Monday, February 25, 2013

"They Call the Wind Maria"

There has been a wind advisory all day today and it is still in effect until 10:00 pm tonight  We've had winds of 20-30 m.p.h. with gusts as high as 50 m.p.h.  That's windy!  In fact, Hurricane force winds begin at 70 m.p.h., just to put it into perspective!    There was no precipitation accompanying the wind.  In fact it was most sunny outside....with a lot of blowing!

Trees and shrubs are bending and whipping around, and fences are blowing down all over town.  Tree branches and yard debris litter lawns and parking lots.  Dust and dirt fill the air at times, looking very much like a dust storm that you often see in open desert-y kinds of terrain.  Street signs and stoplights are bouncing around in the wind and look none too secure.  I didn't see any that actually came loose, but it wouldn't have surprised me if it did happen!

I was having lunch in a restaurant this afternoon and the lights flickered and went out  about 5 or 6 times.  Every time the lights when out and the emergency lights came on, you could hear a chorus of groans and muffled yells of frustration coming out of the kitchen.  As I mentioned it was a mostly sunny day, so the seating areas of the restaurant were not plunged into darkness periodically.  There were lots of windows, so you could still see.  The kitchen however, is buried in the middle of the building with no windows at all.  I surely wouldn't want to be slicing, dicing, or frying something in the almost dark!  And after the sun went down, the almost dark was probably a lot darker!

The servers said that it had been happening all day.  The lights didn't stay out for long, probably no more that 30-45 seconds, but when it happens 5 or 6 times in an hour for about 5 hours, that's got to be annoying!  The servers also said that every time the lights go out, of course, that means that the computers go out too.  That was wreaking havoc on orders to the kitchen and on creating the bills for customers, because unlike light bulbs which immediately re-light when the electricity comes back on, computers took a long time to get back up and running again.  I overheard part of a conversation from a table across from me, and learned that the mini-outages had been happening in the nearby mall as well.

To give credit where due, however, my lunch was not affected at all that I could tell.  It was served in a timely manner and was piping hot just as it should have been.  Kudos to the staff of The Olive Garden.  Nice job guys!

It is frequently windy in Austin, partly due to all the hills and valleys (I think), but today was over the top.  Because of the high winds they have also issued a fire weather alert.  The wind could quickly fan the smallest spark into a major wildfire.  Since the wildfires of a couple of winters ago in several sections around Austin, everyone is aware that, yes, it could happen here again!  So they are a bit more vigilant about fire safety.

I have never much cared for wind.  I'm a small (okay....short) person and if I'm outside, some of those gusts can make me feel like I could just be picked up and blown away.  Strong winds usually mean that a cold front is moving into the area, so usually the winds are cold too.  The wind chill for today as 49F while the actual temperature was in the low 60s.   This kind of wind blows cars around on the road and that is not a great feeling either!  As I sat in my car for a few minutes after lunch, I was bouncing around just like I was flying into turbulence at 30,000 ft!  It was disconcerting!

Since I got home, the winds have died down a little.  I can still hear things outside so it's still pretty blowy out there, but it's not too bad.  The good news is I don't see any evidence that the power went out (clocks are still correct) and our fence seems to be all in one piece, thank goodness.

According a lovely musical, named Paint Your Wagon, "....the rain is Bess, the fire Joe, and  They Call the Wind Maria", but today in Austin, they just call it a pain in the rump-us room!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Do You Hear What I Hear?"

I am deaf.  The Big Guy is deaf. Communication is lots of fun at our house!

Well, okay, neither of us is completely deaf, but we both have real hearing loss. It is frustrating to us and it is annoying to other people.  Some people have no patience with our problem and are constantly suggesting that maybe it's time we get hearing aids. Neither Mikey nor I feel that we have reached a point where we think it's time to go the hearing aid route.  For both of us it is not really that we can't hear others speaking to us, it's that we sometimes cannot distinguish what is being said!  It is particularly bad when we are out in a public place.  There is so much background noise!  Not only that but most people talk very fast, they speak softly, they do not face you when speaking, and truth be told, they just flat out mumble!  When that all happens at the same time, neither Mikey nor I have a prayer of being able to get it all!

