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Electrification in the 21st Century

 

 

I may have shared this reference with you before. (I’m not sure how much of a reference it is since I can’t remember who wrote it). If you do remember it, you’ll agree with me that this is a much better place to use it. So please forget its previous location.

In the early 1920’s, Soviet Russia realized that in order to truly modernize the country, it would need electricity in more than the major cities. So they decided it was time to electrify the villages. Note to non-Russian Studies/History majors: Soviet Russia is what they called it before the leaders decided that “Soviet Union” was a much better name for them and the countries the Imperialists had overrun and they decided to keep.

Anyway, the officials were very proud of this program and would send representatives out to remind the people how much better off they were now than they had been under the Tsars. In one village, they approached an elderly lady and asked her how she liked the new lights. She was not happy. Before she had lights, she thought her home was clean. Now she could see into the corners and realized what a mess she had been living in and how much work she had to do the keep it clean.

So at best, electricity is a mixed blessing. I am writing this on Saturday morning as I sit here without any power. They left a message on the answering machine that it would be out from 10a – noon. I guess they chose a time that would be maximally inconvenient for all of us because GM has a facility on the power grid and they have more money than we do and are pretty much closed down on weekends.

You may recall that I’m not very technologically advanced. I’m sure it’s not an answering machine anymore. It’s on the land line. It’s certainly not advanced enough to be voice mail. It is a huge advancement over the ones we used to have with tape that ate half of the messages. Advanced in the sense of the 1990’s.

Luckily I got downstairs to hear the message at 9:57 because they did turn off the power at 10a sharp. And once the electricity was gone, so was the machine.

Of course, I can type this because my laptop has battery back-up. More productively, I could be spending my time reading or cleaning. Or getting the flower beds ready for winter. Or watching the clouds.

On the other hand, I can’t make the chocolate chips cookies that were on the agenda. Our router is electric, so I can’t access the Internet. I can’t email people. And I can’t call them because the names are on an email I can’t get to right now.

We’re on a well with an electric pump. That means no water in the house. Including the toilet. Probably the only time that I look back at the outhouse at my grandparents’ cottage with fondness is when we have no power.

The cell phones work. Until they need to be recharged. Same with the laptop, tablets, e-readers, and all the other toys. Obviously, the TV is not an option. We have an electric garage door opener. I have had no luck getting in the side door of the garage since we moved in years ago. Even if I could get in, I couldn’t get the car out.

We rarely lose our power here. It’s a good thing too. With the population density of our neighborhood, the power company usually slots our restoration somewhere between parking structures and cemeteries.

We lost our power last Saturday too. That one was unplanned. A major storm swept through the area on Thursday, and thousands of people were still waiting for their power. We were fine after the storm. Ours had no apparent cause. Except my husband had finally bought a new HDTV for football season.

It was in the evening, so it was getting dark. We used a bunch of candles. It was actually very nice and peaceful. As soon as the power came back the TV was on, my husband switching between multiple games. None of which were going the way he wanted.

It made me wonder – can the power be routed so the well works but the TV doesn’t?

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2014 in Home, Humor

 

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The Further Adventures of Horatio Hedgehog

You may recall Horatio, Lord Nelson Hedgehog, as a rather grumpy, anti-social ball of quills.

Well, it turns out that you reach the heart of a hedgehog the same way you reach the heart of a man: through his stomach.

With men you usually have a wide variety of options when it comes to feeding. Generally you can find something they like in the meat/fish/poultry galaxy. If that fails, chocolate chip cookies are likely a winner.

Not so much with hedgehogs. If you look through the Internet, you will see that hedgehogs like insects, vegetables and certain fruits (particularly grapes). However, you should not feed your hedgehog too many fruit/vegetable treats, because it will keep him from eating his regular food. (Back to men and chocolate chip cookies)

It wasn’t an issue with the first hedgehog, Jean Luc. He refused to eat anything except his cat food. (I wonder who figured out that dry cat food is good for hedgehogs. Probably somebody who couldn’t afford Purina Hedgehog Chow.)

On the other hand, Horatio has been willing to try anything. One time. Finally my husband decided to try him on wax worms. (Of course, who works in a store that sells wax worms and has to buy them?)

Jackpot! Horatio loves wax worms. He perks right up when we get him out of the cage and sits by my husband’s feet to get fed. My husband gives him five every night, pulling each out of the sawdust as Horatio finishes the previous one.

