More snow blew in last night. I know it's silly, but it makes me happy as a little kid. In winters past, I've always had to go to work, which meant keeping the car parked up on the road and driving down the mountain when what I really wanted to do was stay home and enjoy it. Snow is just rare enough at this elevation in the Sierras to make it a pleasure for those of us with Scandahoovian blood in our veins.
And, because I can, I've posted a few more photos. The first is what I saw when I got up this morning. The second, almond blossoms in the snow. And the third is the cat having a drink the the way he prefers it -- fresh from the bathroom tap.
To my relief, a nice young man stopped by today and offered to shovel the entire driveway for me. He left his phone number so that if we happen to get this much snow again, and I can't get the car out without giving myself a heart attack, I can call him. Price was good, he and his two buddies did the work in a fraction of the time I'd have managed it in, and they did it with smiles.
This should be the last of the snow for a while, though. Forecast is for springlike weather again by Friday.
On a much more sober note, the neighbor my psychodog bit in a misguided attempt to defend me has a blood infection and, as of last night, was in the hospital. I hardly know what to say. "I'm sorry" just doesn't do it.
28 February 2007
27 February 2007
Thinking (one assumes) that my short, slight, mild-mannered neighbor was going to attack me as we opened our side-by-side mailboxes a couple of days ago, my heroic but addlepated psychodog leapt to my defense and, quick as lightning and out of nowhere, bit the man on the calf.
My neighbor yelled, I yelled, and the psychodog went running back down the driveway, where he waited at the halfway-down point for me, cowed by being called a “BAD DOG!” while I apologized profusely to my poor neighbor and we inspected the damage to his leg. The psychodog’s teeth had broken his skin, one of the punctures was welling blood, but it didn’t appear deep.
He told me he’d let me know if there was any problem. He said he didn’t want to report the bite, because the county would “take away your dog.” Now, this guy has been our caddy-corner neighbor on this back-roads cul-de-sac for as long as we’ve lived here, which will be 10 years next November. Until recently, I was always away, working down the mountain in the daytime, so I’ve never gotten to know him well, but we’ve always been friendly. And he knows the psychodog, who we rarely have out in front with us unless he’s leashed or otherwise restrained because he’s so insanely protective.
Stupidly, this time I'd let the dog come outside with me. The street is so quiet, you see, and with the snow, no one was around. He just loves the snow; he was nosing around in the laurels at the bottom of the drive, snuffing up snootfuls of white, powdery snow as I waded up the steep drive to the mailbox. I’d just stopped to ponder the deep drift left in front of it by the county snowplow, wondering if I could reeeeaaach across it to the box, when my neighbor drove up, hopped out of his car, and smiling a greeting, joined me to get his mail.
After the psychodog chomped him, he went back into his house, and I went back into mine. The psychodog got a thorough scolding – lots of “BAD DOGs” -- and I refused to touch him. I even turned my back when he tried to nuzzle my hand and make nice. He knew he’d screwed up, big time. After a minute, he went to the very, darkest end of the hallway and laid down, his face to the corner. He stayed there for close to three hours.
It turns out that the following day, my neighbor woke up with a low-grade temperature. So he went to the doctor and reported that he’d been bitten by my dog. The doctor, of course, contacted animal control. I haven’t heard yet whether being bitten had anything to do with his fever. I sure hope not.
A very large animal control officer with a star on his chest just stopped by. The psychodog is under quarantine until March 5. Lucky for him, it’s just house arrest, as the officer was surprisingly sympathetic when I told him that being taken away from Mr. Wren, me and his familiar surroundings would completely undo this dog. He’d be so frightened, so totally freaked ...
After the officer left, I called the vet’s office and asked them to please fax the dog’s rabies vaccination certificate to the county, which they agreed to do posthaste. He’s not due for a rabies booster until July.
He’s just a psychodog. We’ve had him since he was a puppy; he’s always been deeply and, unfortunately, ferociously suspicious of people outside his pack. We tried, when he was still quite young, to socialize him as we were training him, but to no avail. We finally gave up, afraid he might bite someone who didn't listen when we said "NO! Don't pet him!" Still, he was always a very intelligent dog and anxious, so anxious, to please. So he’s well-trained and obeys our commands. If I'd seen him coming up the drive intent on his dog-hero mission, I'd have stopped him with a "NO!" I feel like such a fool.
I’ve lived with the fear that this could happen someday, even as I’ve loved this dog more than any other dog I’ve ever had the privilege to share my life with. He’s never been mistreated and he’s had nothing but goofy affection for us.
My poor psychodog just has a screw or two loose inside his beautiful head. House arrest is a blessing – at least they didn’t drag him away in muzzle and chains.
And now, I'll need to go talk to my neighbor and offer to pay for his doctor bill.
26 February 2007
I hope you’ll all forgive my spate of snow-blogging. It’s been fun. I needed the gentle diversion. And frankly, I’ve been so dismayed by everything I’m reading in the news lately that I simply haven’t been able to pin down a single coherent point.
In that, I’m sure I’m much like our Dear Leader, who has long had coherence issues. George, I’ve got a suggestion for you. Try snow-blogging. It’s non-impact exercise, isn’t fattening unless you bring the package of Chips Ahoy with you to your desk and, as far as I know, hasn’t taken food or medical care from little kids, elders or veterans, interred any illegal immigrants or their children, got anyone killed or started any new, deplorable wars.
While you’re at it, my brother-in-babble, slap some duct tape over Dick Cheney’s mouth and lock him up in his undisclosed location. With Big Dick as a friend,
You see, while you’re snow-blogging you start noticing the sorts of things that most people, all around the world, are most interested in. Talk about your hearts and minds! You’ll discover things like, oh, birds, for example. Like me, you might take to sitting at your kitchen window with the digital camera ready, hoping a Steller’s jay might land on the suet feeder stake right there and stay just long enough for you to snap a good photo. It would make you feel really good, George.
As you snow-blog, you’ll discover that keeping the stove stoked with seasoned firewood so you can back up to it and warm your butt is a really nice, simple pleasure. Sure, there’s a little prep-work involved – I’ve done some writing about that below, in earlier posts – but it’s more than worthwhile. There’s just nothing like the heat of a nice fire to make you feel all calm and non-belligerent.
