Friday, January 29, 2016

A Better Side of the Argument

The take over of the Oregon Wildlife Refuge still hangs heavy on my mind.  I guess it is because I love this earth and I do not believe the way these militiamen-terrorists took over that land was an example of how to win an argument.  They lost the support of the locals, the American Indians, and all of us environmentalists in short time.  They also, like so many radicals, claimed God was on their side. 

One of my blog readers (keeping them anonymous as they argued only with me) provided a link to support the argument regarding the promotion of environmental grazing of lands.  The person making the argument did not convince me as there was little example or science to his blog post.

But I do not like to think I am closed minded and thus I went on a bit of research and came across the link I am providing below.  It does not win me over to the side of those who make arguments with guns and breaking the law and claiming they should get a resource for free, because they needed to be more intellectual and take their case to those that can provide the rational and science arguments for them that this African does. It is an environmental argument.  Does this work on our continent?  Who knows?  It might be worth looking into though.

It is a TED talk which means it carries some validity and is worth paying attention.  I am just linking here to provide a better argument.


Oh, the photo above is a macro of my couch fabric with some photo-painting!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Just a Memory

The big storm is now melting into water and I can hear little rivulets trickling down the drain pipes when I carry bird seed outside.  The white blanket will soon be gone and a distant memory as mankind forgets the challenge. 

I actually shoveled about 1,250 pounds of wet heavy snow off of my deck.  At first it was just to make a path to the bird feeder and water bath and then when I realized how heavy each shovel was, I was fearful such a blanket of icy snow was too heavy for the deck and removed as much as I could over about 45 minutes. My lower back will remind me tomorrow, but the rest of me will be happy for the exercise.

I have monitored how everyone has coped on FB.  Most of the families with young children are sledding, shoveling and building various snowmen and snow-women.  The more dynamic types are cooking or complaining about cabin fever.  We are mostly mellow because this is the first really winter weather we have had.  With my Helleborus blooming last week I was fearful all my bulbs would be emerging.

I sit at the computer and paint my photos. 

I read books.  I follow one of my courses that I bought a while back.  I binge watch a Netflix series.  I do sometimes feel I am wasting time but I am not lost.  There is always plenty to do.  When I post this I will start the pork ribs in the slow cooker for tonight's dinner.  Not healthy, but we deserve it.

Soon a more normal routine will emerge. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dodging a Bullet

Spent most of Friday getting ready for the big one.  Meteorologists were in the middle of orgasmic math as they predicted the breaking of ten year and then five year records of snowfall and temperature drops on fancy graphs.  We parked the big car at the end of the driveway for an emergency exit if needed as we had no intention of trying to shovel that long driveway and we do not have a snowblower.

As you can see above toward the road, there was just a little snow left from that first dusty bit that shut down the city earlier in the week.  We filled buckets with drinkable water in the event we lost electricity.  We got out the flashlights and candles and the weather radio.  I had gone shopping two days earlier and we were well-stocked with food.  This was a good thing, because there is a ritual in this country that people go bonkers 24 to 5 hours before a storm hits and buy everything in the grocery store that they can find.  The lines get long and the people begin to lose their sense of humor.  I did not want to argue over the last can of beans!

By the afternoon big wet flakes were beginning to fall.  Mayors and Governors were giving speeches on television about how ready they were, how you must stay home, and how this could be life threatening.  This was followed by newscasters talking to people on snow-covered streets who did not stay home and who were trying to shop for last minute booze or whatever or dragging out their snow shoes or skis which never get used.  Hubby stocked up on wood...we had a week's worth next to the house.  We started a cozy fire and watched a movie.

By nightfall it was beginning to get serious as the far side of the river disappeared.

We went to bed just a little excited about what might await us on Saturday morning.

Throughout the Saturday snow fell and gusts of wind rattled the window panes.  Birdies were thankful for our water heater and the full bird feeders and the suet cakes we had left out.  I went out around the neighborhood for photos because we were supposed to have a follow-up ice storm and I knew I could miss all the good stuff.  We had not gotten more than a foot of snow by mid-day which probably makes Canadians laugh.

I made my way carefully down to the dock for photos while hubby brought firewood into the garage and blew snow off the AC/Heat fans beside the house.

