Friday, April 20, 2018

One Word Summary?

The last few days, if you follow our President,  you will have heard news about about peeing, prostitutes in an industry in which Russia seems to have the most beautiful if you listen to misogynist pigs such as Putin, and almost everything else being fake news  and witch hunts (notice how everything bad is either dark or female?). But, if you follow the real news you will learn a First Lady has died. She did not get enough credit when alive, and while I disagreed with her politics, she was an honest and strong person and loyal to family. She lost a small child when she was young, was a military wife with all of the sacrifices that entailed, took on the thankless role of First Lady, listened to others say awful things about her sons who ran for office, and while a white privileged mother, still paid her dues.  I have heard several times in the news that she was known as the "Enforcer."

This got me thinking about my life.  What if I died this year?  Would there be one word that came to the mind of those that knew me?  I was hoping it would be "loyal",  but it could be "loudmouthed,"  or "uncommunicative" or "over-organized"  or "opinionated" or possibly "emotional." 

What would be the word that you think you should be remembered by and is that the same word that others would use?

Monday, April 16, 2018

Curiouser and Curiouser

"I needed to compose you one little bit of observation to be able to give thanks again for those striking strategies you've shared above. It was certainly pretty open-handed of you to offer publicly exactly what most people might have marketed as an electronic book to make some profit for themselves, even more so considering that you could have tried it if you ever considered necessary. The secrets in addition acted like a good way to comprehend the rest have similar zeal like my very own to realize significantly more with regard to this issue. I'm certain there are thousands of more fun moments ahead for those who find out your site. holiday ideas on." (This was followed by a link to the blog.)

I allow immediate comments on this blog because I  usually am able to read them at that time.  After a week I have set my blog to prevent comments from being  published until I give approval as this is usually the time a "bot" or spam blogger posts something in the comments section.  

This comment in quotes above was left on one of  my posts.  One would think "they" could write some routine post that at least makes enough sense to  make me curious to go to the link they add to  their blog.  This must have been written by a computer.  Strange....

Thursday, April 12, 2018

I Knew That Already

I use Facebook more than many people do, but I do not judge those who will have nothing to do with this social networking site,  like my husband. I like to keep in touch with friends who live hundreds of miles away. I am somewhat restrictive in my criteria for accepting FB friends and I have written about that before. I usually like to at least have met the person. I have made a few exceptions. In one case the person and I grew close through blogs and the person also had a terrible illness which at least restricted travel on their part. We were probably destined never to meet in real life. In another instance, one of my close relatives was going through a difficult time and one of her colleagues asked to become my friend on FB. I accepted that just to be able to see how my close relative might be doing from another's perspective without actually discussing it! 

I know exactly how many friends I have on FB.  I keep it as close to 100 as I can.  I have very few FB friends here in my community, but I do have a few.  I am very political on FB.

I have not answered friend requests from a few co-workers that I did not become close to when we worked together or that I thought were not generally "nice" people. My judgment---my call, and I am sure others might just judge me the same way.

I have lost only one friend over the decade or so and this was a distant relative who could not stand my political postings.  He 'unfriended' me.  It was sad because he would post "photos" of the "rape" of the Ambassador in the Benghazi debacle and other questionable links.  The photos were not true and violent and fed his conservative fire, and I never pointed out that sources are essential when attempting to post facts.  I let him post what he wanted.  He was young, an ex-marine and a gun-lover.  He had lots of problems with romance in his life, lost his access to his toddler daughter due to his anger, and this was and is sad.  We had a few attempts at face-to-face conversations on his goals and direction in life, but you cannot change the spots on some leopards.  He had been a great marine, which is a structure many people need and his life stalled a little after he left.

Now to the title.  I know that the 'world' knows all of this about me.  I have taken a few of those quizzes, so they know my exercise, food, personality, travel preferences, and my habits and my spending profile.  I did not take many because I realized this data was being compiled elsewhere.  ( I was not smart enough to think about the Russians, but I did think about Pakistan and ID theft.)

