Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Twenty Below and Falling


Yesterday was an exercise in waiting. In the freezing cold. Without a furnace for hours. In subzero temperatures. While the birds attacked the feeder and suet cake (I hung out a brand new one yesterday afternoon). Did you know birds look much bigger when their feathers are all fluffed out and they need to eat about 10x their weight in food to keep their racing metabolisms racing?

It was cold yesterday. It's colder this morning: -11 degrees when I got up and walked around. The high today will be -4 and the low was -19. So far. It's cold. Very cold. Witches broomsticks turn to ice and any exposed (or covered) fleshy parts stick to the stick. Did I mention it was cold? It IS cold.

At any rate, yesterday wasn't a total loss since, after 3 trips to Colorado Springs on icy roads littered with cars that didn't make it, Ron, the furnace guy, figured  out all the problems, fixed all the broken parts of my 3-year-old furnace (we figured that out yesterday when I called Goodman Mfg.) and at 8:30 PM the furnace began to give out with heat. Warm, glorious heat that for the first time since I moved in made the freezing tile floors warm and welcoming to bare toes and feet. I didn't need to keep the space heaters on and I didn't need a mound of blankets on the bed or to wear the 5 layers of clothes I was swathed in while waiting from 7 AM until 8:30 PM to get the furnace fixed. The really good thing is that the furnace is still under warranty and the owner of Heat Depot, Mike, currently vacationing in Arizona for the rest of this year and into the new year, waived the labor charges. Considering he must refund me nearly $900 in parts charges because of the parts warranty still in effect, he should waive the labor charges. However, since I now have an almost completely rebuilt Goodman furnace, I doubt he will be able to continue waiving labor charges when there is no more labor to charge for. He'll have to refund actual cash.

Bad news: Furnace broke yesterday.
Good news: Furnace fixed last night and I spent a warm (sometimes too warm with the thermostat at 60 degrees) night and didn't feel the constantly running furnace sucking the moisture out of my mouth, nose, and other moist mucous membranes. It was a pleasant night and I slept well.

But life goes on and this morning bright and early Steve from Nuance called to remind me I had more paperwork to fill out and that I needed to get that done today. I also needed to send in my I-9 forms TODAY with witnessed signature to prove I am who I say I am. Then there are more forms to read and sign off on, forms which I already read and signed off on last week, but which did not take, and I needed to uninstall Office 365 and install MS Word 2013 (stand-alone) because 365 will not work with their programs and Word 2013 will. Good thing Microsoft was willing to give my money back (in 5-7 days) while allowing me to install MS Word 2013, which I bought last week and installed on the old computer, but now must install on the new computer that arrived 2 weeks early yesterday. No rest for the wicked -- or for those coming off a week's vacation into a frozen hell. Oh well.

The other good news yesterday is that the computer that wasn't supposed to arrive until January 12, arrived 2 weeks early and is almost ready to go. I still need some programs from Nuance, but as soon as I scan and email the I-9 forms, I might be able to get that done today. The there's the training, for which I will be paid, but must be completed before I start working on January 6. Details, details, details. It seems I will be bogged down in details.

At least I won't have to deal with BTS much longer and, because of my new start time, I won't have to work 8 hours during my last week with them (next week). I'll tell them today that the best I can give them will be 6 hours during my last week, which should be fine with Payroll since they still have me listed as part time anyway. Besides, I'm doing them a favor by working an extra week until they can get someone trained and ready to take my place since I'm leaving. And I will give them 8 hours of makeup time because I couldn't work yesterday due to the freezing cold. My hands are not as dextrous when they are frozen and the nails have turned blue. Give a little, get a little. And I have gotten very little outside of paychecks from BTS for the past 3 years. Goodbye, good luck, and good riddance.

If you're in need of a job, I wouldn't suggest working for BTS. There are no benefits to speak of (or to use) and pay will be frozen at your entry rate for the foreseeable future (the rest of your enslavement). If you must work for them, keep looking while you're employed and jump ship at the first opportunity -- or when gainfully employed by a company that offers and makes sure you have benefits. Good benefits. No sense being a slave forever. Emancipate yourself. No one else will do it for you.

So, on this frozen morning as I finish my once hot and now cold chai, I wish you warmth, a good working furnace (which would not be a Goodman), and plenty of hot water for baths, dishes, laundry, and tea -- or hot chai.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Of snow, subzero temps, and furnaces


Well, my morning began before the crack of dawn. I had been unable to sleep most of the night tossing and turning and generally feeling something was missing. What was missing was the sound of the furnace going on and off. As my room began to get colder, I realize that the furnace wasn't working. The temperature outside was fast approaching -5°, and so was the inside. At 7 o'clock this morning, I called the furnace people and said my furnace wasn't working. The owner and Kyle, the only two who promised to work on my furnace with their problems, we're both in Arizona. There would be a delay in them getting here in time to fix my furnace, and get me back some warmth.

 The owner promised to send Ron, one of the two men who came to clean out my furnace last summer, and who told me that my propane tank was empty. My propane tank was empty and he didn't realize he hit the cut off switch for the propane to the furnace. So Ron would be here and about an hour and a half, and he was on time. Of course, he drove past the house once and had to come back but he did arrive on time. He came to the door, said hello, and said he was headed down underneath the house to work on the furnace.

 After some tinkering noisily, the furnace came on and there was heat. And then there wasn't heat because the furnace was off again. The furnace was off. This furnace was on. The furnace was off again. And then clouds of smoke wafted through the blowing snow outside. The furnace was on again. Slowly the heat began to creep up as the furnace stayed on -- briefly. Ron came back upstairs and told me that it was either the pressure switch or one of the many chimney flues on top of the roof had become clogged with snow and ice. We decided to replace the for the pressure switch anyway just in case. Better be safe than sorry. Ron is off down the mountain to find out if they have a pressure switch in house or so have to order it, and he'll call back or come back to let me know. In the meantime, it's good I have space heaters. At least my water won't freeze up and my pipes will stay unfrozen as well.

 That was my morning. How was yours?

 Despite what the guy who built this house told me, the furnace, a Goodman, is builder grade and cheap. I already knew it was 85% efficient, which is not sufficient. So, before we finalize the sale of this house, there will be one of two things happening. I will either get a very large cut in price equal to the cost of installation and purchase of a brand-new furnace. Anything less than a new furnace is not going to fly. The other option is to have the builder /owner by and install a brand-new furnace. I will except nothing other than these two options. Come summer, I will have a new furnace to go into the 2015 winter. Okay, the late 2015 winter.

 I love this house, but I will not live in a house where the furnace is iffy at best. I will have heat even at 10,000 feet above sea level. In the Rocky Mountains. In the midst of winter. While it's snowing. And at -5°. Or colder.

 Good thing I'm not shy about asking and getting what I want . Into every life a little, well, snow, must fall, and it's a good thing I know how to use a shovel. And if I can't do the work, I know how to hire the people who can. This is a very unusual and to a very restful week of vacation before I begin my new job in January. Best to get these kinks out of the way ahead of time. No matter how kinky.

 That is all. Disperse. I hope you're having a lovely warm winter.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Diamonds and Toads


I have walked, eyes wide open, back into the political arena where the Clintons and the Obamas circle and call each other names. Bill called Barack an amateur and Obama called Clinton a scene stealer. Both are right. That's what you get with twins, even the political kind.

