Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is supposed to be about war veterans. However, it is the weather, once again, that has my attention. Bluster, just plain prairie bluster is what we have here.

Woke to rain showers. Overcast skies backdrop the weather goddess shaking out her rugs and dust mops. Tree limbs seem to miss the beat as they dance continuously. The lilacs refuse to open their blossoms, but ripple constantly in the gusts.

Our small town will have no Observance today — no vets left in town.

And we will put our ribs in the oven rather than on the grill where they'd drown in the rain before they were properly charred. Cold slaw is shredded and ready for the dressing.

In the meantime, it's book reading and sudoku solving for us. Kindle is in full flower. We ordered three or four books each to fill our quiet hours.

Hopefully, your celebration is more energetic than our own.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Friday Feels Like Sunday

'Ho hum,' she mumbled as the clouds lowered onto the prairie, again. 'What a start to the day. I need sunshine. Sunshine, I tell you; sunshine.'

The weather goddess ignored the old woman and sprinkled more rain on the windows.

'Graham, I'm not getting out of this bed til the sun shines. Forget my coffee. I'm going back to sleep.'

'Suit yourself;' he turned on the commercial espresso machine on the kitchen counter.

Covering her head with the pillow, she snuggled back under the covers. 'Never gonna get up.'

'You're pouting again. Thought you gave that up. You said you liked it here.'

'That was in the winter when there was snow on the ground. I could ski or snowshoe. What can I do in the mud?'

'Build mudmen?'

'Very funny. I'll take that coffee after all,' she said as she slid out of bed and into her shoes. 'Floor's cold.'

'I already steamed the milk. You'll have to make your own.'

'You don't read my mind very well, do you,' she grinned walking over to his desk and picking up his cup. 'I'll just drink yours.'

'Ok, ok, I'll talk to the weather goddess. Sun by noon. Will that suit?'

'Yep. And then you can have the rest of your coffee back.'

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Flaxton Post Office

Yesterday several community members met with a representative of the USPS - United States Post Office.

I, for one, am deeply concerned about the outcome of this meeting. Although the official line is that the possible closure (discontinuance) of our post office is six months away and not a decision made by local personnel, it was clear to me that a decision had been made.

Most of the discussion concerned a Village Post Office, which is a contract space in which citizens can rent a post office box in a 'shop', a flower store, restaurant, gas station convenience store, etc etc etc. The owner of the 'shop' earns a tiny percentage of the income taken in for the cost of the rental of the post office box and for stamps. No weighing or measuring of packages takes place in this 'shop'. One must use a pre-paid box or envelope that has a pre-designated price attached.

This alternative saves the USPS a whole lot of money because they are NOT paying rent, utilities, or wages. They are simply sharing a percentage of the money that comes into the til.

Interestingly enough, the USPS representative had no idea what that percentage might be.

And so, I did some research.

Postal delivery is mandated by the Constitution of the United States - Article 1, section 8.

The post office is a corporation run by a Board of Directors appointed by the President of the USA and the PostMaster General is chosen by this board. The Directors are paid $30,000 a year + $300 a day for up to 42 days a year as well as travel expenses. Not bad work if you can get it.

The USPS has been doing quite well for the last century. Receipts outrun expenditures in most years. However, when Wall Street went belly up, the situation changed. I mention this because the USPS claims it is the computer who has impacted their receipts. It would appear that 2007 was a boom year with receipts outrunning expenditures by some several million dollars.

However, in 2008, the worm turned. USPS shows a loss of 1 million. In 2009, a loss of 3 million, and in 2010 a loss of 8 million.

However, I'm still impressed that the second largest civilian company in the USAwith the largest fleet of vehicles of any civilian company (second only to Walmart - would you believe?) - has suffered only an 8 million dollar loss this past year.

USPS has in excess of 465,000 employees, 40,000 of whom were let go - no mention of firing - in the last two years. Ouch!!

So, there you are!..several hours of research on the USPS official internet site is filled with important information including the fact that Ben Franklin was our first PostMaster General and it is he to whom we owe thanks for 'book rates' - which are lower than rates to send books and CDs anywhere in the world.

Oh..stamps..first class letter

USA .44
Britain .57
Australia .50
Norway 1.50

Monday, May 23, 2011

Obama in a Cowboy Hat


Love this photo of my president.

Actually, he makes me proud — not because he ordered the death of a man who funded the death of a huge group of New Yorkers, but because he quietly went about the business of doing what he believed the people of American wanted.

I'm not entirely naive; I understand that the C.I.A. trained Osama, along with many other Afghani freedom fighters, in Scotland years ago; that America funded the people who later became terrorists when the Russians invaded Afghanistan; that the American military gave those same freedom fighters Stinger missiles back in the day, missiles which were saved and used against NATO forces by the Taliban years later.

Still, after all the errors in judgment by previous presidents, by previous military know-it-alls, it is Obama, who made a decision. Perhaps he simply has better advisors than those previous presidents. Perhaps he is a rational thinker, unlike his predecessor, perhaps he is just a tad more intelligent than his predecessor, but mostly I suspect he is a responsible leader who takes his job very seriously and has a sense of morality very close to my own.

Bottom line, that's why I support him and the reason I love this photo..of the man in the black hat — not the white hat of the hero, but the black hat of 'everyman'.

He's my hero!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Immodest Exposure

A California Black Bear
an internet glitch
and 9-11
conspire to create international romance...

FINISHED
223 pages
off to the American Booksellers Convention
NYC
last week end in May
Wish me luck
It has an agent whose gonna do good work
I hope

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mis communication

The world is rife with misunderstandings and it is entirely possible that we are not responsible for much of it. That is to say, living in various cultures causes citizens of the world to use language in a various ways that seem to be similar but which, indeed, often convey very different meaning.

The Aussie and I had an amazing laugh session this morning as we read and discussed how very true each of the items tends to be.

I encourage you to take a look. worth a good laugh if nothing else.

Those of you who live in trans cultural homes will understand immediately. The rest of you might take ten seconds to come to a full realization.

All of which reminds me of these two quotes:

In short, how much do we subconsciously ignore, simply because we are conditioned *not* to see it? (Fnord)

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Robert McCloskey


Friday, May 13, 2011

Daybreak on the Prairie


The Aussie rose early this morning and slipped out the back door to catch the sunrise at the perfect moment. This small town in the midst of the vast prairie has the most breath taking moments; locals simply accept what has been around them for all of their lives.

We, outlanders, are mesmerized by the beauty of this varied climate and currently still quite stark landscape. Immodest Grandeur is how one author described the landforms surrounding us.

The five foot long garter snake, green with yellow stripes startles us as it slithers around the front porch looking for a space in which to meditate on which small crittur it will stalk next. The two Canada geese with their nest in our next door grassy lot saunter like king and queen snacking on the local wild life.

Chickadees, goldfinches, warblers, robins, mallard and wood ducks, yellow headed and red winged blackbirds, coots aplenty, wood peckers and flickers are just a portion of the variety of flying objects surrounding us each day.

We live in a land of plenty.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Grandma Hook

She was always an enigma to me. Bigger than life, sterner than any woman I had ever known, for me she was always a strong old woman. Her dresses had a waistline that circled under her breasts. Her skirts always hung straight. She seemed to have no ass. She always wore dark colors and fashions that made her seem even older than she probably was.


Her house was always clean, but cluttered. There were corners and crannies to investigate in that house. I loved her house more than I loved her.


There were books. Actually, there was only one book that I remember: The Wizard of Oz sat beside the piano in a little corner of the living room where I tucked myself into the almost dark and read words on pages that were bigger than those in any book I had ever read before. Today, that print is reserved for folks who claimed to be partially sighted, those with cataracts or some form of benign blindness – almost.


I was aware of the energy in Grandma Hook’s home. It may have been intriguing, but it was not inviting. Her’s was a place where one behaved, where one remembered not to be too noisy, not to make a scene, but a place where currants grew in the back yard and chickens roamed the side yard – on the far side of the driveway, a horseshoe affair.


Grandma Hook lived on a very busy Davidson Road in the partially industrialized neighborhood in Flint, Michigan – as if the whole city were not industrialized. They made Buicks there. On her street, they produced AC sparkplugs. My grandfather, an electrician, worked in that factory. He was electrocuted on the roof one night in 1936, four years before I was born.


It was shortly after his death that my mother was boarded out to her home-ec teacher in a slightly more middle class part of the city. There she learned to wash and iron sheets, to set a table properly, to cook, to appreciate sterling silver, and to dress in the middle class style.


Perhaps because my grandmother, who was attempting to raise eight children without a father, needed to find a table at which each could find enough food, my own mother followed the pattern. I was boarded out, too, not when I was sixteen like my mother, but when I was one. I doubt that she learned to do that from her home-ec teacher. She did learn, however, to fold towels in the proper manner, to hand sew a hem, and to enjoy solid teak furniture, furniture I never remember seeing in my grandmother’s home.


Yes, the stern faced woman with a halo of grey-black hair pinned up around her face, the woman with the bounteous black skirts and the rolled up stockings and proper shoes probably taught my mother a great deal, but I doubt if she intended to teach my mother to give up her firstborn at so early an age.


My enduring memory of Grandma Hook is of her sitting at the breakfast nook, a white wooden table on each side of which was attached a wooden bench with a seat that lifted so that there was storage space underneath, a bench that would sit at least four on each side.
There she sat one afternoon when my mother and I stopped to visit. She was using a teaspoon to scoop out the soft green insides of an avocado. I had never tasted avocado. They seemed decadent at the time; they looked oily and slimy.

That was the last time I saw my grandmother.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

62 degrees....with clear skies for most of the day

I know, I'm supposed to give up on all this weather stuff!...but 62 degrees -

I suspect farmers will be in the fields at least 15 hours a day for the next week or so as they try and seed as much as possible. Really late this year. Still some fields have great ponds of standing water that have not yet receded.

Brilliant goldfinches have come to the feeder outside my lounge room window; yellow headed blackbirds flock to the ponds nearby, red winged black birds hover near the clothes line, and Canada geese males stand watch as their mates sit upon nests near the slough.

The sump pump continues to empty about ten gallons of water an hour out of the basement, the floor and walls of which are totally dry.

Work has once again begun on the insulation in the roof. And soon we will break through the ceiling between the two levels to install our new stairway to heaven.

Life is good. Hope yours is as well..

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Change in Plans


We've made a change. With morning surprises like this one and a government moving slower than spring on the prairie, we have decided to fly back to the southern hemisphere in the middle of July.

This decision gives us eight more weeks of sudden sunrises on the immodest expanse of prairie and two July weeks in the Sierra.

Finally making the decision has given me an energetic tug. There is much to do. Eight more weeks of English instruction for my new Cuban/American neighbours is at the top of the list. Secondly, I will be able to enjoy the 150 tulip, narcissus, and daffodil bulbs blooming in the next couple of weeks. Thirdly, I may have a joyful opportunity to spend some time at my cabin with my favourite children

So, here's looking forward to an eventful ten weeks left in the USofA.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Rundle: by the time Osama died, he had already died

Reporting in Crikey, an Australian on line newspaper today, Guy Rundle offers an interesting perspective on the life and times of Osama Ben Laden that you may find illuminating.

I offer the first paragraph of the article here. If you wish to read more, click on the title to today's blog entry. It will take you to the online version. You will have to register to read the rest of the article, but registration is free.

Hope you find the information contained within as interesting as I have.


When did al-Qaeda begin?” a panel at the Frontline Club was asked during a symposium on the group a few weeks ago. Various pundits gave different version of a conceptual answer, about the mujahadeen, 1979, Al-Qutb, etc, etc, and then it came the final speaker’s turn. “When did al-Qaeda begin?” said Noman Benotman, “about the second week of April 1988”.


Guy Rundle, Crikey

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

First there were the mallards, a dozen or so, courting one female! What a joy to see these fellows prancing in the water, bobbing heads, swimming to and fro to attract the attention of one sweet female..

And then there was the spring storm - six inches of snow and winds buffeting the trees at 50 mph (80 kph) ripping limbs from the trunks of otherwise almost spring blossomed glory.

And today, there is glorious, amazing, sunshine and 60 degrees of warmth. Time to paint.

The sunset picture above is the end of a day with no electricity, phones, or internet - a promise of a fine day to follow.