I downloaded my FB archive today and it is a surprising history walk, because we do forget the intimate conversations we might have with others.  I am glad that at least others are aware of this.  Elders have less to lose in terms of information compromised, but just as much to lose in terms of ID theft.  

If you have bought anything on the Internet outside of FB, they also have your data.  I have been informed by Target, Office of Management and Budget, Experian, and some others that my data has been stolen which is more than a credit card number.  So let us all blame that shy, awkward nerd, Zuckerberg and ignore all those millionaire CEO's that are storing their money overseas while selling out data to others or at the very least being lazy in keeping it safe.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Four in the Morning

This is actually a sunset and not a sunrise
As many who are retired with no little ones or pets to demand time in a morning schedule,  I have a pretty regular morning routine. My sleep patterns are the most dyslexic. I sleep until 7-ish about three mornings a week and sleep until 4:20 something about four mornings a week. I sometimes take a nap on those days to catch up.   There does not seem to be any reason for my insomnia as it occurs those early mornings when I have been mulling a problem the day before as well as on mornings when I have been pleasantly busy the day before!  Although lately, it seems more coordinated with a full moon(?)?

While up I would love to finish that load of laundry or clean the bathrooms or vacuum (as this is the time of day when I have energy); hubby is sleeping (like  a hibernating bear) and I am polite.  Instead I make my coffee and do the following:

Sip that coffee and check outside in the dark through the porch light to see what might be happening (usually not much)
Check out Facebook (sometimes a fun trip and sometimes a bit disappointing)
Glance at the Google news and then read a bit of the digital New York Times
Do the mini-crossword puzzle from the New York Times (never brave enough to do the real puzzle)
Check my photography website looking for sales or comments
Take a digital class or two from the Great Courses subjects I have downloaded (How  to Boost Physical and Mental Energy, Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft, Introduction to Water Coloring, English in America: A Linguistic History, Everything Gourmet: Recovering the Lost Art of Cooking---Some I have competed and am re-watching these videos just for fun and memory.)
Listen with earphones to a program from the BBC In Our Time  (probably one of the jewels of the Internet)
and then finally read blogs and write on my own blog.

Today I discovered that the author Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast so I am subscribing to that to fill future time.

I am not sharing this to impress you on the industriousness of my mind or to reveal that I might be a bit of a culture nerd or even to show that I am not as empty-minded as one might think...because I am an elder and no longer care about what people think.  I am just sharing to be sharing.

All of this in the hours before the sun comes up.  What do you do on an early morning when you cannot get out and about?

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Whole 5 Yards

With a passion for gardening, we ordered a truck of that Leafgro that I wrote about in the prior post. We have a good-sized vegetable garden and I have to tend about seven various sized flower beds, the rest we sprinkle on our pathetic lawn which is really just an effort to control erosion.

Below is what half of 5 yards looks like.  (Our garden helpers are weeks away, so much of this work we have to do ourselves....sigh.)   ($200 and we will use it all.)

We are about 70% done. Since I have company next week, I want all of the chores out of the way so  I can play.

This is where it goes:

I had to do lots of weeding, some perennial dividing, etc. prior to topping the beds  with the humus and after several days I am DONE with this work. Right now, I just want an afternoon bath and a book!

But I do get a reward and some photos with which to play.

I have written before about this germander speedwell that snuck into a pot of something I was planting so many years ago and since it looks so lovely in the spring I have let it wander.  It is a polite wanderer.  It is also called Catseyes or bird's eye speedwell and we have the wild version  roaming in our lawn.  The wild version has fewer and paler flowers.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Humus with One M.

Do not scroll down through this post. Yes, it is boring and maybe repetitive for some of you, but the next time you feel helpless in fixing this old planet, you now have one tool below.

My state is making an effort to improve the way we deal with waste. We are composting (turning organic material into soil conditioner instead of waste) big time! And, because you may have a busier life than I, I am going to take you on this selective tour with Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists on this cold day.

First, we got a slide show and a brief intro. This man loves his job and these "Masters" were serious enough to take notes.