Snow-blogging doesn’t rile up the brain-cells, it soothes them, George. Before you know it, you’ll be putting on your snowsuit (the one with the presidential seal on the left chest) so you can take ol’ Barney out for a rousing snow-romp. He’ll look so cute, chesting his short way through the snow, that stiff little tail up like a flag! You can build snow-presidents! If you’re still feeling a little aggressive after that, there’s nothing like schlepping together a hefty snow-bunker and throwing well-aimed snowballs at Condi. She’ll shriek and laugh and try to throw some girly-snowballs back at you, but mainly you’ll just get a good har-dee-har-har out of the whole exercise.
So will she. I’m sure it will be good for you both. But George, you’ll have to quash that urge to pack those snowballs into hardened projectiles. They hurt and really, hurting people misses the whole point.
Remember, we’re working on that tendency to incoherence and learning how actual people – the ones you have wet dreams about bombing and maybe even nuking – actually live.
Snow-blogging also helps to work up a good appetite for food, rather than revenge. Why, just yesterday it inspired me to bake a little blueberry-walnut bread – a delicacy, George, when it’s warm with melted butter, believe me – and for supper, to try an actual meat loaf. I hadn’t made one of those for years! My last attempt resembled a heavy, oval brick, better for throwing like a football than for eating. I didn’t throw it, but the dogs enjoyed it. They’ll eat anything. My meat loaf turned out wonderful this time, savory and good, with feta cheese stuffed into the middle.
I’m sure you could come up with something just as delicious, thanks to snow-blogging. Just a warning, though – don’t hide those razor blades in the meat loaf, George. That’s just plain mean. I know, I know, where’s the fun, then? But really, you just have to give it a try.
Snow-blogging makes you sleepy, too, because throwing snowballs and walking to the market in the snow is sorta hard work. Now I know you’re good at hard work, George, because you’ve talked about how much of it you do all the time. What’s nice about this kind of hard work is that no one has to die because you’re doing it! And after you come back inside, and warm your butt by that nice fire and eat some of your blueberry-walnut bread, you’ll want to stretch out in your favorite Presidential Chair with a comic book and indulge in a nice nap.
Naps are good. Everyone likes naps. Even the Iranians.
But you know what the greatest thing about about snow-blogging is, George? It reminds you that you’re human, and that the best things in life, really, are very simple. Warmth, food, friends, family, laughter, play. Snow-blogging makes you feel like you’re an intimate part of human race. It raises your ability to empathize with people you don’t even know! And it gives you the most gentle, serene sense of peace, George. You’d benefit a lot from that, I just know it.
So would the rest of us.
25 February 2007
Yesterday the price for the beautiful snowfall I’ve been enjoying the last few days came due. The wood-ring by the stove was empty, the last stove-length burning merrily away. There was no way around it. It was time to shovel my way to the stacked, tarped, snow-covered wood pile (the photo) sprinkle de-icer and cart several loads inside.
Mr. Wren was recently disabled by osteoarthritis, along with old injuries received while he was in the Army years ago, so this is no longer a job he can do. (Well, he can in a pinch, but the groaning!) So I did it, bundled into snow-boots, hat and gloves. It took me about an hour – not bad, if I do say so myself – and when I was finished, the wood-ring was filled and I’d worked up quite a sweat.
They say heating with wood warms you twice – the first time is while as you cut and stack the wood, the second when you burn it. I’ll add a third time – when you shovel a path throught the snow to the wood so you can carry it inside.
There’s another storm coming through. Right now, we’re back to that “wintery mix” of rain and snow, so a lot of the snow that had already fallen has melted or turned to slush. Later today it’s supposed to start snowing again and could keep on, I hear, until sometime tomorrow.
As I ate an egg on toast this morning – our hens are inexplicably producing more eggs again; it must be the lengthening days, not the weather that makes them do it – I noticed that we were just about out of bread, along with milk for cereal. While we could undoubtedly live without both, I’d miss the bread for my afternoon sandwich and Mr. Wren would miss the milk, since he’s the big cereal-eater around here.
I should, I thought a little glumly, get to the grocery store, particularly since there’s more snow in the forecast. A lot more. Might be several days before we can get out without having to chain up a car.
This presented a small conundrum. Both cars are parked under the carport at the bottom of our very steep driveway, and there’s still about 4 inches of wet, heavy snow covering most of it. I could get out there and shovel the whole thing – not a pleasant prospect – or I could bundle up and hike the half-mile or so to the little mom-and-pop store here in town.
So that’s what I did. While Mr. Wren watched the Gardening Guy on HGTV, dreaming of late spring and summer, I pulled on coat, boots, hat and gloves again and set out through the wind and rain/snow for the wee store, hoping that the weather hadn’t kept them from getting deliveries, or that my neighbors hadn’t stocked up on bread and milk for the duration, facing me with empty shelves when I got there.
It was a good walk, enjoyable in spite of getting wet, fun to slumphhh my boots into the snow, slush and puddles knowing that they’re good boots, nice and warm, and completely waterproof. The air was icy cold and invigorating. The smoke rising from the chimneys of the little old mill cottages that make up most of the village (this used to be a lumber-mill town and still is, for many of the residents) looked quaint and inviting. A raven flew over, croaking.
The return trip got me puffing – it’s uphill – but Mr. Wren opened the door for me when I reached the house. I handed him the bag with the loot and stripped off my sodden hat and coat. It was warm inside – the stove is burning nicely – and I could smell coffee brewing. I’ve just bought a couple more days worth of lazy snow-ecstacy. It’s Sunday, I’m relaxed and comfortable, Mr. Wren is snoozing and the cat is in meatloaf position on my lap while the dog sleeps in the doorway, guarding me from possible attack by ninja intruders.
What more could a Wren ask for?
23 February 2007
It snowed again overnight. I woke this morning to great blobs of it like clotted cream spooned over the hedgerow and weighing down the branches of the cedars and pines. I think I can safely say there’s about 8 inches of snow now. More is in the forecast for the next few days, but right now, the clouds are breaking up a bit and the sun is coming through. It’s just glorious.
