Thursday, March 31, 2011

What America has become

From the Delaware Courier Post Online: "After taking her daughter to school, Melissa McCafferty noticed something unusual on her drive home Friday. Heavy machinery and police cars were gathered around the front sidewalk of a house about a block away from hers. In the back of a dump truck, she saw a pile of basketball hoops. Nearby, she spotted a front-end loader working to rip another pole and rim out of the ground. She knew they would come for hers next. The mother of three sped around the corner to her home on Hilldale Court, parked under her children's basketball rim, climbed to the top of the pole and waited. "I promised my kids I'm not going to let them take it away," said McCafferty, 39, of Claymont."

"The McCaffertys and at least seven other residents of Radnor Green and Ashbourne Hills received letters warning them this would happen. Police and Delaware Department of Transportation officials say their hoops, angled toward the street, violate the state's Free Zone law, which prohibits hoops, trees, shrubs and other objects from being within seven feet of the pavement's edge in subdivisions. About 15 minutes after McCafferty climbed the pole by standing on top of her minivan, the DelDOT equipment rumbled toward her. Perched on a bend in the metal pole with her fuzzy bedroom slippers dangling down, McCafferty refused to budge despite police and DelDOT pleas. Police threatened to tow her van. They asked if she would miss work over this. ...She replied she "would be here all day," no matter what. McCafferty heard threats that the hoop would come down whether she cooperated or not. "If you're taking the pole, you're taking me with it," she recalled saying. The McCaffertys won Round 1, as at least five police cars and a few trucks of DelDOT workers left shortly after a News Journal photographer arrived." more at link

They lost round 2. See the video. Not only did they lose their pole of 60 years, but the officer blatantly lied to them, and then told them they could not stand outside to watch, they were ordered by the law to remain inside the house.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Flowers, by God

It is a gray and cold day, standing puddles are all over the yard, and it is just not good for photographing much of anything, and worse, stark white and gray contrasts are my bane. But I wanted to visit some nice yard flowers nonetheless, and share them with the greenery starved folks who may still be longing for that first petal.

Leucojum aestivum: Summer snowflake. A sweet little flower that hangs cup-down like a lily of the valley, with cute green dots on the points of each petal.

The dogwood tree, where I hang my bird feeder. The birds eat me out of house and home!

Monday, March 28, 2011

What a wonderful day!

Now that spring break has truly begun, I decided to have a day off, and recreate. I don't normally recreate, unless it is planned well in advance, studied to death, and napped over. Even then, I may change my mind. So the last time I went into Athens (The Big City!) for purely recreational reasons (or any other reason) was several years ago.

I live 17 miles from The Big City so it's not like I live in Echo Canyon and have to strap on a pack mule or something. But I simply enjoy home, and routine and doing the same things Over and over. And over.

The weekend isn't really the start of spring break because we always have weekends. I don't always have a Monday off, though. So today was the day. I got Bessie the Pack Mule loaded up and took off to do three specific things. (See, even in recreating, I have a list).

First I visited a friend who has an extensive theological and Christian library. He'd offered me the use of his personal library, so I took advantage immediately. I borrowed four books and plan to get through at least three of them this week.

First up was Nonie Darwish, "Now They Call Me Infidel", about Muslim woman who converted to Christianity. Oswald Chambers in a slim tome "Studies on the Sermon on the Mount." I do have pretty extensive knowledge of prophecy for being a newbie Christian but there are gaps in my knowledge of the basics, like the major sermon of the bible, lol. Grant Jeffrey's "Apocalypse" which is right up my alley, and RC Sproul's The Last Days According To Jesus. That one will take me a while to read. Sproul is pretty intense, like John MacArthur and CS Lewis, there are some authors you just need to ponder after each paragraph. Last was a little book called "Humility." I borrowed that because I sense that even though I am so great, there may be times occasionally when I am not so great. I need tips for how to handle those times. Few as they are.

[sarcasm, OK?]

I guess I'll have to put Seabiscuit aside for a few weeks. Then I hied mysel' down to the Thrift Store. I had a mission. Some very specific garments were on the list, as well as curtains. The sheers aren't going to cut it now that I have neighbors who live closer than 200 feet. I found some heavier white ones so the room won't feel smaller and I won't feel so closed in. I wanted to find some summer-weight pants (no luck), and a few tank tops. I plan to use tanks as an undershirt because all garment makers these days assume all women, no matter what the age, size, or modesty level, want to show of their cleavage crack. Well, I don't. Tank tops worn under the offending low cut shirt do the necessary covering up. I wanted to find a lightweight summer sweater to use as a blazer for church and a jacket at night, and I did find one. It's bright sunshine yellow. When you see me coming your future will be so bright you'll need shades. I found a couple of summer shirts and a couple of teddy bears for the classroom for 18 cents apiece. The total was $25. Three sets of curtains and halfway to a new summer wardrobe, can't beat that price with a stick.

Above, the living room. You can see the sheerness of the drapes, which was OK when no one lived nearby. Now I have neighbors. No one should have to see Bert & Luke in the morning, so sparing the neighbors that vision, I'll put some drapes up. Sigh.

And since it was nearly dinner time I went to Jason's Deli for a deli sandwich on good bread, chips, and a warm cookie just out of the oven. MMM. The coup de grace for the day was the plan to see The King's Speech. It has been in one movie theater or another in Athens ever since it was released last winter, which is great. I attended the 4pm matinee, and was shocked to discover that first-run movies during the day do not cost a nickel any more. Well, at least they don't cost $2.50, which was the price the last time I went to a matinee.

The King's Speech is a wonderful story, made all the better for being true. The second in line to the throne, King Albert, has a devastating speech impediment: a stammer and a very bad stutter. He seeks the help of an unconventional speech therapist when all others, over the years, have failed. He makes improvements but after a couple of years it becomes apparent that his elder brother will abdicate the throne in favor of marrying Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American. Albert will have to speak at his coronation, as well as address the people over the radio in the Kingdom's 65 colonies when Britain declares war on Germany.

The movie at once weaves in threads about the crushing weight of living a royal life, about duty, love, friendship, and most importantly, the need to have your voice heard. His voice was to be used as an instrument of comfort, encouragement and resistance to Hitler's evil throughout the war. How things might have been different for the Britons if their King had not been able to speak to them during that dark time.

I left the theatre happy and energized by such wondrous acting and hot to learn more about the royals, Churchill during WWII, and Wallis Simpson.

I had a pleasant drive home and was pleased to see that my newly bought drapes will work out nicely. Tomorrow I'll get a few more curtain rods, and hang them. All in all, a great day. Recreation has a lot going for it. You should try it sometime.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More LOL Catz

OK, here is what made me laugh, First wave of laughter: guffaws. The cat looks so embarrassed! And man, a cat in a tank? That's even better than Toonces!

Second wave of laughter: Chortles. I mean, dude, taking such care to draw the chains on the tank just right? And wheels? This has to be a guy stuffing the cat in the box. And how did he get the cat in the box in the first place?

Third wave of laughter: Tee hees. Thinking of putting Bert in a tank like that. He wouldn't look embarrassed. He'd look aggrieved. Luke... well he'd just say "What's this? Love it!"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hello from a neighbor

I had a long week but a good week. Kids keep me going, they are so wonderful. I work at the AfterSchool program so by the time Friday rolls around, I am really ready to get home at 6:00! As I pulled into the driveway, the family that had moved in to the house my apartment is attached to was outside enjoying the 80-degree weather. A working mom, her teenage daughter and her 4-year-old daughter live there, and they were playing on the sunshine-y lawn. Both daughters were in bathing suits and the mom was swinging on the bench-swing under the arbor. It was a nice, domestic scene and I appreciated it for what it was. I turned off the car and opened the driver's seat door.

As I stepped out I was startled by the appearance of the 4 year old. She had padded over quickly, and quietly.

What are you doing?
I'm getting out of the car.
Because it is time to come home from work.
Because after you work, you come home.
So that I can get out of the car and talk to you.
Oh. Hey, do you like my bathing soup?
Yes, I like your bathing soup a lot. It's cute.
And she ran off.

Isn't that what we all want? We want to understand the actions of the people around us. We want to connect. We want to be noticed. We want a compliment. Kids do it crudely but more honestly. Adults do it  sophisticatedly but less honestly. But it is what we all want.

It was a nice way to be greeted when I got home. What a sweet, neighborly hello.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Funny kid comments

A kid story. A second grade boy telling me a long tale about playing baseball and the throw and the hit and the catch, and all the other kids are listening intently, and the punch line, the ball smashed into his chest, [pointing] "And it made a big circle on my skin!! Right over my heart!" And another 2nd grade boy replied, "well, at least now you know where to put your hand when they say the pledge in the morning." photo from Pete Lawrence in the UK. There is a conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury tonight. Alas, I cannot see it because my new neighbor likes to keep the floodlight on AT 90,000 RETINA BURNING MEGAWATTS. I can see the ants on the driveway concrete, but I cannot see the stars. Anyway, I digress.

I was showing this photo of the planetary conjunction to a kindergartener today. I gestured to the sunset and above it, the dots that are the planets. I said "If you and your mom or dad go outside tonight and look up, you will be able to see the planets of Jupiter and Mercury!" He said, "And the words, too?"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Eating on a budget: Cook what is on sale

Tips on eating on the cheap.

We tend to get an idea in our minds of what we want for dinner, write a list, go to a nearby store, buy all the ingredients, and cook it for supper. Actually, that is a cumbersome and arrogant way to cook, and expensive, too.

Most of the world eats what is locally available, not being able to afford trucked-in specialties and off season produce. Deciding beforehand what we want to eat and then going out to buy it is a backwards way to go about it. Quite often, this or that ingredient we've bought for that meal or this is something you rarely use and will go over in the fridge or get lost in the condiment cupboard.

Go to the store, buy what is on sale, come home and then cook what you've bought and add to it what you have on hand. It takes a bit of creativity but after a while you will get used to thinking on your feet and cooking by combining sale ingredients with ingredients you already have.

This week at the store, cantaloupes were on sale for 99 cents, so I bought one. Strawberries were on sale, too, two for $3. I decided that these two fruits would be my snacks and desserts for the week. I could prepare them in the form of smoothies with yogurt. Yogurt is one of my staples. I could have them with cottage cheese or Cool Whip. Atop french toast or just plain. The trick to fruit is to prepare it for eating and have it on hand in a large bowl in the fridge. Cut up the cantaloupe and the strawberries after washing them and it's done. You tend to eat more fruit when it is easily grabbed rather than having to peel it or core it at the moment you are hungering for something quick. You won't have any waste, either. We throw out a lot of food in America.

Eggs were on sale as were peppers, so I will eat eggs and peppers this week, accompanied by red potato hash browns because red potatoes were on sale. A half-dozen English muffins were 99 cents so I bought two and one went in the freezer.

Tomatoes were on sale so I got a bunch, and will put them into a salad (bags of lettuce were on sale). So salads will be featured on the menu this week as well as tomato sandwiches and homemade English muffin pizzas featuring, of course, tomatoes.

It is not hard to re-train your mind to think about putting together ingredients that you've bought on sale. It just takes practice and pretty soon you will be reaping the benefits of a reduced grocery budget!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Snippets from the week

I had a good time with my cats this week. Especially on Saturday. I usually take a nap on Saturday afternoons about 3 o'clock. I keep an exact and very regular schedule. I am not obsessive. I am not obsessive. Anyway, back to the schedule, the afternoon nap is a sweet time. The sun pours into the bedroom, illuminating it brightly but in golden tones. If it is warm and I have the windows open, the birds tweet loudly and I hear the shrubs shaking in the gentle breeze. Ahhh. I snuggle up under the quilt atop the covers. After a second or so, Bert lumbers onto the bed, and settles by my feet near the window. He has the best of both worlds, mom by his side and the birds to keep a watch on. Luke springs up a moment later and settles under the cover next to me, or on top of my hip. We fall asleep.

Today at 2:45 Bert sat on the table as I typed the weekly prophecy newsletter. He meowed. A few minutes went by. He put out his paw in a plead. "Nap, Mom?" A few minutes went by. He meowed louder. I typed. He stared at me. If you ever have been stared at by a cat, you know what I mean. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. THE STARE. A few more minutes went by. I looked up at him when it was nearly 3:00, and he opened his mouth and tilted his head, and he did a silent meow.

From Animal Forum: "Last, but hardly least, is the silent meow. Your cat will look up at you and tilt his head ever so slightly, open his mouth, and a slight almost hiccup like noise will come out. This is the highest form of "please" a cat can offer." I cannot resist the silent meow. It is so cute. When Bert did it, I could only say: "Bert, you had me at meow."

This week the on-site oil change guy came to school. It is a hugely convenient way to get your oil changed. He will change it in the parking lot while you work and return your keys to you and you pay him, and it's DONE! My Ford Explorer is almost 20 years old and has 210,000 miles on it. While I was paying, I said to the guy, "You must have had to avert your eyes from all the impending disasters you saw under the hood." Pause. "Um, well, you certainly have gotten your money's worth out of the car."

I had received the blessing of a gas card three weeks ago, even before the gas prices went so high. I used it one time and there was money left over on it. I always have trouble though at the place the card was from and don't usually voluntarily go to that convenience store even though it's at the corner half a mile from my house. We had a bit of trouble the last time I went there as the clerk wasn't sure how to enter a gift card, even though the card had "THE STORE NAME" right on it.

So this time I went inside and told this other clerk I had this card and she said OK and she clicked on the pump. I pumped, and I came in to pay. I handed the card. A long time passed. She fumbled with numbers and I heard persistent beeps. Not good. She said 'try this machine' and had me run it thru like a debit. She looked at her  register's window and said, with finality and dismissiveness, "The machine says it is expired." She handed the card back to me. I read to her the back of the card. "THIS CARD NEVER EXPIRES." I handed it back. She tried it again. She said, "This card is no good. The machine won't take it." I was getting nervous now because I owed $60 and I had not budgeted it from my checkbook. I showed her my receipt from last week when I first used the card, and noted that it was good, and at this very store, no less. Thus began a long conversation. A very long conversation. A number of remedies were tried, including calling the service number on the back of the card, which the person at the other end must have been out enjoying the good day because they never picked up.

The line of grizzled guys behind me loaded up on beer and Skoal got really long. They shifted their feet from one to the other as their beer warmed. She told me to step aside while took other customers to shorten the line. I was forgotten for a while. Another clerk came over and asked why there was a huge box of eggs on the floor. [Note: the box said on every side "KEEP REFRIGERATED".] The clerk snapped that she should put it in the cooler then. When the clerk picked up the box it momentarily stuck to the floor. Mental note: do not buy perishables from this store.

At one point I said I needed to go and that it was not my problem that the machines were not taking a good card. "You can't go until I clear my register!" she snapped. I said that we were at an impasse because the card was bought with good money someone had plunked down, and I was not handing over one red cent except the card. Finally she called her manager at another store. I turned around and sighed and closed my eyes and prayed. The guy behind me said as I opened my eyes, "Surely it can't be that bad." I said simply, "Lord, help me."

At that moment I heard the clerk breathlessly accusing me of all sorts of things with this card. A pause, then a whisper. "Oh, I didn't know that." A click and then a whir of the receipt coming out.

Throwing the receipt at me, she said, "Sorry," she said. "You can go." CODE 18, OPERATOR ERROR!

So at school there was a magic show. From Pre-Kindergarten to fifth grade, several hundred kids sat in the gym waiting for it to begin. I was sitting with a kindergartener. He confidently informed me that magic was fake, and the tricks were just fakes to fool the eyes. His sister knew they were fake, too. But he knew it was fake even more. Pause. Looks at magician. Looks back at me. "Wait a minute. Is the GUY fake?"

Monday, March 07, 2011

Of children and parhelic circles

We saw an incredible parhelic circle today. It was at recess, and the sky was filled with a very bright, white arc with two sundogs at the east and west points.

A parhelic circle is a halo, an optical phenomenon appearing as a horizontal white line on the same altitude as the sun, or occasionally the Moon. If complete, it stretches all around the sky, but more commonly it only appears in sections. Even fractions of parhelic circles are less common than sun dogs and 22° halos. Parhelic circles are rare, and we were blessed to see it.

As I was snapping photos and the kids at recess got interested in the circle and the two white blobs on it, they kept asking, "what it is, what is it"? And a boy said matter of factly, "Oh! It is an angel coming down."

Friday, March 04, 2011

Who doesn't want to do this with their pet?

From My Modern Met blog

Inspired by Jan von Holleben's Dreams of Flying project and the Oren Lavie's Her Morning Elegance music video, business student and ballet dancer Theresa Knudson decided to tackle her own photo project. She enlisted the help of her 13-year-old cat Fluffy and after cutting up some colored construction paper, positioned him so that when he was already stretched out, she could quickly lay out some scenes.

Her few photos flew around the web with PhotoJoJo, PetaPixel, TrendHunter and now us, making Fluffy one of the most recognized felines around.