This facility has a potential for 200 acres but is currently only using 40. They produce two kinds of humus. That compost which is made just from leaves, branches and grass clippings and a second process from plant material and from human food wastes. They are marketed as Leafgro and Leafgro Gold. They accept truckloads from all over the contiguous counties and charge a fee to leave waste. No plastic, ceramic, tissue, styrofoam, diapers, foil or glass is accepted, although bits and pieces do sneak in.

There are rows and rows of this compost in various stages of decomposition.  

The plastic that sneaks in is filtered at the very end.

There was only the odor of freshly chopped wood and garden mulch.  On warmer days the smells may be stronger.  We did have to be careful where we walked as there were some pretty muddy areas.

They were moving into a more technological approach by covering the rows with a permeable long-lasting fabric and then pumping air to control temperature and oxygen levels for the breakdown.

There are environmental companies that pick up the produce and plant materials from stores and restaurants.  This man below had more customers than he could handle and delivered from some of the finest restaurants in D.C. since this facility accepted raw meat!  He had to pay a fee to deposit these materials but still turned a profit from the retailers' fee he collected.

This material was immediately covered by the bulldozer with several feet of plant materials and that insured that no rodents or animals came in.

And for us gardeners, we were drooling over the final gold.  They sold everything they produced and always had a waiting list.  They sold directly as well as through over a dozen retail outlets that sold both in small bags and by the truck!  There was a sliding scale and I cannot remember the price, but it was reasonable.

Now some of my readers may have no interest in this process or resulting product, but you cannot tell me you are uninterested in much smaller landfills, much less pollution, and a healthier environment!  (Don't I take you to the best places?)

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Best Places to Be In

Spring has sprung and so have most of my ligaments. I spent hours weeding and cutting away perennials on my knees in wet soil. My roses never got their late winter cutback and now they are 4 feet high.  

Then there is the danger after taking a warm shower to sit down for an hour or so and go through emails. On these days I need a crane to get me off the couch when all the joints have joined in protest against moving ever again.

A pod from my gardenia.

I have spent much time going through expired packs of seeds and scolding myself for not throwing them all out or even to sprinkle in an area of soft soil, and thus, giving them a fair chance to rally. I also collect seeds in the fall and sometimes I am good about labeling and stratifying and or keeping in sealed containers, but other times they end up in an unmarked envelope and then leak all over the plastic shoe box in which I keep my seeds.  80% will most likely never germinate.  I faithfully gather black plastic seedling flats and fill with seed soil and place on a warming pad under a grow light and try to talk them into emerging.

I learned that pea and bean type seeds can be shocked with very, very warm water for a minute and they will germinate more rapidly when planted.  That is my experiment with my hyacinth bean this year...we shall see.

This week I took a tour of a magical composting facility which is too good to not have a post all its own.  By hanging out with gardeners and farmers I get into some of the very best places!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Talk About Home Away from Home

We were lucky in that we had time for a quick lunch at the airport before boarding for our lengthy second flight due to the layover in Charlotte. Of course, we landed at one concourse and had to make our way to the end of another. The people traffic was reasonable which made it easier to navigate and work around the people treadmill.

You may not know this, but airlines new move is to not only charge for the class of assigned seats but they now charge for boarding times! I think for $14 we could board before others, and we passed on that just because it seemed so stupid and mean!  Thus we boarded near the last and overhead bins were getting full, and it was harder to get around large knees in the aisle, and stewards and stewardesses were cheering us on to get seated as fast as possible, etc. 

We had an aisle and a middle seat. I almost always get stuck in the middle. The window seat had not been filled, but we put our stuff away and sat. I reset the air fan and turned on the reading light and thumbed through the airline magazine (pretending it was not full of germs) which contained articles on local restaurants, local tourist sights interspersed with full-page ads for plastic surgeons (had they had surgery ?) and executive love-matching facilitators who looked a lot like our President's liaisons. It is so hard to make a love connection when you are rich and busy, I guess.

