Archive for July, 2010

Surfin’ the Net at the Houghton Lake Internet Cafe

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

It was 2003 and that’s my good old strawberry iMac. I hauled it all over creation. Here it is at the moldy old Houghton Lake cabin. The one that was sinking into the swamp. The one with the creaky old oil furnace that used to conk out all the time and, when you called a furnace repair guy (yeah, they are mostly guys), he would laugh when you told him what model it was. This photooo is from a trip that I have always referred to as Midwinter Break Odyssey 2003. We spent a long weekend at Houghton Lake and then headed on up to Sault Ste. Siberia with a quick stop at Petoskey along the way. Lizard Breath was away at college for her first year, so we only had Mouse with us. When we got to Siberia, Grandroobly greeted us at the door with the terse announcement, “Fran is sick!” Well, I had just talk to her the day before. How the heck was I supposed to process that? Hospital? Home? Where? Turned out it was some sort of monster gastro virus that took the Commander a few days to get over. I found out that Grandroobly had suggested that they call me and tell me not to come up but the Commander nixed that one directly. She knew that he would not bother to eat and that she’d have laundry and whatever dishes he did bother to use to clean when she got well and maybe he’d do something like scatter plat maps all over the living room floor to boot. Much better to have the three of us there to keep house and distract the old coot a bit. I knew that the Commander was beginning to recover the morning that I was using the strawberry iMac in her computer room and I heard her and the GG talking about nuclear bombs in the living room. I thought, “Yep, life is back on track here.”

Anyway, the strawberry iMac is at Houghton Lake in the top photooo and the GG is hooked up to the internet via a dial-up connection through the Merit Network. That iMac was the last fambly-type computer we had. We had already purchased a new iMac for Lizard Breath to take to college, so there were only three of using the strawberry flavored one. Within a few weeks of this photoooo, yer favo-rite blahgger (who hadn’t quiiiiiiite started her blahg yet) rather clandestinely purchased her very own 12″ screen G4 powerbook. I had been needling the GG about “letting” me buy one ever since I first saw an ad for the G4 powerbook. I unthinkingly needled him in front of the Commander and the next thing I knew, that esteemed woman was calling me up saying, “Well! If HE wanted one of those, HE would just BUY one, right?” And she sent me a check. Thank you moom! That’s a bit of a digression in a way but it was after that trip with the strawberry iMac that our rate of acceleration into the information age began to increase, incrementally at first, then faster and faster, until…

It is 2010. The GG is surfing the internet at the NEW fancy Houghton Lake cabin. The one we finally, reluctantly decided we needed to build because we were tired of sloshing through water in the kitchen and listening to furnace repair guys (and they are mostly guys, don’tcha know) laugh at us. There is wi-fi here now (and the Edge network) and the GG is surfing the internet on my old 12″ screen G4 powerbook (the one the Commander cut me the check for, now refurbished with a new hard drive and more memory), Mouse’s old 12″ screen G4 powerbook that she took to college and has since been replaced with the latest and greatest MacBook, aaaaaaannnnnndddddd dun dun dun, That Device (aka the iPad)!!! In all, there are at least nine computers here this weekend. The three the GG is using, his iPhone, Lizard Breath’s old iMac that she took with her when she first went to college (it operates the webcam), my white MacBook, *my* iPhone, the Uncly Uncle’s windows laptop, and my work laptop, also Windows. Is that nine? Yeah, I think it is. What will be next? I do not know…

P.S. Actually, there was another computer at Houghton Lake in 2003 but it isn’t shown in the top photoooo. It was the BTB’s college windows behemoth and it could go on the internet but it couldn’t go on the internet at the same time as the strawberry iMac. They had to take turns.

Didn’t Chelsea Clinton already get married?

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I mean, I thought she was getting married last year. Or was it the year before? I dunno. Somehow, I thought it had already happened. Maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t follow celebrity-type news gossip in general, although sometimes something catches my interest in a transient way. John and Kate Plus Eight? Sextuplets? The Duggars with their 19 biological children? I don’t doggedly follow this stuff and I certainly don’t watch it on TV, except for that one time when the Duggars were on the TV at Houghton Lake. Horrified fascination? I could not leave the room.

I think it’s a good thing that the Clinton wedding has been far enough under my radar screen that I think it has already happened. Maybe it means that Chelsea herself doesn’t *want* a media circus surrounding her wedding vows with her husband. Maybe her parents are helping with that. I will admit that I did not vote for Bill Clinton, at least not the first time. I honestly can’t remember what I did the second time. I know that there was a time when I hated all of the Clintons. And Newt Gringrich too. It was 1995 and there was a showdown over the federal government budget and that caused the infamous government shutdown that probably most people don’t remember now. It meant that my family did not receive a paycheck for the duration. I was mad at the world then and I — VERY immaturely — hated the then first family (and Newt and a whole bunch of other people too). Misplaced anger? Yes yes yes. Big time mea culpa.

