Sunday, September 29, 2013

Go figure

Sometimes I think about blogging and then I think that I've done it and then I come here and realize I haven't.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Seeking inspiration. Not finding it.

Googled "Thursday":

“This must be Thursday,” said Arthur to himself, sinking low over his beer. “I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Something, anything, or nothing

I have so many household tasks that need doing that I don't want to do any of them. I tell myself, Just do something. Anything you do is better than nothing. And I did do a little bit, but much, much more remains to be done.

Meanwhile, this morning I attended the local Walk to Defeat ALS. My oldest brother died of ALS almost 7 years ago, and now a cousin of mine has it, too. It's a terrible disease.

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My brother, a little more than 7 years ago

I am now at the age he was when he died.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I did it all by myself

My cousin who has been doing my lawn care has resigned from the position, due to other demands on his time, and due to the departure to college of his assistant and son, my first-cousin-once-removed.

While I was thinking about whom to hire in his place, the grass started to get long, so yesterday I did a bold thing and mowed it myself! The lawn is large, so we have a riding mower -- a John Deere, in fact. Nothing runs like a Deere.

Well, I hadn't driven it before, so I searched online for "how to operate a John Deere lawn mower," and I read some instructions and watched a couple videos then went out the shed and figured it out.

I'm kind of proud of myself.

My handiwork.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Serve yourself and save the difference

I didn't get to the grocery store over the weekend, so on my way home from work today I decided to stop at a store that recently opened in Bellingham: WinCo. When I drove in, it was bigger and more monolithic than I expected, and that made me feel like it would be time-consuming to look for the few items I wanted. But, since I had taken the trouble to drive into the parking lot, I parked and went in.

It was very large and warehousey, and I walked up and down most of the aisles to see what there was to see, and I found my stuff.

I chose what looked like a reasonably short check-out line and realized that you have to bag your own groceries there. The lady in front of me most efficiently bagged hers, but the cashier had evidently graduated at the bottom of her class from checker school, poor thing. A produce bag full of tomatoes caused a stoppage. She kept looking at the sticker, entering a code, peering at the screen, asking the customer how much it cost per pound, and the re-doing all those steps. She pressed a button for help. She checked the remainder of the items and then continued to try to figure the cost of the tomatoes. She again pushed her help button and finally another woman came to assist. She too entered a code and frowned at the screen, then she looked at a piece of paper, pronounced the price per pound, asked the checker if she knew how to do that, and, finally, between the two of them they got the tomatoes checked out. Then the customer tried to use her debit card and the machine kept buzzing at her, and the cashier told her to start over.

I tried to keep my face expressionless the whole time. I hate it when people throw hissy fits in stores and, ever since I was a cashier my first year out of college, courtesy to cashiers has been one of my benchmarks of character. The customer kept looking at me deprecatingly and finally mouthed how sorry she was. I told her no problem at all.

Anyway, it all finally got done, then I got checked out, bagged my own groceries and headed home.

I wasn't that crazy about my WinCo experience, but I will say that a lot of the items were noticeably cheaper than at other stores.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


I took a picture this afternoon to show the work I had done. The significant thing in this picture is what's not there. For a couple years there were two half-barrels (stacked one inside the other) and an old wheelbarrow by this pile of grass clippings. Now they're gone.

I moved a lot of junk today, put it into the back of my dad's pickup and took it to the dump, where I dumped it.

The most interesting part of this enterprise was the moving of the two half-barrels. As I mentioned, one was stacked inside the other, like you can do with paper cups.

They were out there because several years ago, when my dad installed pavers to replace the boards of my deck, the workers moved these barrels, which were serving as planters, and found they were starting to fall apart. So they stuck them out there, and there they stayed until today.

I always found them unsightly and wanted them gotten rid of, but they were heavy, too heavy for me (for instance) to move. This weekend, I was determined to get rid of all the unsightly junk that I could, so yesterday on my way home from work I stopped at Ace Hardware and bought a hand truck.

I used to call that a "dolly" but "hand truck" seems to be the current or local term.

Anyway, I wiggled the platform under the bottom of the bottom barrel and tilted back. I had to hold the opposite side of the inner barrel to keep them from tipping off again and lean the hand truck way down, so I was moving with a very bent posture. I noticed a round hole in the bottom of the barrel that was inside the other one, and it made me remember once when I saw a mole on my deck and, when I startled it, it crawled under a planter barrel. I thought I bet it went through that hole into the dirt in the barrel.

Even as I thought about the mole, a movement caught my eye, I let the load drop and a pointed nose and a pair of bright black eyes poked out of the hole. Next thing a rat -- I'm sure it was a rat -- came out through the hole leaped out of the barrel and ran back to the trees, shrubs, and undergrowth by the creek.