Unfortunately, my hearing loss is complicated by an ongoing battle with sinus congestion exacerbated by a deviated septum.  You see, the deviation prevents normal sinus drainage and that causes congestion and the congestion localizes in my sinuses, causes inflammation and swelling, which in turn presses on the ear drum which results in............diminished hearing!  I know that part of my hearing problem is caused by this because pretty regularly, when I'm driving, if there is a change in elevation (i.e. going up or down a big change in a BIG hill), my ears will pop and I can hear much better for a short time.

In addition to the sinus problem though, there is a definite loss of being able to hear certain frequencies that is probably due to the many ear infections I have had over the course of my life.  Mikey's difficulties appear to be more just the regular hearing loss most folks get as a part of the aging process.  The two different kinds of deafness in our house can be kind of funny.

From what I understand, certain vocal frequencies carry different kinds of sounds.  For instance, I was told by an audiologist that vowel sounds are carried at the high frequencies and consonants are carried on the low frequencies.  Most age-related hearing loss occurs first in the high frequencies.  That is Mikey's problem. He cannot hear high frequency sounds.  For instance, there is some sort of sensor in his car that has a two tone, high pitched beep as the engine cools.  Every time he comes home and turns off the car, the beep will start and continue at longer and longer intervals until the engine cools to a certain point.  I know this because I can hear it.  Mikey, however, cannot hear it (and at first thought I was delusional!)

On the other hand, my problem is the reverse.  My hearing loss is in the lower frequencies.

So, in other words, Mikey cannot hear some of the higher frequency vowels!  So when someone is speaking to him, particularly a female, all he can hear clearly are the consonants so it sounds something like, "kfgjl ldlrjd lkkfgll; dkt;d jgmvnn!"  Whereas, I cannot hear some of the lower frequencies so all I can hear clearly are the vowels, sort of like, "eioo  ooa iauuuu oioaa yyaoo eeoiii!"   And neither of us can understand half of what is being said to us.  It is really funny when he and I are alone.
sometimes our conversations go back and forth like this:

Mikey:   (high frequency gibberish)
Me:   Excuse me??
Mikey:   (repeats louder)
Me:  What?
Mikey:  (repeats again)
Me:   (low frequency gibberish)
Mikey:  Huh??
Me:   (repeats louder)
Mikey: (mumble, mumble squeak)
Me:   I'm sorry but I can't hear you.  What did you say?
Mikey:  Oh never mind.

Then we go about our business until the next time one of us has something to say.  Now of course, many times, this doesn't happen because we are in close proximity and can add in a little lip-reading.  It's amazing how just being able to see someone's mouth can make such an enormous difference!  But when we are at opposite ends of the house, it's frustrating.

If there is some random unusual sound that occurs from time to time, one of us will say "Did you hear that?"  The other will say "Hear what?"    If the sound is too high, he can't hear it.  If it's too low, I can't hear it.

The trouble is, we kind of forget about the deafness  in between conversations and thus we are doomed to repeating these frustrating talks increasingly often!

We are undoubtedly going to have to break down and look into the hearing aid thing pretty soon.  I just wish that what I have heard about hearing aids was more positive.  I'm kind of hoping that by holding off, we will be able to take advantage some wonderful new state-of-the-art technology that will make hearing easier without all the problems that others have reported.  We'll see.

In the meantime, though, conversations at our house are pretty haphazard and if we're not careful, can lead to ALL KINDS of misunderstandings!  Husbands and wives frequently don't understand their spouse's actions or opinions to begin with, if we can't even hear each other, that lack of understanding becomes a real challenge!

It's really kind of surprising , just how much "attitude"  can be conveyed through "kfgjl ldlrjd lkkfgll; dkt; dm jgmvnn!" and  "eioo  ooa iauuuu oioaa yyaoo eeoiii!"      Not to worry though, we've been married so long that we've already said all of the important stuff!!!   LOL!!

