Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Powerless on the Big Elk

June 7, 2008

Today has been one of those days. Monsoon-style rain has been falling most of the week. We’ve had two inches or more in the last three days. In mid-winter that’s normal. But when you’re trying to get the garden in, it’s very frustrating.

It’s supposed to clear for half a day tomorrow.

At least the potatoes don’t need watering. . .But I guess it’s going to be one of those green-tomato summers.

So I decided to do some things inside today. I got some mailings together to go out with the post tomorrow. Then I decided to take a few pictures of the hummingbirds. Batteries on both the Nikon and the Sony Mavica were dead, ready to be buried. Then I remembered that my laptop was nearly defunct on not one but both batteries and that the flashlight I changed the battery on last night ended up at something less than full power.

So I started the generator and plugged in four different chargers. Then I got Ben to set up the 12-volt charger for the main house system. That hasn’t been charged in awhile either. Tonight is our independent power plant night, I guess.

It’s a good thing that we built a big kitchen. Originally it wasn’t just the kitchen, it was the whole living area. That was before we added on 1300 square feet. But is has two stoves–one gas, one wood–acres of counters, two tables, and nine wooden chairs.

Normally it has only one refrigerator, but tonight it has two. Our fridge has been acting up. It’s nearly 10 years old, so this is not unexpected. But summer is coming, and with gas going up at ten cents a gallon a day, I’m sure as heck not going to drive to town every two days to get ice. So we bought a replacement.

I ordered it on Monday, estimated delivery time a week to ten days. On Tuesday they called to say it was here. Ralph and Brenda drove to Mollala on Wednesday to pick it up.

Like many projects around here, however, this is one of those that’s not getting rushed into. So the refrigerator has made it to the end of the big kitchen table, where it stands like a monolith and reigns over our meals. But the old one hasn’t totally quit, so the new one is just sitting there until the guys feel like wrestling it into place and hooking it up.

Over the years I have developed a sense of humor (and inevitablility) about these things, so I’m staying remarkably calm. After all, we have cold milk and ice cubes for our drinks, so what’s the urgency?

Ben says: “Whoever heard of a refrigerator taking the week off?”

Good question. It was totally unreliable for a week, except that the freezer worked better than ever. Now it seems to have recovered (probably because we bought a new one), but it’s still flaky occasionally. We’re going to keep the old one, turn it upside down for a week to see if we can shake loose whatever is crazy in the cooling system, then stash it away to run on a spare propane tank when we have lots of company and need a mega-supply of ice cubes or potato salad.

Now it’s time to go check the assorted chargers (everything upstairs is done, so what’s on the porch is all that remains), put away the rest of the black bean soup (cooling on the porch), and head off to dreamland. May tomorrow be sunnier.

 

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I am an anachronism

June 6, 2008

The truth can now be revealed, and it isn’t pretty. I’ve suspected this for some time, but I couldn’t really confirm it.

However, the new ( July/August 2008 ) Atlantic (formerly Atlantic Monthly—hmmm, July/August (?), maybe there’s a reason for the name change) arrived today. The cover article, by Nicholas Carr, is: “Is Google Making Us Stoopid?” It’s a fascinating read.

Carr explores the ways in which extensive use of the Web is changing the ways we read and think. It’s frankly, for someone like me at least, a little scary.

I’m not a Luddite. I actually enjoy being able to search for things on the Web from the comfort of my home office. I’ve had enough experience to know at least some of the ways you can validate (or invalidate) what you find there.

But I also really enjoy a good book or magazine that requires me to digest pages of material, mull it over, and then try to integrate what I’ve read with what I knew before. I like to think deep AND wide, and I take great pleasure in synergy, especially in apparently unrelated topics.

That’s what makes me an anachronism.

Notable quote from the article: “In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.”

I would agree with much of that last sentence, but not at the costs that the article points to. These changes do not come in a vacuum.

Carr doesn’t demonize Google. He rather attempts to reflect on the changes in thinking and brain function that are being observed as a byproduct of extensive use of the Web.

It’s well worth your time to browse this piece. You may be able to find it online at www.theatlantic.com. I don’t know. I haven’t checked. I have the hard copy, you see.

And I’ve found another reason to be very happy that I bought the second edition of The Oxford English Dictionary, all 20 volumes and four feet of books. It may not be available too much longer.

A shining. . .

June 2, 2008

There are some evenings that simply glow, and this is one of them.