That was a long time ago and my opinion about the Clintons has softened. Oh, not that I worship them or anything. And nowadays, unless somebody is coming at me with a knife or an SUV or a bulldozer or words or whatever, I try not to get too upset. The GG and a few other people might disagree but they just haven’t quite caught up with me yet.

I wish all the best for Chelsea and her new husband and kudos to the whole Clinton family for *not* turning the whole event into a media circus. It is a wedding and it is their wedding. The most important people at any wedding are the bride and groom and their families. That is all. Mazel tov.

Cows in the neighborhood?

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

When I don’t have my nose to whatever grindstone is currently in my life and actually think about where I live here on the Planet Ann Arbor, I get just a wee little bit of a deja vu feeling when I am driving north on North Maple, toward my home. When I was a kid and we visited cousins here on the planet, at a certain point, the area freeway system was built up enough that if you wanted to go north from the west side of the planet, to get on the freeway you drove up North Maple past the shopping center that (I think) had an A&P grocery store in it in those days (but now has my fave Plum Market). As a teenager, I remember sitting in the back of Grandroobly’s car as we turned right off Jackson onto N. Maple and sighing because I knew that I had to leave the city that I loved to go back to the northern outpost that I didn’t *think* I loved (but that’s a whole ‘nother blahg entry). Little did I know that we would soon pass my future home, now known as the Landfill. Where I would bring up my children, hang around at the neighborhood school, and walk through the woods.

I was kvetching the other day about not having regular access to the obituaries but wouldn’t you know, today when I read our twice-weekly newspaper, I saw Vicki’s obit. Not my Haisley Mafia friend Vicki who once painted her whole living room royal purple while her husband and boys were off on a boy scout trip. (You know that is a whole ‘nother story, roight?) The Vicki in the obit lived down the street from me. She was 84. That’s five years younger than The Commander. I was friendly with Vicki and her husband but, alas, I am not the kind of neighbor who drops in (Yoo-hoo!) and chit-chats at any moment. I am meeeee and I am not good at that kind of thing. My life would probably be more, well, I dunno, instristing (intentionally misspelled) or better or whatever if I were. But my experience is that whenever I knock on someone’s door unexpectedly (or even expectedly), I interrupt something (i.e., “sorry it took me so long to get to the door and sorry the dog was so upset, uh, I was, uh, in the bathroom”), so… (sigh)

There are two things I remember the most about Vicki. One is that a few weeks after Mouse was born, I was power-walking down the sidewalk and Vicki asked how things were going with Lizard Breath (2-1/2 years then). I told her that LB was just fine and so was our new baby. She was taken aback. “YOU gave birth???” Well, yeah. I dunno. I am a saggy old baggy old bag these days but I did not gain tons of weight during either of my pregnancies. *I* thought I looked pregnant but others didn’t always catch on to it. (And *that* would be a whole ‘nother blahg entry and not one that I’ll get to any time soon.) More importantly, Vicki always said that when she and her husband moved in to their house, there were cows pastured across N. Maple. I think that was before my family took the N. Maple route out of town when I was a kid. By the time we were doing that, there were ticky-tacky houses (like mine) across N. Maple.

We live in a strange little back-water kind of neighborhood, nice but not fancy. Not a lot of turnover. People tend to stay around for a while. It may change as the old folks die off. Or maybe we will take over as the old folks… I’m not ready to die yet. Godspeed Vicki.

Pink Flamingo Poodle

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

I’m sure that my memories of that night in August 1957 differ a bit from The Commander’s. And Radical Betty’s. And definitely my brother’s. I was 3-1/2, so my memories are disconnected little blips. Waking up in my bedroom in our old house on Superior Street in the dark. Or do I remember that? That room wasn’t my bedroom until I was six. I don’t remember what was in there before it was my bedroom, a den or something, but maybe I had been put down for a nap in there. Or maybe I was in another room. I DO remember that Radical Betty took me and Uber Kayak Woman to the Pink Poodle drive-in restaurant. I loved going to the Pink Poodle and I remember having FUN that night. Giggling with UKW in the back seat of Radical Betty’s car. Going to the Pink Poodle late at night with Radical Betty and UKW was an *adventure*! That night, we were on our way out to the moominbeach (sshh, my granddaddy was still around then and he’ll probably shoot lightning bolts at me if he reads this). I stayed with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for the next week. I think I slept at The White Tornado’s cabin, in Susie’s or Sandy’s bottom bunk (I hope I didn’t wet the bed), because I remember The Commander saying she had never seen the skin behind my ears so clean. But I think I spent my days at the Old Cabin with the grandparents and Radical Betty and Bubs and UKW and Pooh, et al. I don’t remember a whole lot about that. After all, it was just life at the cabin and I was well accustomed to that. I DO remember DEMANDING that I be served four-year-old straight pickles. Whaddya mean, you don’t know what four-year-old straight pickles are?