"Sorry, what did you say???"    You know, this getting old thing is really beginning to lose its charm!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"World Gone Wrong"

The following is freely admitted to be a RANT!  These are my words and opinions and not those of anyone else.  They have been written in outrage, and incredulity, and blinding-hot anger.  I am completely responsible for this content.  The thing is though....every single man and woman in the U.S. needs to understand where this could and most possibly will, happen as a result of this event in Alabama!  

Have you seen the latest??  The Alabama's mostly Republican House has shown it's true colors and made it absolutely clear that as far as they are concerned, women have no rights, they have no say,  they are unimportant and the only acceptable activity for women is to crank out child after child after child, and --- this is the really important part, even though it is never stated as such --- stay home to care for those children and get the hell out of the work force!   After all, if women were not working they wouldn't be taking jobs that belong to men!  Women wouldn't be demanding equal pay for equal work because every man knows that women can never be as good at anything as men.  Women wouldn't be asking employers to fund pregnancy leave or safe child care.  There would be no need for any employer to pay for a woman's healthcare except as a spouse and then only when the male employee is willing to cough up extra money for his wife and children's healthcare.  The "religious-based" employers or the legislators could then begin to dictate that their employees must be Republican or must join their church or can only marry "appropriate" individuals.... you know, people just like them!  What happened to "separation of Church and State??"

This is a very slippery-slope and could lead to other outrageous activities.....Pretty soon they will be putting up signs like "Jews need not apply" or "Men"  "Women" and "Colored" on rest rooms, and the KKK will rise again!!

Am I over-reacting??  Are my comments over the top??  A couple of years ago I would have said of course!  But today I find I am living in a world that is changing before my eyes.  And changing for the WORSE!  I am no longer sure that wisdom will prevail.  I am no longer confident  that the forces behind this and other incredibly stupid actions will be stopped.

What the State of Alabama has done is to completely ignore the intent and provisions of the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments, the Bill of Rights and have publicly revealed through this action that they despise and fear women.  This cannot go on.  Really, it can't!

WOMEN:   Get off your asses and exercise your rights before they are completely taken away.  Make no mistake this is NOT about religion or religious beliefs.  This isn't even about abortion or contraception.  This is about MONEY, GREED,  FEAR, AND MALE DOMINANCE.  Women cannot count on our lawmakers to be fair and just and protect our freedoms.  And any legislator (man or woman) who supports this incredibly discriminatory and misogynistic  legislation deserves to be summarily dismissed from public office for blatant and egregious misconduct!!  This is NOT what the United States is about.  At least not the United States that I used to live in.  This is what happens in a "World Gone Wrong!"

My fellow women, look deeply at this issue and it's UNSPOKEN CONSEQUENCES!  We cannot allow this to happen!  Although it may not  happen overnight, at some point our daughters and granddaughters will have to try to break free and regain the freedoms that this generation is so blithely allowing to disappear.  Women, use your own thought process, don't just accept what your husband, father, brother, church, preacher, or congressmen tell you!   Their agenda is NOT your agenda!  You are allowed to make your own decisions and choices.  You are a U.S. Citizen and your opinion is every bit as valuable as anyone else's!

It is up to US, the women, to ensure that our freedoms are not blocked by any congressman, president, lawyer, church, or political organization.  Because if we don't do it, you can bet the farm, that no one else will!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Writing Wrongs"

A day or two ago as I was reading through some of the blogs I visit frequently, I came upon a linky post by one of the DIY bloggers I love (which one is immaterial at the moment.)  This blogger has a regular feature of linking-in parties for those that have a DIY project they'd like to share.  Last week there were three separate contributors that had posted about Valentine's Day decorations around their fireplaces.  All three had the same word misspelled!  I couldn't believe it!  Three of them!  They each used the same homonym (you know, those words that sound alike but are spelled differently) for the word they meant!  