As I read Dereliction of Duty, I was not surprised to find Slick Willy's trademarks still alive and slithering from between Obama's lips, reminding me once again of an old fairy talk about sisters who were touched by a witch and given exactly what they deserved. Some sources called the story by Charles Perrault Diamonds and Toads (or Toads and Diamonds) because of the gift each girl was given. The eldest girl, proud and disagreeable at the best of times, and her mother's favorite, was lazy and rude and disinclined to help anyone out, no matter what was at stake. The younger daughter, biddable, sweet, and courteous, was generous with her time and her mother's least favorite child.  Had there been 10 daughters, the mother would still have disliked the third child because she was kind and sweet, a real doormat in her mother's eyes. No one got anywhere good by being kind and thoughtful. The way to get up in the world is to show the world that everyone else is beneath you and you deserve to be treated as royalty.

The younger daughter gave a poor woman a drink at the well, drawing the water herself, and was rewarded with every word she spoke as diamonds, pearls, and roses dropped from her lips. Mama was ecstatic and vowed her eldest daughter, her favorite, would also be rewarded. I can still see the glitter in mama's eyes while she waited for her reluctant eldest offspring to come back from the well.

The eldest daughter waited at the well and found no poor old hag waiting for her. Along came a stately woman of style and wealth who asked the eldest daughter to draw a cup of water for her. The eldest daughter was not to be so put upon when she had only come to be rewarded by the old hag. She sniffed and tossed her hair and told the beautiful woman she could use her own two hands to get her own water. Alas, the wealthy woman was the old hag and the eldest daughter received her gift in due course. When she returned home, toads and vipers dropped from her lips with each word.

So what do diamonds and toads have to do with Bill Clinton, the president who gave us 8 years of a balanced budget, and Barack Obama, who has given us the longest and deepest depression in American history? Diamonds and toads.

Clinton and Obama (when Obama has time to prepare and can read from a teleprompter) are great communicators, pearls of political maneuvering and double-speak falling from their lips. Both have the power to sway the people, as Bill demonstrated at the 2012 Democratic Convention when he painted Obama as a centrist who wants only what is best for the people and the economy of this less than great country that has fallen on hard times. Gone were the petulant and snide comments to Congress ("I won.") and the video clips where Obama said he would use any means necessary to go around Congress since they (Republican controlled House) would not bow to his will on immigration, taxation, and health care. Gone was the smirking Obama who voted present during his 3 terms in office in the Illinois senate and the one unfinished term in the U.S. Senate. Gone was the lie that Obama opposed the Iraq war, the same man who promised to have all U.S. troops out of Iran within 18 months and Afghanistan in 2 years. Gone was the man who blamed George W. Bush and the Republicans every time one of his policies failed and his promises never materialized. In his place stood a man who was no longer an amateur but a great statesman willing to compromise and put the will of the American people first, who worked tirelessly to create jobs, and who was a wizard of foreign diplomacy. Bill's diamonds and pearls and roses fell like rain as he praised and reimagined Barack Obama, lionizing the clueless and petulant child who handed off all the hard work to advisors and allowed himself to be bullied by Michelle and masterfully manipulated by Valerie Jarrett just so he could play golf, appear on television, and raise money for the DNC war chest.

The whole point of the illusion Bill created was a trade-off. Bill was banking points with Obama so Obama would in turn back Hillary for her second run for the Oval Office in 2016. Bill didn't realize that Obama would renege on his part of the deal, though Bill and Hillary were aware of the strong possibility Obama would shut them out once he had what he wanted -- a second term in the White House, to be closely followed by Michelle's turn in the Oval Office under Valerie Jarrett's guidance.

Yes, the Clintons want another 8 years to party hearty and fleece the people of the United States while they groom Chelsea for her turn in the Oval Office. The Clintons want their legacy preserved -- even if it means making nice with the Obamas and Jarrett.

Here we are 2 years later still struggling economically while our military is gutted and living on food stamps, a legacy we have the Clintons to thank. Bill and Hillary and all the Clintonistas continue to point to the economic prosperity of the 1990s and the balanced budgets, but the average person has no idea how all that came about.

The Obamas, like the Clintons, detest the military and have in their turns gutted the military infrastructure and the morale of the men and women who serve and have served. Our military presence at the beginning of the Clinton administration was the envy of the world, but not for long as Clinton balanced his budgets by cutting the materiel, supplies, and hardware (ships, planes, tanks, etc.) while freezing military pay until it dropped below the poverty level and into the arms of government for food stamps and WIC for their families. As far as the Clintons were concerned, the military were glorified valets and servants and they treated their military aides and the Joints Chiefs of Staff as lackeys, often forbidding aides working in the White House to wear their uniforms. Clinton closed bases during his tenure, several of which he deeded to the Chinese on American soil, thus creating a Chinese presence on American soil with the same immunity as the Chinese embassy as the land is owned and thus protected by immunity. China in North America, a strong foothold in some of the counry's prime real estate from a military standpoint. And let us not forget how much of American military technology and hardware Clinton sold to the Chinese while making room for them on American soil. That was Clinton's bow to the enemy as deep and as complete as Obama's bow to the Saudis during his Apology Tour in his first year in office.

Obama in his turn does the same thing, gutting the military budget while Michelle lambasted communities around military bases to step up and support the military and their families financially and emotionally. After all, the government can only do so much to support the military complex that protects this country from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The Clintons had their noses bloodied in Mogadishu in the same way that Obama did in Benghazi, and basically for the same reasons. Clinton left bin Laden due to his lack of action and unwillingness to stop schmoozing and golfing when bin Laden was cornered and could be taken out without too much fuss or efforts. The military assets were in place, but Clinton could not be bothered to take the call or give the order. Obama took out bin Laden, so we are told, and shown in a grainy, barely visible video, and his body buried at sea.

Neither Clinton nor Obama know much about foreign policy as evidenced by the 40 military events/skirmishes, the constant deployment and redeployment of soldiers overseas tour after tour, and the misreading of military intelligence. Say what you will about Bush the younger, at least he did his best to build the military back up to strength, only to have Obama tear it down and cede the high ground to Russia time and time again while doing nothing to avenge or support U.S. military forces. Clinton's claims of shock and outrage during every single international faux pas is echoed by Obama's chock and outrage and neither man did anything to back it up, Obama going to so far as to draw a line in the sand.

Clinton ceded control of U.S. armed forces to the United Nations and Obama takes full advantage of that little wrinkle in U.S. military readiness. In other words, U.S. forces are controlled and deployed under UN generals and colonels. Mercenaries for lease by anyone and everyone.

Clinton ran from the many scandals during his tenure in office by going out and creating incidents on the international stage, like the bombings during Ramadan, while Obama dithers, cries foul, and goes off to a fund raiser or to play golf while leaving Iranian marching for democracy, Egyptians struggling to throw off the Islamic yoke, and Israel stands alone against enemies on all fronts.

The list goes on. Clinton and Obama are cut from the same cloth, except that Clinton is much savvier where politics are concerned and Obama plays where Jarrett allows him to.  Both are narcissists greedy for power and prestige who will use and abuse everyone to get their way. Obama uses illegal immigrants to swell his ranks while Clinton charms them and changes faces and costumes whenever it fits his -- and Hillary's -- agenda, both men dropping toads and vipers among the diamonds and pearls with each and every word.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, December 19, 2014

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu


This morning I wrote my resignation for BTS. After 3 years I have decided to cut my losses and move on. The fact that I am moving on to the company that gobbled up a previous employer and has pioneered voice recognition is somewhat important, especially since it means I get to keep the 9 years of seniority I built up before being laid off in 2003 and won't have to go through all that again. Three weeks of vacation time at the start of a new job is nothing to sneeze at.