After a short time, our seatmate was coming down the aisle.  She was a stocky woman in her 50s-60s of Latina heritage with very close-cropped hair and drawn on eyebrows.  Someone commented that there was no room for her hand luggage and she responded that she was not allowed to lift over her head anyway and she would tuck it under her seat.  We did the get-out-into- the-aisle dance while she moved in.  As she reached below while next to me I noticed she had a compression stocking on her arm, and realized she could not lift probably due to some circulatory or surgery issue.

I was not in a talking mood, but she was.  She was flying back to New York, her home.  She asked where we were from and what we had been doing.  I keep my responses polite but short.  Then, my mistake, I asked what she had been doing in San Juan.  I learned the following over the next hour or so:

She was on 30-day treatments for 4th stage breast cancer, but doctors felt she was in good remission and able to make this trip.  She was thankful to God and felt that her future looked bright.  I felt guilty about thinking her drawn on eyebrows were overkill and was impressed by her optimism and energy.

She was born in New York but lived in Puerto Rico for about 20 years of her younger life.  She had traveled various places following her husband who was in the Army.  She had taken this trip because she had to take care of her parents' house.  Her parents had passed on years ago, but neighbors had informed her that a wall and a fence had need of repair due to the recent hurricane.  This house was in a town outside of San Juan and most of the town had taken on substantial damage, so it was complicated getting there.  

While there she visited with a friend of hers, a teacher in her 60s.  This woman was living in a house owned by another and it had been pretty much destroyed.  The teacher has been living in the basement without water or electricity since the hurricane.  The owner was in no hurry to repair the house and the teacher had no friends or relatives that could take her in.  Imagine living in a basement without water or electricity for months!  My new friend on the plane said she got her parent's house somewhat repaired and convinced the teacher to move in and watch it for her for at least a couple of years.  There was still some contracting work to be done and she told the woman that she would have oversight to see that it was done correctly and she left her some cash for that.

All of the blue in the photo above covers roofs that have yet to be repaired on one of the Caribbean islands we toured.

I am sure this was just a smidgeon of the many stories that could have been told in that town.  I read an article the other day that said Puerto Rico had been set back at least a decade in development and infrastructure.  And of course, a new hurricane season is just a few months away.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Do you like to Samba?

The photo below is the back of the Capital Building and taken from the exact spot where I fell!  134 architectural designs were submitted from the US, Cuba, Canada, France, Spain, and Puerto Rico. After controversy and changes in architectural designs and more modifications of the final selection, the building was completed in 1929. The day we were there, the Governor was going to give a speech and therefore there were many police officers all around. This photo does not reflect how many!

The second photo of the Capital Building above is the front of the building and was taken the day after the speech and the barriers had not been taken down.

The statue in the photo below is the gateway to the Old Town area of San Juan where there are many restaurants and shops. It was not super busy on the day we were there and I think this was reflective of the reduction in tourism due to the hurricane.

"The statue commemorates the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Puerto Rico by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the new world. Christopher Columbus originally named the entire island of Puerto Rico to be San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist), however, the island was later renamed and only the capital city of San Juan retains the name. Bronze plaques on the base of the monument provide pictorial representations of the ocean journey and arrival of Christopher Columbus and the meeting of the indigenous people."  

I will not discuss the colonial guilt I felt while studying this symbol.  Soon the local Indians had been enslaved by the Spanish.

This was a beautiful statue when you really looked at it.  

Old Town is colorful and artistic and a perfect place to shop and eat.

It is also full of colorful characters.

There were examples of hurricane damage even in these simple palms along the waterfront. There were buildings that had still to be repaired and others that were brand new on the same street.

I am not so sure I like the new architecture and I hope it is a reflection of storm sturdiness and not bad design. Of course, comments in U.S. social media complain that Puerto Rico does not deserve our support because it is so corrupt and the money would be unlike the real estate projects, private university efforts and philanthropic foundations established by the staff in our White House.

I did read in the newspapers of small grants and a few large loans being made through our government, so there is small hope.

There are a number of small and larger forts around the island where Spain protected its colony from attacks by pirates and others.  This is El Morro, one of the more well-known and one we have visited before.  The views of the ocean and bay are amazing and the freedom of such an open area is welcome on crowded days.  There is a small fee for the museum which is part of our National Park Service.  On this day the temperature was perfect as it can get quite hot!  (This is me after my fall, and you can see I am recovering well.)

We had to be at the airport by early to mid-afternoon and so had time to stop here:

The sunny courtyard was protected by palms and umbrellas and in the background was some very nice samba music to get you in the mood.  I had a rum Pina Colada and hubby had the virgin version.  It seems this famous drink was created here.

This barely touches the flavor and culture of the island that we absorbed in our two short days.  I didn't even mention the great restaurant attached to our hotel and the conversation with the man who runs the food program at the church that had been damaged across the street!  I also have to write the tale of the lady I sat with on the plane home and her story about the hurricane!  And I failed to mention that the very days we were there, winter storms on the north side of the island had sent huge waves inland washing cars into the ocean.  Never enough time is there?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Miscellania, or Whatevah

When I went to check the spelling in the above title I found out that Miscellania is a small island in some digital game. I think it would be a perfect name for a real island, and if I ever buy one, I will change its name to Miscellania.

Below are the last (I hope) of photos that I have selected related to the cruise. They are just for fun or question or pause.

We were photographed ourselves almost as much as we took photographs of others.

Every single port we anchored, there were armed military.

Cargill in Manaus port. "Cargill, Incorporated is an American privately held global corporation based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and incorporated in Wilmington, Delaware. Founded in 1865, it is the largest privately held corporation in the United States in terms of revenue."

I have no idea what this crewman is doing. Those of you who know ships can perhaps enlighten me. This happened after we had docked.

This is how the locals go up and down the river. Supplies and shopping and shipping are on the bottom deck. Food and socializing and hammocks for sleeping above that. These journeys can take several days depending on the stops. Very different than how we traveled!

Thursday, March 15, 2018


We stopped at islands in the Caribbean after we stopped at small cities/villages in the Amazon; we were able to see lots of local people. 

First I must qualify this post. I HATE ocean cruises. I repeat, I HATE ocean cruises!  I only went on this one because it cruised up the Amazon River for most of its 1,000 miles. Something I would never be able to see unless I stayed in one of those villages for some time.  This ship held 900 people.  It was one of the smaller ships, but still WAY TO BIG.  

Ours was the "small" ship on the left.

When these floating giants come into a port the entire energy of the island or small city changes.  They see us as people who come to spend money (hopefully) and then leave before the day is over and we see them as very poor folks that make handicrafts and are very slow in service at the restaurants and can also be thieves.  (Two of the women on our cruise wore jewelry into a local fish market and were robbed...I know, they were idiots.)  

We descend like leaf-cutter ants as we swarm into their churches, museums and food places.  One of our 900 said they thought the 20-minute tour of the local museum was too long!  It was mostly history and political leader information and one of the few things they could show to us of interest.

Along the Amazon stops tourism via cruise ship is a brand new venture and they are struggling to learn enough English and to provide things that we want to buy, or see, or do. This is not just a hobby for them, this means they have food for their children and can repair their fishing boats! I will NEVER forget the haunting face of the small man in his late 40's who wanted to peddle us around the town, but the rain was too heavy for us to consider it. We gave him some money anyway, but that face...that face will never leave my mind. It is an ancient story.

It is a double-edged sword, this tourism thing. One of the talks about the tribes (100s) of the Amazon forest broke them down into three groups. Those who wanted nothing to do with outsiders and would shoot you with poison arrows as they retreated deeper into the forest, those who were willing to meet briefly with leaders to trade handicrafts/food for things they needed, and those who were making an effort to meld into the Western culture so that their children might have an 'easier' life and lived at the edge of the forest. 

The Amazon forest, referred to as the lungs of Brazil and the whole continent, is being destroyed by both drug cartels and illegal loggers on a daily basis. It started with rubber barons 100 years ago.  Seventy-eight million acres are lost annually to a forest that is currently 2.124 million mi² and there seems to be no slowing of this with the current levels of corruption in the government.  It is a sad story and an old story and I do not regret that I saw it.

Here is a good Ted Talk to leave you in a more optimistic state of mind: