Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beep beep

I've been in this McPartment almost two years. I have two smoke alarms. When I moved in the power was turned off. I discovered the reason was the smoke alarm in the bedroom needed a new battery and they didn't want to deal with it. I soon discovered why. The cursed thing is hardwired so it doesn't stop beeping when you take the battery out. It's never been clear to me why it also needs a battery.

Anyway, it was a Saturday night. I had to run around town finding a store open to get the right one. Then it took me almost an hour to get the battery changed. It's the cheeziest, most poorly designed unit I've ever seen. Getting the battery out is easy but for some reason, it's really hard to get a square battery to fit back into the round end where the little door is.

I'm not even sure how it works. It doesn't have any visible contacts for the battery ends. There's just a rectanglular slot in the plastic cover where you can see a light shining deep inside the unit. The round end doesn't fit into it, it just rests against it. If you break the unit, they'll charge you a couple of hundred bucks to replace it. The ceilings are also high, so I have to stand on a chair and some phone books and still have to reach up to fuss with it.

That first time it took forever to figure out how to get the cursed battery into the slot. By the time I was done, I had managed to set it off twice. By then it was clear why the management person has spent so much time warning me about ripping the unit out of the ceiling. It crossed my mind more than once during the ordeal.

Since then, the bedroom unit hasn't needed a new battery. The living room unit went through two. Replacing that one was just as big a nightmare. By now I figured out how to easily slide the battery in, but I couldn't get it to work. I realized after 45 minutes that I was putting it in backwards.

The last time was this Saturday, in the middle of the night. It's always a Saturday in the middle of the night. I was prepared with brand new batteries with the right kind of terminal ends to make it easy to get it installed. I was careful to put in it in the right way. It still took 25 minutes. The battery doesn't fit snugly either so it has to seat just right and you have to screw the cover back in or the beeping won't stop. You have to wait three minutes between beeps to see if it worked. Nothing is more discouraging than thinking you did it, and then hearing the cursed beep again.

By the last time I was praying to every spirit I could think of that it would just stop. I literally held my breath at the three minute mark. The sweet sound of success. Silence.

There's a lot of things I'll miss about this place when I leave. Changing the damn battery won't be one of them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Bulb Show

I forgot my annual link to the live cam at the Smith Greenhouse for the bulb show. But the good news is I won't have to spend hours searching Flickr for photo links this year because m. heart made a youtube of the shots she took this year.

A few of these are larger as stills at m. heart's blog, along with some other great shots of the hilltowns and Northampton. I love that I found her blog. She's my connection to my old life in those places that I still miss in so many ways. In fact, she's me, 20 years ago. Well except that she's way more beautiful and talented, but the parallels are still fascinating to me.

I keep forgetting to ask her to take a photo of Deer Hill in the spring when it turns that new shade of green. There's a couple of places in town where you can capture the perfect roundness of that little mountain. It's one of my favorite places on this earth. I spent many happy hours hiking it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Six years

Six years ago today, I put up my very first blog post on this, my very first blog. This is still the original template. I didn't have a clue what I was doing, just knew that I wanted to write and reach out to a wider audience on-line.

Blogger was more primitive back then. It didn't have all the auto coding buttons. I didn't even know how to bold much less hotlink. Don't remember how I learned to make live links so quickly, but in looking at the archives it took me three months to learn how to bold and I didn't understand anything about html until almost August, when I finally learned to insert graphics.

The blog has changed a lot over the years. At it's height as a drug policy reform blog, I was getting about 800 hits a day. As I recall, my most successful post was about a woman prison guard who lost her job over a semi-nude picture on-line of her tattoos. At the height of interest I was getting about 4,000 hits a day. Funny, I don't even remember her name now. Marcy something, I think.

