Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow In Georgia

No, I'm not talking about today, about them coping after yesterday's storm. I'm talking about being down there and experiencing snow. Once.

We lived there from winter of '78 to late summer '81. My version of culture shock - more weather shock - was the first X-mas eve, watching the neighbor across the street mowing his lawn. I had never seen lawn that time of year, much less felt inclined to mow it. Shovel, maybe. But mow? Impossible.

We brought down winter jackets, even mittens and scarves. Boots and snow pants? Who needed those? Then one day we woke up to white. And everything shut down.

Now coming from Minnesota, at first that seemed extreme. But after a minute of thought, not so much. We lived in a town mostly of imported northerners. Our block hailed mainly from Boston, after a Delta expansion. Our family moved after Paul got recruited for a system programmer slot at NCR. So we were all used to snow.

We were also used to plows, and shovels, and salt. Those weren't available. We were also used to other drivers knowing how to navigate in ice and snow. Those weren't available either, aside from us. So we were just as happy to stay home where possible, away from the inexperienced drivers who were highly likely to involve us in their accidents.

During the two days before it melted, the kids had a ball. Nobody had sleds, but some of us were old enough to recall back to the days of using cardboard boxes for sleds, and where even they weren't available, slick-bottomed shoes worked just fine. Our street was on a hill, traffic was nearly nil, and relatively warm temperatures gave the neighborhood kids plenty of opportunity to stay out and enjoy the snow. Snow men and snow balls were made, and pictures were taken so someday they could be produced as proof that yes indeed it had snowed way back when.

Monday, January 27, 2014

It's Minnesota: Get Over It!

Yet again, schools statewide are closed. The metro high is forcast -9 today, or -35 to -40 wind chill. So much for the heat island. Outstate temperatures and winds are much worse. A gas pipeline fire has calls for lowering thermostats to 60 and propane is expensive and getting scarce. Every time it warms a few degrees it snows, then blows, and blizzard conditions are commonly referred to, along with road closures.

It's a "good old-fashioned winter". We haven't had one like this for 20 years.

Lucky us. (For those other 19 years, that is.)

But there's always somebody complaining about school or road closures, saying we should be used to this. It's Minnesota. Toughen up, folks.

So, I guess they're saying that when skin freezes in 5 minutes, school kids should be out waiting for the bus. Nevermind that buses can't be depended upon to be there within an exact time window. Stuff happens. The previous kids could be a bit late getting down their driveway. An accident could delay the bus while it sits waiting for the road to clear. Or perhaps parents should suddenly be responsible for personally driving their kids to school because nothing ever happens to cars when parents are struggling to keep up with the bills, not to mention preventive auto maintenance. Nobody else ever hits an icy patch and involves your vehicle too. Deer never bound out in front of cars without warning. And no kid ever managed to lose a mitten or hat either to or from school.

And of course parents can always keep up with growing children's need for the next size in winter clothing. I happen to remember the year when child support stopped at the same time Paul grew 4 sizes taller. But I'm sure that never happens to other struggling parents.

And of course we  never get immigrants to our state from warmer climates, looking for a chance to succeed in a state with one of the best unemployment rates. Coming from Somalia. India. Texas. Alabama. Heck, even Alaska is warmer. Our weatherman is rubbing our noses in Anchorage's high temperatures: 45, 41, 36, 32, 34...and all those are above zero, folks, something we've been on the wrong side of for far too long.

So for all those of you who like to complain that schools are closed again, that classes might have to run a day or three extra next summer, just shut up. This is Minnesota. Get over it. At least next June those kids will still have enough fingers left on their hands to hold their pencils and use their keyboards when they get there. They'll still be there to hug you when they get home.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Brief Observation

I was delivering to one of those wealthy neighborhoods around Lake Minnetonka yesterday. By "wealthy" I mean huge wooded lots, huge homes, several outbuildings, long driveways, tennis courts. Apparently in this particular neighborhood it also meant placing deer statues - even an elk - in various places throughout the wooded areas, mimicking a local herd of deer.  No does. Trophy racks all, in a fine tribute to the egos of the property owners.