I have been absent from this space for awhile, and I apologize. I had many things that I thought of writing about, but when I sat down in front of the screen, they didn’t happen.

I don’t know if it was a delayed response to my brother’s death or some other form of malfeasance of the spirit, but I just didn’t want to write.

But tonight I am full of joy. It’s Ben’s birthday, and our daughter Inger has come to visit. She brought with her an electric bass guitar and a 12-string acoustic that she rescued from oblivion. For the last hour or so I’ve ducked out and listened from the sidelines to Ben (one of the finer guitar players I’ve ever known) showing her little tips and tricks.

Ben and I play the guitar. Ben is proficient, I am competent. Inger does not play, has never played, but something caused this leap of faith that she could play. And I suspect she will. I hope she finds the same magic in it that I have.

I worried when she was young because she did not sing. I grew up singing, and I thought everyone did. Now she is seemingly discovering her music, and that makes me very happy.

My daughter has given me so much joy in life. It pleases me immensely to watch her finding her own joy.

I think there’s an allegory happening on my back deck

April 22, 2008

We seem to have only four summer-resident hummingbirds this year. A much larger flock flew in early, but they moved on after feeding. However, these four little birds are providing a real sideshow.

If you think all hummingbirds look and act alike, you’re not paying attention. Each has distinct personality and characteristics. And perhaps it’s just overload with all the election-year hype, but it’s hard not to see in them a reflection of a greater drama playing out.

So I have given them nicknames, referred to here with acronyms. I’ll tell you about them.

They are all of the rufus species, although two are male and two are female. I didn’t think the different sexes hung out together, but that seems to be the case this year.

The first to arrive was GWB. I remember him from last year, because he makes such weird noises I thought he was ill and was very surprised to see him back. His chitter has an odd sound, and when he flies he makes a distinct metallic noise that is very different from the others.

He flies around most of the time with his bright orange gorget exposed, daring the others.

In the manner of rufus birds, because he arrived first at the feeder he claimed he owned it.

However, the second to arrive was the largest of the birds, a female I call HRC. She is testy and irritable, and she quickly disabused GWB of his ownership status. She chases all the other birds away when she can, although sometimes they gang up on her. She scolds them constantly, feeds without alighting, generally buzzing and making a lot of racket. She thinks she owns the race. (I can’t believe I wrote “race.” I meant “feeder.”)

The other female is BHO, although personally I refer to her as the philosopher. On a number of occasions I’ve seen BHO sitting quietly on a branch trying to reason with HRC, explaining, I’m sure, that the feeder has six flowers, plenty for everyone, and that the complacent voter sitting there on the deck will keep filling it up.

She talks in a gentle assertive voice. HRC pays no attention whatsoever, squawking and scolding and attacking. Then she tries to chase BHO off.

The fourth I call JMC. He is in some ways the most furtive and interesting. He does his best to avoid the other birds, although when he’s surprised, out pops the gorget and he does battle. But he prefers to wait until things are quiet, then sneak in and feed furtively until he’s full, and fly off. His preference is for lack of confrontation, but he definitely has a temper.

It’s fun to watch these four jockeying for position of “top bird” and finding ways to feed that suit their individual styles. Of course, the season is less than half over, so things may calm down.

But probably not. Rufus birds are just plain territorial and contentious. And it would be awfully boring if they all just got along.

Hillary, give it up

March 31, 2008

Now, I’m neither the youngest nor the brightest lightbulb in the fixture, but I do want to make it clear that I know my subject line isn’t the same as “Give it up for Hillary.” Nor do I mean it to be.

There’s a terrific Jimmy Margulies cartoon in today’s “Week In Review,” the op-ed section of the Sunday NY Times. The interviewer/commentator says: “The math is against you in delegates needed for the nomination. . .” and Hillary responds: “I didn’t give up at Valley Forge. . .I didn’t give up at Gettysburg. . .I didn’t give up at D-Day. . .and I’m not giving up now.”

Hillary, you have proven yourself a prevaricator without even the sense to understand when your untruths have been detected. I know you haven’t claimed to have invented the Internet or saved the free world single-handedly. But you have demonstrated the one characteristic that sends me running to the bathroom in case of projectile vomiting. You are the ultimate politician.

Sweetie, I’m your target demographic, an over-50 woman with a couple of college degrees, a lifetime in business, and a strong belief that a woman in the Presidency would bring something that’s badly needed.

But not you. Not now, not ever.

I’m old enough to have voted for both John Anderson and Ross Perot, knowing in each case that I was probably wasting my vote but hoping for something other than business-as-usual. I can honestly say I never even contemplated voting for Ralph Nader, however.

I’m of that rare breed called the “truly independent.” I was a registered Democrat for an extended period of time until I decided that the Democratic Party had lost its marbles. So then I became a registered Republican. Ditto with that party. For some time now, I’ve been registered without party affiliation.

I pay a price for that. I can’t vote (in Oregon, anyway) in any of the party primaries. I contemplated registering again as a Democrat just so I could vote against you in May, but then I realized how many fund-raising and ideological mailings I’d get and decided against it. I think my fellow Oregonians will take care of you here. Many of them actually have some sense.

But if you are banking on calling in chits with the “superdelegates” (and what a crock that is–a group of party “elite” in place to override the will of the voters in case they aren’t smart enough to choose the right candidate–this is democracy?), I hope you will think again. A candidate who gets there by such means will have no more credibility than a President elected by the Supreme Court, to quote someone else’s recent example.

So give it up. Now. Let’s get on with a race between two people who arguably are outsiders from the political establishment, let them present their views, and let the people choose. At this point you are merely a spoiler.

And while I’m busy ranting on this topic I almost never comment on, I have a few words for the other major candidates in this race:

Barack: The Jeremiah Wright thing told me a great deal more about your character than almost anything else you’ve done. I congratulate you for being forthright. I have lots of “sparring partners” with whom I don’t agree (otherwise, we wouldn’t be sparring now, would we?). In fact, if people evaluated my character by the folks that I tolerate and even like to argue with, they’d be way off the mark. Your response to these attacks told me you are really a grownup with a well-developed sense of a diverse world.

I don’t have the background to know the things that you “know” about racism. But I congratulate you on your ability to articulate your position without blowing in the wind.

John: I’m a long-time admirer of yours, but I frankly liked you a great deal better before the GOP apparently started coaching you on what was required to get elected. You’re sounding like a politician, and that isn’t one of your strengths.

I have a certain amount of faith in your common sense and straight talk. Don’t waffle now. Stay who you are, and I might even vote for you. Unlike many of my acquaintance, I don’t think foreign policy is going to be made in the campaign speeches. I just want to elect someone I feel comfortable can make it. No matter who is President, we don’t be out of Iraq tomorrow. But you buy yourself nothing by being so belligerent about it.

Now a few words for “my fellow Americans”: Hey, guys, if you haven’t noticed, the world is changing. It’s not just global warming, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the devalued dollar, and the globalized economy. It’s a comeuppance to the sort of economic colonialization that the U.S.A., as an economically powerful superpower, has been able to indulge in for decades.

If one definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and hoping for different results, then go toe your favorite party line and vote accordingly.

But if you are concerned about a viable (not necessarily wealthy or over-consuming, just viable) future for yourself and your childen, then take some time to look beyond the heirs apparent for a leader who can actually think. And vote accordingly.

Whoever is elected this fall steps into a mess. He/she will need all of our good wishes and help, so vote for someone you want to help advance “in the direction of your dreams” (to paraphrase Thoreau), not someone you think can fix all your problems.

That person doesn’t exist.

All the little plants seem snug in their beds

March 30, 2008

Woke up to snow on the ground. The morning offered more snow, hail, rain, and occasional sun breaks.

Mid afternoon we got one break long enough for me to get brave and dash down to the garden to check things out. Everything looks fine, if a tad rumpled in places. I think some of my sunflowers have sprouted, although it also looks like in a place or two the mice found the seeds. I’ll know more in a week or so, assuming that it doesn’t snow non-stop until then. Maybe even if it does.

I made chicken and dumplings for dinner. I can’t remember the last time I did that. I used the White Lily flour for the dumplings, and they were superb–light, fluffy, and flavorful. I am so bummed to hear that their plant is closing. I even got a nice note from one of their employees on my White Lily post. I think that post has drawn more comment than almost anything else I’ve written.

That’s tonight’s update. I would write a note or two about politics, but the whole thing is just too depressing to deal with tonight. Are there any other fans of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” out there? That’s the only time of the week I feel routinely like laughing at the news (which is the only truly sane approach).