In any event, this little blog has settled down into a semi-regular diary for the benefit of my family and friends who still care what I'm doing. Traffic is significantly less than 800 hits a day, but as long as these old fingers can type, I'll keep this place just the way it is. I'm sentimental that way and I love every single one of you remaining readers too much to break the chain of communication now. Thanks for sticking with me all these years. [graphic]

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My friend Maddy

I'm still amazed that my friend Maddy is so famous now that she fills concert halls. Not because she doesn't have the talent. She has an incredible voice. But she was kind of shy when I knew her and was still busking on the streets with the Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band.

I'm glad to see her work finally has a youtube presence. Last time I checked, which was a couple of years ago I guess, there wasn't anything. Now there's lot of vids. A good thing because I probably can't afford her concerts anymore. Here's another one if you like her stuff.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Speaking with the enemy

In a few days I will have been blogging at the Detroit News for five years. I have a critic there who has been reading me since day one. He's a funny guy. He doesn't comment much anymore but in the beginning he used to harangue me regularly. Over the years we became friendly adversaries.

He can't type for shit. He looks illiterate when he comments. If you judged him just on that, you would think he was just some brain dead idiot who couldn't string together a coherent sentence. But I always had a feeling he was more than that.

Long story short, I gave him my phone number the other day and he actually called me. He's a really interesting guy. Very articulate and nice. We talked for over an hour and it was like we had been best friends all our lives. I always knew he secretly liked me.

Monday, March 23, 2009

For the old airplane lovers

I caught this link to a post about some guy who got a ride in a really cool old airplane. Lots of great photos at the link. I'm really jealous.

Afternoon walk

Took another stroll to try to get a shot of those chickens but no luck. I can't even see a chicken house so I'm thinking now that they had wandered down from the up the hill somewhere the day I saw them. In any event, it was a lovely day for a walk. The flowering trees and shrubs are blooming all over. My cheezy camera doesn't really capture it well, but here's what I'm seeing.

I don't know what these trees are. They're not Bradford pears. Wrong shape. I suspect they're some kind of apple because they smell so good.

I call these wild pinks. No idea what they are either. You don't see them much in people's yards but the woods are full of them.

And I wish I could have taken a better shot of these little guys. They're some kind of wild johnny jump-up pansy. I used to have a lot of them at my old house. They're really tiny and at first you think they're violets because they look more purple from afar. But they're the sweetest little things. If I had my own place, I'd transplant a whole bed of them just to have them nearby.

Hope you're all seeing warmer weather and flowers too.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad

I'm so lucky to have the best Dad in the world. He's smart. He's strong. He's funny. He's kind. He's generous. He can grow a fabulous garden and build things. And he can talk to animals. How cool is that?

I thank my lucky stars that we got to take another trip around the sun together this year and look forward to many more to come. I love you Dad. Happy Birthday.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blue Water and bluets

I was at a loss for today's entry into m. heart's Winter Blues Week but I remembered I had a shot of one of my favorite flowers. These little guys have a lot of common names. Some call them Shaking Quakers or Quaker Ladies, but I've always called them bluets. They do quake at the slightest breeze, hence the lack of sharpness to the shot. The photo doesn't really show how blue this patch was either. Usually they're whiter with just a blue tinge on the edges. My lawn at the old place was covered so thickly with these that it sometimes looked like snow. I could never bring myself to get the lawn mowed before they passed.

I also remembered this silly little paint program, so I decided to do a quick primitive painting. I'm not much of an artist and I find it very difficult to paint using the mouse, but I didn't hate how this turned out. It not at all what I orginially intended and it looks darker than it did when I was painting it, but it kind of looked like a sea ceature underwater to me, so here it is:

If you want to see how I did it, there's animation of the painting process here. You can also paint your own.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An exciting night at the McCompound

This is the second time I've heard the fire alarm in the middle of the night here. The good news is this time I didn't try to turn it off and set off my burglar alarm instead. The bad news is it was a real fire.

I almost didn't get out of bed. I didn't smell anything but when I heard the neighbor upstairs scream, I thought I should check the hall anyway and sure enough there was smoke this time. So I threw on my clothes and grabbed the four most important things in the house. My laptop, my camera, my purse and my passport and headed for the sidewalk. As it turned out the fire was on the wall in the stairwell, which happened to be the outside wall of my kitchen. For the first time I was really glad I don't have a gas stove.