Now suppose you can get past the fact of their being all bucks in full mating headgear residing peacefully together. Suppose you can get past the fact that all are at full alert but looking in every which direction as if they had no clue from whence danger might come. Suppose you can even get past all their torsos being undefined, unmuscled, over-fat in the dead of winter, straight tubes.  The illusion of a herd of deer is somewhat marred by the presence of a foot of snow coating their backs.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

E-Cigs In Public? NO!

After listening to a local radio talk show host protest the proposed Minnesota laws banning them in public spaces where regular cigarettes are currently banned, I had to call in to protest. Unfortunately, this was about a minute before a hard break at the top of the hour, and I didn't get a chance to express myself completely. When I got home, I shot off an e-mail to him to complete the thought, hopefully giving him something more to consider. The text follows:


I'm the caller who had about 30 seconds to protest letting e-cigs be used in public spaces. Nicotine disrupts my cardiac rhythms. I've never smoked, so it's all second-hand exposure.

In my own home, I can request that nobody smokes around me, whichever way they chose to do it. I had a nice screened covered porch added to my house with seating and ashtrays for their convenience. Family and friends smoke there.

Due to recent laws, I can now go to restaurants, stores, bars, and office buildings without endangering my own health. I can fly or take public transportation, attend concerts or lectures, or go practically anywhere the rest of you can go. I can chose whether or not to visit others' homes based on whether they smoke. I can anticipate a reasonable lifespan without requiring surgery for a pacemaker along with several new drugs, as things stand now. Obviously, I'm in favor of the current smoking bans, and favor those being extended to e-cigs in public places. I cannot be the only person in my situation, as my doctor recognizes it as a well-known effect of nicotine.

Consider the following before you so staunchly defend e-cigs in public spaces. Regular tobacco smoke is visible. It has an odor. (I'd say "stench", but that's a personal opinion.) On both those counts, I can tell if it's in use and chose to act accordingly to protect myself. E-cigs don't produce either visible smoke or smells. If someone in the restaurant, bar, office, or store where I am is using one, I have no way of knowing unless I happen to see them in the act. But I still breathe the same air and can still be affected by it. I have no warning until my heart starts acting up. If e-cigs are allowed in public - and enclosed - spaces, my only real choice will be to avoid those spaces. I will never know if a bar, restaurant, office, store, airplane, bus, or whatever is safe for me.

So while they may be better for smokers, keeping in mind that we don't truly know what all is in them, they will not be better for me and those like me.

Heather M. Rosa

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When Patience Doesn't Pay

I bought the new car on Dec. 17th. Here on Jan. 21 I was still waiting for my new license plates. I was trying to be patient.

I had been checking the mail daily for a likely envelope. Nada. I had been eying the yellow slip in the back window wondering when a cop was also going to notice that it expired back on the 6th. Luckily, also nada.

I had even called the dealership just after the yellow slip had expired to ask if they had shown up, or how long I should be expected to wait. I heard they were taking about a month to show up, and if a ticket were issued, they would pay for it.

Yesterday I finally lost my patience and called again. This time the gal at the front desk wasn't there and I got the fill-in employee. She offered to actually check their list for me: what was my last name? When had I bought the car? After a couple of "hmmms"  there was an "ah!"

"Here they are. They arrived on Dec. 31." A short pause and she added,"Somebody should have called you."

Yeah, duh! I was close, checked in with dispatch, and headed over to get them installed.  I also noted that while she was checking in her book for my listing to overline it to show it had gone out, there were plenty of other plates even older that were not picked up.

Doesn't anybody get called?

I asked the person waiting on me to pass along my opinion to the person responsible for making those calls my recommendation for the application of a boot in a likely spot.