Being always helpful, I was just about to write some sort of not-too-snarky comment correcting them and showing them the error of their ways!  As I was about to start writing the comment, I thought I would check the dictionary to get the definitions of both words correct. So I pulled out my old trusty Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, flipped to the right pages and there it was.  Horrors!!  I couldn't believe my eyes!!  I was so sure that I was right and they were wrong.....but (oh, the shame of it) it turned out that (shudder....) I was the one who was wrong!   I had it backwards, not them!  They all three used the correct word and the homonym I was about to correct them with would have been the mistake!!    

Just to satisfy your curiosity, because I just KNOW you all are sitting there muttering,  " What word??"   "What homonym??"    "What did you get wrong???"   "What words are you talking about??"   Here they are:  Mantel -- as in the fireplace thing,  versus Mantle,  (as in, no, no stop that!!  Sheesh!)  Mantle -- as in a)  a loose, sleeveless cloak or cape; or b)  something that covers, envelops, or conceals: the mantle of darkness. Those ladies were talking about decorating their fireplace mantels, and they were absolutely correct!

Well let me tell you, that took me down a peg or two!  Thank heaven I looked before I leaped!  And none of the three of them knew that they had just been saved from the terrible swift sword of my snarky finger-pointing.  I slunk away from the computer completely demoralized and embarrassed.  I was WRONG.....about a WORD.....oh my goodness, I was about to send out 3 "Writing Wrongs" out to the whole world!!    I may have to completely re-build my confidence about language from the ground up!!  I am so grateful for whatever it was that made me check the words.  If I had done my usual impetuous "point first, check later" cheekiness, I would never be able to hold up my head in Blogland ever again.  

Then I remembered that I, too, had written about decorating my fireplace for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago.  Because I didn't feel humiliated and embarrassed enough, I decided to look up that posting from 2010.  And there it was, big as life....

"The first picture is the mantle, which doesn't actually look quite so bare in reality." 

Oh Lordy, I was wrong back then too!!   This was evidently a long-standing error in usage.  Who knows how many times I may have blatantly advertised to the world that I didn't know the right word for a fireplace mantel!!   And nobody ever commented that I had used the wrong word.  I guess everybody else is nicer than I am.  Yes, my embarrassment is now complete!

NOTE TO SELF:    Really Girl, you have GOT to get over yourself!  You need to remember that you are not a perfect human being, that you are not always right, and that occasionally you can still actually learn something!   It is a lesson I guess I really need to learn!

I've got to tell you though, "mantel" STILL looks wrong to me!!    :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"It Might As Well Be Spring"

This has been a pretty mild winter this year (at least so far.)  But today it skipped right over to Spring!  The high temperature today was right around 80F.  Sunny, slight breeze and 80 degrees!   "It Might As Well Be Spring!"  I didn't even need a sweater outside today.  Ahhhh, my kind of weather.

Austin's winters can be a real mixed bag.  Some years we get ice, freezing temps, even a bit of snow!   Other years it just is cold and damp with a lot of rain.  This year has been dry,  medium cold, with lots of grey skies but no real wintery-days.  We haven't had a really rainy winter in several years, which is really a shame because we are still officially in a drought.  This year there has been a bit of rain but  not enough to come anywhere close to ending the drought.

Lake Travis, which is actually part of the Lower Colorado river, is a good size resevoir, with a dam and everything.  It's not as large and impressive as the Hoover Dam, but the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) controls when and how much water is released from the  reservoir to flow downstream to other parts of Texas south of here.  The water level in the lake is significantly below normal (something like 16' low) so there just isn't that much water available to release.

I never realized it but evidently there are rice farmers south of Austin, somewhere along the course of the river.  Somehow I would never have thought of  Texas as a good place to grow rice.  If anything I would have thought that rice was grown in wet, kind of swampy, places with lots of rain.  Shows you what I know!  Nevertheless, Texas is a rice state!  How about that?  The water for the rice farms comes from the waters released from the reservoir at Lake Travis.  Well evidently, the LCRA is not going to release water any time soon   They can't, I guess.  The lake is already so low that this huge reservoir has islands!!  Really!  It's very sad looking.