My moom was away for a week. I don’t really remember missing her that much but maybe I did. But I was with my Grandma (who always made things all right) and all my aunts and cousins (who always made things fun) and we were swimming and running around like wild Indians on the beach and making forts in the woods. I think my dad showed up a few times, although he was staying pretty close to town. Because. When my mom finally did show up, she looked a little tired and I was in The White Tornado’s beautiful and spotlessly clean cabin living room and I asked, “Where’s the baby?” Her answer. “He’s not coming home.” Hmmm… I know I did not really understand how to process that. I didn’t even realize what it would be like to have a baby sibling (no telling the gender beforehand in those days). But I had been excited anyway and I remember my stomach dropping into some kind of pit.

As you might guess by the photooo, this story had a good ending, at least for 47 years*. Although I know it from several viewpoints (albeit in a rather patchy way), I can really only give you a high-level overview. My brother was born with an Rh-negative incompatibility (excuse my lack of knowledge of proper medical terminology, I don’t feel like Googling). His complications were so severe that my doctor-uncle thought he was going to die and told The Commander that, pretty much point blank. Which was appropriate because it was the truth. Until my doctor-uncle and another colleague or two cobbled together some sort of contraption that transfused his blood and he came home and grew up into The Engineer.

And so, I am on Facebook as some of you know and/or are tired of hearing about. I joined a group called something like “I love Sault Ste. Marie”. Because I do. This week, they have been posting photos of old restaurants that are no longer around. Dorothy’s, A&W, Flair, Knife & Fork, Penthouse, Dog & Suds, I don’t remember what all, although I do remember all the restaurants. Clyde’s Drive-In? It’s still open (thank you god). I kept thinking Pink Poodle, Pink Poodle, Pink Poodle but I didn’t have a photooo** and I couldn’t exactly remember where the place was located and I started wondering if I was the only person on earth who remembered the Pink Poodle. And then somebody asked, “what ever happened to the Pink Flamingo?” Say what? I thought, “They are talking about the Pink Poodle!” I waited. Somebody finally commented about the Pink Poodle. I thought, “Maybe I’m not nuts!”

Was there a Pink Poodle? If so, exactly where was it? Was there a Pink Flamingo?

* When my brother was born, no one knew anything about hepatitis C, therefore they certainly didn’t test donated blood for it. It takes a *really* long time for H-C to incubate (?) and make you sick but he contracted it at birth and that is what he died from, at 47.

** When I was a kid in the 1950s, cameras and film were expensive, not to mention getting that film developed. If digital cams and the internet had been around then, I would just about bet that The Commander and Radical Betty et al, would’ve been the original mommy bloggers.

In which I continue to crack myself up.

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Well, also because Margaret asked. I used to be one of those people that didn’t like to hear the sound of their own voice recorded. I have no idea what happened! Fargo-type accent? Agategal noticed an accent. I *love* that!!! I’ve never been to Fargo and I didn’t think I *had* an accent. I guess my accent would be midwestern in general, maybe with a bit of Yooper/Canuckian thrown into the mix. Anyway, this is our chitchen. Yes, that is a kid word. It is Lizard Breath’s word. She learned to talk along a pretty normal trajectory. Mouse could say words like “kitchen” with perfect enunciation by the age of about 18 months and use them in a [perfectly enunciated] sentence. This is the chitchen that we are trying to re-do. Our new deadline (yes, new) is Thanksgiving 2010. I know what I want: white cabinets, wood floor (no, not pergo), granite counters (like everybody else, I know…). The problem is that I am *clueless* about how to proceed. I am NOT a shopper and I get overwhelmed after 10 seconds in a store. Will we do it? We’ll see. Why does this seem so easy for everybody else? Why didn’t I marry a contractor? Because life is sooooo much more fun living with a mad scientist. That’s why. Unless you are trying to renovate your chitchen. (The video is just under three minutes if you can stand that much of my voice and rather wandering commentary.)

P.S. Once again, I want to ask YouTube why there isn’t a category called something like “Total Idiocy”? “Entertainment” doesn’t quite cut it for this little number.

