Saturday, December 20, 2008

2174 Wanted: One Inexpensive But Good Arsonist

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I saw a print ad for a cell phone service, offering "unlimited double minutes for life". I'm still trying to figure out what that means.


The folks across the street had a trailer, and every time they backed the trailer out of the driveway, they bashed my mailbox (and not once offered to fix it). Well, this summer they sold the house and moved. I was relieved. Maybe the new folks would be more careful.

Yeah, sure.

My mailbox is now so bent the door won't stay closed. I am furious! A few days ago the guy across the street was backing his SUV out just as I was getting home, so I drove up my drive very slowly, and watched out the rearview mirror. Even aware I was right there, he missed the mailbox by about two inches.

I don't understand. It's a two lane street! A full two lanes! But when they back out, they don't start the turn until the FRONT of the car passes the end of their driveway, so the back corner of the vehicle is aimed straight for my mailbox.

Yesterday I cleared a long swath of town-plow-dumped snow from in front of the mailbox so I could get today's mail. Imagine my joy to discover this morning that whoever had cleared the driveway across the street dumped several plow-loads of snow RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY MAILBOX!!!! They shot up the driveway, across the street, and pushed it right up against my mailbox.

They had a tree down in the ice storm, so the dumped snow was full of stout branches. I couldn't use the snowthrower. I SHOVELED it!

I am so very very angry, and I don't know what to do about it.

2173 Jane and the Dragon

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I caught "Jane and the Dragon" again this morning. I love that show. Even if the stories are a bit thin and predictable, the art is perfect. I love the way Jane's hair moves, the expressiveness of the faces, and the way it all looks like it was colored with Crayola crayons. (The link is to the Wikipedia entry, which is itself interesting reading.)

Here's a 7:26 sample (the dragon is sick, and Jane and Gunthar go on a quest for a medicinal plant):


If you liked that, here's a whole (23:17) episode:


(You might have to pause it to let it load.)

I love it!

Friday, December 19, 2008

2172 Arachnid Threads

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's funny how things seem to happen in threes.

(1.) I was reading something this afternoon that Daughter had written for me a few years ago for Mother's Day:

A Note to Mother

Your creation. A spin-through of life, sparkling and opalescent the ether of all at once through time, the unseen represented by our present and our past and our future

Your gift. Knitting an afghan of caught slivers, first polishing the shards of insight to a safe warm dust, the yarn a maternal arachnid thread

My gratitude. A celebration of your existence and how it has shaped mine

*Copyright Daughter, all rights reserved*

(2.) One of the segments of "Dateline NBC" tonight is titled something having to do with a spider. They had a spider crawling up the screen. It made me shiver.

(3.) It took me three hours to clear the driveway, and then I was leaning out the door between the laundry room and the garage, pushing buttons to close the overhead doors, when Miss Thunderfoot slipped past me. I dove for her and caught her as she was about to disappear between boxes, and we both came up covered in spiderwebs. It was only later that discovered that I had brown spider egg-cases all over me. Ack! Brown Recluse spider egg-cases are brown. All I need is to have poisonous spiders hatching in the warmth of the house, in my bedroom! Ack ack ack! I picked them off with tissue and flushed them. I hope I got them all.

That's three. That's the end, right? RIGHT!?

2171 Punctuation Matters

Friday, December 19, 2008

This is an oldie, but still amusing. In a comment, properly capitalize and punctuate the following:

woman without her man is nothing

Don't think about it. Go with your FIRST thought, your first reading.

2170 Friday Snow

Friday, December 19, 2008

I was awakened this morning by a phone call. I let the machine take it. The message was kind of cute. It went something like this [my thoughts in brackets]:

"Hi. This is Fed Ex. I have a package for 'MyName' [it's a tiny camera battery I had ordered from Radio Shack], but there's a car blocking your driveway. [My car. I took precautions against snow last night.] Um, the package is too light to leave out, it might blow away. [It will probably fit in the newspaper tube...] Wait a minute (creaking sound), the car is open. I'm gonna leave the package on the driver's seat. I hope it's ok [well, yeah, that's exactly why I leave the car unlocked when I leave it blocking the driveway. The UPS guys already know that]. It has your name on it, so whoever owns the car will give it to you, I hope."

