Monday, November 25, 2013

Black Friday

I'm not sure why this merits comment, except to note why some of us - well, this one of us anyway - go out of our way to avoid getting caught up in it.

There are always the knees, of course. I carefully choose where and when to physically go out and shop these days. There has to be very limited walking, or a shopping cart/scooter. It's why I chose Wally World over Target, much as I politically hate supporting the former.  Most days there is an abundance of fully charged carts available in a Wally World. Target is much stingier in supplying them. Black Friday is one of the days where finding a scooter is impossible, not to mention just getting handicap parking.

There's the internet. I can carefully select and research my purchases from the comfort of home with my feet up. Most anything is available these days, ordered, paid and delivered, barring groceries out in my small rural community.

Most of the Black Friday sales are nothing I want to buy anyway. If the sale is truly wonderful, it's not in my gifting budget. If it's for myself, that's never the right time to replace an old TV, say, or washing machine. Those never break down just at that time of year or any time there's a major sale on. Life just doesn't work that way. And any wonderful sale will be limited in supply to those who are willing to get up or stay up until some ungodly hour and fight for a spot in an ungodly line, racing to the spot in the store where the coveted item sits.

Not me.

I prefer to gift shop throughout the year, seeing that special something that is just for a special person and available when/where I am. Or else, picking up supplies throughout the year to make something just for that special person. The last few years I've been making jewelry, finding stones or beads to go with each person on the gift list, or finding some special thing at an auction or on my travels. Those things are never reduced on Black Friday. Most aren't even available then.

Then of course, there's work. Most years I remember to put my name down on the time-off calendar in time to stay home for a four-day weekend. Not this year. I had'nt even thought about it this year before the fleet message got sent out that the time-off calendar was full and the rest of us should plan on working.


Well, maybe not so much oops. I've taken a lot of time off this fall, between Arizona, a new tranny, and the hospital, with another week scheduled in Arizona before X-mas. I could use any extra income, even what I anticipate from a really slow work day like Black Friday. So I'll be out and about, just not in the stores.

Not even to pick up my new glasses, which should be in then.  They'll wait. Maybe the next Monday or Tuesday, depending on my evening work schedule. Which schedule I'll find out about Monday or Tuesday evening. And which glasses cost twice what the last pair did a few years back. Ouch! I'm not adding the frustrations of Black Friday to that errand.

So if you want to be out there, go ahead. Just don't expect to see me there.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Flying Jewels

As if I needed one, I've found another reason to feel deprived wintering in Minnesota: our only hummingbird, the ruby throated, has flown south. Most of my life, they're the only kind I've seen. They are tiny and highly territorial, the males typically spending most of the energy they get from a feeder in driving other hummers away.

I saw one exception to that. Years ago I took my granddaughter tent camping outside Hinckley in St. Croix State Park. A large feeder was hung outside the main building, and perhaps a dozen hummingbirds were swarming it at any given time.

Closer to home, shortly after moving into this house, I had a garden patch filled with Asiatic lilies, with rope circling them about 2 feet off the ground to help prevent the tall top-heavy blooming plants from blowing over in the wind. A pair of hummers, which I decided were a mother and fledgeling, landed on the rope. Mom took a long drink from one of the lilies, then both flew up a little ways, joined bills, and gently spiraled nearly to the ground before separating and landing on the rope again. Junior was getting feeding lessons.

When my folks became snowbirds, I found a whole new world of hummingbirds. Arizona is home to seven species. Mom put out a feeder which attracted a male Lucifer with his brilliant violet purple throat. Between drinks he perched in the spiny tips of the century plant in the neighbor's lot. I tried for pictures, but the light was always wrong.

A first of several trips to the Sonoran Desert Museum included a stop in their hummingbird house. With patience, and the good manners of your fellow humans, you can watch several kinds of local hummers. In February you can even see the parents nesting and taking care of their young in tiny nests make of spider webs and lichens. I fell in love with Rufous (also found in Alaska in the summer) and broad billed hummers. Any trip to the Tucson area almost mandates another stop there.

Steve put out his first hummingbird feeder in Sun City a few days ago. It had to be mail ordered, as the local stores were out, plus I'm fussy about how easily cleaned they are. I hate to kill the birds I'm feeding because I can't remove the black mold that eventually grows on the feeders. It hangs under the patio roof where he can watch the birds while sitting in his favorite chair enjoying his pipe.

I'm getting daily, or several-times-daily reports on activity. At first, the visitors were generic. Could have been females of nearly any of the local species. Tuesday a Rufous stopped by. Yesterday a male Broad-billed was a frequent visitor. Like me, Steve fell in love with the royal blue color.

He wants more feeders.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

400 Reasons For Tears

There are a whole lot of awful things happening in the world right now. Wars, weather, earthquakes, child abuse, politics - the list never ends. Any one of them is worthy of tears, from all of us. We could cry the rest of our lives and never fully give tribute to the awfulness out there.

And yet, that's not what makes me cry. It's stories like the following that get to me.

Harold Jellicoe Percival was a WWII veteran from England. His funeral was yesterday. He was 99, outliving nearly all his fellow soldiers. Never married, he had no children surviving him. He lived quietly. His nephew, making his funeral arrangements, estimated that maybe two or three mourners would attend. The notice in the newspaper stated that any military personnel who might be able to attend would be welcomed. It got on Twitter and the news spread.

One estimate says 400 people showed up. Those unable to fit in the small chapel stood outside for his funeral, despite the rain.

That's what makes me cry.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Louisiana School "Science"

This little tidbit over the radio had me ROTFL yesterday. The topic was what's going on in the Louisiana public schools with regard to teaching evolution and the so-called alternative, creationism. Both are now being taught, by recent law, as if both have equal value in a science course. It's Christian creationism, of course. Who'd teach Native American beliefs about a giant turtle being the creator in any Louisiana public school? Or any other beliefs, for that matter?

One woman who moved to Louisiana from California recently had been checking out schools for her family. She was looking for some real science, wanting her children to grow up well enough educated to get into a top college if they chose. The only schools she found where creationism was not part of the curriculum were the Catholic schools!

And in case you were wondering, they're open to non-Catholic students: Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, even atheists. You just need money.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Premie Watch: Over (Revised)

One little girl has been giving her family a run for their money. I'll refer you back to  my Sept. 26 posting, when my newest granddaughter made her first attempt to arrive in the world.

It wasn't her last. Mom has become a regular arrival in the hospital. Each time the family call goes out, but each time Mom has been sent home again. One particular scare included the worrying addition of an irregular heartbeat by the baby, but it got solved and - yet again - Mom was sent home, baby snug and safe, to hang out and grow some more.

The family started laying bets on her actual arrival date. Steve had picked 11/8. I figured if she'd hung around through all the hooplah this far, she'd confound all of us and show up a week late.

Tuesday the story repeated. This time even the nurse in the hospital thought it was finally the real deal, but Mom wound up getting sent home again. I figured the kid found out what the weather was doing - snowing - and decided to heck with that nonsense, she wasn't gonna show up in that crap.

Yesterday (Wednesday) evening on Facebook Daddy was expressing his frustration that yet again the cycle repeated. How much more of this could he stand? We all agreed it'd be as much as it took. About an hour later the posting came through that Mom's water broke in the ambulance on the way back to the hospital. (So who's doing the posting anyway and just where are they?)

Finally! We now knew it was for real. Since at least back when Paul was born, the standard was 24 hours maximum between breaking water and delivery. The goal was minimizing complications, including infections.

About ten minutes later Steve called. Serenity didn't wait for the hospital, but arrived in the ambulance. (Before the hospital could send her home yet again, eh?) We're awaiting the details on size, weight, and all that good stuff, as well as just when it'll be a good time to swing by and meet her.

Details: Born a little before 9:30 PM, in the ambulance, stopped on the Lafayette Bridge in St. Paul for the event. Yes, they blocked one lane of traffic on a bridge already complicated by ongoing construction. She weighed in at 5 lbs, 9 oz., and was 19 1/2 inches. Her pictures are all over Daddy's Facebook page. She looks especially tiny compared to him.