I'm sure it was a rat. It was gray, it had a hairless tail, and it was too big to be a mouse. With its little nose and bright eyes, it was almost cute. It did not remind me of filth and city sewers but more the kind of creature that could be in Wind in the Willows or a Beatrix Potter book.

Nevertheless I was taken aback. "I hope you were living alone, buddy," I said, and stood looking at the barrels, loath to lean in and hold onto them to move them. I kicked at them a bit and waited and, hearing no further noise, and no further animals leaping out, I did lean in, tilt the hand truck, and laboriously move the load up to the driveway, where I had Dad's truck backed in.

I managed to get the inner barrel out of the outer one and more or less heaved into the bed of the truck. When I went to pick up the second barrel, it fell to pieces. Every stave separated, the metal hoops fell into a pile, and lots of leaf litter and dirt plopped onto the pavement as the bottom dropped out. I got a snow shovel and a rake out of the garage and was going to scrape the dirt and leaves up with the shovel, using the rake to push it onto the shovel blade, and just put it over in the dirt by some bushes by the side of the house, where it could serve as mulch.

I heard some squeaking that at first I thought was birds, but I realized it was tiny creatures in the leaves and dirt. I even saw tiny pink feet waving around helplessly, and I realized it was a nest of baby rats.

Rats are vermin. I know that. The sensible, the farm wifely thing to do would be to kill them. I had a shovel right there. But their little cries and tiny waving limbs made me feel sorry for them. So I did scoop the dirt and litter, including the rat babies, onto the shovel, but I then carried it down to the creek, to where I had seen the adult rat run into the undergrowth, and I tipped them out there. I ended up making three or four trips because I didn't get all the babies the first time. I kept hearing more squeaking and finding another one or two.

They were gray and looked hairless and their eyes were not open.

I figured either their mother might find them and drag them off to another hidey hole (I don't know if rats can carry their young like cats carry their kittens), or their natural predators will find them, or they will die of exposure or starvation.

I got the broken barrel bits into the truck and lots of other junk, including the old wheelbarrow that had been by the grass pile and took it all to the dump.

Later in the morning I had coffee with my folks. When I told my dad about not being able to bring myself to smash the baby rats, I expected maybe he would shake his head and say, "City kids," which he sometimes does when I show too much tendency to anthropomorphize animals. My dad grew up on a farm. But he said, "I don't blame you."

At various times during the remainder of the day, I have been searching online to see what kind of rat it may have been, and how old the babies might have been, and so on, and I must say that reading all the information about rats has made me feel a little nauseated, plus worried about how many other rats might be in my back yard.

I do believe I also have cat living on the property. I think it lives under the oldest shed we have. I have seen it there while out in the back yard walking my dog around. There are also lots of cats in the neighborhood. When I used to keep a full birdfeeder, we had nearly constant cat presence as they stalked the birds. We also had a lot of squirrels eating out of the feeder. We do still have some squirrels around. I see them frequently.

I'll just hope that what rats there may be are finding enough food down by the creek not to come up towards the house, and that the neighborhood cats will also keep them in line.

I hope I don't dream about them tonight. Could be a nightmare, big time.

I'd better read something to distract my mind.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I love to go a-wandering

Today I had to take posters for the agency where I work, which serves low-income people, to various other organizations to ask if they would put them up so our potential clients would know about our services.

One of the places I went to was Bellingham's homeless shelter, the Lighthouse Mission. When I was walking toward their drop-in center, I was struck by the juxtaposition of a handful of the urban poor standing in front of a homeless shelter, with a big billboard across the street advertising a luxury hotel and restaurant, also named "Lighthouse" something-or-other. I didn't read it closely enough to remember the name, but after searching online, I believe it was the Lighthouse Bar & Grill at the Bellwether Hotel, which is, in fact, just down the road a ways from the shelter, sort of.

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I am not one for leading the rich people's guilt trip, but it did seem almost in bad taste to put that particular billboard in that particular place.

Another place I needed to go was a social services office, DSHS, as it's called around here. My co-worker had told me it was right near Christ the King Church, which is a church in a strip mall.

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So I pulled into the strip mall off Bakerview and to my right I could see the big entrance doors of Christ the King Church. I figured it wouldn't be in that building and I took a left and drove by the store fronts, doing sort of a U-shaped trek, without seeing DSHS. But this big parking lot let onto other parking lots. I crossed some kind of road and drove into a lot featuring a Dairy Queen restaurant.

