Archive for October, 2006

Spiders Oh My

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Wow! Am I glad I went underground yesterday afternoon when the temperature was 60 instead of waiting until this morning when the temperature dropped to 15 F. I think there is something in the air that has changed. Halloween is here and thirty years ago when kids went tricking in Richland Washington, weather was mild right up to the coming of the goblins and ghosts. Rain often fell after dark and turned to ice by morning but day time temperatures remained in the sixties.

But I digress. The crawl space is not an area I seek for a quiet lunch or to enjoy the peaceful scenery, although it actually is peaceful. Full of spider webs no longer sticky or holding tasty morsels, only zillions of egg sacks embracing unhatched eight legged arachnid babies awaiting a mother’s love. There was not the slightest action so I had an uninterrupted squiggle and slide under the floor of my fifty-some year-old government house.

Now to get to the reason why I felt so compelled to proceed. Leaking water pipes were discovered months ago literally flooding the area under my house. Two offenders, water faucets, were replaced and an opinion expressed that electrolysis was probably the reason there were holes in the copper pipes. I already paid the piper — I mean the plumber – who did not have sufficient electrical knowledge but he knew an electrician who did and who could certify if electricity was the problem. Electrolysis is a powerful chemical decomposition that occurs when electrical ions pass through a solution or compound. In this case it was supposedly my copper pipes.

To make a long story even longer I resisted the call to the electrician and finally went to the city electrical engineers for their “learned” opinions. And what happened was that they needed visual verification of several things. One was what kind of connection was made of the new copper faucets to the old galvanized system installed in ancient times. The second thing was whether the connecting system actually was copper or what.

Did bonded engineers offer to come and freely examine those connections? NO. So there I was with my camera in hand slithering through the crawl space so conveniently left for working — and I use that term loosely — under the floor. Mission accomplished. Digital photos sent for perusal. I suspect that this is an exercise I will have to go through in another five years because it appears that the water pressure alone wore out the thin copper of the outdoor faucets. Oh well, by that time I will only be eighty five years old and need a full basement to hold the treasures I love to collect. Spiders go spin your webs elsewhere!

Pass Before Slush

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Mountain passes are very scenic and I look forward to driving through them. When temperatures drop below freezing a drive over any pass is an adventure I am not fond of. I remember a trip over Donner pass at eight thousand feet altitude on I-80 some years ago when snow was falling and advice was to wait in Sacramento or put on chains. No such warning was forthcoming years later when driving north into Oregon on US-395 which is usually dry and bare. A pass around three thousand feet high with the only scenery being wild horses penned for sale or extinction. Well on that particular night nearby Crane mountain got ornery and delivered a biting snowstorm that met us head on with driving snow so thick as to obscure the white highway marks.

That place in the road is about the same altitude as Snoqualmie, the pass I was headed for when I left a birthday visit in Everett, Washington, this morning. With an hour of driving through a downpour of Seattle sunshine and road mist I almost wished I had put off my 10 of the clock departure. Traffic was steady with trucks throwing up sudden torrents of water as they splashed through running puddles on I-405, a bypass that is usually easy to traverse on Sunday morning. Not fun today but at best everyone remained in their respective lanes so we all came through safely. Although the rain did not let up, traffic thinned out as I turned eastward on to I-90. The clouds thinned out by the time I reached North Bend – 20 miles from Snoqualmie summit – so at least visibility improved.

Temperature at the summit was 32 F and the precipitation became white flakes. On the downhill side snowflakes came at me with a vengeance. The trees high above the road were laden with snow suggesting that colder temperatures were descending. However heavily the snow fell, the roadway was wet, obviously warm yet, which I guess was not the case a few hours later because after I reached home at 1400 hours I heard the snowfall caused accidents and closed I-90 for several hours.

That was an unhappy trip for the hundreds of travelers that were delayed of which I could have been one. I have been in that situation and may be again. However that will not deter me from enjoying mountain scenery on the passes as long as I can drive.

Put What Off?

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today — very sage advice from antiquity. But how much can one do today? Always serendipity intervenes and what Steinbeck said about the best laid plans of mice and men was never more true for this woman this day. I completed a hectic week of puppet performances, historical repetitions at a heritage day re-enactment, responsibilities on the city library board, and assistance at the Tri-Cities annual stamp show. This final day came with gentle persistent rain that alleviated me of moving hoses to water shrubs and trees in my yard.