Midsummer Night’s Doldrums

Monday, July 26th, 2010

I dunno. I guess I was about at the midsummer doldrums last year at this time. But last year, my summer vacation busman’s holiday was still a couple weeks away from starting. This year, my vacation busman’s holiday is over. I will get up to the moominbeach again this summer but I may not be able to get there for more than a long weekend or two. So, in a weird kind of way, it feels like summer is over. Even as I am standing here sweating in the Landfill Chitchen in the last week of July, I am thinking about September and closing the moomincabin for the long hardland of the winter. Life sucks sometimes but I’m making some trade-offs for the career I love even when it just about kills me to do so. Live in the moment. Live in the moment. Live in the moment. And, yeah, *still*, after three years, I have trouble typing the word “career”. I can’t get myself quite over that concept. I am just meeeeee and, in the beginning, this kind of job was anything but what I thought I was looking for. Who knew? [snort]

Anyway, what’s kind of better about this summer is that my time off has been a bit more my own. Last summer, I spent way too much time at hospitals and/or trying to be a care-giver, not my strong suit even on a good day. There was the Commander’s cataract surgery. That was easy enough in the grand scheme of things. Half a day or so at the hospital and eye-drops several times a day before and after and keeping the old gal from “skating” (driving). (Yes, the Commander reads this.) Then there was Radical Betty. She was in hospice last summer, having refused cancer treatment that would have greatly decreased the quality of life that she had always lived. Bush-whack skiing at minus 25 Farenheit? Clearing the Voyageur Trail? Paddling the north shore of Gitchee Gumee? Not any more.

Now, when I say hospice, some people are thinking of a shrunken old lady lying in a bed waiting to die. Roight? Not exactly. I am remembering people chasing after Radical Betty with the walker that she never really totally accepted. “Oh that thing,” she would say as she strode down the hall at the Freighter View assisted living facility, leaving all of us in her wake. And those bottles of “smart gas”. She could actually breathe without smart gas but she wasn’t always getting enough oxygen at that point and so she would kind of spiral downward if she didn’t get a shot of it here and there. One hot Sunday afternoon, we were sitting with R.B. up on the bank above the beach and she was having a bit of oxygen and the GG said something particularly ridiculous and I asked the Grinch if the GG could have some o’ that smart gas too!

Okay, where was I? I didn’t plan on writing about Radical Betty but I got lost somewhere in there. I dunno. I will get back to the moominbeach a few times this summer. I think I could arrange to work remotely from there for a week or so but I am afraid that I might not exactly follow through on the whole “working full time” part and might have to end up accounting some of those hours into my hard-earned vacation hours. Sigh.

How is your summer going?

No newspaper this morning? What gives? I need packing material!

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

I actually kvetched about that this morning and the GG cracked up. But it’s true, I do use newspaper for packing material. After I’m finished reading it.

It was a beautiful morning. The last of this week’s crop of thunderstorms began to roll through at about 5:00 AM. I gave myself a pass today and stayed in bed just a wee bit longer than usual. When I went out for my walk, I noticed that there was NO NEWSPAPER! This was not a good thing. Yesterday, I packed a box of stuff to go to San Francisco. There are some breakables in it and those are carefully wrapped in self-stick bubble-wrap (not sure if I like the self-stick or not…) but I needed some crumpled-up newspaper below, above, and between to keep stuff from shifting around. Guess what? Trash pickup was on Friday and, wouldn’t you know, good old Garbage Woman had put all of the newspapers out in the recycle bin. Since the old Ann Arbor Snooze has turned into, we only get a paper newspaper twice a week, Thursday and Sunday. So I was anxiously awaiting the Sunday Snooze so I could finish packing my box and take it over to the post office uscan and mail it.

I have very mixed feelings about not getting a daily snoozepaper anymore. I miss getting it but I have to admit that I would usually just kind of scan it and throw it in the recycle. Recycle or not, I’m not sure that’s saving trees. But I can’t seem to get into the habit of going on-line for news. Yes, I could subscribe to an RSS feed or something but I tend to get overwhelmed by those. I think I lasted about a week before ditching LOL Cats. Our little snoozepaper wasn’t all that great but it did have some local news in it and there were always the obituaries and things like that. I definitely don’t go online every day to see who died. I don’t want to seek that information out. Heck, for years, every time The Commander called, I would answer, “who died?” I don’t do that any more. She is on the cusp of outliving everybody. But I did scan the newspaper obits for any names that stood out.

I also have mixed feelings about the new snoozepaper and on-line news. I don’t want to be too critical because I think we are living in the vortex of a paradigm shift (and no, I have no idea what I just said there 😉 ) when it comes to publishing anything. Think Gutenberg Press at light-speed, maybe? I am not a journalist. I am just a person who has always read newspapers and wonders what’s next. I am not entranced with the snoozepaper website’s information architecture but that’s a problem a lot of websites have and it isn’t an easy one to solve. What I am more concerned about is the readability of the articles in both media. I read an article in today’s snoozepaper and I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about until about the fifth paragraph. What was it back in grade school? Who What Where When Why? Shouldn’t the facts be at the top of the story? Where are the editors?