I am leaving BTS with only one week of work to go since I had already scheduled next week off. I did not make this move without due consideration. I gave BTS a chance to meet the new offer of 10-1/5 cents per line and they flatly refused just has they have refused for 3 years to raise my pay. I also asked for a shift change and they hemmed and hawed and said it would take time to replace me since I am the lead on the 2nd shift, a fact that was unknown to me prior to this, and a fact that should have earned me a raise in pay when it happened 2 years ago. Even though they are moving off voice recognition reports and back to typing reports on accounts I already know very well, it's not enough of a draw to keep me there. If they think it will take "a good dea of time" to find someone to replace me on 2nd shift in order for me to transition to a different shift, they will have to rethink their position since they have exactly 2 weeks now.

With this change in employers I will get paid holidays whether I work them or not, health benefits (vision, dental, and health) that do not cost the price of my mortgage ($60 a month), keeping previous seniority, 3 weeks of vacation, sick time, the removal of the permanent knot between my shoulder blades, and the return of my peace of mind. There is a downside of course. I will have to learn the way the new doctors speak and the new hospital is a teaching hospital with residents dictating, which means long dictations that will end with not many lines typed and saved, but I can hope that the new hospital doesn't let the residents dictate all the time and, working the shift that I will be on, very few residents dictating at all. I will have to work Tuesday through Saturday, but that means I will also have a week day off so I can run into town and do errands without running back home to work. I might even take the time to stop at a restaurant, get out of the car, and sit down for a leisurely meal.

And 3 weeks of vacation from the start.

I am not completely happy about having to learn a new hospital and new software or having to deal with yet more crapy voice recognition generated files, but I am happy that most of my needs will be met and my income will be double what it is now every single month. That is to be preferred to the static slave wages I've had with BTS. So I cast my fears and trepidations aside, accepted the job with Nuance, sent the resignation letter to BTS, and will now move into a brighter future. It's not all perfect, but what is any more? It's a conditional happily ever after for now. I'm still looking forward to national and international best selling author with millions in the bank and an end to wage slavery. THAT is my real happily ever after.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Many Faces of Evil

When I decided to watch Disney's new Maleficent with Angelina Jolie I was surprised that so many people were opposed to changing the story of Sleeping Beauty and focusing on a very different Maleficent. To add Angelina Jolie as Maleficent was tantamount to heresy. How dare Disney make Maleficent a heroine! It went against the grain. What was next, a sympathetic Lady Tremaine as Cinderella's stepmother? Horrors! Heresy!


I enjoyed Maleficent and was not too disturbed by Jolie's portrayal. She was sympathetic, but tended to try to mimic the original actress who voiced the animated version of Maleficent in Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Eleanor Audley, Audley also voiced Lady Tremaine. Her style was high class with a hint of British pronunciation at times, but definitely a deep, rich, malevolent voice where Jolie's is certainly not any of those things. Jolie has a mid-range voice and should have stuck to her own recognizable voice instead of the parody that ended up on the screen at times and distracted from her otherwise interesting performance.

Disney's change in tone and focus in taking Maleficent out of her previously strictly villainous portrayal is in line with the theme that runs throughout Once Upon A Time: villains are not born; they are made.  That theme informs all of the villainous characters in Disney's retool of the beloved fairy tales that get their twist from Kitsis and Horowitz's version of fairy tale life.

In their version of Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent, Kristen Bauer van Straten, is blonde and, although evil, has a strong sense of justice running through her character, if giving a thief a chance to return what he stole from her castle horde without immediately incinerating him can be termed justice. Van Straten's Maleficent in the end is no match for the Evil Queen, Regina, played by Lana Parilla, but that is another story. 

What Disney's remake of Sleeping Beauty does do is what has been done before by fan fiction writers and writers during the heyday of Paris's great salons, write their own versions of fairy tales. The same twist has happened before and will continue to happen as long as there are different writers with different views of stories, characters, and plots. How many Cinderella's have graced the screens (small and large) and will continue to find new ways of getting a young girl abused and misused by her blended family out of the ashes and into the arms of a prince to take her away from the drudgery that her life has become? Drew Barrymore portrayed a strong and intelligent Cinderella raised on the books of Plato and Thomas More to believe that the world could be a better place and then proceeds to take down the prince who has just stolen their only horse. She didn't know he was a prince, but she did not hesitate to drop him with an apple and get her horse back while chastising the prince for his theft. She continues to chastise him throughout their budding relationship as she challenges him to be a better man than he has been. Where was the outcry then? Could it be because Angelica Huston's portray of her evil stepmother was right on target and as dissipated, spoiled, and villainous as Cinderella's stepmothers have always been? Nothing was changed, not really. Cinderella was abused and she took her life -- and the prince -- in her own arms and marched boldly into the future while her stepmother and one of her stepsisters were served justice in the castle's laundry.

The original story of Cinderella has changed many times and were much bloodier and vicious. In order to prove they could wear Cinderella's glass slipper one stepsister cut off her heel and the other her great toe. Both were ratted out by the tree that grew over Cinderella's mother's grave, calling out to the blood on the slipper that shouldn't be there. The stepmother and stepsisters were dragged through the streets of the royal city in metal boxes, presumably to their deaths. Bloodier stories for bloodier times and quite unlike Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. Where was the outcry then when the stepsisters were actually as abused as Cinderella in Amsterdam when the coin of the realm and the basis of fortunes came from the growing and sale of tulips?

It seems the outcry is because Maleficent is a monster made by anger, pain, and the need for revenge and not a monster born whole cloth out of the depths of Hell. Please, people, get a grip. I can tell you that sympathetic characters are better received than one-dimensional villains, except in fairy tales told to children without the discernment necessary to understand that evil wears many faces and does not spring out of the darkest abyss of Hell ready to wreak havoc and destroy happy endings.

Jolie didn't turn into a dragon as her predecessors have, and as Audley did in the 1959 version of Sleeping Beauty certainly did to face off against Prince Phillip, or as van Straten did when she was trapped beneath Storybrooke for 28 years in her dragon form. Jolie turned her crow/raven into a very convincing dragon and fought King Stefan and his troops on her own until Aurora set free the wings Stefan had severed from her back while she slept, having been drugged by a man she thought truly loved her. How many of us can say the same -- about the drugging, not having our wings severed?

The point is that Jolie's performance, flawed by her affectation and mimicry of Audley's Maleficent, was still the heart of a more nuanced and many-faceted fairy tale with a happy ending. Aurora became queen and very likely married Prince Phillip and Maleficent gave up her desire for vengeance at being wronged by the first man she loved to embrace forgiveness and breaking the curse she cast on baby Aurora. Maleficent, while not an Oscar worthy movie, is certainly a laudable addition to the fairy tale canon and a story that adds much to the fairy tale genre and villainous deeds. Bravo!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Don't Count on the Weather

Today was supposed to be an ordinary day. Temps in the 50s and 60s. Mild weather for these  Rocky Mountain heights, but fairly comfortable overall.

I woke in darkness thanks to my new insulated drapes, went to the bathroom, and decided to go out into the living room to check out the weather. It was still snowing, a granular fine salt snow blowing sideways and buffeting the birds flocking to the feeder and suet cake on the back deck. The blinds were still drawn over the window to the front deck so I had no idea of what was going on at the bigger feeder out there. The numbers of birds have increased substantially as western wood peewees, fluffed up like brown and gray puff balls with tiny yellow beaks, pecked at fallen seeds and nuts on the deck. The only activity visible was around the door where the seeds speckled the ground beneath the feeder. Some of the little peewees sheltered under the folding chairs on the deck and one or two sought refuge beneath my car, still in the driveway from Monday's trip down the mountain to pick up mail, some of which is still in the front seat (not enough hands and too close to time to start work to bother about them). The super fine snow still falling sideways and carried by the wind buffeted the little birds here and there as they bravely fought their way to the deck for food. Nuthatches and peewees fought the winds from all sides to land on the deck, the feeder, and the suet cake or to shelter beneath the chairs for a few moments safe from the winds. Now that's what I call a moderately balmy day. /sarcasm.