There was a great “stupid crook” story on this morning’s show. Seems a guy in Chicago decided to rob a store. The employees told him that no one but the manager could open the safe and the manager wasn’t there. This mental giant said, “No problem.” He left his cell phone number and asked them to call him when the manager returned. They did, after first calling 911. There were a few extra people waiting when he returned to get the manager to open the safe.

Now, that really is it. . .

Well, this just chaps MY hide

March 29, 2008

I’m getting darned tired of this stupid weather. Spring officially arrived a week ago, and the next day I planted most of my early garden–brassicas, lettuce starts, green onions, snow peas, sunflowers, a few potatoes (the rest have to wait until we can till the bed again). I also planted another dahlia and four lilies.

Every day since then, it has rained, hailed, snowed, and otherwise generally misbehaved. If this is leading up to an April Fool’s Day blizzard, I am going to be really pissed.

I checked the starts yesterday and they looked fine. I’m afraid to go back and look again after a morning of snow and hail and a full afternoon of monster hail storms. So I’m ignoring things, at least for the moment.

A chicken carcass is simmering on the stove. I roasted a chicken tonight, made mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, and as we were stuffing our faces Ben looked over and said, “That chicken cries out to be made into soup.” And I started visualizing chicken and dumplings.

After a week of crappy weather I am really tired of feeding fires, but I told Ben if he’d feed the stove so I could do something else, I’d cook the chicken down and make something wonderful. He agreed, and before too long I’ll be able to set it off to cool and deal with it tomorrow.

I met all the poetry contest deadlines only to discover some other writing challenges. I’m working on a Malayan pantoum at the moment about a funeral. The pantoum lends itself wonderfully to ritual, and I suppose that’s what’s on my mind now. A week from tomorrow is Tom’s wake, and I’m running out of energy to deal with the emotions (other people’s, not my own–I’m just tired) that are surfacing around that.

So that’s what’s going on here tonight. Even the hummingbirds have been fighting all day. But I did re-engineer my feeder today and it works much better. It was prone to developing an airlock, and you had to go up every so often and give it a good whack. But as I was refilling it today, I found a spot that was obviously supposed to have a little air hole but hadn’t been punched all the way through. So I got a push pin and fixed it. Now it works great. I’m quite smug about that little piece of problem solving.

But I’m still going to be grumpy until I get some sunshine for more than 10 minutes at a time. . .

Tapping on the Buddha’s nose: a dilemma

March 20, 2008

So, I have this new toy, and it’s presenting me with a bit of a dilemma. I’m relying on my faithful blog readers to help me resolve it.

A friend who is an excellent metal sculptor made me a steel drum after learning how enamored I was of the music I heard in the Caribbean. It’s not your standard professional model. It’s a work of art. Hammered on the drum is what I think Fritz intended to be a sun with rays extending out to the edges.

However, the sun’s face looks exactly like the Buddha. If I had never noticed this, it would have been no problem. But since I have, I’m asking this question:

If I hit the Buddha’s nose with my mallet, and I being disrespectful?

I await your answers. This kind of thing keeps me awake all night.

A poem worth noting

March 18, 2008

I’m about to cut and paste a poem from today’s Writer’s Almanac. I’m sure I’m in deep violation of some copyright law or another, but this poem reminds me so much of Tom’s last days that I’m going to do it anyway. If it touches you, subscribe to Writer’s Almanac.

Poem: “Snow” by Elizabeth Tibbetts, from In the Well. – Bluestem Press, 2003.
Reprinted with permission.

Snow

The old, blue-eyed woman in the bed
is calling down snow. Her heart is failing,
and her eyes are two birds in a pale sky.
Through the window she can see a tree

twinkling with lights on the banking
beyond the parking lot. Lawns are still green
from unseasonable weather. Snow
will put things right; and, sure enough,

by four darkness carries in the first flakes.
Chatter, hall lights, and the rattle of walkers
spill through her doorway as she lies there?
ten miles (half a world) of ocean

between her and her home island.
She looks out from a bed the size of a dinghy.
Beyond the lit tree, beyond town, open water
accepts snow silently and, farther out,

the woods behind her house receive the snow
with a faint ticking of flakes striking needles
and dry leaves-a sound you would not believe
unless you’ve held your breath and heard it.

Tom died tonight

March 17, 2008

Thanks to all of you who have borne with this saga so patiently.

Tom died peacefully, apparently at full rest.

I will miss him tremendously, but I am so glad he has gone on to whatever comes next.