On the other hand, the folks at the new web-based snoozepaper are at the beginning of, uh, whatever is next. Apparently, they have a space downtown where people can come in and, I dunno, use computers and/or waarrrless, and buy coffee (?) and maybe get to meet the folks who, well, publish the on-line and paper Snooze. And they could maybe help older folks who don’t like to get their news online. Are they really doing that? It sounds really cool but I am shy (or something) and I admit I have yet to check it out. I love the idea but I wonder how many older folks can still navigate to downtown A-squared well enough to be able to get to that place and get help. Especially now that they have destroyed the nearby library parking lot.


P.S. Yes, you’ve figured out that the snoozepaper finally got delivered and I was able to pack the box for SF properly — the “TV Week” section made perfect packing material — and send it off.


Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Full Circle Superior folks at the Birch Point range light! You can catch glimpses of the moominbeach in the background if you know what to look for and if you don’t, it’s just another beach. We walked over to the Birch Point range light from the Moominbeach many times to have picnics and whatnot when we were kids. It was a great adventure. Hey, the Full Circle Superior folks have a bit of wind noise in their video too! 🙂 And you can see the Pickle Finger out there! Also, here’s the Dancing Crane Coffeehouse owner.

P.S. The Full Circle Superior folks were at Birch Point a few weeks ago. They are now traveling past Ontario’s Pukaskwa National Park in voyageur canoes.

Fahrenheit 451

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

The temperature at which book paper (arguably) spontaneously combusts.

Why yes! I have been driving the intrepid little black Ninja for almost two years now and it was only last weekend that I found out that if you want it to REALLY kick the a/c into whooshing out some cold air, there is a button labeled “MAX A/C”. It is located to the left of the “A/C” button and it is a *big* button, as in easier to see? Or not. All this time I have been thinking that the Ninja, good little vee-hickle that it is, has wimpy air-conditioning. At least compared to the Dogha. Which is ridiculous because the Ninja is a pretty fancy little car. We do not buy BMWs or Caddy-lacks or big, fancy SUVs like all the other Yuppies or Floppies or Gloopies or DINKs or whatever it is you call us folks with all the first-world problems. (Well, technically we aren’t DINKs because we *do* have kids.) When it comes to buying automotive vee-hickles, we tend to stick to things like Hondas because they have a really good track record (knock on wood). And, because some people around here insist on keeping automotive vee-hickles until the floorboards are just about rusted through and have to be covered up with a rusty piece of iron with an “Old Grand-Dad” sticker on it, when we DO get around to buying a new one, we splurge and go for the top dollah model of whatever we’re buying. So with the Ninja, I never could figure out why the a/c was so wimpy until last weekend, when I got into it after Lizard Breath had driven it for a couple days. Cold air was whoooooshing out at me and what was this? A big “MAX A/C” button was activated. Who’da thunk it?

The weather on my phone said it was 77 degrees (Fahrenheit) at 5:30 this morning. Fer kee-reist, this is not Hotlanta, don’tcha know. It wasn’t quite that hot over here on the west side but I was pretty sticky at the end of my 0-skunk-30 walk. I forced myself to take a walk at lunch and the heat plus some sort of insect bite on my thigh (under my skirt!) almost killed me. The plan was to walk downtown and meet the GG at the Old Town bar for dinner. During art fair week. I don’t normally go *near* downtown during art fair week. I am too much of a townie at this stage of my life and I hate crowds to boot. Baby-stepping along behind gabbling, gew-gawing 50-something women (er, like me?) is not my strong suit. I made it downtown but I didn’t end up walking all the way because just after I left home, the sky turned rather black and thunder started to rolling almost continually. I had an umbrella with me and I will walk in rain but I will not walk within about a billion miles of lightning. I do not want to die of random electrocution. I am sorry. Lightning is too unpredictable. I turned around for home, grabbed a car and ended up parking about a half mile from downtown and we got the usual fare at the Old Town and then kind of slogged through the art fair. It was mostly shut down by then from the intermittently heavy rain and, you now, lightning. I am tired. It is a bit cooler now and we have turned off the a/c in the Landfill so we can listen to the rain and thunder and that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of the night, falling asleep whenever I happen to fall asleep and that could well be about five minutes from now.