Poor guy. He sounded really confused and worried. I used to put a sign in the car window saying "Leave packages in car", but a mere inch of snow makes that superfluous. At the time he called there was no snow yet, so maybe I should have done it anyway.

The snow started at about 12:30. It is now 2:30 pm, and we have 4 or 5 inches, and it's coming down fast. 10 to 16 inches are predicted (and we usually get the higher number or more), so I plan a first pass clearing at about 8 inches. We'll see if the snowthrower performs.

I'm well stocked with all the necessaries, my fuel oil gauge is wonky but even if I run out of oil I have electric backup heat, the car's at the end of the drive so I can get out, and I have some phone numbers of people who plow. As long as the electricity stays on, I'm not going to fuss.

2169 Gift of the Calendar

Friday, December 19, 2008

I was getting too many magazines, and found time (or interest) to read few. So over the past two years I've been letting subscriptions lapse. This month I became aware of an unintended consequence - no calendars! I actually had to go out and buy a 2009 calendar, the first calendar I've bought in decades. (The best free ones always came from the wildlife groups.)

Which reminds me - one of Jay's sisters used to send me a wall calendar every year for Christmas. Yeah, a calendar. Anyone who isn't marking up calendar pages long before December 25th doesn't need a calendar. And the free ones from the subscriptions were nicer. (BTW, I always sent Jay's sisters jewelery from the Smithsonian catalog.)

I always seem to get lousy gifts. Ex#2 was the worst. He'd stop at the grocery store on the way home on my birthday or Christmas Eve, and then hand me an unwrapped nylon spatula as a gift. I'm not kidding. And then there was the one 8-oz skein of red polyester yarn. One. Also unwrapped. Because, as he explained, he knew I liked to knit.

One year he actually had a long flattish wrapped box under the Christmas tree. I was so excited. I was sure it was the grandmother clock I had pointed out to him. When I shook the box, there was a metallic rattle, just like a pendulum might make. He grinned and said he was sure I'd like it. Christmas morning I opened the box, and found an electric space heater.

The next weekend we were going to visit his parents, who lived in a drafty cold farm house, where I suffered from chilblains when we visited in the winter, so he got the space heater so I wouldn't be so cold there. Frankly, I'd rather not go at all, but that wasn't an option. I was even more pissed when he insisted that we leave it with his parents when the weekend was over, "They need it more than we do". And I was triply pissed when on our next visit, the heater was gone. His mother had given it away. Chilblains again.

Jay was better with gifts, he wanted to do it right, but it was obviously such a strain for him that I suggested that perhaps he could just take me shopping and let me pick a few things out, "you write down the information", and then he could go back and get any one of them, and it would be perfect, and a surprise.

I'm to the point now where I don't want gifts at all. I don't have room for anything else! I ask for a hand and foot massage from Daughter, and his famous peanut butter cookies from Hercules, and that's all I want.

I've told The Man that I don't want gifts on occasions that would appear to call for gifts. I'd rather have impromptu "gee, she'd like that" stuff out of nowhere for no reason.

It means more that way. More from the heart than because the calendar says "now you must".

I'd like to do away with Christmas gifts altogether. Think about how it would change the celebration if Santa voluntarily retired.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

2168 Dodge

Thursday, December 18, 2008

By now everyone has seen the clips of G.W. dodging the shoes. What struck me was his quick reflexes and accurate estimation of where the shoes were going to pass.

You know, if that happened to me, I'd have been hit. I'd see the shoes coming, but my reaction would be more like "that can't be real", and by the time I decided it was real, it would have been too late.

I do that a lot. I see something coming, all kinds of things, and I don't accept that it's real, or that someone could actually do what they're doing, and I get blasted. I wonder why.