Morning Surprise

The first thing I noted was how long the lines were at McDonalds. I had decided to grab breakfast there and save my cottage cheese and bananas for lunch and supper. They needed me to stop driving to eat, while sandwiches were fine for that kind of multitasking.

With the double order lines, customers were slowly alternating into the line to pay and get food. I had plenty of time to watch and figure out where I was going to fit in the line. The car which would be ahead of me was shiny, absolutely pristine. Who'd get a car wash in these temperatures? Ahhh, somebody from Arizona. I had plenty of time to enjoy the scenic license plate while also wondering what could possible induce somebody to abandon those lovely temperatures for our sub-zeros and snow. Work? A funeral? If somebody were desperate to go skiing, they did have the Snow Bowl in Flagstaff, after all.

Finally, it was my turn at the window. I had my card in hand, when the young man informed me that the driver ahead of me had already paid for my breakfast! Who? Why? I knew I had no idea who it was. I know very few people from there, and none of them should be up here. They're all enjoying the reason I'd rather be down there: 70+ degree temperatures. Somebody who took pity on somebody stuck up here for the winter? Someone who saw the logo on the car and knew it from Phoenix? Then again, why would that matter? Maybe somebody who was surprised by another car yielding so they could get into their proper place in line?

That thought brought back a memory from when Steve and I were honeymooning down there a couple years back. He still chuckles over it. We were coming back from enjoying the view from South Mountain, heading for a particular western apparel store where he hoped to - and did - find a belt for his new silver and turquoise belt buckle. Minnesota had just passed its law requiring cars to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. I'd been trying to get in the habit, and when a family with a stroller was attempting to cross the road, I stopped and waved them across. The father pointed at our license plate and called out, "I knew you couldn't be from Arizona!"

Whoever you are, whyever you did it, it was a thoughtful gesture and I thank you for it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bigger Teeth, Still Wrong Butt

I had already planned on holding on the phone as long as it took to actually speak with the Fridley prosecuting attorney, Sarah Kimball, yesterday morning. I had left two voicemail messages, one Monday, one Wednesday, getting no reply. Busy lady, she's in her office for a half hour window in the morning before spending the rest of the day in court. Wednesday afternoon I finally pinned down just what that window was.

But I woke up yesterday to read this on a post-it note on the bathroom mirror:

The MN fine-pay website now says driver's license suspended for failure to appear in court and it still has your name on the citation! 

Dang! How to ruin a perfectly good morning.  So, same plan, only now I was going to be calling from home rather than fitting a call into my work schedule. The office opens at 8:30. I started calling at 8:25. I wanted to be first in the que.

It had been an interesting three days. When I first couldn't get through on Monday, I tried a side route, calling the county district court offices admin dept. The woman I spoke with couldn't have been more helpful and pleasant, though ultimately all she was able to do was impart information. She checked the ticket, then my driving record, then the car ownership because the cop mentioned the "owner" of the car as the one receiving the ticket. It was Paul's car. At least he got that right. And my driving record hadn't had a ticket since one for speeding in 1990.  I finally figured out that the cost to me in fines and insurance rates was well over $500, and there was no urgent run that was worth that.

"What a good girl you've been."

OK, nice to hear and have clarified, though not helpful to my needs. She also said that I needed to speak to Sarah Kimball. At least now I knew an easy computer search would back up my story. But that was Monday, and now the wheels were grinding.

When I finally got through to Sarah, she recognized my name and said she had sent a message to the officer to verify my claim and inquire whether the ticket should have been issued to Paul.( Or perhaps a new one issued?) She was no happier than I that it had taken so long for the problem to come to my attention, and I assured her that I'd had that conversation with my son.

Checking her records, she didn't see that my license was suspended, and asked how I got that information. I mentioned the website. Apparently it was in the process of getting suspended, and somebody had yet to hit a couple of critical keys on their computer to make it really official. She offered to email me a form stating that my license was valid - for the day only! - so I could print it out and carry it with me, just in case it was needed. Meanwhile she'd contact the proper people and halt the process. She'd send updated info later in the day.

I could work! It was only two hours later than usual, so not a complete loss for the day.

When I finally got home last night, there were two more emails from Sarah in my in-box. One was a copy of her inquiry to the trooper, without reply, which I forwarded to Paul. It's now on him to take action, and we had that discussion again last night. The other was to the admin. department stopping the implementation of the suspension.

I'm clear!

I'm keeping the emails though, just in case. You never know. Life has this way of saying that it just hasn't been interesting enough lately, and prods itself into doing something about it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Biting The Wrong Butt

Some things come back to bite you in the butt. But what happens when they bite the wrong butt?

It started last Thanksgiving, at least when I came into it. Before that I had no inkling whatever. We - Paul and I -were heading home from Steph and Ben's after a lovely dinner. Suddenly Paul got pulled over. I wondered why, as I'd checked his speedometer as soon as the lights flashed. No speeding. No other obvious indicators of trouble, like weaving or any poor driving.

The cop asked for both our licenses. I was tempted to ask why he needed to see mine as I wasn't driving, but decided not to do anything to push his nose out of joint. Perhaps that was a mistake, in hindsight.

Conversation with the cop, and later in the car while we waited, gave me details on the issue. Weeks or months earlier, I'm unclear, Paul hit one of those famous Minnesota attack deer. He filed an insurance claim for car damage, and had written the claim number on his proof of insurance card. When his new updated card arrived in the mail, he neglected to put it in his wallet, preferring to hang onto the one with the claim number. Some time later he got a speeding ticket and was unable to prove he had renewed his insurance.

It somehow skipped his mind to stop by the courthouse and produce his newest proof of insurance. He finally had the documents in his possession, showing uninterrupted coverage. He knew he'd done nothing wrong. They didn't. Apparently the system flagged his car license. Usually that's covered with dirt from driving unpaved roads, but he decided to get his car washed for the holiday and everybody in fancier than usual duds.

The cop explained the problem in no uncertain terms to Paul. He had been driving on a suspended license. A ticket was issued, instructions given on where to go to get things straightened out, and the orders for him to stop driving until it was all straightened out were issued. As the cop handed both our licenses back, he checked (asked) whether I was in condition to drive us home and had us switch positions. As I don't drink and wasn't tired, and obviously had a valid license, it wasn't a problem.

Paul's been having his brother drive him to and from work, then finally got things straightened out enough to get a paper allowing him driving privileges to and from work, limited hours and only 6 days a week. (No Sunday overtime: how very Christian of them!) If he needs to go shopping or see a movie, somebody else still drives. It's slow getting everything straightened out, but we all figured that fines and inconvenience were the end of it.

Today Paul went online to deal with a final fine - or maybe not final. And certainly not simple. Not once he finally took a good look at the details. Yes, now, nearly two months after Thanksgiving. He handed it to me for a look, indicating that it was peculiar. It took me a few seconds to see what he meant, because I had to start at the very top, with date, county, etc. It finally began to trickle in what I was looking at, and I reread it a couple times to verify just what was wrong with it.

It was written to me! My name, my license, my vital statistics, my gender.


I suddenly have a citation for driving on a suspended license!

The implications are staggering. Insurance rates. Job qualification. Years of spotless driving record gone.

Obviously I hope it can be straightened out with a simple phone call. I think I know better. If the right people will bother to check, there will be no suspension anywhere on my record. But will it be that easy? Can a button be pushed and the record changed back, make the citation "never happened"? Can I trust the issuing officer will remember that long ago and admit his mistake?

Paul meanwhile is hopeful that after all this time the citation cannot be reissued with his name on it. He thinks this is a good thing. I just see hours of headache, minimum. And speaking of, why should this be my time and effort on the phone? Yeah, I know. It's my future on the line. Somebody else's actions, my consequences. My butt.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Not a Disaster

I have another reason to love my Kindle. I was afraid I'd destroyed it.