"DQ, DSHS, what's the difference?" I said to myself. (Of course, I was just joking. You can get a milkshake at DQ but not at DSHS.) I kept rolling along, seeing the Department of Licensing -- yay, a government building, surely I must be close -- but then an empty store, back on the little road and then into the parking lot of a bowling alley. But I said, "She said it was near Christ the King, so I'd better go back," and driving toward those doors I saw to one side the DSHS. When I first came into the parking lot and saw CTK (as it is also known) to my right, I should have taken the right and driven past the large, impressive front of CTK to the smaller, more seedy front of DSHS.

The impressive front of CTK

After leaving my posters there, I pulled out onto the Guide Meridian and went north a very short ways then turned left onto a road I thought would take me to Whatcom Community College, but it turned out to be that little road I had been on before and, yikes, there were the bowling alley and the DQ. "Oh, no," I said, "I'm in the parking lot from hell." But eventually I found my way out again and completed all my stops.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Too beautiful

It might seem like lazy blogging to embed youtube videos, but really, this song I keep singing.

The first two verses come from an old hymn that I first came across in Tom Sawyer, in the chapter where he goes to church:

The minister gave out the hymn, and read it through with a relish, in a peculiar style which was much admired in that part of the country. His voice began on a medium key and climbed steadily up till it reached a certain point, where it bore with strong emphasis upon the topmost word and then plunged down as if from a spring-board:

Shall I be car-ri-ed to the skies, on flow'ry BEDS of ease,
Whilst others fight to win the prize, and sail thro' BLOOD-y seas?

He was regarded as a wonderful reader. At church "sociables" he was always called upon to read poetry; and when he was through, the ladies would lift up their hands and let them fall helplessly in their laps, and "wall" their eyes, and shake their heads, as much as to say, "Words cannot express it; it is too beautiful, TOO beautiful for this mortal earth."

I have sung it as a traditional hymn, as written by Isaac Watts. It was recorded by The Carter Family in a bluegrass style with a different chorus and third verse:

Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause
Or blush to speak His name?

On the sea (the sea the sea)
Of Galilee (of Galilee),
My Jesus is walking on the sea.
On the sea (the sea the sea)
Of Galilee (of Galilee),
My Jesus is walking on the sea.

Must I be carried to the sky
On flowery beds of ease
While others fight to win the prize
And sail through bloody seas?

There shall I take my weary soul
In seas of heavenly rest
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast.

Here is the Carter Family version as sung by Emmylou Harris and the Peasall Sisters (who appeared little girls in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? singing "I'll be somewhere a working for my Lord"):

I like a song that says "my Jesus." It's sweet and intimate.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mountainous names

Last January, I posted some pictures of Canadian mountains but didn't know the names of them: Janette Kok: Saturday to the north. One day I happened to be looking at a map, saw a couple of names of mountains in B.C., and searched them. I found out they were these very ones.

This one is Mount Robie Reid:

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And this double peak is, I'm pretty sure, Mount Judge Howay:

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Here are the two together:

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I'm not a hundred percent sure of the Judge Howay identification, but I'm pretty sure of the Robie Reid one. That one's quite a unique shape.

If anyone from British Columbia knows their mountain peaks, please feel free to correct me and/or to name the conical peak to the right of the one I've i.d.'ed as Judge Howay.

Meanwhile, just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, these mountains are beautiful, whatever they're called.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Is it September?

Well, when I woke up this morning, my ears felt much better, so that's a mercy. I spent the afternoon with my parents. We watched a DVD of the funeral of a cousin of my mom's. Perhaps not the most thrilling weekend activity, but my mom really wanted to watch it. It's not what we do when I'm with my parents that matters, it's just the being with them. I didn't mind watching it; I could take an interest in the music, the eulogies, the sermon, and the facts of the good man's well-lived life.

On another topic, the weather forecast for next week is warm and on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday downright hot. Bleah.

Fall, please. Bring on autumn, if you will.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Don't say "What?" say "Huh?"

For some reason, my dad, when we kids said "What?" was prone to respond, "Don't say 'What?' say 'Huh?'" and if we said, "Huh?" he would say, "Don't say 'Huh?' say 'What?'" This could go on indefinitely.

Today my ears are a little plugged up, or, rather the left one is a little plugged and the right one is very stopped up. The last time I had this symptom, a doctor diagnosed an ear infection. He was all set to prescribe an antibiotic when I mentioned how those frequently give me allergic reactions, such as hives and even blisters, so he prescribed one unlikely to have that effect. Unfortunately it likewise had no effect on my ear infection, so I called back and he prescribed the one he thought was best for ear infections. That one did give me an allergic reaction. That was in March.

Now I'm getting over a cold but seemingly starting an ear infection, but a cure is likely to be worse than the disease. I'll see how it goes over the weekend. If it doesn't clear up by Monday, I suppose I'll call the doctor's office.