Saturday, December 05, 2009

2686 First snow

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Me: The most startling new ideas always sound trivial, even obvious, once expounded. A week later, no one will remember who said it. Two weeks later, everyone will claim they had always known it.


The view out my back door:
Sob. I hate winter. Snow is cold, wet, slippery, and heavy, and has to be removed from 7,000 sq. ft. of driveway. By me.

Thursday it was 63 degrees out there. How can that crap be sticking?

2685 Ravens

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"I am never gratuitously rude. My rudeness is carefully calibrated
to the stupidity and obtuseness of the people I am dealing with."
-- Adam Carr --


I was supposed to go to NYC by train today to see the tree, the skating rink, store windows, and stuff with a Meetup group, but the organizer canceled because all-day rain is predicted. She rescheduled to the 19th, but I have something else that day. I've never seen NYC at Christmas. I am severely disappointed.


I love ravens. I like crows, but ravens are even more fun to watch. They're huge - two feet beak to tail, with a wingspan over four feet wide, and a huge "Roman nose" beak. There's a fascinating (one-screen) writeup at

Crows are intelligent. They've been known to use tools, can figure out puzzles they'd never seen before, and use teamwork to drive away raptors. Ravens are even smarter.

Last night, driving home from dinner, I heard a story on the radio similar to another I'd heard long ago, illustrating ravens' intelligence.

In the version I'd heard, a raven had found a dead turkey at the edge of a field. With ravenous chicks in the nest (ever wonder where that word "ravenous" came from?) this is a wonderful find - food for days. The raven began to pull the turkey apart, and then spied another raven circling in the sky. The first raven flopped over onto his back, and lay there very still, with his feet in the air. The second raven landed, walked around the turkey, and then flew away. Once the interloper was out of sight, the first raven got up and finished the job.

Why did the first raven lie on his back? Why did the second raven fly away?
The first raven decided not to share. The second raven, seeing a "dying" raven next to a turkey carcass, figured the turkey was a poisoned bait trap, and decided not to take a chance on it.

Mensa should have chosen the raven, not the owl, for the mascot.


Later: I just checked the weather report for NYC. Yes, rain today, all day. A total of 1/4 inch. All day. 1/4 inch. Total.

Buncha primadonnas....

Friday, December 04, 2009

2684 Taking Control

Friday, December 4, 2009

“…those who wrestle with something and come out on top
tend to have a better understanding of that something
than those who merely submit to it.”


I never thought about how I file receipts and other papers. I just did it the way I'd been taught - a folder for phone, one for electric service, one for garbage, one for each credit card, one for each insurance policy, one for each car, one for each year's taxes, one for each company's stock, and so on. At last count there were well over 150 carefully labeled folders.

I ended up with two 40" x 29" file cabinets, with a mountain of "to be filed" paper on top, three years' worth right now. If I ever had to locate anything, I couldn't find it in the cabinets, but had relatively no difficulty finding it in the "TBF" pile. Another observation - I seldom had to look for anything. (That's not a reason not to keep paper. The few times I did have to find something, it was critical, and you never know what that something might be.)

Really, I should have thought about why I don't file papers. It's all the examining, sorting, deciding, finding the folders, reaching, ... eh. Every piece of paper required special handling.

Today I started a reorganization. ALL bills that are paid regularly are in one hanging folder, one for each of the last seven years. ALL papers having anything whatsoever to do with the cars are in one folder, except for the car insurance, which is in the one folder containing ALL papers having to do with any insurance, whether house, car, health, life. ALL receipts for one-time purchases and their warranties if any are in one folder. And so on. I'm down to perhaps 12 folders total, many of which will be seldom touched.

Of course, "one folder" might actually be several consecutive hanging folders with one label, just because of quantity. The point is that I'm not sorting beyond the highest level.

I hadn't filed paper in three years because I knew it would take an hour just to file one month's paper, and would leave me with a sore back. With the new scheme, I filed three years of paper just this afternoon, and because all I had to do was sit on the floor and make a few piles, each of which required only one trip to the cabinet, it didn't hurt at all.


The Wikipedia folks are a non-profit group, and they're currently running a fund drive. They don't inundate us with ads, for which we should be grateful. Yeah, I know that not everything on Wikipedia is completely accurate, given that anyone can say anything (I find that wikifools are not suffered lightly), but I use it a lot - every time someone mentions an unfamiliar person, plant, place, or event I look it up on Wikipedia, and at least I have a starting point.

I made a small contribution. If you use Wikipedia too, how 'bout giving them a dime for every time you've used them in the past year?

Gotta run now. Dinner at a Thai restaurant in Albany this evening.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

2683 Snork!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature,
the heart of a heartless world,
and the soul of soulless conditions."
-- Karl Marx --


I am tickled by the story of the man who is pushing an initiative to ban divorce in California. He figures that if the purpose of Proposition 8 (against which he had voted) was to "protect traditional marriage", then it's obvious that the best way to protect traditional marriage, if that's what you really want, is to stop straight people from getting divorced.

He's getting lots of signatures on his petition. There's a good chance it will go on the ballot. Much hoisting by petards. Failure to pass would prove rampant hypocrisy.

Read a brief story here:

2682 My Meetup!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"A friend is one before whom I may think aloud."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson --


I started a Meetup group! There are almost no Meetup groups close to where I live for just plain getting together for fun, and Rhinebeck has a wonderful little movie theater, Upstate Films, that shows independent and foreign films and documentaries, and I waited and waited for someone to start a group for movies in this area, and it didn't happen, so I made it happen.

It's at Check it out. will send out an announcement of the formation of the group on Friday to everyone nearby who expressed an interest in the topics I listed (indie, movies, documentaries, and so on), but even though it hasn't been promoted yet, we already have six members.

Next we have to select a movie and a time/date. "Olga" lives near the theater and had encouraged me to start the group. She has agreed to be in charge of scheduling. I should have something up by tomorrow evening.

I had been going to movies with meetup groups in Albany. One of the groups meets in the lobby, goes in, comes out, and everybody waves goodbye without even looking at anyone else and goes home. Kind of a "thud". That guy doesn't get a lot of people signing up, usually two other people, and often none, and is dropping the group as of January. Another group, Maria's, meets in the lobby, watches the movie, and then goes out for burgers and booze afterward. She regularly gets groups ranging from 6 to 20, and the dinner conversation is always good, BUT no one ever mentions the movie, which disappoints me.

So I want to get together after the movie, too, so there's not that feeling of aloneness, and I want to get people talking about the movie, a little bit, anyway. Upstate's selections are usually more thoughtful than the usual more commercial fare, so I hope it will be easy.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

2681 Valuing

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cathy Guisewite, "Cathy", mother to daughter:
"Of course I know how to push your buttons.
After all, I sewed them on!"


I've given up on today. I got up early to get some desk work done before I get sued, and poor Suzie is desperate for an oil change, which I promised her this afternoon. But I got four phone calls about pressing social matters, one of which requires that I clean out the car, and two of which required internet research, and here it is almost 4 pm and I've got none of the desk stuff or the oil change done.

I'm going out for dinner this evening (Angie, Nat, Roman and that group), so I have to start getting dressed at 5. Not enough time for the oil change, and I don't want to start the desk stuff now, because it's not something I can drop once started. I have to finish it all in one clip.

I give up.


A few people have commented that I tend to fall for wounded puppies. That the men I fall in love with are nice guys, but guys with problems, guys who seem to have been beaten up (or beaten down) by life. Or something. Kicked around.

Maybe. But I think most guys are a bit like that. They're almost all carrying scars of one kind of another. Old hurts that color everything. Some will point out that women do too, but women are different in how they handle things.

Men tuck hurts away in compartments and close the lids, and don't think about them. They carry them around in exactly the same condition as when they received them. Men's minds work like a row of lockers, but the odor of what's in the lockers spills out into the hall, and they wonder, "What's that smell?" It's very difficult to get a man to open the locker and look.

Women integrate things. They continue to think about them, turn them around and look at them, so that the hurts get worn down. Women's minds are more like walk-in closets. Women are more likely to eventually clean out the closet, but only after she's tried on the contents a few dozen times.

Anyway, that's not where I was headed with this. Back on track -

I always thought that maybe I choose wounded puppies because I need to be needed. I need to nurture.

I came across something a few days ago (and I'll never find it again, one of those link to a link to a link things) that is intriguing. The writer theorized that if a woman has been severely devalued at some point in her life, and if she has overcome that devaluing and now values herself, she will seek out men who have great potential, but who do not value themselves - who do not realize their own potential, and have accepted devaluation.


I know other women who are attracted to confident successful men, and I shiver. I occasionally meet successful confident men, and I am not attracted to them. I knew that about me, but never thought about why. If I thought about it at all, it was like "He doesn't need me."

I am the woman that writer described. I have overcome severe devaluation. I know my worth now.

The man I am most attracted to is not the most handsome, or the most confident, or most successful. I am attracted to a wounded puppy with great potential. A man of high intelligence, of thoughtful and sensitive mien, who has been undeservedly kicked around by life, and who has not achieved his potential.

Perhaps I want to be the one who values him, who protects and encourages him. To value him more than he values himself. Jay was happy with me, and I was happy with him, because I thought he was wonderful, and he knew that if *I* thought he was wonderful, there must be something wonderful about him. We both got what we needed.

Maybe I shouldn't have said this. Maybe now when you see me with a man, you'll think, "Gee, he must be a loser." Well, I do have some standards. Any man I admire will be intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful, and a mind-blowing lover. So there.


We're getting into the time of year when my front yard fills with turkeys, eating the dried wild cherries that fall on the driveway. I've mentioned how sometimes they won't let me walk or drive down. I found this short video clip: I couldn't figure out how to imbed it, so click through. It's both scary and funny.

Monday, November 30, 2009

2680 Perfect and not so perfect

Monday, November 30, 2009

However you choose to keep score in the game of life (possessions, sexual conquests, etc.) it will impress only others who keep score the same way.


I am so tired of hearing "perfect storm" of whatever applied to everything. I hear "perfect storm of this", "perfect storm of that" at least five times every day! Hey folks, it's done. Over. Finished. No longer an interesting turn of phrase. It's just plain annoying.


I am surprised by how many young people have never heard of the Bhopal Union Carbide disaster. It happened 25 years ago as of next Thursday, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that 35-year-olds don't know.

It was and still is the largest manufacturing disaster in written history. Different sources quote different numbers, but somewhere around 4,000 sleeping people were killed immediately by the gas leak, followed by another 11,000 over the next few weeks. Approximately 300,000 survivors were badly damaged, left with destroyed kidneys, livers, lungs, nervous systems, many eventually dying of their conditions. The luckiest ones were only blinded.

Since then, children born to survivors suffer birth defects in various degrees, everything from retardation, to microcephalus and other nerve damage, to paralysis. (These are poor people, with no insurance.) The enviromental damage has never been cleaned up - the water is poisoned.

Union Carbide has fought the lawsuits. The Indian government sued for a few billion. Union Carbide offered to settle for $350 million, the amount of their liability insurance. Quoting Wikipedia, "In 1989, a settlement was reached under which UCC agreed to pay US$470 million (the insurance sum, plus interest) in a full and final settlement of its civil and criminal liability." It was "take it or leave it, we'll fight this forever."

The movie "The Yes Men Save the World" (I watched it a few weeks ago) points out that Dow Chemical, who purchased Union Carbide in 2001, paid out several billion to four or five Texans injured in a chemical spill a few years ago, but feels no compulsion to honor UC's moral debts in India.'s Big Picture set this week is Bhopal, twenty-five years later, but I'm not sure the choice of photo subjects was very effective. There's a surfeit of rusting tanks and machinery, and a dearth of human aftereffects, and that's the big story.


Some of the comments on the photo set are interesting.

Commenter #17 points out that this kind of disaster occurs with distressing regularity in less developed areas, but not in this country, and so he wants to put the blame on lax governmental regulations, corrupt officials, and low work standards. In other words, it's India's fault.

Commenter #19 rejoins that corporations know that if they can get away with risking people's lives, it makes economic sense for them to do so, so they do. Union Carbide could have followed the same safety procedures they implement here, but they didn't, by choice.

I have to agree with commenter #19.


BTW - Bhopal is not a tiny village out in the countryside somewhere. It's a city of 1.5 million.


I am sitting here going slowly crazy.

I have some kind of minor condition where a repetitive motion at a certain speed can put me in a near trance. A rotating ceiling fan can make it very difficult for me to concentrate. Flashing sunlight between equidistant tree trunks along the road make my eyes lock.

A repeating sound has the opposite effect. I tense up, get mean, and want to explode.

Someone clicking a ballpoint pen, or doing that tap-rolling the fingernails on the table thing in a meeting is liable to find me at his throat. Ex#2 used to get something going with his nose where it clicked on every inhalation.

For some reason, this house amplifies some sounds. Maybe because it's set in bedrock on a ridge. Maybe just because it's high. Maybe it's that the west wall is mostly glass. The railroad tracks are at least two miles away, but sometimes you can "feel" the trains go by (and those are passenger trains, not freight). There was a bagpipe band that used to practice in (inside!) a firehouse 15 miles away as the crow flies, across the river, but I could hear them inside the house. Couldn't hear them outside, just inside.

Well, something is going "thrump thrump thrump" somewhere outside, at the rate of 90 thrumps per minute. Steady. No variation. No pause. For the past hour! I have a radio on here in the den, and one in the living room, and one in the kitchen, all tuned to NPR, and even with the volume up high I can still hear the thrumps. I went outside and I can barely hear it in the front of the house, and not at all in the back, where all the glass is. It seems to be coming from somewhere to the north.

Right now my back and jaw are tensed and I want to kill something!

2679 Milk

Monday, November 30, 2009

He who controls the agenda controls the outcome.


On "The Doctors" this morning they were talking about raw milk (as opposed to pasteurized). Proponents of raw say that pasteurizing milk destroys some of the nutrients, but studies have shown that proper pasteurization has very little effect on nutrients because the heating process is carefully controlled.

The opinion of the panel of doctors is that if you know the source of the milk, your own cow or a neighbor's cow, and you are sure that the udders were properly washed before milking, and are sure the milk is fresh, then drinking the raw milk is ok. But when you buy the raw milk in a supermarket or roadside stand, you really don't know the conditions of production or handling, and then it can be very dangerous. (And pregnant women should never drink raw milk, even from a known cow.)

That reminded me of a story. I don't think I've told it here yet.

When I was in high school, in a very economically depressed and sparsely populated mountainous area of Pennsylvania, the father of one of my best friends was the local bootlegger. That really was how he supported his family. His stills were up the mountain in the woods behind their house. He'd dump the used mash in the creek, which ran down the mountain and across a pasture. In the pasture was a herd of dairy cows. And the cows LOVED the mash.

Every so often the state inspector visited the dairy farm to certify the operation - and the farm usually failed because the cows were drunk. The school bus passed the farm, and we would often see the cows staggering around.

The dairy farmer didn't mind failing inspection, though, because even though he couldn't sell the milk commercially, the milk from his cows was famous and much sought after by mothers from miles around. It tasted good and kept kids quiet. He sold more milk "under the counter" and for higher prices than he would have gotten commercially.

That's milk from really contented cows.


One year, as a joke, voters wrote in my friend's father's name in the election for county sheriff. He actually won! Which didn't surprise anyone - ya gotta know and love the people up there. Of course he didn't meet the criteria (like, oh, not having been convicted of the federal crime of bootlegging, for example), so he couldn't serve.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

2678 Overheard in the deli

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Death is an alternate existence.


I made a quick stop at the deli around the corner this afternoon. There was no one there but the young man at the cash register and the counter girl. She said to him, "Yeah. I lost 35 to 0. At least it wasn't a complete shutout." And then louder, "Hey, Lori, you're pregnant!"


I walked out blinking.

2677 Split or Dutch?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The deepest despair is full of secret satisfactions.
-- Albert Speer, Spandau Diaries --


A "discussion" broke out at lunch yesterday. When the bill arrived, one woman (the one who interrupts and hijacks conversations, and who is quickly becoming a great annoyance to me) figured her food came to (say) $12. She put (say) $14 on the pile, commenting that $2 should cover the tax and tip. This led to a discussion of how much the tax is, and that $2 wasn't going to be enough for both. It varies depending on the location, but generally the tax runs between 8.25% and 8.75%, and the usual tip for the kinds of places we go around here is a bit over 15%.

I mentioned that most of the dinner groups I belong to figure roughly 25% of the base bill to cover both tax and tip, so on that theory she should probably put in $3.

Well, she argued. She said things like "25%? That's a lot! It doesn't sound right!", "It doesn't sound fair!", and when she was asked to decide what was a good tip, and then add 8.5% tax, she angrily declared, several times, "I can't do math!"

The other women thought about it and agreed that 25% was right - 8.5% for tax leaves 16.5% for tip, and that works.

She snorted and declared, "You don't tip on the tax!" (Huh? How is that tipping on the tax?)

She insisted that the only fair way to handle it was to split the bill evenly between all the diners, "That way everyone knows how much they can expect to spend" (huh? how can you plan for that?), and wanted everyone to agree to either split the bill from now on, or insist on separate checks. The other women seemed a bit stunned, and inclined to give in to her. She's one of those very loud women that brook no disagreement.

Duh? Is she really that stupid?

I objected, pointing out that my tab is usually the highest at the table, because I often get multiple vegetable sides, and almost always doggie-bag half the meal, and I wouldn't want others to pay for my food. I'd feel restricted in my choices. And there are people with limited means who will come to the luncheon for the company, and order just a salad because that's all they feel they can afford. This idiot snorted and said "When you leave the house you should plan on $20, or just not come." (Note that she had objected to adding a dollar to the $14 she was willing to pay.)

Next luncheon, I'm going to suggest that she get a separate tab, or by God *I* will! She's really pissing me off with her blockheaded refusal to listen to reason. I don't understand how splitting the bill is "fair", but paying for your own order is "not fair".



Heh heh. I just thought of a way to get at her. I'll order an appetizer or two, salad, steak entree, couple of sides, and dessert banquet for myself, and let them split it evenly. I'll put in my "share", then I'll distribute money to the other diners so they are out only for what they ordered, and not to her. I'll let her pay for part of my meal.

Yeah, won't work, but I can dream and plot and snicker, can't I?