Gabbledy gabbledy kerfloop,

Seven year itch

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Tue. July 22, 2003: Mouse/Mom drove up from A2 & arrived mid afternoon. Walked the beach and swam. Mouse and I simultaneously read Goose’s book, The Lovely Bones — nice light beach reading. Walked the beach a million times. Katie & Kristen are here with kids: triplets plus Katie’s three. They told me about Saddam’s sons being killed at which point i realized I haven’t paid any attention to news ALL SUMMER! 🙂

That was my first post ever. Isn’t it loverly? At the time, I had no intention of continuing my blahg beyond the month or so I spent at the moominbeach that summer. It was a non-telephonic means of communicating with the GG and Lizard Breath, who were staying on the Planet Ann Arbor for most of the time Mouse and I were at the Moominbeach. I hate telephones. Except my loverly iPhone, which I use for just about everything BUT phone calls. Somehow I kept going after I landed back on the planet. And going. And going. Times have changed and now I spend most of my summers slaving away in the coal mines while the GG gallivants up to the moominbeach. Such is the career trajectory of a moom who put her children ahead of her career for many years. Not that I’m complaining. It was what it was and I feel pretty lucky that someone, namely my long-suffering cat-herding boss, decided I was worth hiring to do something more interesting than make peanut butter sandwiches (there’s a story behind that and someday I’ll tell it but not yet).

There’s some old wives’ tale that seven years is often a rocky time for a marriage. The GG and I have somehow made it to four times that number of years but I remember the vicinity of seven years pretty well and I think I get why, at least for us. Lemme see. Seven years was about the time that the GG rediscovered some of the hobbies of too much fun that he knew and loved as a youth. I did NOT like some of those hobbies. For one thing, some of those hobbies involved camping and/or they were NOISY. Right or wrong, I felt strongly that my two and four-year-old daughters came before any of MY hobbies et al and I resented the time he left me with the girls to pursue his interests. Now do not misunderstand. The GG was an equal partner in raising children and he always happily let me have time to do the things I wanted to do. Somehow when the children were young I could not give myself permission to go out and do them. But. Not too many years later, our roles had shifted a bit. The beach urchins were older and more independent and, well, we were all GIRLS, so we did more stuff together and somehow I didn’t resent the GG going off and having his own fun, often with his twin brother. Still later, with teenagers, it was sometimes a relief to have him off camping or having too much fun back in the woods. The Landfill isn’t a large house and I learned that I could actually sort of get it a bit de-cluttered without four full-sized people in it. And then there were the years when the beach urchins were grown and variously off at college or study abroad or working in California. We had an empty nest and I wasn’t working and therefore could actually be available to help out my octogenarians, etc.

Yikes, I’ll stop there! Not sure how I got off on that tangent. A blahg is really not like a marriage although it does get to be a kind of a living thing in its own kind of way. I wonder if my blahg will make it to 28 years… I dunno. I’m not stopping any time soon but who knows. If today was the first day of my blahg, what would I blahg about? I can think of a few things…

  • I felt REEAAAALLLLYY slodgy today. It’s hot and humid and I am on the Planet Ann Arbor. And I have a blasted BLISTER on one of my feet and that makes me mad because it’s hard to walk umpteen gazillion miles with a blister but I did it ANYWAY.
  • We had a baby shower for a male co-worker today. Let’s just say he isn’t the most warm and fuzzy person but he is good at what he does and we all love him anyway. We played a GAME. Yes. A bunch of geeks played a shower game. We were put into groups and we had to construct a diaper out of tissue paper and a few other flimsy materials, figure out how to hang it from a coat hanger and and then fill it with various things. We actually had fun.
  • Tornado sirens were blaring when I walked out of work today. Not sure why because the storms were (still are) all to the west of us.
  • Ginger the dog (two years old) had possession of a dead squirrel in the woods this afternoon and wouldn’t even let her owner get near her. We aren’t sure if Ginger killed the squirrel or if it was dead when she found it. Owner had to go home and get oven mitts (for handling Ginger) and ham (for luring Ginger away from the squirrel). Hopefully Ginger’s owner did not have to call the dogcatcher for her own dog. It started raining big-time and I left.

Onward into the probably tornado-filled night!

Garbage Woman at work

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

I am dying to try out the html5 video tag. From what little I know (and it’s very little), it seems like I should be able to host my own videos via this tag. Not sure my webguy would want me to fill up his server with videos but maybe a few once in a while would be okay. Flickering in and out of my consciousness all day was “html5 video tag html5 video tag html5 video tag”. Alas, once I started looking it up, it seems like more work than I have time to do tonight. So I had to bag it for now and you are stuck with YouTube for this looooverly little Garbage Woman video. It was inspired by my childhood/facebook friend Mimi who, when I posted my first little beach video on FB, commented that if *she* had a video of her morning, it would be of her taking out the trash. Well, taking out the trash is one o’ my specialties, don’t’cha know? Sincerely yours, Garbage Woman 😉

P.S. If you look closely, you will get a couple glimpses of meeeee in a bathing suit. No, it is not a bikini. I quit wearing those eons ago. You are happy about that.