So I had unscheduled time and thought to catch up on destroying old records that take up space and are unnecessary in my life at this time although meticulous recording and tracking of money thirty years ago was absolutely crucial to prevent misunderstandings of transactions. However, I am reluctant to totally destroy folders until I peruse the contents no matter how old they are — just to be certain they do not contain items which particularly invoke the recesses of my mind for long past memories I consistently forget. One folder contained an official photo by Maxwell AFB of a recruit posed before his first exposure to the Air Force state of the art computer. Another important discovery consisted of photos of WAC participation in the movie that publicized the women’s entry into the armed forces in 1942.

That sorting exercise took the entire evening I hoped to spend in relaxation and reflection on the past satisfying week. I intend to plan future weeks to contain more hours for myself to grow older with more serenity.

Forget the concept that I should not put off things for tomorrow that I might be able to squeeze into today. I intend to ignore the sage advice. Sometimes I manage to complete a closely related task at the same time allowed for one. That is time saved and brings extended satisfaction. But that rarely happens. It did not happen today.

Soon I hope to assure time to myself. I will grow older in spite of it — with expectations and anxiety cast aside.

Humble Home?

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

We left the Holiday Inn hotel after the Freedom From Religion Foundation board meeting where Meg and I were both re elected for another two year term. She represents California at large and I represent Washington state. My car was parked at Meg’s home in San Jose and I was able to enjoy the drive there through the big city as a front seat passenger.

My suitcases were ready and after a cranberry drink and tearful hugs, I left Meg and San Jose at 1430 hours on Sunday afternoon with clearly marked maps of one Interstate or another all the way home. At each town I looked toward the next just in case I decided to turn in for the night but at each rest area I stretched out on a picnic bench and relaxed my back and eyes. Later when it turned chilly I curled up on the front seat of my Hunny (2005 Hundai Accent) and snoozed for a short while – sometimes five minutes, once a half hour. I had lean roast beef for breakfast and nut bread with cream cheese so did not require much food as the day progressed. I munched on walnuts, carrots, licorice, raisins, and corn chips when I had the urge and always water and coffee, too. I think I lingered the longest at the Multnomah Falls rest area thirty miles west of Portland (this is Oregon state folks not the state of Maine). No other travelers came by, no headlights to disturb me. My eyes were very weary. I had come through Portland at 0530 hours ahead of the commuter traffic but there was noooo stopping anywhere along that part of that drive and when I could, I not only stopped and parked, I rested my entire body.

The sky was clear and the sun warm when I arrived in Richland at 1000 hours (Pacific Daylight Time). Oddly I did not feel the nostalgic rhapsody of an old song that goes “Be it ever so humble there is no place like home”. Am I perverse or what? This is a comfortable place but all I could think was that the place looked as it did when I left and maybe I had an unconscious smugness about that. My trip was a success, ending sooner than projected so I had at least half a day of complete isolation for unpacking, setting up my computer, and groaning at the pile of mail to sort.

Everything about the trip was a pleasure to tuck into my enless brain space — an overnight with my oldest and youngest sons, six days with a middle son and his wonderful family, three days with old friends, and hours and hours of reacquainting my memories of scenery long since traversed. Sunrise and sunsets when the moon insisted I recall many a trip under its full and eerie light. The moonset on Friday morning when I headed north from Los Angeles through the atmosphere of civilization was a similar red orb I observed of the sun at its rising a week previous. Honestly if I had been less cognizant of the time I would have said I was looking at a sunrise. Too much hurried traffic to philosophize at the time because that part of the trip was one I had not done before — driving from Los Angeles to San Jose. Those state roads bring forth a story of rolling pastoral hills with cattle and horses and occasional settlements for another article.

Gasoline in California as in most other states has to be transferred by the consumer to the vehicle which in my case is womanally not manually (I am not a man in any sense of the improper implications of our language roots), so it was an absolute treat to have gas pumped by an attendant when passing through Oregon. The last fill at a station in Arlington will take me many miles on my activities for the next few days of commitments to which I had to return. Home again, home again, jiggety jog.

San Francisco is clear

Saturday, October 7th, 2006

I made good time to Ssn Jose. Arrived at Meg’s at 1100. Great route. I especially enjoyed the drive on SR 152 that went from Gilroy to San Jose. Wide open spaces. Earthen dam. High winds but not a windmill in sight. Beef cattle on the range so beef is still in – in california. I saw a herd of milk cows also.