Typically, while I'm working it sits on my front passenger seat, ready to be read during pauses in my day. Occasionally it gets covered by my clipboard, mapbook, napkins, and other collected crap during all the in-and-outs of my job.

It has been known to get overlooked when I'm packing up everything to head inside at night. Even when it might hit -20 below.

Yep, that happened.

I got my first oil change yesterday, even before my license plates have arrived. It's generally a great time to read for a few. But when I turned on the device, while the green light indicated it powered on, it immediately went out again, and the screen remained blank.

 I optimistically decided the cold weather must have drained the battery. I charged it overnight. The orange light indicated it was charging, staying on for hours. This morning I unplugged, and powered on.

Nothing. Just like yesterday, the green light flashed and went out. Blank screen. Try again. Nothing. Push in and hold. This time the light indicated it was turned off. Try again. Still nothing. I pulled it out of its case, inspecting carefully. Nothing visibly wrong, like perhaps a cracked screen or case.

Luckily I remembered that Amazon's website has a good Kindle Help section. I'd had a stupid-operator problem months ago and even got a phone call to assist in quickly solving it. I found a section for curing a frozen screen.

How literal.

I read what they said (hold in button for 20 seconds, until it powers off and on again) and gave it a try.


Thank you, Amazon. My 195 books are not lost, not is my bookmark for where I left off reading.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dear, That's Not a Vampire, That's ...

When I hadn't heard from Steve by noon his time, I gave him a call. It was last Monday, and it took about that long to find a reasonable break in my day for a call. While we were chatting, I commented on hearing beeping in the background. He has been known to think he can multitask by being on his computer and still carry on a coherent conversation. But that wasn't the excuse this time. He just casually let it drop that he was in the hospital, and the beeping was one of the machines he was hooked up to.


It turns out he woke up with strong chest pains about 4 AM and called 911. He begged me not to be mad at him. He didn't want to call me before he knew something.

"Well, you knew you're in the hospital."

There were a few calls to make. They neighbors were asked to let Fred out into the back your and check his food and water levels, and put him back in the house come evening, repeating as needed. He'd been shut in the lanai since before Steve was taken away. I mentioned his situation to our friends down there, Joan and Bob, and they immediately asked what they could do. Nothing, I thought. It turned out I was wrong, and the following day they stopped by the house to pick up his cell phone charger and dropped it off for him. I called his daughter, filling her in and asking her to pass the info to the rest of his kids, since they mostly live very close and she has a better list of phone numbers than I do.

Of course there were more calls back to Steve. It was during one of these early calls that he suddenly announced he was going to have to hang up on me. His vampire was there to check his enzymes. I suggested he refer to her as a phlebotomist, and heard her chuckle as he repeated the correction in terminology to her before hanging up. Good thing she had a sense of humor. Nobody wants somebody on the other end of a needle with a bad attitude!

There were other tests. Steve didn't mention any difficulties with them, other than that each of two days he wasn't allowed to eat until a procedure was finished, and they managed to be scheduled for late in the day. He had an EKG, the kind where you're hooked up to a little "black box" in your pocket so you can be portable. There was an echocardiogram, showing an arrhythmia - or maybe just confirming one they already heard, since the first information he got was about a "fourth beat". There was a stress test and later an angiogram.

For the latter they had to adapt as he reacts badly to the dyes used. Instead of going through a leg vein, they used a wrist one. This actually caused the only complication while he was there. For some reason it would not stop bleeding, earning him another night's stay rather than a ride home. They put on a pressure bandage, which was clear plastic and inflatable. They could blow it up for more pressure, and see through it to check on the bleeding. The next morning it was still bleeding! (Maybe his vampire was still thirsty?) I'm not sure just how, but it finally got stopped mid morning, and he was discharged, along with a fistful of prescriptions. Just like me, he now needs to take a baby aspirin, a beta blocker, a statin, and a blood pressure medication. He is also blessed with a supply of nitroglycerine.