Welcome to the world, baby girl!

MPR: I Expect Better Of You

I will, when provoked, play grammar police. On occasion, things get said that shouldn't have, or perhaps not in the most artful phrasing, or just display a tongue tripping all over itself utilizing whatever room might be left in a mouth with a foot already shoved well inside. I do understand that. I'd never consider a career on the radio. I'm prone to mis-speaking myself. However, I hold the professionals to a higher standard. I mean, if I can learn the difference between "less" and "fewer", something apparently rare, I feel I can criticize much more egregious bad language use.

This afternoon I was half-listening to the BBC News Hour on MPR. Or as they pronounce it, the Nyooz Ahhhrrr. It's one of many things that irritate me about that program. So it was almost a relief when it was interrupted momentarily for the emergency alert. The beeps/buzzes/tones/whatever-you-call-'ems sounded. Still just half listening, since I was driving to an unfamiliar address.

Then the announcer came back on with, "The following was a test of the emergency alert system."

Wait. What? "The following was...?"

He didn't sound like an ESL speaker. He didn't sound all that stupid either, aside from what he'd just said. Maybe another something to blame on Ambien?

I don't care about excuses. I simply expect excellence from MPR. Lucky me, maybe not-so-lucky them, due to my membership I have the number an actual human answers in my cell phone. I called it. I quoted what I'd heard, expressing my expectations for better use of language. Yes, I was polite. Of course. Unless you think it's rude to say that the quality of what I heard was worthy of FOX.

OK, maybe that was a low blow.

But how do  you not know the difference between "following" and, say, "previous"? It's like saying black is white, male is female, up is down... OK, the FOX comment wasn't such a low blow after all.

So, MPR, if you guys made fewer stupid mistakes, especially in scripted, repeated PSAs, I'd be less inclined to call you up and complain.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Elmer Fudd Fantasy Playbook

I'm beginning to understand Elmer Fudd. Yes, I get that he was comic relief, no redeeming social values, fat and funny-sounding, incompetent.. in fact, so bad we all cheered his failures. But I get his side of the story. Even if Bugs Bunny only stole carrots and played silly pranks. I get him.

Those wascally wabbits have invaded my front yard. The one in Sun city, of course, where we just finished planting a whole bunch of things, and thought they might be safe because other people had those plants too without the rabbits coming by uninvited for nightly smorgasborg.

I get Elmer Fudd. I too want to destroy them all. Dead dead dead!

I plot revenge. Shooting them all, setting up various trip wires to pull triggers as they approach. Setting leghold traps. Live traps, where enclosed they can be drowned in a garbage can of water without mess and fuss. Inviting in the local coyote population to chase down, snack on, remove bodies to their dens. Setting out poisons attractive only to rabbits, ranging from lesson-giving nasties to deadlies, various levels of suffering, and of course, universally perfectly effective and perfectly targeted.

Of course all the evidence would be cleared away before daylight, before nosy neighbors and legal authorities would garner any interest whatsoever in the goings-on in the front yard. If they knew how the rabbit population was declining, we'd be thanked, of course, likely silently.. If they didn't, nobody would feel the need to express their opinion on whatever methods were used or how cute baby bunnies look. Garbagemen would haul away anonymous bags of bunny bodies all unaware of contents beyond the label of garbage. Coyotes that everybody pretends to hate would be rewarded for their activities in reducing the scourge by feeding their families.

Of course, the ugly truth is that one can indulge in fantasies all day and night long, and plants still fall victim to predation. Elmer Fudd always fails because nobody wants to see a cartoon where the wrong critter gets hurt or dies, or Elmer gets hauled off to jail. So my front yard is going to be turned into a prison camp, where each plant grows inside its own cage of chicken wire, and the bunnies, if we're really lucky, wander off to the golf course to munch grass. If we're really really really lucky, folks would stop planting and watering acres of green bunny food to walk on and hits balls on, and they'd all starve.