Tomorrow will be another day…

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Yes. You are right. I am a stream of consciousness style writer. At least that’s the first stage of my writing. Because sometimes that’s what I need to do to get some words down on paper into this or that electronical beastie. If you dare to read anything I have written at the stream of consciousness stage of my writing, I can’t help you. If you think it is a bunch of gibberish with double negatives and dangling participles (whatever the heck those are) and mangled clauses of various sorts, well, you are RIGHT! And I can’t help you. If I have emailed you and written a fuschia-highlighted disclaimer right at the top of the document and shouted to the heavens above that this draft of my writing is a BUNCH of CRAP and you choose to read it ANYWAY, I can’t help you. You were warned. It does no good for you to critique my convoluted confusing writing “style”. It is a waste of your time and mine and it makes me feel bad to boot.

Because I haven’t started the “process” stage of my writing yet. I’m not even exactly sure what “process writing” is. If I have it right (from when the beach urchins were learning to write stories and things in grade school), it means writing a rough draft, then editing it again and again, removing the double negatives and the dangling participles and the mangled clauses of various sorts. Eviscerating it until all of the extraneous crap, extra words and sentences and tangentially-related stuff, has been dropped on the floor.

I am not a trained writer. I was a music major who fell headfirst into the IT business many moons ago. I am not in competition with journalists or authors of books. Writing has been an important tool at every job I have ever had but it has never been the only tool. In my current life as a web application user interface designer, I have to be able to write coherent documents telling others how to build and test the designs I am involved in creating. These are long, complex documents and getting them to a polished state with clear, coherent explanations can take a long time (and an intimate relationship with MS Word). Make no mistake, I need input on my writing. Do I have this or that detail wrong? Is this or that sentence/paragraph/diagram/table confusing? But style? Oh man. Please do not try to critique my writing until *I* can at least understand what I wrote.

Now, all bets are off if you are talking about my blahg! There are days that the GG can’t even understand what I wrote and he lives here. I am blahgging for posterity more than anything else, so you get what you get. There are rare days that I manage to write what I think is a masterpiece. There are the just keep on truckin’ days. And there are the days when I write like I’ve been eating psychedelic mushrooms or something. Actually, sometimes I like those days. Wonder what my great-grandchildren will think of me. [snort]

Welcome home, KW. Butt in seat. No blueberries here.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Yes. Butt in seat today. Oddly enough, this is the 12th workday that I have not seen my long-suffering, cat-herding boss. He was out. Then I was out. Now I’m back and I expected him to be back too. But he wasn’t. Maybe he’s allergic to me? Probably not. Whatever. It gave me a day to wade through all of the stuff that happened while I was gone. Which wasn’t all that critical (thank you god), mostly comments from fellow team members on my latest project. And there was an unexpected pizza lunch! That was better than the little dribs and drabs of leftovers I had managed to scrabble together for my bag lunch. Last year, when I returned from my vacation busman’s holiday, I spent my first day back “bonding” with my team over lunch and a Star Trek exhibit in Dee-troit! That was loverly but today was just as good in its own little way.

Of all things, I did receive a nice little welcome home! An unexpected one. I stepped out yesterday morning for my 0-skunk-30 walk and when I got to the end of the block and turned right, I gasped. Why? Because those sidewalks — the ones in the photooo — were there! It’s a long story. This is more or less what our little backwater part of the neighborhood’s entrance to the school looked like when we moved into the Landfill and all the years that the beach urchins attended the school and beyond. A few years ago, somebody got ambitious and built a big “multi-purpose room” onto the back of the school. The construction folks used this entrance as a ROAD during that whole time and by the end of all of that, the whole area was a sea of mud. I wish to heck I’d had the iPhone back when the college-age kid tried to drive his low-slung muscle-type car through the schoolyard via that entrance and got totally mired in mud. Kid, I felt your pain.

When they were done with the “multi-purpose room” and all the trucks went away, some nincompoop decided to plant grass over the right branch of the sidewalk. Problem. During the snow/ice/mud season, the *left* branch was impassable to anyone without spiked shoes or yak tracks or whatever. It had always been that way. During that season, we would often choose to walk the right branch. I thought about complaining. I even personally know a couple of school board members, not that I have talked to them in a few years. I procrastinated. I am tough and I can walk over all kinds of stuff and I did, yada yada. When I walked over there at 0-skunk-30 Sunday morning and saw those new sidewalks, I was totally flabbergasted and all I could think was something like, “Hot damn, they fixed those blasted sidewalks and they fixed them exactly like I would have wanted them to if I had asked.” I even dragged Lizard Breath over there before we had to drive her over to Daytwa Metro.