I’ve posted a few pics of the psychodog pretending to be a heroic and noble Alaskan sled dog. Tried to toss him snowballs with my left hand and catch him in the act of chomping them on the camera with my right, but it was a wash. But isn’t he a fine fellow, anyway? Our next snow outing will be to cart in more stove wood.
I’m going to try to get a photo of a Steller’s jay – Mr. Wren tossed black sunflower seeds all over the snow outside the kitchen window this morning, so perhaps one will pose for me. That’s for Madison Guy and anyone else who’s curious about these large, gorgeous, bold and raucous birds. I’m absolutely enamored of them – they always make me smile.
In the meantime, I’ll make some garlicky chicken soup, set it to simmer and then settle down by the fire with A.J. Cronin’s great old book, The Citadel. It’s the story of young doctor in a Welsh mining town in the early 1920s. I read it when I was about 15, loved it, and recently rediscovered it. It's just as good -- maybe even better -- than I remembered.
I can’t think of much to say about the situation out there in the world. Today, it all just makes me sad for all of us. It looks like the “surge” in
Congressional action to put a halt to the carnage seems to be at a standstill unless the Republicans go along. They won’t. Why should they? They’re getting rich.
In other news, people are actually debating the merits of Dinesh D’Souza’s argument that
I dunno. I’ve gotten along just fine without religious piety all my life, and I think my morals beat out the crazy Christers' hands down. I don't want to kill anyone, steal their oil, destroy their homes and livelihoods or force my way of life on them. Is that immoral?
Hard to believe, sometimes, that it's 2007.
22 February 2007
Here’s what the snow does: It shuts down Highway 50, which is about a half-mile down the mountain from here. The mountainside usually magnifies the sound of traffic, especially the growl and rattle of the semis, but when it snows enough, all that stops and a hush falls. From inside, the snow falls silently, but if I go out, I can hear it, soft, oh so soft.
It’s after now and it’s been snowing since about 8. There’s at least 4 inches of snow on the ground, and it shows no sign of stopping.
Here’s what snow does: It narrows my world down to the warm house and the short distances I can see from my windows. Whatever else is happening out there in world becomes unimportant in the greater distance. On the highway, people are griping and cussing because they have to wait if it they want to go up or down the mountain. Up is Tahoe with its beautiful ski resorts and magnificent lake – it’s Thursday, and you can bet there are a lot of skiers on the road, taking a couple of spontaneous days off so they can enjoy the deep snow building up at the resorts just 40 miles up the mountain from here.
Soon they’ll all be griping more, because the plows will have cleared the highway, but with the storm still on, vehicles will be required to have chains on their tires. There’s a whole industry that takes care of this problem for well-heeled ski enthusiasts from the Bay Area – local guys in snowsuits, thick gloves and thick grins, the fur around their hoods rimed with ice, charging $50 or more along the side of the freeway to put chains on cars for their snarling, eye-rolling, lowlander owners who aren’t dressed for snow-kneeling. Some people will have to turn around and go back down the mountain and buy chains; they’re the ones that think their SUVs can climb Echo Summit on summer tires because, you know, they own an Exterminator with 4-wheel drive.
I just went outside and stood on the porch in my slippers, camera in hand. The dog went for a quick romp and came back, and as I asked him to stop and pose, a big drift of snow slid off a branch from high up in a cedar tree across the road at the top of the drive.
“SsssSSHHUUuuussshhhhhh...” it said.
Dog got all shy, like he does every time I aim the camera at him. And still the snow falls. Forecast said maybe we’d get an inch or two at this elevation. Tomorrow.
Here’s what the snow does: The Steller’s jays stop scolding each other. They disappear deep into the evergreens, grudgingly making room for their shouting-buddies on the branch. “Yeah, come on in, Fred. It’s cold. Lend your feathers, puff up, boy.”
The house finches and goldfinches vanish too, along with the tufted titmice and bushtits and rufus towhees. The robins won’t be back for another month, yet, but there are daffodils blooming under the snow by the drive, now. I saw a tiny Anna’s hummingbird flitting among the dormant climbing roses the other day; I wonder where a hummingbird goes when it snows, and how it stays warm, being such a tiny, solitary bird. The Bewick’s wren pair, I know, are huddled deep in the tangled blackberry, grapevine and lopped pine hedgerow that forms a border between our up-hill neighbor and ourselves.
Here’s what the snow does: I stop writing, go to the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee. I notice the fire has burned down in the stove, and put a couple more heavy, split almond stove-lengths. As I pass the sliding window, I notice the wood pile, covered with a brown tarp and a huge load of snow. When I go out there, perhaps sooner than I’d expected to, I’ll be digging my way through the snow to get to it. I smile. The dog is gonna love this. While I’m up, I notice the juncos are out at the suet feeder. They’re migrants – they only live here in the winter time, and when it snows, they’re about the only birds it doesn’t seem to bother much. I snap a few photos, hoping I’ll be able to figure out how to get them, along with the other photos I’ve been taking, into Blogger.
: Snow is still falling. It’s like a dream.
All of you who’ve had to dig out of several feet of snow and live with driving on icy roads in other parts of the country for the last several weeks will greet this new post with a collective groan of disgust, but guess what?
It’s finally snowing here! Wooohoooo!
OK, at the moment it’s snowing and raining at the same time, a “wintery mix,” according to my Yahoo weather page. But after the driest January recorded since 1880, when they first started keeping records, and a February that has been barely wetter, this is very good news.
It’s been so dry around here than when I pick up my old cat, Mr. PIB, we strike a spark of static electricity, which startles us both.
A little later: Now, it’s snowing. No “wintery mix,” this is the real thing. The snow is falling and falling, turning the world outside into a study in black and white.
I found Mr. Wren playing on his computer at the other end of the house and told him, “It’s snowing!” I know, this must be truly annoying. It’s not even and I’m happy as a kid, going from window to window, looking at the various views. They all look different, magical somehow, in the snow.
“F**king snow,” he grumped, but grinned.
“Well, you’re not going anywhere,” I observed.
“No, but if I wanted to go somewhere, I couldn’t. Because of the f**king snow!”