The winds gust every few moments, knocking peewees and nuthatches here and there on their journey to the food and the female hairy woodpecker has decided to peck a hole in the metal facing around the doors and side window on the back porch -- without much success. Just another day in the mountains here at Cabin Cornwell.

Yeah, I need to think up a better name.

Maybe the rest of the week will not be covered by snow and I can finally clear the deck of all the snow that humps up on the railings and deck floor. Or not. Right now, it's a crap shoot, a big snowy cutting wind howling crap shoot.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

First Snow Fall

Well, actually it's not the very first snowfall, but the first major snowfall I woke up to this morning. About 3-4 inches and more still falling at noon.  The birds flocked to the feeder and keep attacking the suet cake I hung out last weekend, which was originally for the woodpecker, but the nuthatches seem to prefer it, while the hairy woodpecker, and his mate, have been making themselves free with the little feeder I have on the back deck. I have a much bigger, made for woodpeckers and Steller's Jays, on the front porch but so far only one nuthatch has found it and doesn't seem interested in telling the rest of the flock, sitting like a maharajah among the feed and taking one piece of food and flying off to take it home and then flying back in for one more piece, and so on. None of the other birds have figured out there is also plenty of food on the front deck. Just the one nuthatch.

The snow is already melting on the track into my yard and elsewhere the ground is too warm for the powder snow to stick for long. It's still pretty like fairy glitter swirling and drifting on the wnds, the sun glinting off the wind tossed flakes. It's beautiful.

Earlier this morning, just after dawn a doe strolled past and in the distance now the neighbor's German Shepherd and black terrier are frolicking in the snow like children off school for the day. Yes, I know it's a holiday and the kids don't have to go to school, but the metaphor still applies.

One good thing is that kevin was here yesterday and installed the light fixture in the living room closet (it works) and the weather stripping around the laundry room door so that I can no longer see outside around the door. It's cozier now. It's just as cozy in my bedroom now that the insulated drapes are up and the first comforter I've bought in a couple of decades is on the bed. Snug as a bug and all that, except there are no bugs, other than a few arachnids which might find the cold a bit too much for them and they go somewhere else to live.

It's a very good day in this neighborhood and full of the magic of first real snowfall.

11-11-14 snow day 007

You can almost see the birds at the feeder on the back deck. Almost.

11-11-14 snow day 008

Those round suction cups hold up the big feeder on the front deck.

11-11-14 snow day 009

Still hard to see, but the brown mound on the window is 2 cups of bird seeds. Isn't the view beautiful?

That is all. Disperse. Go play in the snow.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Getting the Rhythm

For the past few months I have been immersed in my home. Buying furniture (best to check it out first when it doesn't hold up), buying accessories and cookware, paying bills, getting a feel for the the rhythm of the bills and when they are paid., and generally settling in. I have been a little open-handed in buying what I need -- or at least what I think I need -- but I'm not going into debt or anything like that.

One of the rhythms I've been getting into is mornings (sometimes afternoons) eating breakfast and looking out the back door at the activity outside. Most of the time there are birds, lots of birds, making a mess throwing the seeds they don't like out of the feeder. There are birds landing and crowded into the feeder, usually 4 white-breasted nuthatches, and 4 or 5 nuthatches swooping, diving, and dog fighting just outside the feeder waiting for their chance to land. Sometimes the birds quarrel, diving at the birds inside the feeder, and quarreling with them to get out so they can get in.  I see the nuthatches the most and there must be quite a few of nests nearby. They are beautiful little birds, about 4-4-1/2 inches long. Don't let their small size fool you. They are scrappers.


I thought I had a pileated woodpecker, but it turns out it was a hairy woodpecker. He started the bird carnival out there when he began excavating holes in the bird wreath I put out there last month. I've not seen his mate, but he must have one somewhere nearby. The male is easy to spot with the little bit of red on his head. He's not shy at all. In fact, though he is about 9 inches long, he clings to the railing on the feeder, sometimes upside down, and will peck up what he wants of the nuts and seeds in the feeder. He can't fit in there. He's too big, but he's also quite tenacious.

There are murders of crows and quite a few ravens that land on the back deck, but they prefer carrion and corn to the little bits of nuts and seeds in the feeder. Besides, they would not fit and the whole thing would come tumbling down. The only other big bird is the gorgeous Steller's Jay that still cannot figure out how he can get at the seeds and nuts in the feeder. He's about 9-10 inches long and not quite as daring as the hairy woodpecker. The Steller's Jay, which I have mistakenly called a Stellar Jay, looks like the blue jay, which is definitely kin, except he is black from the upstanding crest on his head down past his shoulders. The rest of his is a beautiful vibrant blue and he has stark white eyebrows, or at least markings where his eyebrows would be if he had them.

The poor thing flies up to the railing near the window where the feeder is attached, going back and forth figuring out his approach. He hops down to a chair under the feeder and then down to the deck where he pecks up food fallen from the feeder, or usually flung out by the nuthatches, and eats his fill before flying up to the small overhanging eave to look down at the feeder then back down to the railing, the chair, and the deck to peck up more food. He just cannot figure out how to get his big body into the feeder and he doesn't seem to hang down as well as the hairy woodpecker does. I'm going to have to install a larger feeder for him -- and for the larger birds, although I will not stock dead mice and roadkill or catch grasshoppers and insects for the crows. That's is where I draw the line.

No, the white lines that look like eyes are not eyes, but the eyebrows I mentioned. His eye is the dark glittery orb beneath the stark white slash. He's my favorite of all the birds.

I have had some trouble identifying another of my daily visitors, a small brown/dark grey bird that prefers to get his food from the deck. I thought it was a pygmy nuthatch, but he didn't have the white breast. It turns out he is very likely a western wood peewee. Peewee is the sound he makes. There are only two and they are likely mates.

They may look drab in the photo above, but they are not at all drab. A slim, dark arrow of feathers hopping around on the deck inent on gathering food is what I see every day. They are so dark they seem like shadow arrows, a graceful slash of darkness, animated and intent on their task. They are also favorites.

It's always busy around here, and not just with the birds. The next neighbor's black cat is always slinking out in the weeds at the fenceline stalking the birds. She is smart enough to know that a horde of birds that gathers at my feeder is more dangerous to her than they seem, even for their small size. I've no doubt the horde would descend and peck out the cat's greedy eyes. She prowls the deck of a morning before the birds descend, but she doesn't stay long. If she is marking her territory and claiming the space, she doesn't stick around for long as her padding prowl turns to a slow rout when the air fills with the calls of descending nuthatches. She slinks into the weeds to watch, crouched low against the ground, eventually turning tail and heading back to the neighbor's property where she is greeted by the confused black squirrel that is intent on wooing and winning her.
The little tar ball scurries down the tree and leaps to land in front of her. She doesn't give him the time of day and just brushes by him, leaving the bushy-tailed Romeo standing alone. He sometimes scurries after her, leaping onto a tree ahead of her and scampering down to land in front of her again and again. I worry for the little fella. One day she might be just cranky enough to give him a good swipe of her unsheathed claws. I doubt it would deter him. He is determined to get this particular female to give in to his determined advances.

Usually at dusk, the mule deer does appear in the yard, a whole harem of does, young and old, even late season fawns. They particularly enjoy the patch of moss and flowers below the deck where they browse and graze every day. One day just past noon, 9 does caught my attention and I went out on the deck to watch them and snap a few photos with my Kindle Fire. Around the northwest end of the house came two more does and one doe hopped the wire fence between my land and the neighbors as gracefully and as airy as a ballet dancer en pointe. Light as a feather as if the 4-foot fence were no more than a speed bump or fallen log.

The deer are getting ready for rut the end of November and beginning of December and I have seen harems up and down the road when I drive down to get the mail or into town. I saw a small herd of stags among one of the harems near the llamas grazing down on county road 1. They were the first stags I had seen since the 3 stage I saw at the hunting club where two hunters dressed in camouflage gathered their rifles and gear from the back of their trucks to take their prizes. I do have a problem with gathering deer or antelope or even buffalo in a hunt club to kill for sport. It's not the same as hiding in a tree blind or stalking the deer in the wild. That I can understand and even approve, but not captive prey. Doesn't sit well with me.

At any rate, I got a few not great photos of the does. Next time I snap some pictures, I'll use my camera. The Kindle Fire is not made for quality pictures. (Click on the pictures to see them better.)



This last photo is one I shot for a friend who sold me the pyramidal paperweight on the table. I have been trying to decide between the geometric black and white lamp or the red lamp on the floor next to the table. What do you think? Yes, that's my camera on the lower shelf next to the door ready for the does to come back later when I have the time to stop and take some more pictures.


I bought a book about Colorado birds. After all, I enjoy the views from my windows and doors and decks and watching the animals interact and feed. It's all part of what makes my home peaceful and beautiful and . . . well, home. The views and the animals and the peace are what I look forward to in the coming years as my roots plunge deeper into the rocky earth. This every changing world is just what I need to feed my soul. It's all part of getting into a new rhythm.
That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

What To Get?

 Two people I know recently bought houses and I've been casting around for just the right housewarming gift. It's so much easier when the people live close by, but they live on the other side of the country, on the east coast. That is what makes buying the right gift more difficult.

I have an idea about their tastes. If I lived closer the ingredients for Cosmos and some tasty tidbits would be the perfect gift. Not so when the gift must be shipped across the country. What to do?

I've considered stitching something for their homes, something that would be tasteful and creative and something they won't have to hide in the attic or the basement or an unused closet until (and unless) I come to visit so they can trot it out just to prove they appreciate the gift. I do have better taste than an old aunt still living in her glory days at the turn of the century or stuck in the 1960s with  pink or avocado appliances in a kitchen where the linoleum was put down while still tripping on LSD. I do have better taste than that. I would venture to say that few of my gifts have ever been returned or hidden in the basement or tossed out with the trash or given to the church rummage sale to be passed from hand to hand to hand or left on an enemy's door step as a warning to get out of town.  Those kinds of gifts I save for people I don't like, usually the people who gave them to me in the first place because they have no idea who I am or what kinds of things I like (my family mostly, which is why I started giving out lists).

The dilemma is to give a gift that will be welcome and not cost me an arm and a leg, which is usually what I end up finding when I go looking for furniture and accessories for my own home. I can gauge the price by how much I like it at first glance. My approbation cools quickly when I check out the price. Even at clearance sale prices, my taste far exceeds my budget. Always has. What can I say? I have caviar taste on a fish bait budget.

I think I have finally settled on a couple of gifts, which will require a considerable amount of my time stitching them, but will result in gifts that will be welcome when they arrive. I'll save the reveal until after the projects are finished, framed, and have reached their final destination. I'm pretty sure both people are art lovers and would appreciate beautiful and thoughtful gifts.

If not, I still have a few of those really awful gifts to leave on their door steps to ensure they get out of town without delay. I'd even be willing to throw in a poltergeist or voodoo spell for good measure.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bread, Underwear, and Jodorowsky

The sun is shining right now but the clouds are mobbed by flying fat men in goggles and pillowy piles of cumulus overwhelming the wispy mares' tails that have devolved into seahorses and earthworms humping their cirrus ways across the skies. The view reminds a bit of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

I rented a documentary about his making of Frank Herbert's Dune and how the movie was only made as a storyboard book to get a studio to back it. American studios passed on the movie and David Lynch was chosen by the De Laurentiis production machine to make Dune. Jodorowsky was devastated by the choice, but the team he assembled to make his vision reality individually went on to do great things in cinema, art, and special effects. Jodorowsky's visions for his Dune were borrowed and used in many other science fiction and fantasy movies, and continue to used the seeds he planted in modern movies, like Prometheus, which is the prequel for Alien and its sequels.

I've seen worlds and beings in clouds since I was a child looking up at the sky and dancing in the rain, but the worlds I saw through Jodorowsky's eyes have also seeded my imagination. His vision of a universal consciousness connected through the creative and spiritual death of Paul Atreides lives on. Jodorowsky wanted his vision of Dune to live and, although it didn't live in the movie he wanted to create, the images and the consciousness of his Dune live on. At the end of his movie as Paul dies from Feyd Rautha's blade slicing through his throat, everyone says, "I am Paul," so that everyone becomes Paul whose blood seeds the world and spread throughout the universe. In the real world of Hollywood, Jodorowsky's movie died before being made, but the blood of that movie, his vision and his images, the blood of his Dune spread like seeds throughout the industry to become part of the science fiction landscape. Jodorowsky got what he wanted -- to change the movie business -- and he did it image by image through the artists he changed and the vision he offered Hollywood, a vision that clung to their minds and their souls to become part of them and part of the future.
 Back deck 083014

Okay, so the photo doesn't show the clouds, but the Kindle Fire was charging and the cord didn't reach that far. That is, however, a picture of the view from my chair as I write.

There will be rain again later as there was yesterday and last night. There is always rain here, at least for now, and it keeps the temperatures cooler than normal for the end of August when the dog days should be in full force. I've had to turn on the heat and sometimes use a space heater in my bedroom when the nights dip toward the 40s.

This week has been busy with unpacking more boxes and sorting things as they arrive. I still need to put together the Strathmore chairs I bought for the back deck. The plastic fold chairs were here when I moved in, as was the sun faded piece of carpet that remains on the deck. Kevin still has not come over to measure for the ramp for the back deck or to stain all the decks, which was supposed to have been done before I moved in. Well, He did go to pieces over Forrest being stolen and spirited away to Iowa, only to be returned in the dead of night and left on the doorstep when the thief's neighbors and various friends in Iowa let the thief know they were watching. It doesn't pay to steal a man's dog in this age of technology and Internet connectivity. It just doesn't.

tedwords posted a photo of Corb's underwear drawer and it is artful and creative. All the briefs and boxers are folded neatly and placed in order according to material, color, boxer, or brief. It's the underwear drawer of either a budding serial killer or someone who lines up his toiletries so the labels are easily read. Corb is an exacting kind of person with a creative streak, the kind of person that will either make a tyrant of a director or direct orderly mayhem when the end is near. I can just see him calming people and sorting them by age, height, and useful skills as they board the great ark that will take them out of harm's way, or protect them when the big deluge comes again. He's a good person to know when you're planning a party because everything will be beautiful and organized.

At any rate, here is a photo snapped this morning of my underwear drawer.

UW drawer

I have a fondness for lace and fripperies when I wear underwear. It's mostly for me. I like the feel of silk and lace.

I decided, since I already bought quite a bit of baking and cooking equipment, and had some yeast in the freezer that was about 3 years old, that it was time to see if the yeast was still good. The freezer did an excellent job of keeping the yeast dormant, but active when dissolved in liquid, even cold liquid in the manner of French bakers. I read recently that French bread is so good because the bakers do not rush the process, allowing the flavors to develop. I also wanted to try the semolina flour and a recipe from one of my cookbooks, so semolina bread must be made.

Two days ago, I made the starter. It's like making sourdough bread, but without the white sourdough bread that results. I let the starter sit for 24 hours and, yesterday afternoon before it was time for work, I began making the bread, sifting together unbleached flour, semolina, olive oil, salt, more yeast sprinkled over water, and the starter. The dough was very sticky; I still managed to knead the dough and put it in a lightly oiled bowl to rise, not for the 1-1/2 to 2 hours listed in the recipe, but for 8 hours while I worked. I chafed the dough and let it rest, after punching it down, cut it in half, made 2 rounds, and waited for the next rise while heating the oven. A few hours later, I had 2 perfectly baked rounds of semolina bread. It sounded hollow when I tapped on the bottom and it did not feel like a brick or fall apart, so I hadn't added too much flour while kneading. I could barely wait for the bread to be cool enough to try, so I tore off a hunk, slathered it with butter, and added some marmalade from one of the jars I bought in order to taste test for the perfect marmalade.

Just as a side note, Rose's orange fine cut marmalade is more orange jelly with a few hair fine slivers of orange zest rather than a real marmalade. The zest is barely there and scattered widely through a small jar and is quite unremarkable as far as jellies, and especially marmalades, are concerned. I have 4 other jars to test, but I will use this jelly because I hate wasting money and food, even if it is just barely adequate food.

semolina bread

The above is my remaining loaf beneath the book with the photo of what the bread should look like (and it does) and the Victorinox bread knife I bought that cuts through the crusty crust without damaging the tight, soft crumb inside. The knife does a marvelous job. I cannot understand how I lived without it before now.

Since I know how readers love pictures to go with the writing, I have decided to provide some of my own, taken with my Kindle Fire. I'm actually proud of the photos. Well, except for the photo of the clouds you cannot see because the light is wrong. I'll do better next time. For now,

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

You Big Ape

I'm a fan of fantasy and science fiction stories, like King Kong and Mighty Joe Young. I've seen the Fay Wray version and the Jessica Lange version and even the Jack Black version of the great Kong and the only version of Mighty Joe Young that was ever produced several times. Well, only once for the Jack Black version. As much as I enjoy Naomi Watts's work, let's face it, Jack Black was the star of that show.

One thing I find perplexing is how every time they show Kong in his native habitat, there are other monsters from the dinosaur age, but the trees and plants are the versions we see all the time. If the world in which Kong and his Triassic or Jurassic pals have been cut off from the rest of the world, the plant life would not be sufficient to sustain vegetarians of such massive size, which may also explain why Kong has lived for hundreds of years without skeletal signs of parents or a tribe of gorillas just like him. I suppose some alien visitors took all the prehistoric animals and transplanted them to their fog-shrouded island where time had moved on after injecting the animals with some immortality serum so that living forever wouldn't be a problem even though insufficient plant life to sustain them would be.

I know. I'm forgetting to suspend my disbelief and seeing things in a rational manner which is definitely not a good idea when faced with a fantasy/science fiction movie where scientific fact has been left out in order to further the story. After all, what difference does scientific fact have to do with science fiction? Pure flights of fancy should never have to face such hard realities as how the monsters got to their world forgotten by time and how they could possibly survive without sufficient food. That's a problem for mere mortals like me. And don't get me started on monster manure and what happens to all the urine they excrete. After all, no one goes to the bathroom in movies or books, at least not for anything as mundane as voiding and excretion. (That is urinating and defecating for the low information crowd.) That just muddies up the waters -- or yellows them to be more exact.

That is the main problem I have with hidden worlds cut off from the flow of time that happens everywhere else on this planet. The plant life does not get cut off as well. The plants get smaller and yet the dinosaurs and big apes keep getting bigger. I suppose the plants could supply more nutrition than their gigantic ancestors did to support such a diverse population of monsters, but there still should be evidence of the monsters' forebears to make it easier to swallow that the current crop came from somewhere other than some source of deus ex machina or aliens with a natural habitat-zoo fetish. I doubt gods or aliens work in quite that way.

One thing we now know is that even the vegetarian dinosaurs were likely mammals as the meat eaters certainly were. So much for the terrible lizards since they were all hot blooded. Natural selection, destruction by comet, and the usual sources that killed off the dinosaurs as did dwindling food supplies as the Earth cooled and the greenhouse effect that nourished giant plants and trees gave way to a much cooler environment north and south of the equator. For all we know, the Earth's axial tilt could also have changed. All we have left are the birds, which are the evolutionary cousins of dinosaurs, which by the way, showed evidence of feathers in fossil form. Hard to imagine a chicken or an ostrich coming from dinosaurs, but that is what happened. I wonder why the adaptation for hollow bones came about, other than to make sure the birds could fly. Dinosaur bones were certainly not hollow and were much heavier to support the massive weight of their flesh -- even when they held their tails up and didn't drag them on the ground as scientists once thought. How far we have come in our understanding of the ancient world, even if in the modern world we still can't get the habitats right, or at least right enough for movies like King Kong and The Land That Time Forgot, among other lost world books and movies.

Yes, I still can't shake the part of me that insists on accuracy and something approaching reality. It's a flaw. I admit it.

Basically, the story of King Kong and Mighty Joe Young is the story of Beauty and the Beast. Instead of the fairy tale version where Beauty saves the beast because she realizes she loves him and has treated him badly, Beauty is the reason the Beast dies. His love for his diminutive blonde mate signals his end of life. As Jack said in the 1976 version starring a fresh-faced, scantily clad Jessica Lange, when Charles Grodin took Kong from his hidden island, he took the mystery, terror, and magic from the people who worshiped and sacrificed their virgins to their god. Modern man destroyed their religion and their god. I agree with Jack, but I still wonder how a black race of people got the idea that a blonde virgin would satisfy their god when they had likely never seen a blonde woman -- or a white one -- even though their rituals prominently featured blonde, white skinned virgins. I guess there is some genetic memory of goddesses with white skin and blonde hair even among a people lost from the natural flow of time, but that touches too closely on the theory that the people that created the black races (or brought them from the Pleiades as slaves) were white skinned and likely blonde. Seems to me the fossil records from the American shores show giants with red hair, and then there are those red-haired, fair-skinned giants of legend among the Asian people in Outer Mongolia. Now we're getting back to facts and reality and that is no good for fantasy. Best stick to the story and not think too much or use the dormant side of the human brain. Such mental exercises might increase the use of that 10% and edge into Einstein territory.

Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy the evolving special effects and men in gorilla suits, and eventually the computerized special effects of the King Kong of 2005, not to mention the acting styles of the Beauty that fascinates and brings down the only living specimen of a giant gorilla as much as the next person. I love to be entertained, and all versions are entertaining in their own special way, even if Jack Black outshines Naomi Watts in the 2005 version despite Miss Watts's considerable acting abilities. I guess I'll have to be content with the fantasy and the blonde beauties as they turn a fond eyes toward the monster that first terrified them and eventually brought them to tears.

It was different for Might Joe Young since he was brought up by  white family in Africa and, through love and nurturing, and one would expect a massive quantity of fruits and vegetables, the little gorilla became a giant among gorillas and as protective of Jill Young (played by Terry Moore in the 1949 version and Charlize Theron in the 1998 Disney version) as Kong was of his aspiring starlets. The Disney version of Mighty Joe Young edited out the heart of the 1949 version in favor of a less obvious morality play and more schmaltz and pretty vistas. I don't have as clear a picture of the 1998 version as I do of the 1949 version. The earlier version remains as clear as the first time I saw it on late night TV. It often seems like harsh realities and the clear black and white of earlier days has given way to technology and a movie that tests well with audiences that are not favorably disposed toward the real grit and dirt of getting down to the nitty gritty. Such is life and, one supposes, and the art of story telling in the 20th and 21st centuries.

I am in the minority with my insistence on facts and reality, but then I have no problem with talking (and singing) chipmunks and anthropomorphized ducks, dogs, mice, and various other animals. Go figure.

That is all. Disperse.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Politics of Manners

I don't know why it is, but my best thoughtful (philosophical) moments come when I'm doing needlework or writing in my journal.

I need a case for my reading glasses because I've reached that age I need them everywhere (grocery store, banks, filling out applications, etc.) and the little reading glasses that fit into a plastic case just isn't cutting it any more. They are small, fall off my nose, and are a little bit too strong. I know. I could buy a pair that aren't as strong, but they have a tendency to fall out of the hole in my shopping bag since I don't carry a purse any more. Why bother? I do not need a bag hanging around my neck or over my shoulder or arm to carry a lot of useless things I won't use; whereas my shopping bag (very stylish, blue, printing about being eco-conscious) is very useful for quick stops, holds my canvas shopping bags, and all I put in it are my wallet, keys, and reading glasses. Very useful and I'm not dragging around a lot of junk. That's what I have a house for -- a place for my junk stuff.

Anyway, I was needlepointing an eyeglass case in the wee hours before the dogs got up and started barking (just minutes before) and couldn't get back to sleep, so I picked up the case and continued stitching. I did get all the color work done and now have only the black background to stitch. Have you any idea what a pain it is to stitch black on black even with a 150-watt light? Getting old eyes sucks, but that's another topic for another time.

As I stitched, the idea of gratitude and manners came to mind. Okay, both are subjects that often come to mind in this mannerless world of rude crudes. There is a difference between gratitude and manners. People with manners will ma'am and sir you and speak with what sounds like respect, but it's like a smile that never reaches the eyes. An exercise of learned response versus true gratitude and manners. I prefer the former. I can handle rude (have you met my family?), but I find it difficult to understand and accept ingratitude.  It's something I see several times a year.

Don't get me wrong. I often donate and give gifts anonymously. I don't need the accolades and I'm not trying to build up points in heaven because I don't believe in heaven. Well, not as a religious concept where people who said the right words in the right religious way, and often with zealous religious fervor. It seems to me that refusing to enjoy the life you're given to build up points to go to a place where everything is all sunshine and light and praising some god is the antithesis of living the life you were given. Mortgaging the present for some nebulous future that may or may not exist and could be taken away if you fail to give thanks or do the right things according to whatever doctrine you follow. Makes no sense. Yet another topic for another time.

Back to gratitude and manners. There is something empty about someone giving the formulaic response to a gift. "Thank you, ma'am. It was nice. I like it." A 'really like it' may be added -- or left out -- but that empty feeling settles in the pit of my stomach when I hear it. I can tell by the tone of voice, the glitter in the eyes, the broad smile, the excited words, and the spontaneous hugging that the gift was well received. That is gratitude. The former is manners -- by rote. A formula for acceptable behavior. It's as flat as last week's 7-Up left open on the counter.

As I pondered the difference, I got an idea to embark on a completely new path. I thought about writing a short story, but something inside me kept saying, "Write a play. Dramatize it." I've done enough plays and read a lot of scripts, so I know the basic format and what I want to achieve. Flitting over the transom in my mind came a memory of Sandra Bullock overseeing the stage settings for one of her character's plays while giving an interview to a reporter. That published interview set the stage for family drama the likes of which I can imagine. Good thing most of my family is either dead or estranged. No one will notice if I put them on the stage and give them sides to memorize.

What it all comes down to is this. Give me honesty emotion however expressed and save me from learned manners without emotion. No wonder the world of Jane Austen has gone the way of historical romance and movies. That kind of socially correct and soulless responses leaves a bad taste in the mouth -- and on the heart. Maybe honest, unguarded emotions (and words) are best. At least in the case of political posturing, give me emotion every time.

Other thoughts have crossed my meditative mind, but this is the first time I've considered writing a play. I like it. I like it a lot. (imagine a big grin full of teeth and the glitter of mischief in my eyes.) Now that is gratitude. Honest gratitude from me to the muse without political correctness and political posturing. Unadulterated. Unexpurgated. Unvarnished. Unfettered.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nothing Much

The new chairs arrived yesterday morning while I was still sleeping. When American Furniture Warehouse tells you to expect delivery between 7 and 9 on the scheduled day, expect the earlier time.

Two guys were walking around my yard carrying the chairs over their heads. I have four doors into this house, and three ways to get to the doors. They were at the laundry room door and needed to be on the back side of the house to bring the chairs directly into the living room. They had to walk around the house and down the little hill to get there and they did it in short order. The Saran wrapped chairs were unwrapped and the bigger of the two guys snapped a picture of them in place on his tablet, which is also where I had to sign the receipt with my finger. That was awful since most of it didn't show. I keep my nails short to type faster. It showed.

Anyway, the chairs are sitting next to each other and I'm getting used to them before I figure out where they will be placed. They are just the right shadow of yellow (flax) for the room and not too bright at all. They're also very comfortable. I expect the other two chairs I want for side of the room where the new chairs sit will arrive as quickly and in equally good order.

On a side note, I do not like the way LiveJournal has changed the site. Used to be I could make a comment and click the back button to find myself right where I left the page. Not so now. I have to scroll back down to where I left off and that is irritating at best. Now I point the comment to another window on my browser and close the browser when I'm done. Nothing works the way it should on LJ any more. So much for all the fussing about with the code and the look. It's awful.

Why is it that people want to get into pissing contests with me when I make a comment that their rancor pointed at the way the USA has done completely excludes the fact that their own country, and indeed every country and civilization since the beginning of time, was also founded on atrocities to each other and to the people who lived there before them? You don't fix a problem by pointing out how another country (not your own) has built their greatness on the bodies and blood of others. That's disingenuous to say the least.

This particular person has it in his head that I am telling Native Americans that they should just suck it up and get on with their lives. And why is it always Canadians? His latest broadside was just as pissy as his first attack on me. He said my spelling was atrocious without pointing to a single incident of my atrocious spelling, and all because I noted that nickel was spelled nickel and not nickle. I checked through my comments and there were no misspelled words, which tells me that he made up the atrocious spelling in his own mind. Maybe he shouldn't have mentioned that he was dyslexic when he said he knew how to spell nickel and spelled it incorrectly. He continued to one up me by saying that he had a degree in Business and his mother, 89 years old and still going strong, was still a syndicated columnist, throwing in a little aside that he had an IQ of 152 and had more history under his belt that I could even imagine. I declined to one up him with my higher IQ or the war zones I've lived in, the riots I've lived through, and the history I have seen in my nearly 60 years of life as the daughter of an American soldier. I felt it was more pissing that I was willing to engage in. I congratulated him on his accomplishments and simply told him that I was not born to privilege, but had made my accomplishments all own my own without any help from my family or my background. I have to keep reminding myself that he is another one of those Canadians inhabiting the high moral ground and looking down his nose at everything American while ignoring the rest of the world as he decries our checkered history.

I need to keep away from people like that and stop reminding them that they have no moral high ground because they will inevitably come back to bitch and moan at me while castigating me with their lack of wit and charm. Best to keep out of those my dick is bigger than yours discussions that always end up with them unzipping and hauling out the dick to show just how big a dick can be.

In the meantime, let me add that if anyone sees a misspelling on my posts, please let me know so I can fix them. I usually write these posts off the top of my head and welcome being able to correct them when I'm wrong. I don't see such correction as onerous or unwelcome, but a chance to make what I've written better. Thanks in advance.

Somehow or other my bedside clock got off the time. It's now about 2 hours ahead of what it should be and I don't know how that happened. Now I have some extra time to do the dishes before I wash my hair and clean myself up before trekking down the mountain to drop off some mail and pick up milk and bread and maybe a snack or two. I also have to draw some money out of my account to pay the housekeeper when she gets here tomorrow to wash floors, clean windows, vacuum, and carry away empty boxes after she steam cleans the sofa and chaise. The house will be livable again -- at least for the three weeks before it's time for her to come and clean again. Such is life.

Well, the birds are mobbing my decks again and I need to get going so I can go down the mountain for the mail. Btw, the picture at the top is of flax seeds and the actual color of the chairs

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This morning was not good, more like my stomach and intestines were on separate amusement park rides -- and I was not and am not amused. Nothing like trying to sleep while both exits are gurgling and jammed with impending spewage. I couldn't even drag myself out of bed long enough to answer the door for Kirk, the UPS hunk, and accept delivery. I was groggy and afraid he might be forced to accept a delivery he wouldn't want and might come to rue.

Just the thought of bitter rue sets my insides spinning on the Vomit Comet.

I did manage to get up and drink some cold chai. Probably not a great choice, but a choice that has stayed down so far. That's a good thing because I have been running on empty and nearly inside out and empty. Then I decided something filling and substantial would be a good choice, so steak, rare. It has so far remained inside and is not making that gurgling about to reappear noise at either end.

I tried doing a little stitching on an eyeglass case, but that didn't last long. Sitting up made me feel vertiginous and unsettled. Then I decided that sitting up would be essential to eating so here I am, ears at the ready for sounds of internal derangement, and typing up something (anything) to keep my mind off my gastrointestinal chaos.

Btw, the above photo is a dog worshiping at the porcelain Idol. I feel his distress.

On the plus side, or at least the side that is less health related, I have gone through almost all the boxes and cannot find my loaf pans. They were good quality metal loaf pans, but they are still AWOL. Since I was feeling nostalgic and remembering my Gram's flannel hash (the pot roast version of corned beef hash), I bought 2 new glass bread pans and a lovely pan just for making hash, which is basically leftover meat chopped fine and combined with diced potato (freshly made or leftover) and some gravy combined and put into the oven at 350 to bake.  The bottom, sides, and top should be crusty (without being burned) and the insides smooth and well melded. Now all I need to do is buy a pot roast, cook it for dinner, and put together my flannel hash. I might even do corned beef hash (with an egg on top) if I can find a suitable corned beef brisket.

Right now, I'm getting ready to bake some fruitcakes. Don't groan. They are delicious, especially when the fruit has marinated for 2 weeks in bourbon (or whiskey if you prefer), added to the batter, baked, and then wrapped in cheesecloth soaked in bourbon for a couple of months. I might even use rum if the bourbon goes well. A really good fruitcake needs to age and successive layers of liquor soaked cheesecloth to get the right flavor and moistness. That's what most people don't get about really good fruitcake, the mellowing, the liquor, and the deft hand with a good balance between cake and fruit. I do so love fruitcake.

I was tossing out some trash from my mail run yesterday when Kevin stopped me and told me, frozen fruit popsicle in a tube in hand, that he was off to Iowa to get his dog, Forrest, back. It seems the neighbors across the street from him left at the same time that Forrest disappeared. Their vacation was over and they were headed back to Iowa, quite possibly with his 7-month-old Newfoundland. I pity the people if they stole Forrest. Kevin is not a forgiving man when it comes to stealing his dog. You can have his fiancee or his son, but not his dog. I don't know if he made it home yet. I'll check later.

Well, this little update has burned through what ragged strength remains to me right now and I'm going to go try some more chai and possibly a few more bites of steak to keep the rest company -- and hopefully keep it tightly packed and digesting properly. I need to go out and get some yogurt to refresh the gut bugs to put the process back on track.

That is all. Disperse.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Is Any Man Truly Free?

Dostoevsky wrote about true freedom, the freedom to kill with impunity. Where Ivan's argument breaks down is in the commission of the murderer. When one is free and that freedom means killing without punishment or regret or fear, then there is no need for secrecy and no need to blame the murder on someone else.

Smerdyakov plans to murder his father and he tells Ivan what he will do. He fakes a seizure to set the stage for his own innocence after going to Gruschenka to deliver the message that the elder Karamazov will give her a gift if she comes to see him that night. Smerdyakov already knows that Dimitri attacked his father when he believed Gruschenka was visiting his father and promised to kill his father if he caught Gruschenka with him the next time.

The whole point is that if Smerdyakov were truly free to kill with impunity, he would not have stage managed such an elaborate frame for Dimitri to take the blame for killing their father. He would simply have killed the elder Karamazov and admitted the act to anyone and everyone because the law did not apply to him.

This same moral disconnect is present in Murder by Numbers when the two rich boys, Richard Haywood and Justin Pendleton, carefully choose their victim and set up their alibis for the time of the murder. The man who is truly free does not need to hide his deed because he fears no punishment. That man, or in this case those boys, would kill their victim in broad daylight in front of witnesses and walk away unscathed and unpunished. They killed with impunity.

Because neither Justin nor Richard was truly free, they must hide their crime and throw the police off the track.

I suppose Justin and Richard covered up their murder because the police would not see them as free men killing with impunity, but that moral hiccup proves that they are not free. They cannot kill with impunity because they are bound by the morals in which they were brought up and which they must follow or go to prison. They can claim from behind bars that they are free men, but they were never truly free nor could they ever be free, just as Smerdyakov and Ivan were bound by the morals and beliefs which inform their actions.

No man can truly be free to kill with impunity unless and until he kills without remorse in the clear light of day in front of witnesses and walks away without being punished. Saying a thing does not make it so. In other words, saying they are free to kill does not mean they are free to kill. It is this fact that nullifies the premise that killing with impunity makes a wo/man free.

When we seek to hide our actions we admit the immorality and crime of those same actions.

The Future of Books in a Green World

Did you know that 40% of all books printed in the United States are destroyed each year? That means of the 15,000,000 (15 million) books printed in 2012, 6,000,000 (6 million) books were destroyed. They are put into landfills and your new house in that new suburb may be sitting on top of all pulped books, books that were printed and sent to retailers who then sent the books back to the publishers' warehouse to be remainder for a short time and eventually destroyed, bulldozed into landfills among garbage and detritus. That is the past, present, and future of all the trees that were cut down and pulped to make the books that were not sold.

Recyclers say they cannot recycle books because of the glue that binds books together along the spine. They have neither the technology nor the equipment to separate glue from paper so the paper can be recycled. I'm going to have to cry foul on that because it would take very little effort to slice off the spine and pulp the rest. I could do it with a paper cutter, but it would be a slow process, and yet I'm certain that a forward thinking recycler could invent or build a machine to slice off the glued spine to recycle the paper and make a whole lot of profit. It's common sense.

I worked in a company a long time ago where I stripped the covers from paperbacks which were then sent back to publishers for credit and the rest of the book was sent to be destroyed. At that time, the books were either fed into the furnace to keep us warm during the winter or later sent to landfills to be bulldozed into the trash that eventually became a new plot of land on which to build hospitals, houses, and businesses. It still seems wrong to me, but I grew up in a land just 10 years post World War II and book burning just did not settle well with me. Nor does building land on top of destroyed books. Don't believe that your green plans for recycling and repurposing books will end up in any other way but the landfill. Only the rare books end up in a dusty shop on the shelves of towering bookcases with little stick-on tags with expensive prices. Few books ever reach that level. Most end up on the dollar and 50-cent table outside some run down bookshop just before they too are sent to the landfill. This cannot be the future I envision and still hope to see. 

In this green conscious age in which we live, I see that as unconscionable, especially when there is an alternative that doesn't waste trees, paper, ink, and books. We all know what it is -- digital books, e-books, The Future.

I received this email this morning from Kindle because many of my books are on KDP. Take the time to read it and then ask yourself this question: When all is said and done, who cares about readers?

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

-          We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
-          Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
-          Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
-          Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com