Then by mid-morning we lost electricity and thus started taking things more seriously.  We moved the love seat right in front of the roaring fireplace and got our books and e-readers out and put a pot of tomato soup on the gas cook top.  While we missed the contact and hullabaloo (yes, that is an actual word) from the outside world in a very quiet house we slowly re-settled into non-technology mold.  We did use our cell phone to report the outage to the electric company and to let loved ones on FB know we had no power.  Gusts of  strong winds pushed drifts next to doorways and against trees and pushed windows until the drifts were a few feet high.  Several small dead trees went down.  Yet, we had electricity back within hours, we were so lucky!

By the time we headed to bed the snow storm had become a white out with blowing snow hiding everything around the house.  We had measured only 12 inches of snow around noon, but it will be interesting to see what this morning brings when daylight begins.  I am writing this at 3:00 A.M.  The precipitation has stopped and thus far there is no ice!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Keeping Balance

We went to our monthly master gardener meeting last night and were surprised to find almost an inch of snow as we left in the early evening.  It was still falling in soft large flakes as we headed home down the highway.

It seemed we were not the only ones surprised as people were sliding and driving much slower in the dark.  We did a little fish-tailing on the turn into the intersection and this was in my husband's large and heavy Ford Explorer, so you can imagine how difficult it was for smaller cars to keep their traction.  The snow wetness, the temperature, and whatever else made for some acrobatics you do not want to see except on TV.  The city to the north of us came to a standstill for NINE HOURS.  Some people did not get home from work until 2:00 or 300 in the morning.  Officials had been focused on this weekend's bigger storm and failed to get roads salted for this little dusting.  It only takes an inch of snow to shut down an entire metropolis.  I am sure that officials heads will roll, but at least we are not drinking lead in our water, so I am willing to give the traffic department a pass.

I am supposed to assist with a seed exchange meeting on Saturday, but am pretty sure that will be postponed to the snow date next month.  I am glad, because I have not had time to sort the few seeds I can share.

I like having an excuse to not do anything but sit in the house and waste time for the next three days!  I am in truth a bum at heart.  Maybe I will at least make an effort to write...

Except, I really feel like making chocolate chip cookies.  I have half a bag of walnuts left over and flour I need to use before it gets too old.  Then I will have to run 4 miles on the elliptical to justify eating two of the warm cookies!

Stay safe and warm inside.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Our First Visit This Year

This should go on my other blog...the one about our beautiful earth, but I have a list of things for that one, so today I share our FIRST real snow...1/2 inch of wet, sloppy kiss, flakes that fell almost the whole day, stuck to the sides and branches of shrubs and trees, revealed animal tracks across my yard,  and the time the sun came out in late afternoon...well, just look at the photos to see.

My Cornell Feeder Watch numbers were in the high dozens as I tried to keep up with all the little birdies that visited my feeders as the snow cover hid their normal food.  Today we are back to normal.

Friday, January 15, 2016

TMI With Photos

What follows is going to be about medical care and procedures.  If you are young and healthy and do not want to read this, I will understand.  I was like you once...I think, but putting your head in the sand is not always healthy.

I lost about 48 hours this week from my routine, uneventful life.  It was an expected loss as I have done this before.  This loss was time preparing for and time getting a colonoscopy.  I am fortunate that my health  insurance covers most of  the costs of this---although mine did require a $200 co-pay which is a sizable cost.  I had this done first long ago at about the age of 55 and the second time around I was 64.  They recommend it every 5 to 10 years as we age.  My most recent dance with the machinery was this week.  If you have not had this done I can tell you it is a good preventative procedure to have if you are covered by insurance.  It is also NOT a lot of fun.

First, you must be on a jello, bouillon, clear liquid diet for 24 hours.  That in itself requires sacrifice if you are a foodie like me.  No creamy liquids and only sugar in coffee.  Then the evening before the procedure you must drink a liquid preparation from the drugstore that is the most foul tasting drink (sodium sulfate, potassium sulfate and magnesium sulfate) even though they attempt to drown it in cherry flavoring and sugar .  It is a full 8 ounces mixed with 8 ounces of water followed by two more 16 ounce cups of plain water over the next hour.  Your gut is now filled with 48 ounces of liquid.  Within 45 minutes you will be visiting the bathroom every 10-15 minutes.  If you own a Fitbit, be sure to wear it on this day as you will easily reach your 10,000 steps.  This cleansing continues for about three hours before it wears off.  In my case I was really ready for sleep at 9:00 P.M.  While I did sleep uneventfully, I had to set the alarm for 4:00 AM and start the process all over again so that I was really clean for my 8:30 procedure.  In the photo above you can see how clean.  The nurse told me she had lost 8 pounds when she had the procedure done, but I only lost 2.5!!

The doctor puts a probe with a camera up your rear end and looks at your lower and upper intestine for anomalies, polyps, hemorrhoids, etc. and they want you squeaky clean.  They put you under an anesthetic before they pump your bowels with carbon  dioxide air and you sleep through the 25 minute process.  The CO2 is best because when it is over you have very little gas pains or problems.  It just absorbs!

In my case I had a team of really energetic, friendly and efficient nurses and doctors.  They even had warmed the nightgown and blanket in a heater before they made me strip naked and put it on.  I was required to answer the same questions for two different nurses and the anesthesiologist prior to meeting the doctor, which means they double checked everything.  Our nurses are mostly white ladies, but the anesthesiologist was Asian and the doctor was middle Eastern and the receptionist was black and seemed to be a personal friend of Obama according to our conversation.   If it was not for these immigrants I would get very little health care out here in the sticks.  Regular white doctors want to live in the city with their families, it seems.  Even my primary care doctor who is Asian Indian left for greener pastures last year as I wrote in a prior post.  (My new primary care doctor is Latino.)

Well, the procedure went as planned with the primary pain being the injection of the sleeping drug through a vein in my hand.  For some reason it must have pressured a nerve because my arm was in so much pain before I finally went under that it felt as if I had broken it!  The anesthesiologist told me it would feel like a pinch...WTF!!

They found one small flat polyp which was removed at the time of the procedure and sent for biopsy  although the doctor told me he was pretty sure it was precancerous.  At my age, everything they find seems to be precancerous which I  guess justifies all of this medical care.  We must keep us old folks alive as long as forever.  And the young think it is a waste of money...until it is their turn.

The sleeping drug wears off within 5 minutes of stopping the drip which is very different than it used to be years ago when I felt very drugged all day long.  I was not allowed to drive myself home even so.

You would think I would be starving for a big breakfast after this, but I was only a little hungry and very disappointed that either the sleeping drug, the oxygen in my nose drying the olfactory surfaces, or the excessive dryness of my mouth hindered my taste buds and the breakfast at that high calorie place called I-HOP tasted like cardboard.  The only thing I welcomed was the hot tea with honey.  That taste issue lasted until evening when my dinner, prepared by hubby, of some of our frozen crab, asparagus, sesame oil and roasted red peppers over a pasta was delicious as my tongue or nose seemed to be working once again.

I hesitated writing  about this, as medical stuff  is not very interesting and sometimes icky,  but I  felt some who had not had the procedure might find it important or informative.   I am now good "to go" for another 5-10 years.  Sorry,  but I could not resist.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Books Now and Later

Well about 20% in I gave up on the Baldacci book that I had written about in an earlier post.  It was written too much like a movie with James Bond types, perfect warriors with chips on their shoulders in wild situations.  David Baldacci is a best selling author and he appears to be a good person as well.  His books are too much like our over-the-top TV shows for my enjoyment.  They would make a perfect movie with strong characters and lots of action, which is also not my type of movie, and...they are clearly written for the big screen.  These are the books that seem to fit the need for escapism among the average reader.  They require little in terms of critical study or detailed thinking on the part of the reader.  This is the stuff that always seems to sell.  Yes, I am a bit of an elitist.

I instead have picked up "Istanbul Passage" by Joseph Kanon.  Much better.  Good description of the country and city and creates the exotic, dark and scary mood of this country as WWII is winding down.  It is a spy novel, but with a nice tapestry of the culture thrown into the plot.  I really want to get to Turkey some day.  I am about 25% through reading this one.

I also just finished reading a collection of short stories, "Half an Inch of Water," which I bought for my e-reader on Amazon after a PBS review.  The short story format has always fascinated me as a challenging format.  This collection was a good read, taking place in Wyoming near and on an Indian reservation, written by Percival Everett, who is a well-respected author.  The descriptions of the animals, the desert, the horseback riding and the types of people that live there reminded me of growing up in Colorado.  The stories tend to end a little abruptly and have sort of a mystical  tone, but it is so different from what I usually read, that it sticks with me long after I have finished.

I also just finished reading "The Sense of an Ending" which I did not "get" until I read a review or two.  It had a bit too much navel-gazing for me.  I think it is a novel for younger readers.  They love all that angst type of stuff.

A book that I read last month, "The Color of Water in July," was an OK read although it got pretty good reviews.  It is an easy read with one of those story lines that jumps back in time and then forward to the present and then back, etc.  For some reason writers are using this method a lot these days.  It works, but not for everything.  Good scene setting of an old summer house on a lake.

In the cold winter months I read quite a bit as you can see.  In between I read my multiple books of poetry, but the house has to be totally quiet for that to work!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Again With the Small Talk

Not everyone talks to their wait staff when eating out,but I frequently do.  I am "elderly" in the sense that I may not talk to anyone other than my husband for days at a time.  Here in the country we usually only run into repair people.  They are on the clock and not usually chatty...although some are very polite and endure my husband's insistence on bending their ear.  But recently I talked to my wait staff.

Since this country is one of the wealthiest in the world we do get a number of immigrants, in spite of what spiteful candidates may tell you about how we need to close our doors.  Our service industries are run to a great extent by those from countries with no democracy, no opportunity, and no promise.  People who have no choice, but come to us for a fresh start.

My trip this fall during Thanksgiving to Florida resulted in quick talks with a young man at the restaurant who was so very helpful and polite in waiting upon us.  Since we loved the view of the setting sun, we went twice to the restaurant for dinner and got to know this waiter better.

The place had an elderly cat that pretty much had the run of the place and caught my photographic eye.  He worked around the tables like an old sailor at a bar.  I am sure if he had had better eyesight he would have joined me on the table for dinner!

Anyway the young man, who actually was very androgynous much like "Pat" on Saturday Night Live and caused my husband and I some quiet discussion, had medium length curly dark brown hair and wore a gold earring.  He explained that all of his family still lived in Cuba.  He told us that life in Cuba was very hard.  People were very poor and the newly opened tourist industry from America may make little difference.  He said he did not bring money to his family who he visited every other year because they had nothing to spend it on.  They could not buy any more food than allotted and it was against the law to raise animals for food.  Obviously Cuba is still very restrictive and still very much a harsh country.  So sad that being hungry will not be alleviated by any harder work or more money on the part of the citizens or a growing tourist industry. Just a boat's ride away and I am sure that they are thinking very much about change.  But change comes slowly.

There is another person I met the other night when my daughter took me to dinner for my birthday, just she and I at a new Spanish tapas restaurant in her neighborhood.  It was expensive as are many innovative places just outside the city.  Most customers from that neighborhood make six figure salaries some even mid-six figures, and that supports such places.  I rarely get to these interesting restaurants and have fun with my daughter buying all the odd foods and great wines---even though I think some are overpriced.

We had to get there early because we had another activity at 7:00 PM and so we were one of the few customers .  Our waitress was a short and medium built blonde with attractive features and a very attentive and pleasant attitude.  She had an accent that we could not place, and I, being the nosy elderly one, asked her where she was "from."  She explained she was from the Ukraine.  I mentioned I hoped I would  have an opportunity to visit her interesting country some day and she said that she  hoped it was not too soon as it was a very sad country right now.  Poverty, war, and  Russia had made her sad about her family and the living conditions.  She said it was not the wonderful country it used to be.  We did talk about the way they celebrated Christmas with a 12 plated dinner of wonderful foods, which were then stored outside on the very cold patio and eaten throughout the rest of the week.  The 12 dishes are meatless and represent the 12 months of the year, pre-Christian and something to do with honoring their ancestors.

It is not totally irreligious as "After a prayer the father will anoint each person present with honey, make the sign of the Cross on their forehead, and say, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: may you have many good things in life and in the new year.""

I do love the way many countries hang on to such traditions because parts of our country move forward into the next year ignoring all the symbolism replaced  by sales and economic success while pretending we are celebrating a religious holiday.

I asked her about her social life in this country and she explained that at first she used to go to the bars with the young people looking for a social life but found all young American's wanted to do was get drunk.  She was looking for conversation, music, and maybe dancing.  So now she hangs out with a few close friends and has given up the American bar scene.  She did not tell this tale with any anger or criticism.

I find it important to be able to talk to people from far away countries without the work and expense of a plane trip and I like to see the world through their eyes instead of  my well-coddled view.   We are a global melting  pot an becoming more so.

Friday, January 08, 2016

It Is Late

It is a little after 1:00 in the morning.  Hubby's snoring pulled me from the light  sleep I had fallen into.  I poked him to roll over and he immediately but quietly fell back into  the  deep sleep of the innocent.  I  had to pee.  When I got to bed and tried once again to fall into sleep the clang of the geese on the river started up.  The weather is now cold, into  the 20's F at night and thus our Canadian visitors have begun to arrive with their rude middle of the night noises.

My neighbors across the river insist on using bright lights at their  dock and shore.  The lights are like little moons and crisply reflect on the smooth black surface of the water and somewhat blind me to everything else.  These are the kind of lights that they ask you to turn off in southern beaches when turtles are nesting as they compete with the directions given by the real moon.

I admit defeat in falling back asleep and get up and make some decaffeinated Earl Gray tea.  I am careful to bring the water  to just boiling and steep the bag just enough and am rewarded by that perfect cup of tea.   I sip the hot liquid and try to read the David Baldacci book with the tiny print.  I am spoiled by the font size I can create on my electronic reading devices, and now that I have tried to read the many physical books in tilting piles around the house, I remember why I have almost given these up.  The font is most certainly 10 point and Baldacci always write over 400 pages of this stuff.

The Friday tomorrow has a small list of few tasks and that does not worry my brain.  I do hear in the back of  my mind the drum beats of volunteer season starting up again shortly.  Soon there will be lists to make, tasks to organize and marks on the calendar.  I do so love the dead of winter when everyone seems to be in hibernation and leaves me alone.

The house is quiet except for the heater that kicks on and the click of the metal on the fireplace still cooling from the fire in it a few hours ago.  We have lots of wood in the outside pile since winter just started and the propane tank was just filled last week.  Hubby still loves to split wood and I am glad his health allows this.  The fires are perfect for taking  the edge off once the sun sets in the evenings.

Well,  I should read some blogs if I am not reading my book.  So I will leave you until another day.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Finally Benumbed

Our cold weather has finally arrived.  Below is the snowstorm that sprinkled flakes across my distant neighbor's yards, but failed to move west enough to reach us and I am not complaining.

While the snow was just a confetti of flakes and never held, it was our first show of reality that winter is actually going to come.  Cold winds today and all my birds look like fat feathered figurines.

Added a blue filter below so that you can see how it really feels here.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Thoughts for Those Who Protect this Land

A "National Wildlife Refuge is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the System has grown to over 560 national wildlife refuges and other units of the Refuge System, plus 38 wetland management districts encompassing more than 150,000,000 acres (607,028 km2)."  according to wiki.  Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?

I am one of those people who, when seeing this designation  on my road map as we travel, get all excited about the possibility to visit.  I know intellectually it is not as pristine as my inner vision hopes.  Sometimes it is smaller than we wanted.  Other times it is pretty inaccessible and I accept that.  I do sense that there are thousands of creatures and plants being left alone to blunder along in their lives through drought, flood, fire and storm and mankind's ever-reaching  pollution.  The area is called a sanctuary...a refuge and that is the mission..

"National Wildlife Refuges manage a full range of habitat types, including wetlands; prairies; coastal and marine areas; and temperate, tundra and boreal forests. The management of each habitat is a complex web of controlling or eradicating invasive species, using fire in a prescribed manner, assuring adequate water resources, and assessing external threats like development or contamination."

Does mankind do this successfully?  No,  of course not.  We do not play God very well  at all, but we keep trying.  60 refuges exist primarily to protect endangered species.  Some of these refuges provide fishing  and hunting opportunities to sportsman who cannot afford a refuge of their own.

The National Wildlife Refuge System must work with issues like urban intrusion/development, habitat fragmentation, degradation of water quantity and quality, climate change, invasive species, increasing demands for recreation, and increasing demands for energy development.

But the worst and most dangerous threats are people like the Bundys and other "hardcore militia men" (one wonders why they are not fighting for their country overseas) who think they own the earth and can take it from the rest of us to use as they wish.