Both of our cars are parked under the carport at the bottom of our steep driveway. Unless I’m up for shoveling, we’re housebound for the duration. But I was thinking ahead – or rather, hoping ahead. I did all my errands yesterday. And I brought enough wood inside for the stove to last a couple of days. There’s plenty more wood outside, too, a good excuse for some snowplay with the dog, who loves catching snowballs. He leaps into the air and snaps his jaws closed on them, spraying snow from the sides of his mouth. He can do this for hours, given the opportunity.
While I was out yesterday, I stopped by the local hardware store. When I went to have my purchases tallied, the owner and the clerk at the register were both exclaiming over the satellite picture on the little TV they have behind the counter.
“Yep, it’s coming,” the owner said, grinning. “We’ll have some snow by tomorrow morning.”
We all talked for a few minutes about how dry and unseasonably warm it's been – only a few brief rain showers in the last two months, and no snow at all. We were all looking forward to this storm.
Then he said, wryly, “Of course it’s going to snow. Tomorrow’s delivery day!”
The Wren’s nest is at about 3,200 feet, right at the snowline in the Sierras. We get some snow each winter, but usually not a lot – a few inches here and there that melt within a couple of days. Occasionally, we get more – since I started this post, about an inch has built up on the branches of the sour gum tree outside my window – and the snow is still falling. Maybe this will be one of the big ones – finally – and we’ll have a foot. Dare I hope for more?
I grew up in the valley, where there was never any snow. It was something that happened in other places, not where I lived. While I can remember a few times when I went “up to the snow” with my relatives, they were the only times that I got to build snowmen or toss snowballs. I was entranced.
Much, much later, as an adult, I learned to ski, taking classes in the Austrian alps north of Graz. I’m not a good skier – I’m ridiculously afraid of heights – but I loved every terrifying minute of those ski trips. My favorite part (go ahead, laugh) was sitting at the little chalets high up on the mountainside, resting, warming up and taking courage in the form of Jaegertee. And gazing, with awe and reverence, at the stunning, craggy, snowy mountains all around me.
This must be the Finn in me coming out. I also learned to cross-country ski in the
Let it snow. Oh, let it snow.
21 February 2007
U.S. government contractor Raytheon, the world’s largest maker of missiles, has come up with a microwave, or “millimeter wave energy” pain weapon.
When pointed at you, the Silent Guardian Protection System makes you feel like you’re on fire, effectively focusing your concentration on getting the hell away from it.
The U.S. Department of Defense, which unveiled the weapon in late January during a demonstration at Moody AFB in
Ideally, the heat beam doesn’t actually burn you, it just makes you feel like you’re burning. The company claims the weapon causes no physical harm; the “burning” sensation ends the moment the operator refocuses the “ray” away from your body or you move out of its focus.
What the heat beam does is penetrate the skin to a depth of 1/64th of an inch, heating it to 130 degrees. Apparently, after a few seconds, the discomfort becomes “intolerable;” getting away from it is both instinctive and imperative.
The DoD hopes to use these weapons in
There is a good argument for crowd-control devices which don’t actually injure people, devices that can be focused on individuals rather than groups (unlike tear gas, which makes everyone in the immediate area gasp for air and cry). Other non-lethal weapons used for crowd control, like rubber bullets and bean-bag rounds, have sometimes gone terribly wrong, maiming and badly injuring people, even killing them. If you’re in a crowd of protesters, being injured or even killed just for standing there and shouting slogans might seem a bit over the top.
Non-lethal rounds fired from guns also have the drawback of requiring the shooter to be in fairly close proximity to the raging mob. The heat beam is effective up to 500 meters and can be used from a safe distance.
So a weapon that doesn’t actually harm anyone, but does make them rethink their argument very quickly – in fact, makes them run away as fast as they can go -- is hard to argue against. It sounds like a great idea.
And it would be, if the weapon was foolproof and never used, changed, or “improved” for darker or more deadly purposes.
Yeah, I believe that, too.
Mr. Wren and I had a propane-fueled, on-demand water heater installed here at the Wren’s Nest a few years back. The manual recommends that the temperature be set for no more than 125 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than adequate for our showers. Our dishwasher heats the already hot water up quite a lot more for sanitation purposes, so I’m happy. The reason the manual gives for limiting the temperature to 125 degrees, though, is that water hotter than that – say, 130 degrees – can scald human skin within a few seconds.
Now, imagine what might happen if the ADS heat beam was directed on a person who was sweating, or wet. The risk for people wearing contact lenses, eye glasses, carrying keys or coins, wearing clothing with metal zippers, buttons or belt buckles is also a concern. And what if you can’t run for some reason when the beam hits you? Does it just keep burning ... and burning ...?
Because the weapon shoots the microwave heat as a beam of light, it can bounce off buildings, water and even the ground. Tests showed that such phenomenon could conceivably double the intensity of the microwave heat. Wouldn't want to be in the way of that ricochet.
In one instance during testing, a volunteer victim was accidentally subjected to an intensified beam by the ADS operator, which caused second-degree burns. Seems the device was turned up too high.
The ADS prototype weighs, with its power source, around five tons. It’s cumbersome and, one expects, probably very expensive.
But so were computers, once upon a time. The first one I worked with in the early 80s took up the entire floor of a very large building; the computer I’m writing this post on is smaller than a school binder, and can do far more. My laptop is huge compared to a Blackberry. And I have a little ol’ one gigabyte thumb drive that’s – yes, the size of than my thumb and can store immense amounts of information. If I write posts for this blog until I’m 95, I’ll probably never fill it up.
Technology has grown so sophisticated that it doesn’t take long anymore to make things smaller, cheaper, better, with far more functions.
Apparently, DoD has come up with a smaller version already which can be mounted on a modified Humvee. Raytheon, thinking ahead, is working on an even smaller ADS, mounted on a tripod, which could be used by local police forces.
My overwrought imagination conjures visions straight out of Star Trek. That phaser that Capt. Kirk used could stun, injure or kill, depending on how threatened he felt at the moment. It could cut through metal, melt stone and even disintegrate things. Being nothing more than a concentrated ray of energized light, its range was immense. It was hand-sized, accurate and fit on his belt (even during his late chunky period), and it was instantly ready for any emergency.