By the time I got to the stairs some kid with an extinguisher had already put it out. Ironically, it was the fire alarm box that caught fire. This is what's left of it.

The fire department is really good here. I'm amazed at how many trucks and fireman we have. Half of them were trooping through my apartment to make sure it wasn't going to ignite. I tried to get more photos but apparently the reflective tape on their coats screws up the exposure and I only managed to get this one shot.

There were all so cute. I got to chat them up for a long time since I was the last one they let back into the building. And it was good I couldn't fall asleep right away because the fire marshall showed up 20 minutes later to take one last look at my wall.

Anyway, nothing really bad happened except my apartment was vaguely smoky because they had the door open. Took an hour in the freezing night to air it out again. But no big damage, no one was hurt and I got to see what my neighbors looked like. Some of them for the first time. So there's that.

Winter Blues Week

I missed yesterday. Not much blue around the McCompound and it didn't dry out enough to walk until late in the day. I can tell you I was really happy to see the sun after almost four solid days of rain. Anyway, I guess this counts as blue and it struck me as good advice for many situations.

That's not to say there is never a time to stand your ground but so often the little things aren't really worth the fight.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rest in Peace

I have a sad entry for Winter Blues Week today. I found out last night that my friend from West Cummington, Cynthia Risk, died last week. I had no idea she was thirty years older than me. She seemed younger.

We were good friends when I lived there. She was different than the other Ladies of the West Cummington Benevolent Society. She was elegant and accomplished. She was the Martha Stewart of the Hilltowns, and I mean that in a good way. She grew fabulous gardens, created her own stunning needlework and was a master chef. When she made some fancy dinner, it looked just the cover of Bon Apetit.

She was political too. Between the two of us, we broke the lockhold that the old line families had on town governance. It started with the elections system. The same person had been the Warden for decades. We came to a meeting and questioned authority. They got so irritated at our audacity, they all quit. They were sure we could never run an election. They were wrong. We not only ran it well, we made it more inclusive so anyone in town could participate in the process. Both of us served as wardens at different times. Eventually, Cynthia became Town Clerk and held the office for many years.

When we first met, we were neighbors. She lived just two doors down. We met because of her youngest son Doug. Doug was brain damaged at birth. If memory serves, it was because the umblical cord wrapped around his neck during delivery. He wasn't retarded but he had difficulty speaking. I was one of the few people who could understand what he was saying and had the patience to wait out his stuttering. He spent a lot of time at my house and talked about me all the time at home.

She was a widow by the time I met her. Not an easy life with six kids, but she made it look effortless. The kids all kind of looked alike. Two sets of twins and the oldest two might as well have been, they were so hard to tell apart. Only rarely, when she wistfully spoke of her days in Tuxedo Park did she seem vulnerable. She was a strong woman. And smart. She graduated from The Northfield School and Smith College. She received a master's in Economics from Yale University. She worked in financial institutions in New York City and Chicago.

I can't link to the obit, it's subscription only, but she came from a very interesting family. Mrs. Risk was an enrolled member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (Dakota). Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa), the first Native American to receive a medical degree, and the doctor who reported on the massacre of Wounded Knee, was her grandfather. She spoke fondly of trips camping and boating with her Grandpa and Uncle Ohi (Jr.) on Lake Huron.

Funny, I was thinking about her last week. Unfortunately when I left West Cummington, I had to cut off all contact from those ladies because I didn't want my ex husband to find me. They still spoke with him and I just couldn't take a chance on a momentary slip-up in conversation that would give away my location. I was wondering if it was safe enough to try to contact her. Now I wish I had.

Rest in peace, Cynthia. I'll miss you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blue Sky

Well, m. heart has a new theme going, Winter Blues Week. I haven't seen much blue around here in a few days but luckily I have some shots of very blue sky, so I'm playing with these two pix. I still haven't seen any signs of the hummingbirds but I'm pretty sure this is an old nest from last year. I wonder if they come back to the same one or rebuild?

And this giant tower is on the back road that leads into the trailer park next door. Still haven't been able to catch the chickens outside, but I pass this every time I try.

I'm pretty sure it's for cell phones.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Giovanni Schiaparelli

You can learn a lot of things if you click on the Google memorial logos. It's a good one today.

In 1890, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli drew this map of Mars. Today, on his 174th birthday, we are excited to include his work with many other new features for Mars in Google Earth.

Granted this is just a promo for their latest gimmick, but I'm knocked out by the fact that in my lifetime we went from orbiting a chimpanzee around the earth to orbiting Mars with a satelite that sends back enough real data to create a virtual replica of the planet.

Saturday Zydeco

Love these guys.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Saving the planet

Well I'm not worried about my carbon footprint these days. One plus of this long unemployment is I don't have to drive anywhere so outside of a trip to the grocery store or the pharmacy once or twice a month, I don't go out.

I filled my gas tank back in December. I just broke half a tank yesterday, and that includes an extra trip to the big city for the last dental appointment. I realized on the way home, I don't even know what gas is going for these days. Hope it didn't get expensive again, but at the rate I'm consuming it, I suppose it's not really a big issue.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Something good

I always check before I leave to make sure they gave me the right pills. There's only one brand that doesn't make me sick. But this time I was distracted and I forgot.

I should have known. It was clear the pharmacist was a temp and he was screwing up every order in front of me. But I forgot to check.

When I went to take the pill that night, sure enough, it was the wrong damn brand. Fortunately I discovered I still had one pill stashed for just such an emergency. But I wasn't looking forward to having to deal with the pharmacy the next day. It was a Sunday. I figured the same guy would be there.

But I was had a rare stroke of luck. It was a regular pharmacist. Not one I usually deal with. She was a woman and she was so nice. She checked the records and they clearly stated I could only get the one specific brand. She even showed me the containers they take the scripts from. They have one separate container with my name on it. Just to be sure.

She switched the order for me right away. Didn't even charge me the extra for the brand so I saved about eight bucks. This is why I pay a few extra bucks to go the local pharmacy instead of going to Walmart. You can't get service like that in a chain store.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Afternoon Walk

The weather has been gorgeous here for the last three days. I have the windows open. The birds are coming back. I've been walking every day trying to get back in shape. The McCompound gets pretty boring since there's not much to see here so I walked in town a couple of days ago. I've been wanting to visit this old cemetary for a while. It's very peaceful.

As I was composing the shot, all of sudden, out of nowhere, I felt something furry wrapping around my ankles. It was this cat.

That's her collar, not her tongue. It was studded with rhinestones. I had to jump around to get her to sit still for the shot. She was much sweeter than she looks here. As I made my walk in a wide circle, I found something you don't see everyday. A real gaslight lamp. This is privately owned. The only one in town.

The early bulbs are springing up everywhere. I saw lots of daffodils. But I didn't know what these were. At first I thought they were Guinea Hen tulips, but after searching the internets I discovered they were really hellebores.

Not sure why it's so dark. The original was much lighter and in real life it was gorgeous in the golden sunlight. If you click to embiggen, you can appreciate the light better. What was a little spooky, was when I was trying to identify them, I found this shot online. It could almost be the same bed. Weird.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Two shadows

The same trees. It's the last day of m. heart's shadow week. Slim pickings for interesting shadows here in the McCompound but I liked this one so much I shot it twice at different times of day. The first is just at sunset, right before the sun disappeared.

This second one is the same tree, about an hour or so earlier. I think I like the first one better. It's warmer with the pink light. But I like the sharper image of this one.

By the way, these are two of about six birch trees in the complex. I love birches. I really miss the birch forests up north. You don't see many down here. They don't do as well in the heat I guess.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

You know you're in the south when...