Anyway, if they don't release water for the rice farmers, it will be a very poor year for rice (among other things).

I don't know much about climate change, or global warming, or water conservation other than what you hear on the news and such.  But with days in the upper 70s, not much precipitation (neither rain nor snow) while it is still the middle of February (!) even I have to admit that we need rain a lot more than we need more warm sunny days!   I think this is the third or fourth time I written about drought but it sure doesn't seem to be getting much better.

The Austin area is the Eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country.  It's supposed to be green, with lots of farms with produce and/or livestock.  If it doesn't start to rain occasionally and if the reservoir doesn't fill up pretty soon, our pretty, green, hilly part the State will begin to look like West Texas with everything brown, dry, windblown, and bare just like an old cowboy movie!  And that would NOT be good!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Cappella

595!  Five hundred and ninety-five posts!  No wonder I sometimes feel like I have run out of things to say (well.....write!)  I've been blogging since July 4, 2009 and I have written 595 posts, kind of amazing, don't you think?  I've written stories, rants, silliness, tributes, and complaints; shared other people's posts, lamented over life's injustices and celebrated accomplishments both large and small.  It's a mixed bag of observations, pronouncements, and a variety of (hopefully) amusing tales.

Part of the problem I'm encountering is that my life is fairly stagnant right now.  Not a lot going on in any part of my life.  After all, how many times can one write about nothing?  Some of that inactivity is because it's winter.  In winter, I generally come as close to hibernating as it's possible for a human to do!  In years gone by, winter was still a busy time for me, life doesn't usually slow down just because it's cold and grey outside. Like everyone else, I still had as much going on as any other time of the year.  What that meant was that I still had obligations and activities that made it worthwhile to brave the cold and wind to do!   But now? Not so much!  And that means no new fodder for blog posts.

I have mentioned (a few thousand times) that I love being retired.  Not having to get up every morning and force myself out the door (no matter what the weather) to trudge off to a job is actually one of my greatest accomplishments!  I worked for  40 years!  I held responsible positions that I (mostly) enjoyed.  Met people, made friends, got involved, made a contribution!  I miss a lot of it.  But after 40 years I was done!  I earned the rest!  And I am glad to be free of the burden of obligation to a job!

Nevertheless I recognize the irony....I didn't want to work anymore so that I could enjoy other activities I loved and could spend time with friends and family whenever I wanted to.  So now I don't work, but there aren't many activities I'm involved in and I have very few friends or family near enough to spend any time with.  Hardly seems fair, does it?

I have two character flaws that are contributing (perhaps even causing) the stagnation.  I am NOT a self-motivated person.  I have never been the sort to seek out things to do just to keep busy.  The other flaw is that I have a somewhat addictive personality, thus once I find an activity I like, I spend way too much time doing it!  At this point, I have no motivation to break away from my current addiction!  I spend waaaay too much time on the computer!  Facebook, email, e-browsing (I don't buy much, I just "Windows-shop"!)  and the true time killer computer games.  There are millions of them.  The days when "computer games" meant solitaire or Pac-man are gone.  Now you can play long involved story-based games that allow you to rule the world!  You can play every board game ever invented.  You can try your luck at any TV game that has ever been broadcast.  Games of chance, games of skill, games of strategy, good games, dopey games, even educational games.  Games that accomplish nothing at all except to fill your days with wasted time.

And believe me, there isn't a whole lot about the games you play that is worth blogging about!

I think what this means is I desperately need a life!  Otherwise my next 595 posts will be nothing more than repeated lamentations that I don't have anything to write about!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Singin'' in the Rain"

Even though he was a little tall for his age, as soon as he put on his extra-extra-large rain boots and got his Babar lunchbox, Benny knew he'd fit right in with all the other kids on the way to kindergarten!!    :)

"Singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain....."

Friday, February 1, 2013

"School Days"

Way back, a millennia or so ago, when I was in high school I did everything I could to avoid advanced math and advanced science classes.  As I may have mentioned a few hundred times, I'm not any good at math and I wasn't any good at it back then either!  I hated trying to understand anything to do with numbers.  Because I hated it, I did not even try very hard either.  (Shhhh, don't tell my mother!)  Somehow I managed to figure out that a lot of advanced science classes used a lot of advanced math. So why would I torture myself by taking calculus, or trig or chemistry, or physics?   All that was required for graduation in my high school was to take either a life science or a physical science, so I stuck with numbers!  In the math area I never had to take anything higher level than Solid Geometry (which was no snap, let me tell you!)  

Well anyway, I'm not sure if it was just the times, or that it was such a small town, or if I just blocked it out, but I don't recall ever hearing anything about a Science Fair or the like.  I certainly never did an individual major science project for any kind of competition or even NOT for any kind of competition.  That was just fine with me!  In fact, having to do something like that would have been my worst nightmare come true!

That was in high school, before that in Junior High (before Middle School was invented) and elementary school, math and science were much more basic and there were no Science Fairs there either.

But, oh my dears, times have changed!

I told you some months ago that M-t-G is in 6th grade this year and attending a Magnet Middle School with an advanced academic program for bright kids.  She is doing very well (for the most part "A"s).  She is even in an honors math class.  She loves math and does very well in it.  (She does not take after her Grammy in this regard!  Thank goodness!)  Each of her classes is challenging and for the first time she finds she has to work harder than she had to in grammar school.  This is a good thing, because she is finally being required to think and put some real effort into her classes.  Still she loves it (most of the time anyway.)

Last semester for her science class all the kids were required to undertake an individual project that they worked on all semester.  The assignment was to make a time-keeping device that would ring a bell consistently every 1-2 seconds (I think.)  They had to do everything themselves and could use only things from around the house.  They could spend no more than $10.  They had to keep a journal of their daily progress, then give an oral presentation of the plan, another presentation of the working device, and finally a written report outlining the whole project, the steps taken, the processes used, and give a demonstration of the working device.  Yikes!  

M-t-G elected to make a water clock!  (I didn't even know what a water clock was!)  It was made using a wooden wheel which turned on a spindle with little medicine cups attached all around the wheel to collect the water which was funneled from a 2 liter soda bottle through a tube, the water landed in the little cups which made the wheel turn.  It had 2 nails hammered into the wheel.  As the wheel turned the nails would, in theory, strike a small bell within the time constraints given.  

M-t-G had to research the project, choose the elements she would use, figure out how and where to place things, build it, make adjustments until it worked the way it was supposed to and document everything.  It was an enormous project for an 11 year old.  Even a bright one!  Parents were only to provide guidance and that is was T.A. and Ratchlet did.  M-t-G did everything herself.  It took every bit of time that was allowed and she encountered many challenges and problems along the way.  In fact, the first time she was to give a working demonstration, it did not meet the time interval requirement.  She then had 2 more days to try to fix it and to present it again.  She made some adjustments and when she went to present it for the worked!!  Because it didn't work the first time, she did not get an "A", but she got a B+ (I believe.)  And she learned a lot about perseverance and commitment, and water clocks!

She was close to despair a time or two along the way, but she kept at it until she got it right!  We were all very proud of her.  She had participated in Science Fairs when she was in grammar school but nothing of the same scope, originality, ingenuity, and creativity.  She worked hard and she made it come out right.  She made a working water clock at the age of 11 in the 6th grade.  May I just say WOW!  What a project and what an accomplishment!!  And most of all....what a kid!

I don't know about you, but I sure don't think "School Days" are what they used to be!

This semester they have to make a working musical instrument capable of making 8 tones that are tunable!   M-t-G has chosen to make a hammered dulcimer....

Oh my Lord!!

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