Hold on to your hats. Raytheon is also working on a "personnel halting and stimulation response" device for commercial use. A “PHaSR.”
20 February 2007
What a heinous, shameful bunch of people we have leading this country, making their blood-smeared war profits off the backs of our soldiers, tossing them in offhand wads at a cynically manufactured enemy, then discarding them like useless, broken tools.
Our soldiers. Our children. Our loved ones. Our future.
And because our fellow Americans are destroyed in such small numbers – two today, none tomorrow, four the next day – and because they hide them away in flag-covered boxes and scabrous, hellish hotels -- we hardly know the extent of the waste.
Barak Obama was subjected to the baying hounds of shining righteousness recently for forgetting himself and calling the war in
“... we ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged, and to which we now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.”
He apologized for his “gaffe.” It seems that even after four years of carnage, Americans aren’t ready to face the monstrous facts yet. But Obama spoke the simple truth.
The war in
We’ve forgotten, as we live our blank-eyed Wal-Mart lives, lulled by big-screen TVs and Carl’s Jr., frightened like gullible children by tales of the bogeyman, that we are the People of America, and this country belongs to us, not to those bloated, croaking toads and dark ravens of avarice who’ve cheated their way into power, the ones who call themselves our leaders. The ones who are sending the most patriotic and dedicated among us to die terrible deaths or be maimed and broken forever.
We have the power to end this war, this terrible waste of lives, of national treasure, of the very future of our democracy. But the vast majority of us remain silent. Perhaps when our own sons and daughters, our own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters are destroyed for the sake of Halliburton profits and George W. Bush’s dark “legacy,” perhaps then we’ll speak.
But it will be too late.
18 February 2007
This winter season has been full of big changes. I’m still coming to terms with a period of unemployment that looks to be more extended than I’d expected it to be. It’s pleasant and terrifying at the same time. Ah, well. Live on the edge.
And on Thursday last week, the fledgling spread her wings, tested the air currents, found them good, and flew. She’s making her own nest now.
It’s another new thing to get used to. Of course, having my daughter and her sweet young man move out wasn’t a surprise; the arrangement was never meant to be permanent. And she’s more than ready to be out on her own, facing the world as an adult in her own right. She knows where I am if she needs some hugs, encouragement, or a cache of grasshoppers to hold her over until the next paycheck.
Nor is it the first time she’s been gone. By the time she’d returned from art school in
Still, it’s good to see her soaring now, bright and confident, as ready as she can be to face whatever life brings her. I hope her future is filled with joy, love and the knowledge that she’s cherished, wherever the air currents lead.
13 February 2007
In case you hadn't noticed, Blue Wren has a beautiful new banner, created specifically for moi by talented Photoshop wizard Patrick Hillman, proprietor of the clever and engaging blog, Blowing Shit Up With Gas.
It all started when Patrick suggested that perhaps it was time for Blue Wren to have a new banner. I agreed, but admitted that I had no idea how this might be done. He offered to noodle on it for me.
A few days later, he'd come up with the basic design. I loved the wren, a plucky, bold, chubby wee bird with a song that can melt the coldest heart. I liked the rest of the banner, too, and so did Patrick, but he wanted to play with it a little bit more. Another design, this one with a more "feminine" typeface and background, arrived via e-mail the following day. I liked it, too ... but it didn't have the same oomph.
It's not easy to translate sometimes vague concepts into words, and then graphics that convey images and feelings. Patrick was stalwart, however. And before I knew it, I was looking for typefaces to try to help him out. Then I was sketching ... having fun. The scanned image above is what I sent to help show him what I couldn't describe very well in words.
And voila -- he sent back the banner you see at the top of the blog. I'm delighted! And awed by his technical expertise, as well. I'm not up on much of this stuff -- HTML coding makes my eyes cross and I'm terrified, every time I look cautiously into the template, that I'm going to mess something up and not know what it was I did, exactly. But Patrick is all over this stuff. He even uploaded the banner for me.
And so here's a big thank you for Patrick Hillman, a most talented and generous fellow. Stop by BSUWG and linger a while. He's done some mighty fine writing, much of it funny (today's riff on toilet paper had me chortling). And while you're there, check out his book, "Pirates of Pamlico Sound" and his screenplay, "Wood's Confection." Both are downloadable from his site.
12 February 2007
Short of taking up pitchforks and torches, hopping up and down and shouting until we’re hoarse, could we, as the American people, have been more clear in Nov. 2006 that we wanted our troops home from
Voters dumped a whole passel of Republican enablers and voted for Democrats to take their places in Congress. Believing in our democracy, we turned out to cast our ballots in great numbers.
Polls have shown that over 70 percent of the people in
And all this while cutting taxes for the richest Americans and sticking the rest of us – and our children, and grandchildren – with the bill.
I know it’s unlikely that any Congress members on either side of the aisle are reading this humble blog, wasting your beautiful minds thinking about my words. But if you are, might I respectfully request that you please
Quit fooling around with symbolic resolutions and work at the speed of light to refuse further funding for the escalation of this war, set quick and firm schedules to bring our soldiers home, and stop that maniac Bush before he can start yet another, new war of aggression with Iran. This is a disaster. Please. Hurry.
09 February 2007
My dad, the sweetest, greatest guy in the world was smart, a reader of history, knowledgeable about the world around him. He served in the Korean conflict and earned his accounting degree with the help of the GI Bill. He was a successful businessman and even in retirement, had a huge circle of friends and acquaintances. The funeral home was packed to the doors for his memorial when he passed away at 77 years old.
He was also a conservative and a lifelong member of the Republican Party. Yet for most of his life he was open minded and loved nothing more than a good, genial debate. I can’t say that he often changed his mind, but he understood that others had other opinions and views that differed from his, and that they also had relevance.
I went the other way. I became a liberal, a progressive and a Democrat. I think I know why, now.
Our discussions over the years always ended with both of us agreeing that we disagreed, but that changed during the last 15 years or so of Dad’s life. Bright, articulate and curious, he always had the TV on and listened to the radio in his car. He always knew what was going on in the wider world. But his TV news channel of choice was Fox, and on the radio, he tuned in a local talk station that carried Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk show hosts. He was getting his news, but it was propaganda. As intelligent as he was, Dad was never able to discern the line of bull they were feeding him. And he’d get angry if I tried to point it out.