My local chain grocery store sells pork bellies, fat back and chitterlings. They don't look all that appetizing in the flyer. Next time I'm in the store, I want to see what they look like in person.

Fat back looks kind of like bacon that's mostly fat in the photo. It's square and cut thick instead of in strips. I guess I could understand how that might be good, but when I hear pork bellies, all I can think of is the time I had to choke down some tripe soup to be polite.

That was almost 40 years ago and the memory still makes me gag a little.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Me and my shadow

I'm late for m. heart's shadow week but it was such a beautiful day I went for a walk. I was hoping to get a shot of the chickens. They weren't out this afternoon but the sun was, so I stalked shadows instead. Unfortunately the McCompound isn't that photogenic. But this big rock pile has attracted me since I moved in and saw it from the top of the hill.

I don't know what they use them for. The pile hasn't changed in two years. But if I was kid, I would spend hours here shifting through the smooth little rocks. I've always loved rocks.

Meanwhile, I couldn't decide if I liked the original shot or the cropped shots better, so I'm posting them all.

Which one do you think is best?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Happy Birthday Barbie

I've been thinking about Barbie since m. heart posted a gallery of shots of her collection. Her photos are much more artful than the Boston Globe gallery, but their history of her metamorphosis over the years was interesting. I must confess it reminded me of how much I loved my Barbie dolls. I know all the arguments about how awful a role model she was, but I don't recall role playing with her so much. I did however spend many happy hours making clothes for her when I was a kid. I knitted little sweaters and skirts and hand sewed elegant little gowns.

I had three dolls. The first one was the classic pony tail girl with that odd face. And the second was the popular bubble cut Barbie in the photo. Both had blonde hair. My third one was not actually Barbie, although she fit into the same clothes. I always thought of her as another Barbie.

I spent a while today trying to find out who she was and as it turns out her name was Tressy, the doll with the hair that grows and grows. I got her just I was growing out of the doll stage but I was into styling her hair. As I recall eventually I gave her so many haircuts, she had a permanent bob. She was blonde too.

So was I and my hair was long. I didn't get my first real haircut until I was 12 years old. I remember when I got it cut, the hairdresser kept the hair. She said she was going to sell it to people who needed hair samples, because the color was so pure. [photo credit]

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Leonard Cohen on tour

Even if you're not a fan, this NPR recording of Leonard Cohen's recent concert is worth listening to just for the production values and the heart melting backup singers. For me, as a life long fan of Leonard, it was a rare treat. Cohen is 74 now and hasn't toured in years. He's still got it going. My friend Monkeyfister, who sent me the link was right on when he called it stunning.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

I love that google reminds you about holidays. I just found out recently, if you click the picture it will bring you to a page of links about the event they're celebrating.

Of course, some cats celebrate with photoshop. [Update: I've been informed that in fact that is NOT a photoshop. I suppose that explains the surly look.]

Monday, March 02, 2009

Cooking with Libby

The last thing you might expect. Those who know me well will appreciate the irony of this post. The dust on my pots and pans is rather legendary. I haven't been much of a chef in the last 15 years or so, but I've developed a new interest in cooking what with my venture into pea soup and all. So I found this recipe in a comment section on a blog and it looks really good and more importantly, really easy and fast to make.
Vermouth Scallops

Cook the scallops in a mix of olive oil, salt/pepper, lemon juice and garlic. When finished, remove from pan. Deglaze pan with vermouth. Serve scallops on rice or low-carb pasta, add vermouth sauce.

I may actually try this some day if scallops go on sale. Of course, I don't usually have vermouth hanging around, but I bet vodka would work as well. Or white wine. Or even brandy.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mystery solved

I don't know what they did with their baby but I saw the guy drive off with a mattress on top of his car yesterday. I'd say it's a safe bet that the Oriental couple moved out. Meanwhile, there's already someone new in the apartment where the other young couple and baby lived. The ones who took up so many parking spaces. Haven't figured out who they are yet.

I'm always amazed how people can move in and out of here without my noticing. It's not like I go anywhere much.