It’s pretty strange. After the fifth one, Horatio walks away. It looks like he can count. I’m sure there’s some trigger, but I can’t tell what it is. Maybe he could win a lot of money on America’s Got Talent. I’ve never seen the show; do you have to be human to get on?

Once he’s done, he takes a walk around the living room then finds somewhere to take a nap. (He’s sounding more and more human male as I think about it.)

Kommando Kitty is not really excited about this new turn of events. She makes sure he’s within her eyesight. It may be that she’s protecting her own food. I know the cats are aware he gets a better brand than they do. (If hedgehogs don’t get the proper type of cat food, their digestive emissions are horrible. Will avoid another reference to human males.)

We have gotten used to this new routine. Probably too comfortable with it. One night I went to get him out of his cage. It was open and the gloves were nowhere to be found. (Yes we still need gloves to get him out. Sleepy hedgehogs are not happy hedgehogs.)

I asked whether someone had already gotten him. Then we realized that no one remembered putting him away the night before.

Oh no! He had escaped. Some sentinel that cat had turned out to be. We do not leave food or anything of that ilk laying around, but if it’s made of paper you’d think it was a member of the family. We live in an old farmhouse, so there are plenty of places to explore too.

He can still be pretty ornery, so we figured if we got too close he’d huff at us. Turned over everything in the front room. No luck. Looked everywhere in the rest of the first floor rooms. Apparently hedgehogs can also vanish into thin air.

When Jean Luc escaped (I accused my husband of losing him), he came out after we turned the lights off and it got to be quiet. I was laying on the sofa waiting for him and all ended well.

Not having bonded that closely with this one, I went to bed. Since I had to get up at 2:30a for work, I figured I could catch him then. No such luck. I left a note for my daughter that he was still missing and to watch out for him.

When I got home, she had left a note. Apparently Kommando Kitty went back into guard mode and found Horatio. He was down on the landing by the bag of charcoal. My daughter got him and put him back in his cage.

None of us can figure out how he would get down the three steps. Apparently he must have fallen down the first one, turned into a ball to protect himself, then bounced down the other two.

He was fine from the adventure. In retrospect, it’s pretty funny. I’m guessing he didn’t see it that way. Do hedgehogs have a sense of humor?

Next up is a bath. If you stop hearing from me, arrest the hedgehog.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2014 in Animals, Humor

 

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The Secret Life of Vegetables

The other day I was thinking about a book I read when I was in my early teens. It was about four kids living with their father (I think he was widowed).

When the kids got bored inside, they would play various games. One game was a variation on Twenty Questions that only involved identifying people. One of the characteristics was which vegetable the person most resembled.

I thought it would be interesting to turn the idea around and give the vegetables human characteristics. So let’s join the Tomato sisters, Roma and Cherry, at a cocktail party.

Cherry is indignant. “I can’t believe I had to beg for an invitation to this party. They said it was vegetable only, and we’re fruits. I mean seriously, who knows we’re fruit except humans who remember their first biology class and these snobby Corn people. And they are so crass.

Look at Mrs. Corn. She thinks she’s being sophisticated with her husk peeled down like that. It looks like she wants to show as much kernel as she can without giving away the whole ear. And her husband is in the soaking pool with all those young corn plants.”

Roma giggles. “Look over there at the Cabbages. I don’t understand why Red ever married into the Green family. They are so boring. And she lets him go alone into Cole Slaws with the Carrots. Cherry adds, “Of course she does. He’s so dull she doesn’t have to worry about any of the Carrots being interested in him.”

Roma smirks. “I bet she doesn’t know he still goes to the Kraut Crock with the Spices. I hear he even gets a little pickled sometimes. I can’t believe she doesn’t smell it on him. Cherry says, “Well, it’s not like she has anywhere to go. Her family disowned her when she married into the Green side of the family. They’d turn her into real slaw if she went near them.”

The girls look around. A couple of the Broccolis come up. “Hi girls,” says Ben, the taller of the two. “How’d you like to get out of this place and have some real fun?” The sisters look at each other, and Cherry asks, “What do you have in mind?” Ben replies, “Well, we thought you might want to watch us work out. You know how healthy we are. Then maybe we could go back to our place and we could show you our muscles.”

The girls giggle and refuse. “Can you believe how full of himself he is? He was such a nice guy before they started writing about his family in those health magazines. I hear the whole bunch of them have turned into snobs.”

Roma says, ”It’s so crowded in this room. Let’s see what else is going on.” She opens a door and gasps as she quickly closes it.
“What? What’d you see?” asks Cherry, alarmed. Roma pulls her down the hall and whispers, “You wouldn’t believe what they’re doing in there!”

“What?” Cherry is getting frustrated.

“The green Peppers are having the red and yellow Pepper girls rub dressing all over their bodies and then licking it off of them. You’d think the Corns wouldn’t allow that type of behavior in their house.”

Cherry suggests they go outside for some fresh air. In the yard, they find the Onions talking to the Leeks. The Leeks seem to be upset about something.

“We know that you just took in those young Green Onions because they didn’t have anywhere to go, but they’re taking over the neighborhood. You can see how quickly they set down roots and spread. Could you talk to them about moving toward suburbs rather than taking more room from us?”

Mrs. Onion sighs. “We have tried to talk to them. They were so sweet when they we younger, but now that they’re older and stronger we can barely get near them. We may end up moving near our children up on the north side.”

They continue to talk as the sisters notice a group of Lettuce watching them and whispering. Cherry looks nervous and says to Roma, “Do they look familiar to you?”

Roma answers, “How would I know? All the Lettuces look the same to me.” As she finishes speaking, the Head Lettuce says, “That’s them. I know it is. They snuck into the party at the Mushrooms, pretending to be veggies. Then they went to all their fruit friends and told stories about us.”

The Lettuce spread out and start moving toward the Tomatoes. The girls see them and run for the gate. The Lettuce is right behind when the gate opens. A Pineapple is standing in the opening, holding a hot vinaigrette.

The lettuce backs off, not wanting to wilt.

The girls run out the gate. The Pineapple glares at them. “Your mother sent me out for you. You’re lucky I got there when I did. You’ll be spending some time in the bed thinking about your behavior when we get back.”

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Fiction, Humor

 

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I Don’t Remember it Like That

We dropped our daughter off at college last Sunday. I’d always heard that it would be like a flashback to my own college days. I guess you could call it that.

She is going to a much smaller place than I did. There was no mistaking where you were going at the University of Michigan. Or when you got there. Or the thousands of people around wherever you wanted to be.

This place is in a residential area not far from where I grew up. There is no real signage except on the freeway right below. The freeway that has been closed for construction for the summer and will be until November.

No problem, right? You grew up there. True enough. We found the school with no trouble. And a parking lot. Was it the right parking lot? It had to be – it was the only one near the dorm. Yep – one parking lot, one dorm. No rushing memories yet.

We went inside. While she registered, we sat on a sofa. There were a few other kids filling out paperwork. No pandemonium. No feeling of being lost in a crowd. Hmmmmm. I was channeling high school more than college.

But wait. Something did feel familiar. Ahhh – a large building in the late summer with no air conditioning. The strange mustiness of a building that has been unoccupied for several months and is now full of sweating people.

Paperwork done, we went to the third floor. Where she had to talk to another person. She got a checklist for the current room condition. Once she filled out the form, she could have her key. I just had to identify myself and get a key. One point for large bureaucracy.

We went down the hallway and found her room. The girl at the end of the hall said it was open. It was not. Luckily her roommate was on the other side of the closed door. As we waited at the door, I noticed the girls in the room across the hall watching us. Open doors, people watching. That’s familiar. A little creepy, but familiar.

The room looks a lot like the one I had. But smaller. Dorm rooms are not known for their spaciousness, but this was the smallest double I had seen at any school. I swear that the girls could lay on their beds, hold out their arms and touch each other. I thought private schools were supposed to be more luxurious than the public ones. I guess this is part of the reason hers isn’t particularly expensive.

The roommate did remind me of some of the girls I knew in the dorm. Very sweet. And very aware of the strategic advantages of being the first to the room. Her side of the room was totally decorated. She had two rugs which covered two-thirds of the room. (In her defense, I don’t think they make rugs for half a room that size.)

The closets are on her side of the room, next to each other. Next to her desk. She took the one that is closest to my daughter’s side. It’s more easily accessible. The sink is on my daughter’s side. She took all the jewelry hooks she needed.

Actually I understand all of that. Don’t appreciate it. But I understand. The girl has never shared space with a stranger before. She doesn’t realize that parents can turn feral in defense of their offspring.

But that wasn’t the strangest part. Trying to make conversation, I asked about pictures she had pinned up of a dog and a bunny. I knew the dog was her pet. What about the bunny? She said they owned a rabbit farm. Some rabbits were pets and some were for sale.

This one? He was for sale. You have a picture of a rabbit you ate? Yes. That’s strange. OK, he can be a pet. So you are a little sick putting up a picture of a meal-to-be or you think you can freak me out by telling me your family raises rabbits for sale. Either way, I’m glad I’m not your mother.

We finally brought the stuff up. In the hot, humid weather. They had handcarts, but most of the people didn’t bother to take them back down when they were done. So it was an obstacle course. Did I mention the hallways were also strangely narrow for a dorm?

Downstairs I held a door open for a couple of guys with a sofa. It was the second one they brought in. Some of the people in my dorm built lofts for their beds and used the room as social space. With the size of the rooms and the size of the sofas, I’m guessing these guys have a very intimate social circle.

Sweaty guys. Tired, frustrated parents. Embarrassed, nervous students. They were right. It was beginning to remind me of college.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2014 in Humor, School

 

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From Slates to SmartBoards

Back in the dark ages of education (even before I went to school), students had individual slates they were supposed to bring to school every day to write on. I’ve seen them in living museums. I really don’t think I get the concept. (Yes, I know – you use chalk to make marks on the black slate then use a cloth to remove them.)

Including the wooden border, they appear to be about the dimensions of a laptop. While I can appreciate the need to be mobile, I don’t understand how you would really be able to practice penmanship or do more than a couple of math problems at a time. I guess that’s why the rich kids got to use pen and paper.

Which, sadly, is where things stood when I went to school. (Pen and paper, not slates) There was a large blackboard at the front (sometimes they were green). We used pencils for math, and pens for the other stuff. I even had a teacher who made us practice penmanship and diagram sentences, although I heard that she was the only ogre left in the profession.

I have been helping a family get ready for school this year. I cannot believe the changes. Calculators are now allowed in all grades. I am so jealous. I had to calculate logarithms by hand (I can’t even spell it now). I’m not really sure what the point to it was. I’m told that previous generations with slide rules had it easier than we did. I don’t know. I saw one once and was traumatized.

One of the requirements for the lower grades now is ear buds. Since my kids just graduated, and I had never seen that on a list, I was confused. I have seen several memos about not using them in class.

Turns out that much of the instruction on computers is oral for the younger kids. The earbuds allow them to concentrate better. Probably cuts down on talking too. I can see this as a teacher’s dream: a room full of kids learning and no noise.

It makes me think of the language lab we had in college. The system for teaching was computerized, but there was no way to listen individually. Sometimes it sounded like the UN. More often it was like trying to study in Grand Central Station.

Most people tried to be considerate, but there are always a few who really don’t get it. I can’t ever think of studying Russian there without remembering the person learning Arabic. Maybe the guy on the tape was just really loud.

The libraries have turned into media centers. According to Merriam-Webster the definition of library is “a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale”.

A Media Center is a place where media is kept. (There is no official definition.) Apparently it is a media center because it now has computers. The books, magazines, newspapers, videos and audio tapes are still there. The computers are obviously technological snobs. Library was good enough for all the other media.

Students are now requested to bring supplies for the teachers too: sanitizers, tissues, band aids (?), pens, pencils. Obviously the teachers didn’t ask for the supplies. There are no requests for Valium, aspirin, or parent-teacher negotiation trainers.

One thing obviously has not changed in many years. The team mascot is the Dreadnoughts. The first time I heard it, I wondered where my education had gone wrong. I thought it was a ship. Silly me.

Who knew? They really do have a battleship as their team mascot. The dreadnought (fear nothing) was the predominant battleship of the early 20th century. It was armed with all heavy caliber guns and used steam turbine propulsion.

Nothing makes me think of 21st century high school football like steam turbine propulsion. I wonder what all those Eagles, Tigers, and Panthers think of it. I imagine it would be hard to drum up too much fear of a team when you don’t know what it is.

 

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2014 in Humor, School

 

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Doggy Doggerel

They’re not all about dogs, but I couldn’t resist the title.

 

There once was a dog named Jerome,

Who chewed up the neighbor’s best gnome.

The neighbor was mad

Jerome was so bad,

He now chews his gnomes up in Nome.

 

An aardvark was feeling some stress,

That his love life’d become such a mess.

He’s been dating a twin,

But the trouble he’s in –

He bought the twin’s twin a new dress.

 

Gorillas love termites, you know.

The teens thought they’d put on a show.

They sat by the hill

Being ever so still

While their rivals’ envy did grow.

 

My pet armadillo named Rusty

Noticed he’d become rather musty.

He went out for some air,

Rolled in sand while out there;

Now Rusty is dusty not musty.

 

Have you been to the animal fair?

My friend the platypus took me there.

He poisoned a child,

Was sick on a ride,

Got kicked out when he pummeled that bear.

 

The sloth was so late for his date,

The girl thought she just didn’t rate.

She cried for a while.

Then with a smile,

She went out and found her true mate.

 

And now you know why I never claimed to be a poet.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Animals, Humor, Poetry

 

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En Garde, Pumpkin

Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I love fall. It’s always been my favorite time of year. The heat has finally gone away, the weather is beautiful, and it’s football season. I try to ignore the fact that the reason the leaves turn all those pretty colors is because the tree has to get rid of them to get ready for winter.

However, autumn’s starting to forget its place in the grand scheme of things. Summer is the season before fall. Half of the summer should not be taken over by autumn activities. Let’s face it – fall is the time we get ready for winter (at least those of us who spend many months preparing for snow, driving in snow, and cleaning up from snow).

We have already lost the battle of school supplies. As soon as July 4 is over, we start getting advertisements for school supplies. We just got our first year-round school here, so best-case scenario is that they are starting seven weeks early.

The weird thing about school supplies is that they go on sale in many places as soon as the advertisements start. I guess it might be because no one is going to buy extra pens and pencils a month and a half early unless they are cheap.

The really good stuff (like the expensive calculators) don’t go on sale until a couple of weeks before school actually starts. And if the class has special requirements for supplies, they don’t let you know until a week before classes (if you’re lucky).

So if you want to make sure that your child gets their favorite folder and notebooks, you need to shop by the early part of August (we only had one tiger folder left last week and mega dogs with only a few cats).

On the other hand, with calculators and specialty goods, it’s usually early September. And first-time shoppers are at a huge disadvantage with the specialty goods. Parents with connections (or older children) have already snatched up the good stuff by the time the rest of the parents even hear about what you need,

But the specific trigger for this rant is an advertisement I heard on the radio earlier this week. Tim Horton’s was advertising its new pumpkin latte as a fall drink you can enjoy now. Apparently they are trying to get a jump on Starbuck’s, who is going to start serving their fall drinks next week.

I really don’t understand the appeal of a fall coffee drink in August. It’s been in the 80’s all week with the worst humidity we’ve seen this summer. Shouldn’t people still be drinking frosty mugs of root beer or real beer or something?

If you’re addicted to coffee, isn’t there some sort of summer flavor? I’m not a coffee drinker, but thinking about it, maybe there isn’t. Raspberry and lemon, two favorites with iced tea, just sound revolting when you put them with coffee. Hmmmm, maybe that’s the answer: iced pumpkin coffee. The worst of both worlds.

As you may have guessed, I don’t like pumpkin. It’s a gourd. A nutritious gourd, but a gourd none the less. All squash are gourds. But most of them know their place. The winter varieties show themselves in the fall and get cooked into all kinds of yummy dishes. We won’t talk about summer squash.

But pumpkin needs to be in pies, and coffee creamers, and cream cheeses. They are developing a pumpkin Oreo. It will have some vanilla-type cookies (good thing – chocolate cookies would be a travesty). I’m sure I just haven’t looked hard enough for pumpkin-flavored potato chips.

We’ll know the end has come when they start selling winter coats in August. I remember trying on a winter coat in July one year when I was little. It was going to be a birthday present. I was so miserably hot trying it on, I didn’t care what it looked like. I’m guessing the marketing people discovered that talking about snow storms in August was just pushing things a little too far.

I know it’s a losing battle. Last week I saw a tree down the road changing colors. Today I noticed that my magnolia is blossoming again. How can we keep things straight when Mother Nature is so confused about what season it is?

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Autumn, Humor

 

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