Saturday, November 26, 2011
Pine grosbeak, seven of them around the feeders today. Something new this year: always before they fed on the ground, picking up what the chickadees spill, but this year they have gotten up on the feeders several times. In that they are more than twice the size of a chickadee, it looks like the food bill is going up. Just opened a 40 pound bag of sunflower seeds today.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
A few friends flew in for the holiday. And, oh yes, the woodpecker came by for the first visit of the year that I know of. Also had a couple of merlins hanging out in the trees looking for a meal I hope they don't get. May everyone feel the day and enjoy it as much as my guests seem to.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I was in an elevator at City Hall in Buffalo, New York, when two people entered it and were talking about the shooting. I had been sent there as part of the job at the Buffalo Evening News to pick up some materials for a reporter. I listened to the two people intently and when the elevator let me debark I raced back to the paper to find out if it was true. A newspaper during such an event is something to see, something between a madhouse and a group of people totally focused on only one thing,amid the chaos, get this news out correctly as fast as you can. I remember my father calling me there (he never called me) to ask if it was true also and I told him it was.
We got the paper out that day but it was by no means the end of the experience. That day holds another special memory and the two are so intertwined I cannot separate them. It was a day I planned to share with my first real love, we had such plans. This is the woman I wrote about earlier whose family introduced me to sailing on the Niagara River. I wrote also that we had fallen in love with the Beatles singing in the background. I drove to her house and I recall walking up her sidewalk with a dozen roses in hand and a necklace with a tiny diamond in it in my pocket because this is also her birthday and it was the first one we would share. I had no idea what to expect; it certainly didn't feel like a day to celebrate. When I went into the house I found the whole family seated around the black and white television as the news unfolded again and again. The roses were laid on the table ignored, the necklace stayed in my pocket until we had a private moment later and I sat with her on that couch for the better part of two or three days. Tears welled in our eyes constantly though not to overflowing as we watched Walter Cronkite barely able to contain his own emotion as he tried to make sense of that day and the ones that followed.
We saw Jackie so regal and holding in her grief in order to show the nation courage and strength. We saw Lynden Johnson sworn in as president. I think we might have seen live Jack Ruby shoot Lee Oswald, I can't remember for sure. It all seemed so otherworldly holding hands almost trembling as we watched and wondered what was happening to our nation. Many young people saw Kennedy as our president, young vibrant living in Camelot, he was the new generation and we were part of that, and now he was gone and the man who replaced him came from the old school. Just for example Kennedy was the one who said we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade and we did (the day of the landing, incidentally also one of those when we remember where we were). America had such promise and now it seemed that promise had been snuffed out.
How we moved on from those days I don't recall vividly. We watched the funeral with the riderless horse and the boots backwards in the stirrups and little John John saluting. I see that salute picture today and it still raises some emotion.
And, to a certain extent every November 22 I lose myself for a time in the memory of that event, the assassination, the first love, the birthday, the music and all the emotions they engender. One year on this date long after we had gone our separate ways, I sent her a dozen roses just to mark that anniversary. Today driving to work I listened to all the Beatles music I could in the lonely hour it took to travel that "long and winding road."
Monday, November 21, 2011
call this one
It did not get into print.
NFL teams should hire Republicans to block field goals and extra points. Nothing gets past them.
Friday, November 18, 2011
I always liked the sound of that, but never really set out to do any. How many opportunities come up anyway? And then recognizing and again (gasp) doing something, well the odds against them are pretty big. So, without that in mind I set out today on the annual search for a small turkey and Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix. Oh, and too, to address a bit of a health problem, which in the end didn't get addressed.
Anyway, at the first store I was meandering down an aisle until I was stopped by a roadblock. On one side a Walmart stocker was filling a shelf. On the other a very frail woman who honestly didn’t look strong enough to be shopping alone, was in one of those electric carts and trying to extract a tray of candy from the display it had been crammed into. I watched her patiently for a minute, glanced at the Walmart guy who sort of looked over his shoulder and then went back to his work, and finally realized the woman needed some help. So, I walked over, asked her loudly enough for the Walmart guy to hear, and then pulled the stubborn candy out of the display and put it in her basket for her.
She smiled, started up her machine and rolled past me and we both went on our ways.
After checking out of that store, I went to the next for just couple of things I couldn't find. As I was waiting in the checkout, I realized a new problem had presented itself. A young girl was checking out a whole basket full of what looked like party mix supplies. I could see she had a ten and a twenty in her hand and when the total came out to more than $60 she looked totally shocked, and then embarrassed and then that quizzical look that said "What do I do now?" The checker was very patient. The girl's shopping list turned out to be a recipe for the mix and the checker went down each item telling the girl she didn't need this much or that much and that maybe she just needed to make a smaller batch. I thought that was much nicer than getting all upset with her, the poor kid seemed just lost. I think maybe she was looking forward to her first party (it being Friday and all) and among other things wondering how it would go if she didn't bring the party mix.
In time the checker had the amount under $40 and was still going. At that point I looked in my wallet and found a five-dollar bill, but before I could get it out the total had dropped to $31.99. Impasse. Nothing more could be taken off the list and the kid was $2 short. And I had two bills for that. So I offered my $2. The checker looked so appreciative, the girl smiled at me like I had saved the world and I just said, "It's happened to all of us at some time or other."
When the girl left, the checker thanked me for my patience. And I told her I thought it was great how she took the time to help the girl work it out. As the kids say sometimes (or did) It's all good.
So, two in one day. Not bad. Maybe it was because in the first place I looked there was a bin of small turkeys and a display of Pepperidge Farm stuffing products.
So, next Thursday if you are in the neighborhood, I have this turkey that is still way more than I can eat, and whole lot of other stuff, and am planning to sit down and enjoy "A Very Gaga Thanksgiving" on television. Come on by.
OH, and the picture: Have you ever seen a fatter chickadee in your life? They are all puffed out to keep warm, but this guy was noticeably bigger than the others. Maybe I won't have to look so far for a small turkey next year.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
A short digression: Some time back I wrote about why I bought a Honda car. It was because of the reliability of the other Honda machines I and my friends own. In all the years, I can't recall ever seeing a piece of Honda equipment break down. This includes four wheelers, generators, pumps, snowblowers, maybe a car now and then but I can't be sure. For example of all the engines I had to start last Thursday, only the 15-year-old Honda four-wheeler did. (Well, the snowblower started, too, but that didn't last long) So, back to the story.
The shop called me Tuesday with the news. People! I broke a Honda!
The whole damned engine. And, I can't even blame the manufacturer. Funny how the finger of blame most often has a 180-degree curve in it. It has been religion with me since I owned or operated and depended on engines. ALWAYS check the oil. Dumb! There is a slight blame on Honda for a design failure: a steel plug turned into an aluminum engine block. I managed to cross those aluminum threads when I changed the oil last spring and over the summer all the oil leaked out. If I had checked it I would have known and could have prevented this damage. But, now the crankshaft and pistons are bound up for good and I get to pay $800 for a whole new engine. (That Honda reliability doesn't come cheap.) Worse, it is not my machine so I absolutely HAVE to put it back better than it was. Yippee! Merry Christmas everyone. Feel joy in the fact that I have a working snowblower again. Plus, it's going to take about two weeks for the engine to get here, and I am sure hoping we don't have a big snowfall before then.
I was commiserating with a friend last night who also was having a series of breakdowns and talking about how you get to a comfortable place and then things start to break, or maybe worse, when you let some minor chores go for awhile and then something big happens and all of a sudden you have a huge pile of work in front of you. First his truck broke down and once he got that fixed and drove it to work, his wife called to tell him the furnace just went out in their new house. I shared my experience and the hopes it wasn't a whole furnace replacement (it wasn't, but it was more than $400) Then I drove home last night with the temperature down around zero and the wind still howling, only to find my own heater stopped, out of fuel (one of those put-off minor chores, I was going to check it today, honest). There are times to be thankful for a wood stove.
So today I am warm and $1,200 lighter. Pretty close to that for my friend, too. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote, "so it goes."
AT THE FEEDERS: A new bird this week, a boreal chickadee. Pine grosbeaks, nuthatches, the usual chickadees and a grouse. And then today standing outside with the fuel delivery guy, I saw two merlins hanging out in the trees.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
And today? A grouse at the feeders, all puffed out for warmth.
And, discovered a difference between generations. I remember thinking I wished i had a camera with me. About five miles farther on I looked at the iPhone that was feeding Lady Gaga into my car stereo. Duh. Kidding about it at work we came to the conclusion that those older among us have a telephone that also can take pictures. Those younger have a camera and stereo that, oh, also is a telephone.
Monday, November 14, 2011
The first is about a Japanese American man who fought in World War II in the American Army despite the fact that many of his relatives were being held in an internment camp in Wyoming. Last week he was awarded a medal posthumously. Here's his story.
Suicide is a huge problem in Alaska, particularly among teens and Natives. Even Congress has taken notice. This story is about a high school senior who as a 5-year-old saw her uncle take his own life. As recently as last year another close friend of hers did the same. But this girl has begun her own fight to battle this epidemic and it has received the attention of important people. This is her story. One quote from her was particularly compelling: "It's just always been around me," Baldwin said, "It's always been an option."
And now for my favorite. A fellow I know wrote this reminiscence of time with his father in the Alaska wilds, a time I only wish I could have known.
One quote in it in particular spoke to me: "If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line."
Friday, November 11, 2011
I held on until I was sure it would stay running and then went after the snowblower. Now that thing has never failed. It started right up and off I went down the driveway happy this was going to be a good day. I got maybe a hundred feet before it stalled, Started and stalled about four times and then locked up. Cannot even pull the starter rope. This I assumed was beyond my capabilities so I called a dealer about 20 miles away and they said they could take it.
