system, not a justice system.

Hearing that long-ago comment about that picture shocked me deeply. I could not, still cannot, see how another person could fail to see the kindness and love in that face, and instead see only the reflection of her own skewed fears. Not do I understand how she could be so insensitive as to express her particular idiocy to the grieving mother of that man.

In the intervening years, I have come to understand a little better the real meanings of the racial divides in this country. Such a statement is no longer so surprising, though it grows more offensive with each recollection, and the sheer weight of the numbers of similar feelings and statements drags at the spirit. I don't visit that company much anymore, since they've changed courier companies, but before they did, my friend quit working there. Retired, perhaps. Maybe finally unable to put up with a co-worker's prejudices. But I did hear her name in a radio story once that leads me to think she's become a community activist. It would be a great way to honor her son.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Every Body Else's Vacations

This is the time of year that I'd be camping in the Rockies, loving the scenery, the critters, the photo ops, and best of all, the temperatures at 8,000 feet. But not this year.

One of my friends just got back from a trip with her husband and kids to Washington State. Another friend and her husband have escaped the Arizona heat for an Alaskan trip including a cruise. My brother and his wife are in Iceland as I type, and have already emailed the first pictures of puffins back.

I was busy envying them, looking forward to my own retirement when I can make those kinds of plans again. Still haven't figured out what kind of mobile accommodations will fit the dreams Steve and I have. It has to be the right combination of cheap, dependable, comfortable, house whatever dog(s) are in the family at the time, and be accessible. Easy on the stairs, easy on the dwindling shoulder and knee strength. A pop-up tent camper would be ideal - if it doesn't require arm strength to raise and lower or level. A conversion van would be ideal if there's room enough, and that means a queen bed that doesn't take an athlete to enter and leave. Maybe a tow-behind hard body, but they get really expensive. A toilet inside is nice in the middle of the night, but who's going to climb underneath to hook up the septic? Not us. We could abandon the sleep-in vehicle  in favor of motels or cabins, but they leave out lots of the fun, and there's all the hauling in and out every night and morning. There's an RV in the driveway that I no longer trust for long trips and not at all without one or more of the kids along, and we'd like to be secure and independent.

See where I'm going with this? All those choices, and none perfect. And meanwhile no time to go summer camping anyway.

On the other hand, there's the twice-a-year trips between here and Arizona, spring and fall. We're working on incorporating variety into the routes, not just eating as many miles as you can in 3 days one way. We've already scheduled the fall trip, and Steve is working on setting up some kind of family get-together in Colorado if he can, or perhaps stopping at his brother's place in Idaho. We'll see.

And this past week I did one more thing to soothe my camping-hungry soul. I bought my airline tickets for a trip down to join Steve just before Christmas, while there are still semi-reasonable prices available. Yeah, I know, this has nothing to do with camping, so go figure how it works.

And hey, we could have a bonfire in the back yard any time. That is, any time we're willing to donate a quart or two to the mosquitoes. Or maybe buy stock in Off!

So friends, send those pictures from your vacations this way. I'm enjoying them right along with you.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Favorite July 4th Tale

Way back when the kids were two - as in two kids, not three - and Richard was a little squirt, Paul and I put the two of them in the family van and headed out to the local fireworks. We went early so the kids could play at the park (as in, Rich would wear himself out so he'd sit still for the fireworks) and we could get good seats for the view

We tried to prepare him for what to expect, as this was his first fireworks. We talked about sitting still, about it being dark, about watching the bright lights in the sky. We overlooked one little detail: the noise. And this set started out with a few big booms.

Richard started screaming and insisting that we take him back to the van, so I did, leaving Steph with Paul. When there, he wanted to be in the front seat where he could still watch the fireworks. He also insisted on being buckled in, and as soon as he was, he was fine and enjoyed the rest of the show. Once calm, he was able to tell us that what he'd needed was, as we'd always called it, his "safety belt."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Language Lessons

MPR had a segment this morning with Kerri Miller speaking with Anatoly Liberman on The Daily Circuit about differences between British English and American English. It was fascinating, and I recommend looking it up and replaying it.

In the process they got into regionalisms and how in the UK it means folks from the north and south can't understand each other, while in the US it just means an accent. While that may be true here on the whole, I got a lesson or two back in about 1980 that shows it's not universal.

I had a coworker for a bit who was a local - as opposed to my neighbors who were all northern imports. While I can't recall her name, I do remember the conversations. There are two particular words with completely opposite usage between Minnesota and rural Georgia: nasty and ugly. Here, ugly refers to appearance and nasty refers to behavior. There, ugly refers to behavior and nasty refers to appearance. If your kid in Georgia is a brat, you tell them not to be ugly. If your clothes are worn and dirty, they're nasty. But even though the words are opposite, the meanings are plain.

She was also helpful in teaching a Yankee the proper use of "y'all" and "all y'all", and though she tried to instill the various kinds of "yonder", I was hopelessly lost. I have no clue where up yonder, down yonder, and over yonder are. She was quite the colorful character, and one phrase I will never forget. She had several male acquaintances she didn't think very highly of, and had a phrase for putting down (never to their face!) those least worthy, though I never got the impression it came from personal knowledge. It was just a cutting insult: Needle Dick.

Another Roadside Attraction

Somewhere along Hwy. 169, following along the top of the Minnesota River Valley on the way between Jordan and Le Seuer, there's an apple stand. It's actually way more than an apple stand. I popped in once on a trip through the area on a delivery, and while spending 5 minutes scanning the merchandise, and though it was harvest season, I never managed to find the apple section.

The place is huge!

But despite my lack of finding them, the place is attached to an orchard. And in addition to being huge and painted bright yellow just so we can find them, they put out giant signs to advertise. It might be about how many dozen kinds of licorice they stock. It might be which variety of apples are in. It might be when the season starts or ends. But right now, still early summer, they just want our anticipation of the season to come.

Last week the sign notified us that apples were currently the size of large golf balls.

Wait a sec: are there different sizes of golf balls? Are not golf balls, in fact, "regulation" size? Sort of like very specific parameters so nobody can cheat in the game, or at least not that way. So what size, exactly, are large golf balls? And don't tell me the size of little apples, wise ass.

I passed them again yesterday. Now the apples, they proudly announce, are the size of ...wait for it ... little apples.

I can't wait to see how big they've grown next week.


I must be getting to be a geezer: more things seem to be annoying me these days. Latest is Mr. Snowden, claiming "persecution" because the US pulled his passport.

First, it's not persecution. He has no idea what that word means. If his airport lounge in Moscow isn't cushy while he awaits his future, he can blame the Russians or fly out to another one somewhere else. Meanwhile, how about he entertains himself by finding out what real persecution is all about, say, by reading a little Jewish history, or American slaves' stories. Where does Snowden get off acting the victim?

Second, what did he expect: more applause? I kinda understand the initial reaction by many to hail him for spilling the beans about the meta data thing. It is a conversation we need to have in this country, though the major reaction seems to be a country wide yawn. Anybody who watches TV knows nothing on line is private, cell phones and cars can be tracked, your property has been photographed, etc. Various people will hold dear various ideas about whether proper safeguards are in place or not, many independent of data.

However, he has no honor, even in what can be charitably be described as whistle blowing. The man did sign non-disclosure agreements and (somehow) qualified for a high level security clearance (another needed national conversation). Then he violated his oath. It's not as if he didn't have less drastic options for starting this conversation, but those wouldn't have given him the attention his overweening ego demanded.

Had it ended there, he might still have been able to claim whistle-blower status. But no, now he had to go and repeatedly damage this country by divulging how we gather intelligence (spy) on other countries. There is no way that doesn't qualify as espionage. We  have too many enemies out there who are delighting in what's going on. Perhaps we deserve the scorn: that's another conversation we need to have. But this is not the way to start it, and there will be repercussions, whether or not we should be able to spy on other countries, whether or not this is the way to do it, whether or not everybody else is doing it as well.

Pulling a passport strikes me as a very mild form of consequences, not persecution. Someone completely full of himself and self-important wouldn't see it that way, I guess.

Poor Edward.Yeah, right. No sympathy here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Pretty New Car...Revisited

The original post was years ago. But suddenly I got a comment on it, asking how it was doing. Weird, huh? Nobody I'd ever heard of, but scrolling to the bottom, there was a link to a car dealership for a different kind of car.

Ulterior motive, much?

Here's how my Hyundai Accent is doing. The paint job is fine, minus one chip where a rock has knocked all the paint off, not just the white over-coat. A spray can and some tape to keep the drift off the headlight will fix that just fine, if it ever stops raining. And if I think about it.

I rolled over 280,00 last week, so it's just getting broken in nicely. I'm planning on another couple years on it, now that our company dropped it's requirement on vehicles by model year and just goes for condition. Unless, of course, another Bambi decides to use me for its assisted suicide. They've been scarce all winter, but now the roadsides are covered with ripening corpses, including fawns. Epidemic of deer depression? Or cutbacks preventing clean-ups? Yes, the sequester does have effects.

New tires also went on last week, and belts are coming due in another couple months, probably just before heading down to Arizona again. I've not yet needed brakes.

You hear that, Mazda? Your crappy car in the late 80's required pads every 35,000 miles, and your representative tried to claim it was my bad driving. Not so much, huh? Hyundai's brakes actually last.

It has needed minor repairs not counted as maintenance: 2 of the 4 engine coils had to be replaced. A switch or something needed replacement when my brake lights failed to flash when I was stopping. Luckily somebody followed me to to my parking spot to let me know he'd almost hit me, so I knew to fix it immediately. As it happened, it was a month before the recall notice arrived. Figures, eh? And my alternator is new.

The most annoying thing about my car? The bug collection on the front bumper. It is only because the fashion on car bumpers changed years ago from black rubber to white composite, or rather something matching the rest of the car body. I miss black rubber bumpers. Little scrapes didn't show up, and who cared about bugs on black rubber? But I doubt it'll change back. Too much profit from replacing the new style bumpers system wide.

So yes, I'm still happy with my -what is it now?- 6th Hyundai? Looking forward to my next one... in a couple years.