When I was kid – 10 years old, I think – I read a book called “The Forgotten Door,” by Alexander Key (thank you, Google!). The story was about a boy from another planet who, while playing one evening, fell through a long forgotten door in a hillside that joined his world and ours. Hurt, disoriented and frightened, he was discovered by a local family and taken home. The boy was a telepath who could hear what others were thinking, including animals, and he quickly discovered that this world and his were very different. Here, people used money to buy the things and services they needed; on his world, people shared what they had and helped each other. Here, people thought unkind things about others, or pitied them, but didn’t offer to help them learn how to do things better. It bewildered him.
I believe it was that book that first put the concept into my mind that there might be worlds other than ours in the universe. But beyond that, it also made me aware that there were other ways of thinking and other ways of doing things – ways that might have the same validity, too. I identified with the isolated protagonist and shared his wonder. And when I was finished reading The Forgotten Door, I told my Dad about it. He loved reading and had opened the world of books to me; I wanted him to read this book so he could tell me what he thought. I wanted to discuss it with him. I had a lot of questions.
But Dad wouldn’t read it, which disappointed me. Looking back, I imagine it was because, as an adult, he couldn’t imagine getting any joy from reading a children’s book. Still, he put his newspaper down and listened as I described the story. When I got to the part about using barter rather than money, and sharing rather than selling needed goods and services, I asked him why we didn’t do that, too. It seemed a much kinder, fairer way to live than the way we did.
“But sweetie,” Dad said, “that’s communism.”
“It is?” I was shocked. I knew that Communism was bad and that my country was fighting a “Cold War” against the Communists. They wanted to destroy us and our way of life. I’d never thought about it, before that. It just was, like the moon just was.
“Why?” I asked.
And so he explained, briefly, the concept of the collective, why it was considered bad – even evil, in our country -- and why capitalism and democracy were better. I argued, using my newfound understanding of another way. It might have been our very first political discussion, now that I think about it.
Finally, he said, “Honey, you’re just an idealist.”
An idealist? That one I didn’t get – but the matter was closed, as far as he was concerned.
And he was exactly right, too. I was then and I still am an idealist. Sure, the years – and reality -- have tempered my idealism with pragmatism, but I still yearn for a world in which human beings could be kinder to each other, and put their minds to ways to help each other, rather than taking advantage of each other. Most of the time, I no longer believe it will ever happen.
And then, I read something like this, and that old idealism and hope flares in my mind again, just like it did when I read “The Forgotten Door.”
08 February 2007
President Bush evidently feels that the resolution Congress passed in 2002 allowing him to wage “pre-emptive” war in
Here’s what I’d like to know. Rather than pussyfoot around, trying to come up with non-binding symbolic resolutions to bring troops out of
Don’t laugh. I know that’s why the Founders added impeachment as a way to stop criminal, rogue action on the part of the Executive branch.
But so far, the Democratic Congress is dragging its feet regarding the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, though with the stakes so high for America and her constitutional democracy, I’m not sure why. Seems to me that the time to do this has come. If they wait even a few weeks more, it could be too late.
No doubt someone better versed than I in politics and the Constitution could explain it to me.
And yet ... we’re facing a disaster of huge proportions, should Bush finagle a way to attack
Sadly, some of us never believed those lies. Our voices were ignored, or worse, we were called unpatriotic. Or traitors. Just like ... now.
Bush is saying the same thing. We’re moving into the middle of February. In March, the weather is better in the
Faced with a leader who spouts whoppers with stunning regularity to the people who trust him to lead, and who leads them into disastrous, criminal wars of aggression, isn’t it time for the other branches of our government to simply step in and say, “no more”? Can’t Congress, at the very least, swiftly pass a binding, emergency resolution that reduces this particular presidency and vice presidency to the status of figureheads, there in name but without the power to do anything more than dress up in flight suits and purple robes and strut around in a padded room? Then the adults could put out this three-alarm fire of a war in Iraq and, sharing leadership powers equally, get to the long, grim work of mopping up the mess. In the meantime, both parties could work on bringing good candidates to the 2008 presidential election.
If the CEO of a corporation behaved the way Bush has, a competent board of directors would fire him -- and they wouldn’t wait until he’d bled the company dry and started torching the buildings. But we aren’t talking about companies that make widgets. Bush, Cheney and their enablers are frittering away Iraqi and American lives as if they’re nothing but playing pieces on a board while we, the ones who could stop them, do nothing, hoping against all hope that they aren’t insane after all.
07 February 2007
Perhaps I’m misreading the situation, but the more I read about the Republican shut-down of the Congressional vote against Bush’s escalation of the war yesterday, the more it sounds like Orwellian NewSpeak: “Support the troops! Send more of them to their deaths!”
I’m getting so very tired of this.
Pardon me, but it seems to me that Americans can best support their sons and daughters in uniform by bringing them home, preferably alive, in one piece and with their minds intact from the illegal war of choice started by Bush and his Republican enablers, not by sending yet more of them into the inferno.
But in the surreal world of the Bush cult, black is white, up is down, war is peace, and good is bad.
Joe Lieberman today said that he thought there should be a “war on terror tax” to help pay for that sham to make up for the huge budget shortfalls facing
Huh-uh, bub. You’ve already been getting a good portion of my income for years now – and squandering it. The war on terror is a sham. It was a sham from the start. How dare you stand up there in front of the Senate and suggest that now, after six bloody years of Republican incompetence, hubris, pork-barrel greed and warmongering, that average Americans haven’t been asked to sacrifice enough to you. More than 3,000 dead American soldiers isn’t good enough for you? More that $364 billion in national treasure, including my taxes, being tossed into the sucking black hole you crazy neocons created in Iraq isn't enough?
Holy hell. And you claim to be a Democrat? Shame on you, Lieberman.
Your ugly tax isn’t about supporting a war to protect
Update: My buddy Patrick of Blowing Shit Up With Gas points out that Lieberman is an Independent now, which is true. After he lost the Democratic primary race for his senate seat in Connecticut to Ned Lamont, Lieberman abandoned the Democratic Party, became an Independent, and won the state's general election in Nov. 2006. He now caucuses with the Democrats and until recently, coyly called himself an "Independent Democrat." But Lieberman is an unabashed warmonger, a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, on kissy-face terms with President Bush and hasn't ruled out switching over to the Republican Party if it looks more politically expedient to him. Like his shadow masters in the Republican party, he's not listening to his constituency or the American people, and I still think he ought to be ashamed of himself. Not that he will.
With friends like Sen. Joe Lieberman, who needs enemies?
06 February 2007
I read this morning on the BBC News website that the Iranian envoy in
Mmm. Maybe, maybe not.
As each day passes, it seems more and more possible -- even likely, in spite of the public outcry against it in this country -- that we will soon be waging another mindless war of choice and opportunity with
In the meantime, Congress wastes precious time playing one-upmanship games over Bush’s escalation of our current catastrophe in
Think about that.
While they compare penises, people are dying in unspeakable violence and
On the other hand, I watched a beautiful moon-set this morning. The three-quarter waning moon shone big and yellow in a dark blue, watercolor sky, and slid slowly into the black silhouetted leaves of the evergreen laurel, the moon’s outlines fuzzing as a thin layer of cloud covered it. The world through the open window of my den was perfectly peaceful, perfectly still.
I’m feeling very small today.
05 February 2007
It’s as I write this. I’ve been awake off and on since, oh, around 3 and finally gave it up and got out of bed at . I would like to make lemons into lemon-aid and enjoy my present employment hiatus. I’d like to sleep in a little. Like until 8, maybe.
This is not to be.
For the record, I’ve never suffered from insomnia. I’ve always been able to go to bed, close my eyes, shut off the thought-machine and sleep until the alarm rings at oh-dark-thirty. The long night hours have always passed by gently without my help.
But no longer. I’ve come to know the silence of the night intimately.
I am not a napper. I can’t make up lost sleep. A hundred years or so of working full time slapped the pleasure of a little nippy-nap out of me way back when. Even now, while I’m not working and don’t need to worry about my boss wondering why my head’s on my chest and I’m drooling, I can’t do it. Plus, I always get a burst of energy around 3 in the afternoon. I have no idea where it comes from, but it carries me right on through the dinner hour and late into the evening. I hate going to bed early. When I was working, it was because I didn’t want to waste those precious, non-work hours on mindless sleeping, and besides, if I went to sleep, I’d only have to get up and go to work that much sooner. (I know, this is nonsensical, but it’s how my mind works). Now, staying up late is an engrained habit. It’s me. For many, many years I’ve been both a determined night owl and a reluctant early bird.
But as a woman of a certain age, I am experiencing a new and disconcerting phenomenon. It’s got me all discombobulated. It’s called, appropriately enough, the “hot flash.”
Here’s what happens: There I am, sleeping as gently and deeply as a newborn babe, all cuddled under the covers, cozy and snuggled up against Mr. Wren, my personal in-bed warming device.
Suddenly, I’m wide awake. I’m radiating heat like an overstoked boiler – in fact, I’m boiling over. I flail off the blankets madly and scramble away from him, panting. I peel my T-shirt away from my skin, which is drenched with sweat. My pillow is hot and damp. The sheet’s hot and damp. My ears burn and my eyes feel like they’re cooking. Moisture pools on my top lip. I feel like a raw chicken in a Dutch oven. My brains are cooking.
Then it’s over. The goofy reality of the situation asserts itself. Our bedroom is at the opposite end of the house from the wood-stove. The nice, nurturing stove heat never gets back there, which is just fine with me, as I prefer sleeping under layers of blankets in a cool, even cold, room. If Mr. Wren hadn’t put his foot down when the outside temperature reached the 40s at night back in early November, I’d have the window cracked open, too. I like the fresh air, the sense of it moving.
But even with the window closed, our room is quite cold. And there I am, no sheet or blankets on my sweaty, cooling body. For a short time, the cool feels heavenly. I sprawl there, relaxing, and start to doze. ‘Whew!’ I think as I drift off, ‘got through that one ...’
... and then I’m shivering. Wide awake once again, bloody freezing. Teeth chattering, I haul the covers back over me and scrunch around until I’m comfortable, trying to ignore my still damp, tacky nightclothes and damp, tacky sheets. I turn the pillow over to get the cool side, stick my nose out from under the blankets so I can breathe, and try to go back to sleep. Usually, I can.
Moments later (it seems like) I’m radiating heat again, literally stewing in my own juices, and the whole, maddening process begins anew. Off go the covers. I fan myself. I peel my T-shirt, which is stuck to me, away from my wet skin and billow it. I sprawl, gasping.
This happens five or six times each night, sometimes more often, sometimes less. They’re sneaky, these hot flashes. You never know what you’re going to get.
When this first started about a year ago, I’d get up and change my damp nightclothes for fresh, clean, dry ones. I wanted to change the sheets but waking Mr. Wren and making him get up, too, seemed unusually cruel, even for me. So I just swallowed my disgust – ick, sweaty sheets! – and crawled back in.
Now, I don’t even bother changing nightclothes. It’s just too much trouble.
The last hot flash is usually the one that also gets me out of bed for good. It’s still dark as pitch outside, and dawn is a few hours away, but I’m up, too wide awake and aggravated to bother trying to sleep anymore.
My poor psycho dog, who judges his morning mealtime by my sleeping habits, gets up with me and gallops to the pantry door, smiling broadly, tail wagging, thinking it must be time for breakfast. I give him a big biscuit to hold him over until his usual breakfast hour – not ! – and make a pot of coffee.
My day begins. I don’t usually have any more hot flashes until around , but like I said, they’re sneaky. Sometimes I’m gasping, sweating and fanning off and on all day long.
Some of my women-friends call hot flashes “power surges” in an attempt to claim them as a phenomenon indicative of female strength and power. ‘I am woman, hear me roar,’ yada yada. That sort of thing.
Well, let me tell you: Hot flashes don’t make me feel like roaring except during the fourth or fifth one of the night, when my temper is just about at the same bursting point as my temperature. After that, all they make me want to do is whine. Proudly claim my womanhood? Proclaim my budding crone-ness to the world? Oh, please. I’m a woman. I’ve known it for years. I don’t need to flush bright red, smell like a locker room and blow steam from my ears to prove it.