2167 Too Many Cords

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why does every rechargeable device need to have a different charger cord, and a different USB cord? I noticed today that I have nine different cords in the kitchen and den, and many of them are similar enough that it's possible to pack the wrong cord for the weekend.

So today I put little paper tags enclosed in cellophane tape on all of them.

I feel so virtuous. So organized.

2166 A Raid in Baghdad

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Michael J. Totten has a post up about a raid he joined in Baghdad. It's gripping.

I couldn't help but look at it from three points of view - his, the soldiers', and the citizens whose doors were kicked in.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2165 27 Reasons to Have a Pet Mensan

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

[This made the rounds of Mensa local group newsletters a decade or so ago. I found it by accident this afternoon.]

27 Reasons to Have a Pet Mensan

by Georg3 Smil3y

1. You can take it to parties and win at Trivial Pursuit.

2. It can explain Saturday morning cartoons to you.

3. It makes a great doorstop.

4. It will never be depressed or sulk, unless it feels like it.

5. If you have bad taste, it has bad jokes.

6. If you have good taste, it can be muzzled.

7. It can always find a party on Friday nights.

8. If you've done something naughty, it will always be interested.

9. It won't drink your liquor unless you're not looking.

10. It won't shed if you shave it regularly.

11. It can insult bullies for you in an intellectual manner.

12. It can get the intellectual snot beat out of it by bullies.

13. It will answer to its name if you give it a yummy.

14. It can put all your personal records onto a floppy disk then erase it.

15. It is clean, unless there's something dirty around.

16. It can sit, roll over, and play dead (once again, a yummy is required).

17. It knows more sleazy places than a two-dollar hooker.

18. It will always do what you want it to, unless it doesn't want to do it.

19. It can gossip for hours on end about people present, with a twinkle in its eye.

20. With enough yummies, it may be possible to train it not to tell puns. (Note: complex tricks such as this may require several boxes of yummies.)

21. It can draw a map on a cocktail napkin that can have you lost in less than five minutes.

22. If you spill your drink, it can lap it right up.

23. It can find a use for a Ginsu steak knife besides slicing open beer cans.

24. It can draw intelligent stick figures on your wall with crayons.

25. It's easy to amuse just give it a problem with no answer and leave it alone.

26. It can do your taxes maybe not right, but it can do them.

27. It can help you write nasty letters to people and editors using big words.

2164 Razzelfrats!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Well, for once we got exactly what was predicted. I've got three inches of slightly fluffy slush out there. It's important to clear it, because there are no warm days coming, in fact more snow is in the offing, and three inches of frozen solid slush will be a bit inconvenient. Especially if the fuel oil truck can't make it up. Stuff like that.

So I pulled out the snowthrower. The one that was very expensively rebuilt a few short weeks ago. It balked at starting. I had to wait a bit once after I flooded it, but then it got going and sounded fine.

Throwing slush is not fun. It throws it, well, plops it, right next to the cleared path, so you have to plop the same stuff multiple times, a few feet every path, until you get it off the drive. So it takes a while, but the snowthrower had always been able to handle it as long as I kept filling the gas tank.

Not this time. As soon as it hit the snow, it said

Every time.

Sigh. I guess I'll be parking at the end of the driveway for a while. I guess I'm lucky that the two trees by the end of the drive have already fallen.

2163 Drought Thud

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I was going through some old emails, and found something I had read in late October, but it hadn't made it to here.

It was a letter to the editor from a woman who wanted to do away with daylight savings time, because it causes droughts. It's that extra hour of sun we get from daylight saving time. All that extra sun bakes the earth and evaporates the clouds.

She might have something there. Note that we get warmer in the spring, and colder in the fall, when DST starts and ends. Simple cause and effect, you know!

I had mentioned it to The Man in an email. His response:
"I agree 100%. There's also the shoe thing. I was buying larger shoes each year from the time I was 15 until I was 22. I stopped then, and now my feet stopped getting bigger. Don't know why I didn't think of that sooner. I still buy my underwear bigger each year...."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2162 Another Day, Another Phone.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My cell phone battery won't hold a charge. It says "fully charged" within 5 minutes of my plugging it in, and then it holds the charge about a half hour.

Gee, where have I heard that before? Seems like everybody lately has the same problem. I went to my provider's storefront today, and one of the clerks turned to the other and said, "Another battery problem? A lot of those lately. This is the fifth today!"


I was eligible for a new phone anyway, so I traded it in. It turned out that the problem was not with the battery, but with the place where you plug into to charge it, and they discovered that only by accident when they tried to transfer the memory to the new phone and the transfer machine kept complaining about a faulty connection. When I had attempted to charge it, it wasn't making a good connection, so it thought it was fully charged, but it wasn't.

Oh well. I don't care. I have a working one now, and it's smaller than the other.


Oddness - a few of the blogs I follow have, one by one, gone private, "invitation only". Some I have never commented on, so they don't know I exist. Others do know I exist, but I'm not going to ask for permission. They know where I am if they want me. If not, I assume they have their reasons. (Gee, if I were a guy, I'd probably never ask a girl for a date, either.)

So far my blog has managed to escape trolls. Lately, Google and other search engines have rediscovered me. I may have to do something about that. The trouble is, once a troll has found you, simply planting bushes to hide the door from search engines isn't sufficient. You have to lock the door, or move to a different neighborhood, or put up with the troll.


We're supposed to get snow tonight - 1 to 3 inches. Yeah, sure. In the past we've always got at least twice the highest number. That's not as bad as what they're saying for tomorrow. "Winter mix". That's snow, sleet, ice, rain. On top of snow, that means heavy slush that the snowthrower can't handle, that freezes into several inches of lumpy bumpy ice that can't be plowed without damaging the driveway.

Oh joy. I hate winter.

Monday, December 15, 2008

2161 An Old Acquaintance

Monday, December 15, 2008

Something odd happened at the hotel Sunday morning. I saw someone I hadn't seen 40 years, and I hid from him.

I'm sure I'd written about what happened with him before, and spent some time searching for the post so I could link to it, but I can't find it. So I'll run through the short version.

It was early 1969. I was 24, and in a testing department with The Company. I had hands-on test time on third shift.

There was a developmentally disabled young man on the cleaning crew. He was very proud of working at The Company, and every morning when people arrived, he'd be in the main lobby vacuuming. He wanted to greet "his coworkers". Everybody who came in nodded and said hello, and he was so proud. Everybody thought he was sweet.

Well, forty years later I guess I can say he was sweet. Just a little misguided, which makes me feel guilty. I think nowadays I'd handle what happened differently, but at that time in my life I couldn't have done anything different.

What happened was that one night, about 2 am, after I'd left the machine floor, when there was no one else in the office area, he exposed himself to me.

And he was "working it."

It was so startling and unexpected, and so incredibly huge, that at first glance I thought he was holding a piece of vacuum hose.

On reflection, I suspect that he had often been told that what he had was pretty impressive, and that the ladies would be all over him, and I suspect that he was trying to impress me with the best thing he had to offer.

But back then, given recent events, it scared me. I ran to my office and locked the door, and sat there crying and trembling for an hour. I was afraid to try to leave and go home, because I might have to pass him. And I'd see him every night of the project. I couldn't face that. I wanted an escort out of the building, and I didn't want to come back while he was there.

Finally I called a manager on the machine floor, and told him what had happened. The young man admitted it, and his employment at The Company was terminated.

They told me to take the next three days off, which I did. The remainder of the test cycle was given to another. I spent the three days at home shaking and crying. I was sure it was all my fault, that I had somehow misled him to think it was ok. As usual, I took all the blame.

My first day back, my second-line manager came to my office. What he said messed me up worse than what had happened.

He told me that it was an unfortunate incident, but that of all the women in the building, they were all glad that it was me.


"Because most of these women would be completely freaked out. They'd make a big deal of it. It won't bother you so much. You'd take it in stride."

I thought about that a moment, about what it implied. That somehow stuff like this was my lot. That I was different from other women, and not in a nice way. It hurt. It confirmed that there was something wrong about me. That the wolves were right.