That settled all i had to do was hook up the trailer to the Jeep and winch the blower onto the trailer with a come-along and off we go. Turned the key to start the Jeep and not even a click. Now, that's scary. There is no good reason that Jeep's battery went dead. I checked all the buttons and switches and nothing was turned on. Sooooo, I brought the charger out from the house and hooked it up. I went about some other things, filling bird feeders for one, a little shoveling, some organizing in the garage and came back to the Jeep..... this time there was that series of fast clicks that at least tells you some juice is going through the system, but not enough to start the vehicle. However, I did discover I had left the interior light on... you have to turn it on and off manually and in my hurry a week ago I didn't turn it off. As least that says there isn't any lasting damage, but more time would be needed to get it to start.
So at this writing, here's how it stands: the snowblower is about 100 feet down the driveway stalled; the Jeep is out there with its hood up and the charger pumping away on the battery; and I am in the house warming up, although seriously it's not all that cold so not much of a problem.
That dealer closes at 6 and right now it's 3 so we shall see if the Jeep will start in time.
As old Lodgeskins used to say: "Some days the medicine doesn't work."
And out there on the Western Alaska coast it looks like most weathered the first storm of the century just fine, thank you.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
All right, this has to be one of the great TV announcements of all time. "Due to extreme weather expected across most of western Alaska, the Alaska Broadcasters Association Emergency Alert Systems test scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled."
It sounds funny but probably not a good idea to hold a drill when the real thing is about to happen. A storm involving two huge low pressure systems is bearing down on Alaska's west coast with hurricane force winds predicted all the way from the Aleutian Islands north into the Chukchi Sea at Point Lay. In addition to those souls still at sea this storm is threatening beach erosion, flooding, blizzards and pack ice forced on shore or at least one or the other of those over almost a thousand miles of shoreline As of noon today Nome already was feeling the winds and noticing some rise in water level. That is supposed to intensify overnight into a storm the weather service says could be the worst on record.
Here's a link to running updates about the storm.
Friday, November 4, 2011
All the feeders out now and it wasn't an hour before one of them was down to 2/3 full. You can have your Angry Birds. I'll take my hungry birds any time. But, um, maybe not the expensive birds. I've joked in the past how fast they go through the feed I buy, but this year I learned a whole new lesson in bird feeding. A couple of the old feeders needed replacing and I thought maybe adding a couple would be nice as well so have been looking for the past few weeks at various stores with some specific kinds in mind. I found some but others weren't available and I was beginning to think about making my own. I went to one last place, kind of the high end of pet supplies and bird seed and feeders. They had quite a selection and as I looked through it, I came across one that was on sale for $110. One hundred ten dollars American! I laughed, Who the heck would ever pay $100 for a bird feeder? I found three I liked plus a hanging device and, oh what the heck, one of those silhouettes of a raptor that are meant to warn birds away from windows. And, oh yeah, a bag of thistle seed. In a hurry to get to work, i hustled to the checkout and put them down for the cashier. She totaled it all up and very calmly as if this were an everyday occurrence said to me in the sweetest voice: one hundred twenty six dollars. I just about fainted. Very silently I paid for all this, right at that moment not sure these birds were worth that. Still regretting the amount, I put all those feeders out yesterday and filled them with seed that of course I am gong to have to replace at more great expense wondering again was this really worth it. Then the first chickadee landed on the first one even before i had the second one filled and I started to feel a little better about it. But, today, I am programming a video game to challenge Angry Birds. It is called Hungry Birds and basically you start with a million dollars and start feeding birds. They find increasingly devious ways to get you to spend money on them until at about the 20th level you are broke. No human can win this game.
Some interesting quotations
You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper. -- Jackie Faber, "The Wake of the Lorelei Lee"
If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both
If an insurance company won't pay for damages caused by an "act of God," shouldn't it then have to prove the existence of God? -- I said that
German General to Swiss General: "You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?"
Swiss General: "Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice."
Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else. -- Gloria Steinem
Exceed your bandwidth-- sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center
One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done. -- Patricia Monaghan
Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. -- Brett Arends
It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way. -- Andrew Jackson
3:30 is too late or too early to do anything -- Rene Descartes
Everything is okay when it's 50-below as long as everything is okay. -~ Hudson Stuck
You can have your own opinion but you can't have your own science. -- commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming
He looks at three failed marriages as a good start -- TV police drama
Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem. -- a handmade bumper sticker
"You're either into the wall or into the show" -- Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500
Makeup is not for the faint of heart -- the makeup guerrilla
"I'm going to relax in a very adult manner." --Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti
"Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet." -- a roundtable participant on Fox of all places
As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to the think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her. -- me again
Hunting is a "critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison." -- a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting
Each day do something that won't compute -- anon
It's not about how many times you get knocked down; it's about how many times you get up -- Tim Tebow
I can't believe I still have to protest this shit -- sign carried by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration
Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing -- Meg Chittenden
Life should be a little nuts or else it's just a bunch of Thursdays strung together -- Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in "Rumor has it"
You're just a wanker whipping up fear -- Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer
Being president doesn't change who you are; it reveals who you are -- Michelle Obama
Best headlines ever
GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality
Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy
Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high
Give me all your money or my penguin will explode
How zombie worms have sex in whale bones
Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower
Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles