Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Catch some Zs

I just read another article about the importance of getting enough sleep. It's already almost too late for that for me tonight, but I'll do my best.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

This morning I went with my folks to the Memorial Day Ceremonies at the Lynden Cemetery. They are put on each year by the local V.F.W. (Veterans of Foreign Wars). Every year the local Boy Scout troop participates by "posting the colors," i.e. putting flags in stands by the speaker's podium. Last  year, we had some Marines there to "raise the colors" (send the flag up the flag pole), but this year the Boy Scouts did that, too. Here's a video of the Boy Scouts raising the colors while the local middle school band plays the national anthem.

video

Sergeant Sara Bernardy, U.S. Army, Iraq War Veteran
The flag goes all the way up to the top, then comes back down to half-mast because Memorial Day is specifically in honor of those members of the military who have died in the nation's wars. It's a somber, touching ceremony. This year, our speaker was a woman army vet who had served in Iraq, again, a local, a graduate of Meridian High School, I believe they said. She gave a very becoming soldier's speech, modest about herself while praising the bravery of others.

Since we had our family picnic yesterday, my parents and I had no agenda for the day, so after the ceremonies and our visit to my brother's grave, we went out for brunch at Dutch Mother's Restaurant.

As it was cold and cloudy outside, I did not carry out my earlier plan to plant flowers all afternoon. Instead, I took a nap. About the time I fed my dog dinner and took him for his walk, the sun came out. My dad was out on the patio down by the firepit, where we had our family picnic yesterday, so I sat and chatted a while with him.

A light dinner for myself, a little laundry, and now I am going to make four sandwiches, one for each day of the coming work week. So it goes.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Beautiful day

Well, I've made my views known about the cold, rainy spring we've been having in Washington, and here you still are, putting up with me. So it's only fair that I do the opposite of complain--what would that be? give thanks? praise?--about today's weather, which was delightful.

Here is our back yard, all ready for a family picnic. It's Memorial Day tomorrow, and my folks and I plan to attend a local ceremony in the morning. Normally, we would have the family picnic after that, but my niece's family had a conflict, so we had it this afternoon. The weather was perfect, sunny and mild. And look how beautiful the trees are, all leafed out and lush. The chairs and tables are all ready for the family to arrive, which they did, and we had a lovely afternoon.


Here's my dog, who of course is a part of family occasions, at least those that occur at our home. The grass is so green and he's so white . . .


. . .  well, off-white. As Shakespeare said about his mistress, "If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun . . . And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare / As any she belied with false compare" (Sonnet 130).

Anyway, it was a great day.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why?

Blogger's server is rejecting my pictures this evening. Stop it, Blogger.

Friday, May 27, 2011

ice cream castles in the air and feather canyons everywhere

The weather this morning was dismal. Heavy rain. I got soaked walking the dog. But this afternoon it brightened up. I worked a half-day because I attended the funeral of a church member, then I sat on my deck in the late afternoon and looked at the clouds.




Thursday, May 26, 2011

Excitement

Tomorrow is Friday! And then a 3-day weekend! Exclamation points!

When I was an English teacher, I fought the uphill battle of trying to get teenage girls to use fewer exclamation points. They like not only an exclamation point at the end of every sentence, but multiple exclamation points at the ends of sentences because they are just so excited!!!!!!

I tried to tell them that over-use weakens the effect, but it was a hard concept for them. For teenagers, more is more.

I am phlegmatic enough to be satisfied with a period. or full stop, as the British say. And I'm enough of an English nerd to get a quiet satisfaction out of the proper use of a semicolon.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Back in style

I had my car battery replaced a few weeks ago and I realized yesterday while driving home from work that this erased the programming for my radio buttons. So I was pushing the seek/scan button. I heard some music that sounded sort of Eastern Indian, although I couldn't be sure. It just reminded me of those clips you see where in Indian movies all of a sudden everyone starts dancing and singing.

Then I found a station where they were definitely speaking Mandarin. I could only understand about one word every three minutes, but I listened for a while. The sound of Mandarin being spoken takes me back to my happy years of being involved in Friendship Agape Church in San Jose, California. (Just looking at that website now filled me with love and memories.) Hearing Mandarin is like hearing a beloved song.

Then I found a station where they were speaking French. Again, I could not understand more than the occasional word, but I recognized the language. I'm thinking most of these stations originated in Canada. I live near the U.S./Canada border. Right above the border and up through Vancouver, the area is fairly densely populated, while just below the border it's more bucolic.

Tonight I turned on the radio and, moving on from the French station, found one where they were playing some big band music, and I heard an instrumental piece that sounded like it could be part of a sound track of a movie starring Olivia de Havilland or someone of that black and white vintage. I heard this great song I had never heard before: "Big, Fat Mamas Are Back in Style." The version I've linked to is not the same singer I heard in my car, but it is the same song. I also made a mental note of the station number so I could google it and find out what station it was. It was 102.3 FM, and they had one station identification where they mentioned it was in Bellingham. Turns out it's KMRE, a station run by the American Museum of Radio and Electricity, a local organization I've been unacquainted with till now, but which looks worthwhile.

By association, I thought about the Queen song "Fat Bottomed Girls," which was popular for some reason with all the Dutch girls at Calvin College at our Parties with Music [code for dances--shh, don't tell the alumni] when I was there in the early '80s. I won't link to it. If you want to hear it, you'll have to google it yourself. Don't blame me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Longer days

I'm appreciating the longer hours of daylight. Indeed, though spring seems to have barely arrived, we are less than a month away now from summer solstice. But real summer weather starts after that. It's a variation on "When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen," going in the other direction. "When the days begin to shorten . . ." That doesn't work. "When the light starts decreasing, the temperatures start increasing"?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Annoying automation

Became frustrated this afternoon trying to go through the self-checker at the Lynden Safeway. I have successfully navigated the self-checker at the Barkely Haggen in Bellingham, and I like it because I proceed at my own pace and bag my groceries the way I like them to be bagged. But this is the second time I have tried to use the system at Safeway and been unable to finish without a staff member coming to fix things. Here are some complaints:

  • I don't have a physical Safeway Club Card; I just use my phone number. The machine does not allow me to start by entering my phone number. First I have to scan something, and then it says, "Have you scanned your Club Card?"
  • Today, as about the third item, I scanned a package of Oscar Mayer salami and tossed it in the bag. The self-scanner works by comparing the weight of what you put in the bag with what the scanner read. So the machine said, "Unexpected item in bag. Please remove the item." I looked at the onscreen list of what I had scanned, and did not see salami. So I pulled the salami back out of the bag and scanned it again. Then it was listed twice. So I went through a process to remove one of them from the list, but when I put the physical item in the bag again it told me that something unexpected was in the bag. Then it told me to wait for assistance. It told me that two or three times, while I stood around. I was looking at the screen trying to figure out how I could void the whole transaction and go over to a human checker. There was no way. I had just tossed the salami onto the scanner and remarked, "Screw it," preparatory to walking away from my whole purchase when a staff member rushed up to help me. I told him to void the whole transaction and I would go to another counter, but he voided it and scanned it all for me there. He was very kind and courteous, but I will not use the self-checker again at Safeway.
  • I also don't like the screen graphics.
  • And the card swiper is at an awkward angle for entering my PIN.
Two other things annoyed me in Safeway while I was shopping today. I always buy Millstone Coffee (Kona Blend) and there is a big shelf area devoted to this brand. Well, today I got there, and there was a big shelf area devoted to Safeway brand coffee, and a tiny area of a few bags of Millstone, which I suspect they will sell off and not replace.

And I went to get the type of hand soap I use, which is Method hand wash, lavender scented. Well, they had Method soap in other scents, but not lavender. I almost bought Soft Soap, lavender and chamomile, but then I thought, I'll go to Haggen store something this week and see if they have what I want there. If Safeway doesn't carry what I want, then I won't buy something I don't want; I'll go somewhere else for what I do want.

A couple weeks ago, the bread I like, Oroweat (I get their 100% Whole Wheat), had been squished into a smaller area to make room for, yes, Safeway brand bread. I do not buy store brand products, except maybe toilet paper, and I don't appreciate having the products I do like replaced with cheapo knockoffs.

Store "club cards" are really a way for stores to track your purchases. I don't believe you get a discount by using them but rather that you avoid a fine they assess against anyone who doesn't facilitate that tracking. So I guess I'm in  a demographic Safeway wants to get rid of. Either that, or someone in the back office, who knows me by name and personally dislikes me, said, "Jan Kok! I hate that b****. Let's see what she buys and take it off our shelves."

I'm sure that a Safeway corporate executive will read this post, realize what an influential blogger I am, and hasten to order their stores to carry Millstone coffee and Method french lavender soap and also to upgrade their scanner software.

Store brand? I don't need no stinking store brand.

Nurseries

I meant to link to Bakerview Nursery yesterday when I mentioned it. In terms of local nurseries, we have an embarrassment of riches:
Hi Hoe Nursery

Hi Hoe Nursery, 8773 Northwood Road, Lynden, WA 98264 (360) 354-5143

Vander Giessen Nursery, 401 East Grover Street, Lynden, WA 98264 (360) 354-3097

Van Wingerden Garden Center, 8210 Portal Way, Blaine, WA 98230 (360) 366-3906

Bakerview Nursery,  945 E. Bakerview Road, Bellingham, WA 98226 (360) 676-0400

Garden Spot Nursery, 900 Alabama Street, Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 676-5480

and, though I haven't been there yet,

Kent's Garden and Nursery, 5428 Northwest Road, Bellingham, WA 98226 (360) 384-4433

And, finally, I buy a certain number of plants every year from the horticulture class at Lynden Christian High School.

We're gardening fools here in Whatcom County.

St. Francis

On a happier note, yesterday after work I stopped at Bakerview Nursery in Bellingham, specifically to buy double impatiens (which I did), but I also looked around their store for a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. A few years ago, when I was either unemployed or under-employed and hence strapped for money, I saw one I liked very much, and wished I could buy it, but it was over $80 and I just couldn't spend that much.

So yesterday I wandered around wondering if they had another one. Everywhere I went I saw Buddhas, Chinese soldiers, cranes, and other Asian-themed statuary. I was starting to think snarky thoughts about Bellingham being the kind of Birkenstocky town where placing Asian-looking items around your home passed for spirituality. Didn't they have any Christian-themed statuary. Then I saw some kitschy angels. Oh, dear. I finally happened across a little corner of marked-down items, and there it was. Moreover, it was 30% off! Could any Dutchwoman ask for a clearer sign? I bought it and brought it home, and here it is.


I can see it from my living room window, and I love it already.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sad old man

So, I have desire to mock the followers of Harold Camping, who predicted that the rapture would occur today, along with world-wide earthquakes. Here are some thoughts not organized by importance, but just scattered out there.

I shareCamping's and his followers' core belief in Christ's return. Camping predicted that today the rapture would occur and then in October the world would be destroyed. I have heard that from secondary sources, and have not investigated further into his teachings, but I presume that after the destruction of this world they believed the new creation would be established, in which the resurrected people will live eternally. I do not believe in a rapture; I believe Christ will return one time, in glory, and that at on that Day all the dead will be raised from the dead and all the living will be changed, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (I Corinthians 15:52); that creation will be, not destroyed, but renewed--a new creation; that death will cease; that I -- a resurrected or transformed person -- will live forever as a new creation in the new creation. Maranatha. Amen, come, Lord Jesus. So, I think Camping was wrong to predict a date (“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24:36, New International Version)), and I think he was wrong in many of his details. His beliefs may even seem absurd to me, but to one who doesn't believe in Christ or his coming again my beliefs seem equally absurd.

I feel sorry for Camping and his followers for the incredible disappointment and bewilderment they are doubtless going through. I have no desire to jeer at them in the moment of loss and humiliation.

Although I think Camping was wrong in his predictions, and I rue the ridicule his error will bring on all believers, yet I am thankful for the reminder it has been for me to drive by the "Judgment Day" signs all these months that I and all Christians need to live in the hope and expectation of Christ's return. It has led me to pray that I may be prepared and has added fervency to my prayers for the people I know who don't know or love Christ.

So I think compassion is in order toward these brothers and sisters who have been led astray. Even Camping himself has been led astray by his own convoluted thinking. To me he is a sad and pathetic figure, but he does do harm to others, so I wish he would stop with his teachings. He made a false prediction before and doesn't seem to have learned from the experience; I hope that he will learn this time.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stone walls do not a prison make

Still plowing through Les Miserables. This evening there was a passage where the narrator seemed to heap scorn on Catholic monastics  and "religious" (for whom I have a usually silent but quite strong admiration). He talked about how anachronistic it was to have nuns and monks, convents and monasteries, still existing in the 19th Century, how hard it was to eradicate superstition, what a burial, what a living death, what a tragic waste of humanity. I was annoyed. Then he turned around and said, well, so why can't people get together and form a community if they want? That's freedom of association. And if they all call each other brother and sister, and people from all ranks of life are treated equally there, and they devote themselves to doing good, isn't that admirable? And he argues cogently against atheism. If I read him correctly, Victor Hugo believes in God but probably not in the divinity of Christ. I think that he respects Christ as a great teacher and one who willingly gave his life for others, but not as savior. He doesn't explicitly spell it out, though. I imagine that would have been too controversial. However, Victor Hugo does embrace the Christian values of self-sacrifice, humility, and service of others.

An interesting development in the plot and the character of Jean Valjean is this. Valjean is hiding in a strict convent, working as a gardener. He escaped into the convent garden when he was surrounded by his nemesis, Javert, and his henchman in the nearby streets. Now he lives entirely inside the convent walls and never goes out, for fear of being seen. (Fun plotting about how he gets established as the gardener.) He compares the life of himself and his fellow convicts when he was in the galleys--enclosure in prison, locks and bars, poor food, hard beds, uncomfortable clothing--with the life of the nuns in the convent--enclosure, locks, poor food, hard beds, uncomfortable clothing. Both groups of people suffer: the convicts paying for their own sins and the nuns, who are a penitential order (with such harsh rules that they sometimes go mad), for the sins of others. The convicts' language is full of cursing, while the nuns speak few words and those of prayer and blessing. The lifestyles are similar but one place brutalizes and the other elevates and purifies. Jean Valjean ponders these things.

Project ahead

Oops. I forgot to blog yesterday. Here is a picture of my project for Saturday: get these planted.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The plot thickens

Well, in the next book of Les Miserables, it started with a description of the Battle of Waterloo. I was really anxious to find out what was happening with Jean Valjean and Fantine's daughter, Cosette, so I skipped ahead. Many, many pages and chapters of the Battle of Waterloo, and finally caught up with the characters of the novel. I decided this evening to go to Wikipedia and read the plot summary so that I would not be so driven to find out what happened that I skipped other parts.

Sometimes authors will stop to blab about something right at the moment when you are dying to find out what happens next. On a second or third reading of the book, I can go slowly and take all those reflections in, but on the first reading I am distracted by the unfolding plot.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kindness

Well, in honor of my progress through Les Miserables, where I have read the sad story of Fantine, I went and watched the video of Susan Boyle singing "I Dreamed a Dream." Makes me cry every time. Reading Les Miserables, however, I feel that Victor Hugo could have cut her a little break. Couldn't she have met nice folks to entrust her daughter to? Does the local cop have to be this Javert fellow? Everywhere she goes, people are cruel, and while I accept that wherever you go there will be some cruel people, it seems like in Les Miserables wherever you go almost everybody is cruel and only one or two people, if any, are kind. Maybe it was like that in 19th Century France.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday, but not sunny day

Long day. Good stuff: church, visiting with family. Chores I should do on Saturday but always leave till Sunday: laundry, making lunches for the work week. Done and done.

Yesterday and today were rainy (after lovely weather on Friday while I was at work all day), but I still went yesterday to Hi Hoe Nursery and made a dent in my paycheck with a goodly number of begonias, verbena, veronica, some lavender, and some small things for small pots. None of them are planted yet. Maybe if we have some nice evenings, I can potter after work. According to the current 7-day forecast, we should have decent weather Tuesday-Friday and drizzle next Saturday. However, the 7-day forecast changes frequently.

Well, I'm up late, and that's not good. So to bed (as Samuel Pepys frequently logged--not blogged).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

He did not study plants; he loved flowers

Reading Les Miserables for the first time and becoming a disciple of Monseigneur Bienvenu:

As we have seen, prayer, the celebration of the offices of religion, alms-giving, the consolation of the afflicted, the cultivation of a bit of land, fraternity, frugality, hospitality, renunciation, confidence, study, work, filled every day of his life.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Siesta

Yesterday on my lunch hour, I ate lunch, read a book, then thought, "Now I'm ready for a nice nap. Oh, wait, I have to go back to work instead." I wonder what it's like to live in a siesta-taking society.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My dogs are barking

Ever hear of plantar fasciitis? Ow. I just ordered some new shoes for when I walk my dog. My old walking shoes were so bad I threw them out, and I've been wearing slippers that have no support and pretty much no cushion under my feet. Getting even an ordinary sneaker under my foot while I walk on pavement should help. I need new work shoes, too, but one thing at a time.

Another thing that probably doesn't help is that, because I live in a basement apartment, the floor under my laminate flooring is cement. I realized the other day that when I walked across a patch of grass my feet felt better than when I walked on the sidewalk. Almost all my walking is done on hard surfaces, which jars the foot. Walking on grass or dirt would be better for me.

A lot of things would be better for me that I don't do. Last week at the dentist, they wondered why I don't clean between my teeth more thoroughly. When I go to the doctor, he wonders if I'll lose weight. And when I drag my car in for service, they wonder why I don't do the maintenance I should. Look, people, if I spent all my time flossing, exercising, eating wholesome food, and getting my oil changed, then when would I have time to randomly cruise the web, to browse Facebook, and to blog? Priorities, people. Priorities.

At least I take care of my dog. He gets his shots on time, his nails trimmed regularly, two walks a day, and expensive prescription dog food. Because he's worth it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Celebration

This is my mom with two of her great-grandchildren. How beautiful.


Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31:28-31

Mother's Day 2011

It's not actually raining, and the sun has peeped out. While I was walking my dog I smelled bacon and wondered if in a nearby house someone was making a special breakfast for their mom. My mom will be coming with other family for lunch today.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Today's weather in living color

Here's my deck as I set out walking the dog this morning. This has been the rainiest spring I can remember.

video

And when you live in western Washington, "rainiest" means "very rainy indeed." So much for celebrating Mother's Day out on a sunny deck.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I have confidence in confidence alone

I have confidence in sunshine.
I have confidence in rain.
I have confidence that spring will come again,
Besides which, you see,
I have confidence in me.

Strength doesn't lie in numbers.
Strength doesn't lie in wealth.
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumber.
When you wake up, wake up!
It's healthy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ba da bing

Reminds me of the old joke: "If I'd've known I was gonna live this long, I'd've taken better care of myself."

Yoghurt

Yoghurt can also be spelled yogurt and in fact that's the more common spelling. Lately I've been eating yoghurt in the evenings, just a small bowl of plain white yoghurt, to see if it prevents my getting heartburn at night that wakes me up. I think it's been helping.

Last night I thought I'd really put it to the test because I had pizza for dinner. I had pizza because I had a dentist appointment in the afternoon. You see, a visit to the dentist fills me with a mixture of pride in doing a righteous deed--taking care of my oral health--and self-pity for enduring the unpleasantness of metal instruments and high-pitched noisy gadgets inserted into my mouth to poke, prod, scrape, and polish. Since I felt sorry for myself, I felt I deserved a treat, and since I was proud of myself, I also deserved a treat, so on my way home I stopped at Papa Murphy's. That is a take-and-bake pizza chain in this region. They put the pizza together for you but don't cook it. You cook it when you get home, so it's freshly made.

So I consoled and rewarded myself with pizza and shortly before bed I ate my little bowl of yoghurt, and I think it helped. I did not wake up with heartburn. So tonight for dinner I had, you guessed it, leftover pizza. And now I ate my little bowl of yoghurt.

While I was dishing it up, I remembered some old commercials that seemed to hint that since certain Eastern European tribes who ate a lot of yoghurt commonly lived to well over a hundred years old, so might people who bought their brand of yoghurt. Hey, maybe in addition to settling my stomach I'd also live to be 120. However, I immediately thought that I could not afford to live that long. Given my current rate of pay, savings, and general prosperity, I'm expecting that if I ever do retire I will run out of money approximately a week and a half later. Then I will have to throw myself on the mercy of my relatives. And then imagine their chagrin if I lived decade after decade, the next generation of my family themselves retiring, and maybe even the next generation after that, and still having old Auntie sitting around the place swilling yoghurt. I was going to say "spooning yoghurt into my toothless gums," but remembering how this story started with a trip to the dentist no doubt I will still have a fine set of choppers.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Yawn

I have thought of many amusing things to say, but I am too tired to write them all now. So just go to bed and try to have amusing dreams.