I tried. I said, "Actually, it did freak me out, a lot." I considered telling him how I felt, but the look of disbelief on his face dissuaded me. I was still in that mode where I gave people what they expected of me.

He asked how, and I gave him the answer I knew he wanted, "I'd never seen anything so big in my life. It was scary."

That probably made for some good stories among management.

A few weeks later, there was a big company awards luncheon, at the Holiday Inn. When we arrived, there he was, sweeping the parking lot, grinning and happily greeting all his old "coworkers".

I didn't get out of the car. I turned around and went back to the office.

Guess who I saw sweeping the Holiday Inn parking lot yesterday morning? It's forty years later, but I'd know that big hooked nose anywhere.

I didn't leave the room until I was sure he was no longer outside.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

2160 Surprise?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I don't understand why anyone is surprised or shocked about all these CEOs getting tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses, and acting like they deserve it. Thirty years or so ago was when it all started, when executive salaries started growing exponentially. People were shocked then, and asked if it made any sense.

Now we have companies employing 100,000 people, and executives of those companies each pulling from the profits their salaries and bonuses equal to 10,000 times the average salary of the workers - and then telling the workers that raises will be low this year because the company isn't as profitable as they'd hoped. Yeah. After your raids, there's nothing left over.


The CEO of one company is on the board of other companies, whose CEOs are on other boards - and they award compensation to each other in a big circle. Dividing up the pies. There's something very wrong with that.

Why are people acting like it's news? Why are people just now seeing how unfair it is? Like they hadn't been talking about it and shaking their heads over it for the past thirty years?

2159 No Joke

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Big annoyance in a local village. The town (which in NY is a subdivision of a county, not a municipality - municipalities are cities, villages, and hamlets, several of which may be within a town) contracted with the state to widen the road through the village this past summer and put in street lights and sidewalks. The village residents didn't want the improvements because they didn't want the village or the residents to be responsible for maintenance, including snow removal. Many town hall meetings later, the town agreed to put into the contract that "The town of xxxx will maintain or cause to be maintained the sidewalks constructed ... including control of snow and ice."

So the residents and businesses were satisfied, and the sidewalks were installed.

Well, imagine the surprise when the residents and businesses were notified that, with winter coming, each homeowner and business is responsible for litter, leaf, snow, and ice removal on the sidewalks bordering their property, and will be fined $250 for each instance when ice or snow is not removed within 24 hours of accumulation.

Much screaming. The town points to the "or cause to be maintained" in the contract. By imposing a fine, they are causing them to be maintained. So there. What's yer problem?

That part I sort of expected as soon as I read the contract wording. The other part has my head ringing. The town says they can't do it because snow removed next to a major roadway is considered contaminated and if the town removed the sidewalk snow, too, they would have to transport it to a special site for disposal, and that would cost the town an additional $18,500 they don't have. Um, so the residents are supposed to ... what? ... with the snow they remove?

The sidewalks will be full of snow from the road thrown onto the sidewalks by the town plows. If a snowthrower is then used on the sidewalks, one is not allowed to throw it onto the road. So the residents will be throwing it onto their lawns.

Great. Define "contaminated" for me? It's contaminated if plowed by the town, but not contaminated if plowed by individuals?

2158 Too Much of a Good Thing

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Too much heat. Too many trucks.

The heat in the hotel room is one of those under-window units. Set at 65, with the fan on automatic, it runs constantly and throws heat constantly. I roasted. Set at 64, it runs constantly, and throws chilled air. I froze. Sigh.

As much as I appreciated the visiting electric company crews and their huge trucks:

...I did not appreciate them at 5:30 this morning when they started leaving. They didn't leave quietly. Imagine thirty trucks warming up right outside your window, while the crews are having breakfast. I vibrated.

(My new camera does have a night setting, but at 6 am I was incapable of finding it.)

It's a little after 7, and they have all left, all together with much backing-up beeping. I imagine they'll be convoying up to the Albany area, where I understand there are still thousands of dark cold streets.