Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stars malign

One day earlier this month my horoscope more or less told me to go back to bed (what it actually said was any new endeavor undertaken that day would not be successful). The funny thing is it was a very stoopid day. Among other things I undercut a straight edge binding by less than 1/2 an inch. The result is the same as if I had undercut by twelve feet but somehow I felt it more. I also poured a cup of semi-hot coffee into a plastic-bag-lined garbage can instead of the sink & the very full jar of little snips of fabric & thread I collect when I sew into the sink instead of the compost jug.

I wonder if the day would have been so annoying if I had not read my horoscope. Or do I actually do roughly the same absentminded things everyday but this day they registered? A famous critic says (said, I am sure he is dead; all famous critics are dead right?)... Let me start again, I heard once that all art is about context. One piece may look the same as another but it is separated by context: the period of the painting, the period of the painter. the period of the viewer.

I do not think this is hogwash exactly so much as not germane. My experience of any piece of art on any given day is my own experience; the only context that matters is mine. You can see how it can be hard to sell me art, as my own context is often covered in dog hair & nothing that will be covered in dog hair should cost very much.

Not surprisingly I have a limited patience for ART that just hang around. A well crafted bowl, excellent. A quilt, well you know how I feel about that. Even a picture of a place I have been or a person I know &/or admire, wonderful. But all the so-called art in YOUR house is complete crap.

This perspective ties very nicely with all the qualities of my star sign. Apparently we are belligerent blow-hards. & a bit primitive technologically. Anyone who reads this blog knows I have only a semi-serious relationship with spell-check so maybe there is something to it.

A, on the other hand, is at the opposite end of the horoscope & according to reports is dreamy & ethereal requiring a strong sign (MINE!) to get through the day. Now that I know that, I am pretty sure I pour something somewhere wrong once a week or so.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dear Mr. Goodell

It was with no surprise what-so-ever that I read you had reinstated Michael Vick to the NFL, with full reinstatement by week 6 of the upcoming season. I have never heard of a professional sports administrator that did not put $$ above every other standard & no one expected you would be any different. Also, I am sure it is handy for future offenders in the NFL to know "indefinitely" means less than three years.

Living in a Football Is King community, I have heard many arguments for Vick's reinstatement. I think my favorites are: they are just dogs & other players have beaten their wives/girlfriends & not drawn this much attention. I am sure both of these were factors in your decision. Whether we like it or not, there is a perception of complicity when a victim capable of speech elects not to speak.

On the other hand, if Michael Vick had rounded up his exes, put them in cages & forced them to fight to the death, the outcome would probably be somewhat different. In short, it would be out of your hands.

The world of football is plenty big enough that I am confident you will have a full & rich life without being much inconvenienced wondering what the rest of us think of you. Which is lucky because it is not much. As disgusted as I am by an ignorant animal that has never been taught to live in a civilized manner, is in fact rewarded for the damage it does, there is nothing more craven than the human being that profits from that animal's base nature.

Monday, July 27, 2009

No news is bad news

In less than a week the local uni-radio station will switch from the classical music during the day, news radio on the fringes format to all news all the time. I admit I am a big fan of NPR & am happy there will be more news programming, but I wish they had not gone quite so whole hog.

I understand the fiscal arguments (listener numbers plummet when classical music takes the air), the civic arguments (there is a dearth of fair & balanced news in our culture no matter what the for-profit news media outlets call themselves) & the music is still around arguments (the classical music 'station' will move to one of the HD radio channels) & agree with 99.9% of them. I just wish they had made a partial exception for those classical music programs produced locally.

It is not that I think the local programs are better then the national ones (I am quite sure they are not) but because I think that just as important as information from a source who is not making his salary from the guy trying to sell you a car (or a stock or a healthplan or a not-healthplan as the case may be) is knowing that someone very close by is in media. & I firmly believe that still applies, even if the area of expertise is not today's headlines but instead Gregorian chants or unfinished fugues or some other not-previously thought of aspect of classical music.

For the record I am also for keeping two other locally produced shows, neither of which I can stand: Connor Calling a christian-right view of contemporary publications from a bicyclers guide to north/central Florida to a biography of Albert & Victoria & everything in between (or not, I mean everything) & Sikorski's Attic, where guy attempts the antique roadshow over the phone. Why? It is that local thing again. The book-sjhow oftens features local authors or books of local interest, the antique guy does regualr F*R*E*E programs at the library. I do not have to agree with them or even like what they do to know that their just being here & being themselves is good for this community.

We need to stop super-starring the news readers & having the lady up the street talk about Mozart or Bach or whomever five days a week did that. Even if you do not care about Mozart or Bach or classical music period. Hearing voices on the radio we also hear in the grocery store, on the football sidelines & every where else around our lives is almost more important than what those voices say.

& that is why I wish that they had decided to keep the handful of locally produced music programs on the air, even if the hours were reduced, even they were tucked around the edges, even if they played nothing but Rachmaninoff (which I loathe), even then I would make sure I tuned in. Do not get me wrong, I will be delighted with more NPR news. But I am sorry it is at this cost.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cannibals are all around

A bit ago, A***** loaned me her copy of The Sex Live of Cannibals on disc. I enjoyed parts of it more than I can say; other parts left me feeling so light-headed I had to put my feet up. This book hit me in two places I live: a belief in the extraordinariness of the ordinary & the converse the ordinariness of the extraordinary. Also it made me laugh & completely grossed me out.

While I was reading it, I realized I knew where I was when I got the same current-events-type updates he talks about (almost certainly weeks if not months before he did) & how I would have been happy to move to an atoll in the Pacific to avoid the bombardment of information. Or rather the bombardment of no new information. The endless loop of repeats. The on & on of nothing at all.

Which brings me to Michael Jackson. The reason the news channels are still covering Michael Jackson is it costs them next to nothing, especially when compared to paying Farsi translators or airfare to Colombo (the capital of Sri Lanka, not the crime family) or actual reporters (who have actual diplomas & actual student loans) instead of hairdressers (who have hairdressing certificates & sometimes GEDs).

There I said it. Now turn of the d*mn TV & go read a book. or talk to your neighbor. or call your mother.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Of course I have heard of cows

I went to one of the other AG universities in the country (no, not Texas A&M) & then lived off-campus while A finished his degree. I once had to call in to work because cows had gotten loose in the apartment parking lot & were slipping on the ice, making it very difficult to move them back to their pasture (& very risky if not impossible to drive).

I have better stories than that, though. After a freshman year spent in the freshman dorms, I moved to one of the all-female dorms on campus. & stayed there for the next three years (I truly never understood the desire to live in a party dorm, much better to visit & then go home, but I have always been of the do-not-sh*t-where-you-eat mentality). This particular dorm was actually one of the oldest buildings on campus & therefore adjacent to one of the oldest schools: the agricultural school. Unlike other virgin-volts/lesbo-lockups or whatever it is your school called women-only dorms this one actually had a waiting list. If you had to get up at dawn to milk the cows before class, you would want to live as close as possible, too.

This meant that pastoral views & healthful walks were literally just outside the front door. It was like being on a campus a la Jean Webster & not circa 198x at all. Except on Ag Show days. On those days the crowd in the barns could get pretty competitive & more than once I walked into the elegant pre-war marble showers to find another resident washing a sheep. No cup of black coffee wakes a person up quite like standing groggily under lessening hot water, hearing "BAAA!" & then the crash of a liberated ewe covered in soap-suds sliding down the main staircase into the front parlor & crashing usually somewhere around the piano. I heard that one once got into the big fireplace, somehow behind the firescreen & did really amazing things with the soot, but I missed it myself.

All of this came back to me a few weeks ago when I was driving back to campus to pick up A. I had his car (i.e. not my truck) & was driving past the big field one street over when out of the corner of my eye I saw it: one loan calf had made it across the cattle guard & was now slowly munching around to the street. Cattle guards can be very scary (to cows) which makes them very effective except when they fail, they fail miserably. The cow that was frightened & somehow made it across is very very very hard to convince to go back.

I quickly reversed the Honda, zoomed down the short entrance beeping the whole way. For a moment I worried it might decide the safest route was up over the hood & out onto the road, but it wheeled around & ran back over the guard, clanging & lowing. At the other end of the field I saw the farmer, rope in hand, stop his sprint, wave & walk back in the direction he had come from.

//the dorm itself was named for the Governor who vetoed funding allocations for the first women's dorm at the the school. Where I am from this is what passes for a very good joke.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No nay never no nay never no more

The heart wants what the heart wants. Or so I am told. Whenever anyone is looking for an excuse to do whatever the hell they want in the name of love. I do not not believe this to be true, I just do not think narcissism & greed count as love. Think about it: by the other standard every drunk is the most loving person on earth. I promise you they are not.

The pursuit of what the heart wants is often a strange winding road. If you have any poetry in your soul at all, you can take a step back & remember it unfolding before your own eyes. Last week my farrier was here trimming Becca & CoCo (she got Bert & Tiki last time). Funny thing about my farrier: she is allergic to horses. She rides most weekends in winter & many evenings in summer but when her skin makes contact with a horse, she gets "all itchy".

I myself am allergic to stinging insect in general & bees more particularly. I long for a hive of my own. & if the IFAS extension that deals with beekeeping survives the shake up, I hope to have one set-up by the end of next year.

Finally, we have a dog who is actually allergic to fleas (I know, how could she survive & yet she is 14 years old). She also has bad back; parts of her spine have fused together. & what she wants most of all is to scratch that spot the fleas get to right at her tail. A couple times a year she hurts herself badly, scrunched around in this position. This last time we thought we might be putting her to sleep she was so obviously wracked with pain. But she wanted to live to scratch again.

I could not say what anyone else's heart wants but every happy person I know wants what will be hard. The easy thing is rarely worth having. & where is that line between what is reasonable, what is madness & is life better too far from it?

///funny thing about this song. Every Irish band on YOUTUBE covers it but the song itself is almost certainly Australian. When I hold Coco's head, I usually put my cheek to hers & sing quietly (Which makes V** laugh & say "I can still hear you"). Wild Rover is one of them of course, but her favorite seems to be Young Brennan on the Moor. No really.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Swithun is really more a groundhog than a saint. If it rains on Saint Swithun's Day it will rain for forty more days. So, is it raining where you are?

While alive he was an advisor to the king & while barely alive he (apparently) requested to be buried out of doors. I had no idea indoors was an option in 852 but there you are. His weather-management came later, when his cathedral was expanded, remodeled, etc. & they made to move his remains inside. But they could not because...can you guess? Forty days of rain.

Is it me or do parts of this sound familiar?

The last time I had this feeling was reading the review of Mamma Mia in the New Yorker. I know, I know, they always give away the end, but it was the only magazine in A's bathroom that was not the journal of the American Physical Society or -my personal favorite- Vaccuum Technology & Coating. As I read the review, I was reminded of a very silly movie I used to watch on tv, back when cable was just a twinkle: Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell. The last time before that, I remember being tricked into watching Keanu Reeves reprise a role I am convinced was originally played by George Segal. & Wikipedia says I might be right. So there.

Before anyone gets too excited about the groundhog being totally divorced from this loop, you should do a little multiplication & discover that 6 more weeks of winter is exactly 42 days. If you are hoping for rain on Saint Swithun's Day, let me suggest invoking the Patron Saint of Rainmakers.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My gateway drug of choice

I said it the other day & as I said it I realized it was true: I was never much of a pot smoker, but I am glad I had not discovered the joys of watching chickens on an infrequently stoned afternoon because, well, that would have been it for me.

I do not succumb to physical addictions generally. Unless an inability to do any housekeeping counts as an addiction (except laundry, I like of doing laundry; I even like to iron). & the appeal of pot has long been a mystery to me. I have a very short attention span & even stoned I require constant entertainment. I really truly cannot sit there & watch the walls while basking in the intricacies of the musical stylings of .... whoever. I had a roommate who swore I never had hangovers but that just is not true. My problem was sticking with the hangover. Sure I felt green & dizzy but I would get bored lying there being green & dizzy. Besides my feeling on sick days has always been why waste a perfectly good sick day being sick? If you feel like crap, go to the office feeling like crap & kill two birds...

Birds! That's right this was supposed to be about chickens. I love chickens. I especially love watching them, just zoning out & watching them be all chicken-y. Also when they are happy they make this satisfied noise & fluff their feathers. Chickens. H ave I said how much I like to watch them?

//yesterday A was helping put up some wire patches in the henhouse (by helping I mean he was doing it & I was watching). The birds were milling around him in a bit of a fluff because there was a man in their henhouse & the June babies were out with the old birds for the first time ever. & then, one of the birds said, I swear to G*d, "uh-oh". We both laughed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Are zombies the new black?

Much of the Austen worshiping world is all a-flutter over the new book: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. I confess I read the whole d*mn thing & it is just what it claims to be: Pride & Prejudice more or less in its entirely with extra zombies. There are also some ninjas, so be prepared.

C****** works at the library (which I believe I have mentioned) & maybe a year ago, maybe more she told me about an after-hours event/picnic/whatever where the talk wandered up on the latest romance genre: supernatural beings. Imagine Fabio only darker, inside & out. Because she works in processing, she has a pretty good idea what is new to the shelves & she was talking about cart after cart of paranormal bodice-rippers. & then came one of those questions Carrie Bradshaw never asked: is anyone interested in having sex with humans anymore?

Lets face it, teenage boys have been imagining sex with unreal beings for decades . You did not think those pictures in playboy were real did you? I had roommates that posed for playboy; I saw them naked more often than I would care to say & well there is a lot of airbrushing that goes into that magazine. & then there is that bit of folklore (that might actually be true) that american tv kept airing 'magic' women (Jeannie & Samantha come to mind) because who could possibly be interested in a tv-show about a normal one? I know I'm not.

I doubt this love affair with the undead is all that new actually. They are certainly very popular right now & were with...the Victorians. But in between, I think you could make a solid argument for James Bond being not among the living. Think about it, it makes sense; who else is so hard to kill except for a guy that is already dead.

& I am not sure where I am going with this. I have been reading the Betsy Queen of the Damned books: very foolishly funny & very Carrie Bradshaw, although I have managed to avoid Twilight completely. I am proud of this in the same way I am proud of never having seen a Rocky movie. No really, impressive, huh!

But I digress: I have been unable to avoid all the other-world characters in every film, book & tv-show & I guess it has been on my mind. Now that I think about it though, I think the undead might be the original black. & they are not back, they never went way.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Solve for X: X(3x3)=X(2x2)

I have posted before about the small on-line quilt block swap I run, maybe ten maybe twenty participates any given swap. About half the participants are local & another half know me but do not live nearby & the third half joined through a Facebook Group.

Everyone gets the same written directions & anyone local can hear them as well. If anything this is a disadvantage; I am not so clear spoken as you might think. Also, I talk with my hands which makes directions via telephone double-challenging. But all the confusions seem to be coming from the FB group: the group who gets the directions in writing (did I mention I used to write instruction manuals? & got paid for it? actually got good reviews for them?). The April swap was for a 4-patch; the previous completed swap was for a 9-patch. Of the eleven FB participants four of them sent the wrong block.

The funny thing about the wrong blocks is that with one exception (which I really think just got mailed too late), all the wrong blocks were actually morphs of more than one swap. The options were blue&yellow 9-patch, followed by tone-on-tone 4-patch. I got blue&yellow 4-patches & tone-on-tone 9-patches. I am genuinely at a loss.

I have decided to rearrange my planning so that no two alike blocks are ever scheduled back-to-back. & this seems to have worked. The third swap was an on-point basket of any kind. It did not matter if they were tone-on-tone, blue&yellow or whatever so long as they were vaguely discernible as baskets (& to be fair, mine was the vaguest of all). & every block that arrived was what it should be.

The next block is almost abstract: a center square that can be pieced or appliqued or not with a border or borders to bring it up to size. The idea is that it should be appropriate for a kids quilt, but that could mean anything.

//let me get out ahead of everyone who is looking at the equation & deciding there really is a whole number answer. You do not need to message me, I know what it is.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the recession

We live in an unusual county. Prior to the financial meltdown/debacle, many locals prided themselves on being the only Florida county to go McGovern. More recently, when the national home foreclosure rate was closing in on 1 in 450, here it was more like 1 in 827. Keeping in mind that Florida actually has a foreclosure rate above the national average, I got curious what make us so special? I have decided it is a few things, including luck, coincidence & maybe, just maybe brains.

First, because there is a large, large university within our shores a lot of money earned in other parts of the state gets spent here. I do not mean tuition, exactly (tuition in Florida is well below the actual cost of running the classes); I mean student money. They pay rent, they buy groceries, they spend a lot of their parent's cash around the area. So do football fans; football fans in particular pay lots of speeding fines, which is a lively source of income in these parts (well, it is).

Second, the main industries (many associated with the uni & others not, but probably would not be here but for the uni) are often the last you would cut from your personal budget. Education, yes but mostly I am thinking health care. I do not even know how many hospitals there are in the county seat alone, I can name four off the top of my head. There are not 1/4 million people in the entire county; that is a lot of health care. There are also almost twice as many people under the age of 18 than there are over the age of 65. Trust me when I say this is not the norm for Florida. This does not obviously tie in to industry, but it kinda-sorta does. Especially when your industry is health care.

Third, really smart people do not make as much money as you would think. We did the math once & figured out that hour-for-hour, a motivated cleaning woman with or without a high school diploma, employed by a professional cleaning company makes as much if not a bit more than A, a PhD physicist with a current & competitive research resume. No really. He has not logged less than 68 hours a week since August last year & often works more than that. He does not teach during the summer (& therefore does not get paid to teach during the summer), but he will work roughly the same hours. This being the case (& the local norm), McMansions are not a common housing unit here. & uni-money often being 'soft' money (renewed or not on an annual or semi-annual basis), even someone employed for years cannot get a loan without a sizable down payment. I never said the advantage of brains was in applying them, I just said more brains was maybe a factor.

More recently the housing market here in Florida is bouncing back. Guess where it is not bouncing: right here. In part because things did not lose nearly so much 'value'. & in part because a shocking number of the homes that DID tumble in value were rentals. Student rentals. & no one in their right mind will pay anything like $. 75 on the $1.00 for a house that has been inhabited by college students & their off-the-record sub-lets for any amount of time. The auction house I wrote about before did not sell. I heard from my neighbor who talked to the house's neighbor that at the appointed hour, not a single bidder had showed. If they are really expecting what they are asking for it that house will be empty a long-long time.

On the up side, the student neighborhoods have gotten much nicer. A friend of mine has lived in her own little house walking distance from campus for decades. There has always been an ebb & flow around her but about seven years ago it got much more virulent. The house next door was purchased by a family with at least two sons. Both of whom went, at different times, to uni here. So while not technically a rental property (& therefore not subject to any of those rules) it was effectively a rental property. Many more than the usual number of people lived there, parking on the lawn, parking on her lawn, collecting garbage around the house, not painting or repairing or mowing. The last straw was the half-pipe with spotlights they erected in the back yard. I do not know about town, but out here any structure with a roof or within 100 feet of a structure on an adjacent lot requires a permit & neighbors approval. Guess what they did not have (did not even try to get).

The student houses around campus still exist, of course, people have to live somewhere. But they are looking much better cared for. It turns out the only thing worse than having to pay rent while your kid goes here for 5+ years is having to supervise tenants for the 5 more years it takes to sell. The fines for an illegal half-pipe are no fun either. & that home-made video of how they behaved when your faux-tenants were told they had to take it down (& the tossing of debris into other peoples yards) well, that was kind of expensive, too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

UPS tracking # 1Z 926 EW6 03 0130 3812

On Monday (I was not home but V** was here), a UPS truck pulled into the driveway. The driver never got out of the truck (that she saw) but left a package in a plastic bag at our front gate. The driver never came to the door to make the delivery, did not even leave the package on the porch where it would have been safe from the weather. When I got home I would have driven right past it if V** had not told me it was there.

On Monday, Wednesday & again today I called UPS & each time it has been the same headache from scratch: they have no record of my previous calls. I am calling because the package is not for us. Although the recipient's last name begins with the same letter as our last name that is where it stops being the same. It is not for anyone on our street; it has a clear address with a different street. It is not for our number on this other street; as with the last names the first number of the four digit street number is the same as ours, but that is it.

Under ordinary circumstances I would say this was a very avoidable stoopid mistake. Wrong street, wrong house, wrong name & any of it could have been avoided if not for the wrong driver. But it actually gets worse: it turns out UPS has no system (or functioning system) for reporting this kind of mistake. Each time I call it is like I have never called before.

In the grand scheme of who has the right to be pissed, it is not me. I am not the shipper nor am I the recipient & I suspect that is exactly what is making it so hard to fix this problem. I am just sick of this pile of garbage (it has been raining on & off over the last four days) waiting for pick-up at my front gate. Last night I dreamed there were kittens in the package which has made me more upset than I should be.

When I take a step back though I notice two things:

1. what do people have against the post office? Sure, they do not have those crazy slick scanning gizmos , but then again this package was delivered to the correct address four days ago according to those same gizmos so what does that matter? Besides, when I go to my local post office, the post-people know me. By name. & they deliver mail to the house almost every day mail is delivered. Want to know how many misdelivered bundles we have had in the past year? Two. If that seems like a lot do the math: 52 weeks x 6 days a week = 312 total delivery days a year & 310 went without a hitch. If UPS made 15 deliveries to my house last year I will be surprised but lets say that they did: 15 deliveries & 14 were OKay. Do I really need to do all the percentage calculations to show who has the better track record?

2. the other bell that kept ringing in my head was the universal health care bell. I am tired tired tired of people complaining that the government will squeeze out private health care providers. If that were true other government institutions would not have private competition (like oh, say the post office). Private firms might have to step up their game. OR they could make like UPS & fake it.

//As I began this post this morning, I did finally get a call from the local UPS office that they had indeed received all my complaints & a driver would be out "shortly". She asked if there was any reason the driver might have trouble finding our house. I said that would depend: if it was the same driver as last time he could not find the front door when he was parked in the driveway. As of the time stamp on this post the package was still out there.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

This time of year when I think about this time last year

This blog is one year old tomorrow. If I felt like flipping back to the 'published' page (I do not) I would tell you how many that is. I know it is more than 100.

This year, contrary to my predictions the rainy season has come early & steamy. I actually never said it would not be hot, I just said it would be dry. Well, it turns out you cannot predict the weather watching emus no matter what Laura Ingalls Wilder says. Although I think she used bees.

This is why I am hoping that this year I will get my July 4th wish. I hope it rains. I hope it rains all week-end. I hope the rain that started yesterday keeps going for five more days. & I hope that I can have a fireworks-free sleep after a drunk-driver-free afternoon. & I hope everyone else gets that, too. That's right I am forcing my crazy liberal wishes on all of you.