We have room 1716 in a high security hotel. Huh! Biggest crowd FFRF has had so far. Good speakers and good fellow atheists. Well some are. Some still try to keep their religion close by. The day began very coolish but is beautiful and clear now. I had to walk a whole block to find an internet cafe. The hotel charges $5 for 15 minutes plus printing.

Lively downtown area. Cell phones in everybody’s ear. Having good time. Love.

A Rodents’ World

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Rodents are but one animal we share relationship to in the species of mammals. Not nearly as numerous as the insects rodents are varied and prevalent all the same. Oddly some of their kind thrive better in the presence of humans than in the wild because they reap the benefits of our excesses. Especially rats and mice that actually share our houses and storerooms. The more we try to rid ourselves of their presence, the more they appear to thrive. Because of their perseverance and proximity to our living space they infect us with disease and pestilence, although I suppose we would attract lice and such parasites with our own close living.

A well known rodent, the beaver, was so prized for its pelt the species were trapped near to extinction. Their tails stored fat and were eaten by trappers and immigrants. Beavers are not completely welcomed in wildlife refuges because of their need to chew bark of native trees. They must chew to wear down their teeth which like our finger and toe nails continue to grow throughout their lives.

A more visible rodent where ever there are trees is the squirrel. What a pleasure to watch their antics whether chasing each other in play or copulation, or their indecision in the storing of nuts in the fall. In my backyard either the squirrels forget where the nuts were put in the ground or they did not need them for food after all. Many black and English trees sprout up every summer to attest to their folly. If they do not like the nuts from neighborhood trees they feed on bird seed in every sort of feeder engineers have ever designed. James Michener tells of the ingenuity of a friend of his determined to create a squirrel proof bird feeder. Hundreds of dollars later and after many intricate designs discarded, he gave up and now simply enjoys the feisty rodents. I let the neighborhood cats harass those who chatter from my trees. Neither the cats nor the squirrels are discouraged. Putting up with others is in their genes. Must be where humans get a similar trait.

Sugar Blinds

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Retinopathy — A new disease? Perhaps. Ophthalmologists are finding leaking capillaries within the retina, the sensitive tissue behind the eye that receives light and sends it to the brain. This condition is considered by the optical profession as being the result of prolonged diabetes or even high blood pressure. Eyes are two of the smallest, yet most detailed and complex organs in our body. Retinopathy is a disease that begins without symptoms of pain or discomfort that heralds the flu or an ulcer.

It should be of no surprise that nature would evolve such a malady because that is what evolution is all about. Consider the increase of sugar intake within the last century — ingestion of 135 pounds per year per person in the 1990s up from five pounds per person in the 1880s when sugar was first vigorously marketed from the Caribbean islands. The human palette craves sugar. My sister cooked at a high school and was proud that the students loved her lunchroom foods. She said all it took to please the kids was the addition of sugar. And it is not simply school lunches. Look at any food label and marvel at the scope of sugar types manufacturers add to every food on the shelves.

How can we pretend that such an increase of an item we do not need has no effect on our health? Alcohol and nicotine have already proven themselves to be killers by attacking liver and lungs. Diabetes may be the label used by optometrists but further study may discover something entirely different. The verdict is not yet in. We have many eye strains not experienced by a few generations past. Computers come to mind. I spent many hours close to a computer screen during the last 15 years. Not as much as my computer guru who makes a living at it and now faces laser surgery to stall vision impairment from retinopathy.

Computer screens are changing. Our life styles are not. Checking the eyes is as important as checking the teeth. Probably more so. I will live much the same without teeth but will find life a lot more difficult without eyesight.

Douglas Of The Fir

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

An interesting evergreen tree on the west coast of the USA is the Douglas fir, which is not a fir at all but ‘Pseudotsuga’ or “False Hemlock” also known by many local common names. David Douglas, a Scottish botanist sent to the “new” world by the Royal Horticultural Society of London, introduced 240 species of native conifers and other plants to Europe between 1824 and 1834.

Other notable introductions include Sitka spruce, Sugar pine, Western White pine, Ponderosa pine, Lodgepole pine, Monterey pine, Grand fir, Nobel fir, and several other conifers that transformed the British landscape and the timber industry. Numerous garden shrubs and herbs such as the Flowering currant, Salal, Lupin, Penstemon, Oregon sunshine, and California poppy were widely grown in Britain before being recognized in the USA. It seems immigrants and pioneers had other plants of interest which sometimes brought in noxious weeds.

A study of botany in southern California becomes a study in historical geography and movement of cultures from east and west. The Douglas fir was taken to other lands and farmed for lumber. Its wood is used for structural applications that must withstand high loads. Australia was an early importer of the lumber.

The cones have distinctive three forked bracts between the scales that resemble the tail and hind feet of a mouse. Not often does a plant feature make identification so easy.

Evergreen, deciduous, annual or perennial – treat plants with loving care. They absorb your waste breath of carbon dioxide and expel the oxygen on which you live.

Foggy Foggy Dew?

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

The day began with fog but cleared off soon and became a
bright sunny California day that I had come to expect. While in the
shower as the introduction to JUST A MINUTE implies I thought of the
way muscles are tied to the frame – my skeleton. Somehow I never
realized the connection of bone to muscles and blood. As if the
skeleton was only there to hang the vital parts of me. Well in truth
that is what the bones are – spars on which to tie the rigging.

But my rigging is not tied to my bones as in tying a rope to a
life saver donut. Not tied at all. Muscles and tendons grow right out
of, or into, the bones, nurturing and sustaining every cell with life
giving blood. Even the scalp, as thin as the skin over it is the bone
must be stimulated to encourage capillaries to transport sustenance to
the brain. But then is the brain tied to the skull? I must look that
up.

How to stimulate the blood to flow into the netherlands of
tiny capillaries? I watched my overweight sister suffer with an aching
spine and painful knees. The knee cap was replaced with an acrylic one
to take care of that problem. I opted for a different solution. I
decided to stimulate the blood flow to my knee caps by scrubbing with a
hard bristled brush. Whether that helped or not, my knees are still
operating very well thirty years later.

But health aside, I have an obligation to meet the boy friend
of granddaughter. Since she has a driving permit she must practice her
driving on the way to Jonathon’s. Not a far piece away but an
interesting and scenic drive. Houses in this neighborhood are
surrounded by trees and bushes – very green. And since the beautiful
California weather beckoned I drove back to my place on Wildwood avenue
and got out and walked. I should practice what is good for me.

Once A Dog

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

What a great relief and pleasure to settle in to my destination, relax and enjoy conversation and recollection of times long past; enjoy anticipation of things to come. This family’s routine was interrupted but not by much. And I met Steve. His past contained tragedy. Hit by a car some months ago he was sheltered by a compassionate man who saw not only to his comfort but to reconstructive surgery which restored his physical self to normal activity. He was adopted the moment he was released. Steve is a dog, a Chihuahua, weighing in at around 5 pounds.

History of the original development of the breed is unknown, having been brought into Mexico about 100 years ago from China, descendant of an ancient Egyptian breed. Discovered by American tourists it was brought to the USA named for the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Steve, as most Chihuahua’s, is alert, intelligent, playful, affectionate and loyal. I have only seen short haired chihuahuas but the coat comes in both long and short variations, and may be any color. Steve is an overall medium tan.

The first Chihuahua I come to know was the “baby” of the caretakers at a summer resort where I worked as a cabin cleaner in the great summer destination – the cool land of Ten Thousand Lakes. I do not recall the dog’s name, only that it was in the arms of Ruth Frank, the resort cook, during all her off hours. While she was working, the dog was confined to a small cabin she occupied. The cabin next door was home to me and other cabin girls. Nights in Minnesota were cool and we had to stoke our own pot bellied “air tight” stoves. One morning I over stoked. Before anyone was aware of a fire, flames had engulfed my cabin and Ruth’s too late to save the dog or any thing else.

For years I was pretty much free from Chihuahuas until I undertook a census and walked from house to house recording eligible school children for attendance in Stearns county schools. I was not afraid of dogs that loudly announced my intrusion. They came out to greet me and I was nonchalant and got the information the school district required. Dogs often ushered me out to the street and saw me merrily on my way. A chihuahua was more attentive. It was unwilling to let me go too easily. It nipped at the tendon of my departing ankle.

Not bringing forth blood, the sharp teeth brought forth the memory of the chihuahua I had murdered in my innocent youth. Was I destined to atone for the crime by becoming surrounded by dogs during my married life? Not tiny itty bitty short haired dogs but 70 pound Irish Setters with hair long enough to card and spin into yarn. Dogs that annually gave birth to 11 pups. One such birth occurred on the day the son with whom I am now visiting was born. His older brother was at home attending farm chores among which was the pregnant dog. When whelping began, the dog was brought into the living room to escape the below zero weather Minnesota is so famous for.

So much for dogs. I am not allergic to them, or cats either, but I do not welcome their tongues on my face considering what and where those wash clothes so lovingly attend.