I could take hormones, but even before the bad news came out that they could cause heart attacks and other nasty problems for menopausal women, I didn’t like the idea. It seems to me that, whether I want to assign all kinds of prideful, new-agey tags to the change of life or not, menopause is a natural phenomenon and, since it happens and always has happened to all women since the beginning of time, probably a necessary and ultimately healthy one. Screwing around with it by replacing the hormones that are dwindling away with fresh new ones doesn’t seem very smart to me.
I hear that anti-depressant meds can also make hot flashes disappear. But I don’t want to screw with the chemical levels in my brain any more than I do the hormone levels in my body. For the most part, menopause hasn’t had a huge effect on my moods. So I get a little blue once in a while, a little crabby now and then. So what? After a lifetime of being a non-moody, cheerful, tough little Wren, it feels sorta good to just let it out and be blue and grouchy for a while. Can’t help it anyway. And besides, both emotions pass before long and I’m back to myself. My shell-shocked family is learning how to recognize the Signs of a Grumpy Wren. They’re adapting; they steer clear. Everyone is safer that way.
Yeah, I drew the sweaty wren.
04 February 2007
My good blogging buddy and fellow Chump Neddie Jingo goes under the surgeon’s hacksaw early tomorrow morning. He’s hoping he’ll come out of it with a bionic hip so he can show up Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk and, incidentally, race his dogs up the mountain near his house again.
Send him some karmic courage and good cheer through the Aether, will you? And take a look at his blog – the man has written a beautifully expressive guitar melody, played, mixed, recorded and posted it for all and sundry to listen to. All while zoned out on painkillers for the narsty hip. It'll make you smile.
He’s quite the Renaissance Man, our Neddie.
Update: I am the world's worst at music. Ned tells me in an e-mail: "I did arrange and perform that piece I posted, but if I'd composed it I'd be a far richer man. That was "In My Room," originally performed by the Beach Boys, and written by Brian Wilson, who, I'm convinced history will show, is America's answer to Mozart. " Heheh. OK, fine. Jingo made it new. Go listen.
03 February 2007
Yesterday I came across an excellent post on Alternet by Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stone. He wrote a terrific piece about the ugly insinuations and outright lies we’ve all been subjected to over the last six years by the news media, pointing out that if he had put this sort of crap into one of his own stories, he and his publisher would be facing a massive libel suit – and rightly so.
Instead, the lie is still out there, stinking, available, and sure to continue to do its insidious harm to Obama in spite of his truthful denial of the lie and the fact that it was shown up to be a lie by other news outlets.
Obama didn’t sue the Fox Channel. That may be because to do so would only create more interest in the original lie, which some people would be ready to believe in a heartbeat -- and evidently do. Twits.
No, instead, the clever and pragmatic Obama has simply frozen Fox Channel reporters out of the events he’s involved in, and refuses to talk to them anymore.
This is absolutely reasonable. Why invite members of the media to your events when you know, without a doubt, that they’re going to spin and twist your words in order to hurt you and even make up lies about you at every opportunity? It’s a no-brainer, and I’m glad Obama has the cojones to do it.
Although the lie that Fox broadcast was just that – a lie – journalists do also make mistakes. Often. Honest journalists, when shown their error, will publish a correction. Sometimes it’s quite embarrassing, but we’re human. We try, but don’t always get it right.
Several years ago the local hospital sent my paper a press release regarding a new building they were preparing to open and, incidentally, promoting the new PET imaging machine they were purchasing for it. They were rightly pleased to announce their acquisition, though the release didn’t go into any detail about the scanner or what it was for.
At the time, I had never heard of PET scans. I try to know everything, but jeez, sometimes I just don’t. Unfortunately, neither had the reporter I sent out to cover the story. When she wrote it up, she mentioned the PET scanner – and said it was for (can you see this coming?) pets.
We were working on a tight deadline, as usual. I got the story from her just a few hours before the paper was going to press. It struck me as very odd that a local hospital would offer to scan dogs and cats for cancer, as she wrote, but hey, what a nice service to offer! Distracted, busy, trying to deal with ten different crises at the same time, I shrugged and let it go, sure that the reporter knew what she was talking about. She said the hospital would scan pets, well, that must be the case.
We published. The day it hit the streets, I’d been in the office for about an hour when I got a phone call from the PR guy at the hospital. To his credit, he didn’t yell, he wasn’t snide, he was perfectly polite as he explained that while scanning pets for cancer would be a sweet thing to do and the hospital sure wished it was possible, their new PET machine was exclusively for people. PET stands for Positron Emission Tomography, he said, kindly.
Then he asked, with great patience, if I wouldn’t mind very much publishing a correction in the next issue of the paper? So people didn’t bring their dogs and cats to the new facility for ... scans?
By this time, I had my bright-red face in my hands and wanted the floor to open up beneath my chair. “Of course,” I said. “Absolutely.” I apologized profusely for the error; he laughed gently and said anyone could have made it. I’m sure when he hung up he and his colleagues burst into gales of hilarity. I would have.
When I told the reporter, she was appalled. She burst into tears. Young, not long out of journalism school, she loved animals and was a big-hearted and an earnest reporter -- and she’d just assumed she knew what that scanner was for. She hadn’t asked anyone about it, nor in her rush to get the story done by deadline, had she done any research – not even a quick look at Google, which would have quickly set her right.
And I, as her editor, hadn't listened to my inner alarm when it went off. We both learned a tough -- and embarrassing -- lesson that day.
I ran the correction the following week, along with an explanation as to what a PET scan actually was. Nothing more was said and the incident was over. Eventually, we laughed about it.
It’s easy to make stupid mistakes as a journalist. Time – or the lack of it – is often the culprit, but there’s not much excuse for it, really. The one we made was pretty harmless, and we corrected it as quickly as we could. Even now, though, I still blush with shame when I think of it.
But the mistake that Fox made – and then, knowing it was a lie, perpetuated – was malicious. Bravo to Obama for freezing out their “reporters.” They don’t even deserve the title.