So I am home at the Landfill. Butt in seat. The Commander is now both calling me from her cell phone and answering it. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I think the Comm still has a few tricks up her sleeve.

G’night and enjoy this heat while you can. –KW

So, the highlight at yesterday’s grad party was a bouncy house. Tonight we have Sterling Heights’s finest.

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Another graduation party today and another 2010 high school grad. And honestly, the police were not called on us. Something was going on across the street. At least three police cars responded but it seemed the problem was solved peacefully, without any arrests. Tonight’s party was for our beautiful niece Chelsea, on the Courtois side of the family. She will attend the James Madison residential college at Michigan State University this fall. These two new grads (Charlotte and Chelsea) have crossed paths exactly once, at our own Lizard Breath’s high school graduation in 2002. They were 10 then. I think I can even remember them playing happily together at that wild, fun-filled affair. Er, we didn’t have one of those bouncy house thingies though, just kayaks filled with ice and beer, illegal faarrrworks and some kind of dangerous chemical demonstration by the GG that I have apparently blocked from my memory. What is up with having a bouncy house thingy at high school graduation parties? I mean, I thought it was very cool, I was just surprised!

Both of my daughters have made it successfully through both high school and college. I am not one to get all gloopy and sappy and teary-eyed when my kids graduate. Frankly, because my kids do not feel obligated to fill me in on every little detail of their lives, every single senior year has been scary for me. Did she fill out those college applications? ((Did she turn them in on time?)) What about the senior picture? (((((Prom?))))) Does she have a job? (((Is she looking for one?))) How is she going to pay off those college loans? To me, a graduation is more of a beginning than an ending or culmination. Is my fledgling really ready to fly? Did I do enough things right (and wrong) that she has the tools to learn to live and prosper on her own? Can she pick herself up when she falls or falters? And yes, this is about me too, just because of all the years I spent picking my way through learning how to be a mother. A process that’s still going on except that now I am dealing with adult daughters.

This morning, between the two high school graduation parties we attended over the weekend, we dropped Lizard Breath off at DTW to catch a plane for San Francisco, which has been her home since college graduation four years ago. She has been here with us for a little over a week, “here” being a rather flexible term — the Planet Ann Arbor, Fin Family Moominbeach, Dee-troit & suburbs, a quick stop at Houghton Lake, and this time, Mackinac Island for a wedding. Did I get enough time with her? Of course not! It’s okay. I share her with a slew of people. The GG and Mouse (of course). The Commander — her only living grandparent! Cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends galore. I am glad that she has so many wonderful friends and that she seeks out her relatives whenever possible. My little lizard is at a bit of a crossroads these days, thinking about what direction(s) to take with her career and life. It’s probably best that she make her own decisions here, especially career-wise. I am not a particularly good role model there. Career planning? Say what? I don’t know exactly what her next step will be but I think she is on the right track and I am pretty happy to be looped into her life on about the equivalent of Pluto’s orbit.

So, to my young cousin and my niece and all 2010 graduates, go forth and make the world a better place! Money is not the only measure of success. You don’t have to be a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief* (MBA?) to earn enough money to live a comfortable life. Creativity and the ability to read, write, and think critically will take you a long way in any career, including some that haven’t been invented yet. Showing up on time always gets points and don’t forget that old saying about using honey to catch flies. Instead of vinegar, don’t’cha know. HAVE FUN and avoid trouble. At least the kind of trouble that gets you mixed up with Sterling Heights’s finest, that is. Other kinds of trouble? Hmm… 😉

* Actually, I always wanted to be an Indian chief!

Temporarily driving a fancy red jeep and missing my intrepid little black ninja

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

That is, I was missing it until someone turned on the GPS in the fancy red jeep. Wow! I have been using a GPS since the late 1990s to roam around in the woods, etc., but lemme tell you these new-fangled car GPS units are not your father’s the 10 years younger KW’s GPS. Geeked out? Yes. I want one for the Ninja! Santa, are you listening? Oh heck, I’ll just buy my own. Who wants to wait around for some old white-bearded guy who probably has Alzheimer’s.

I can’t believe it’s only mid-July and I have already squandered the week of vacation time I planned on using for pretty much the whole summer. It was extra hard to leave this time. I don’t know why. Usually I just suck it up and go. This time, I dunno. I made yesterday stretch out as long as I could, live in the moment, live in the moment, live in the moment. It was a gorgeous day and I enjoyed it to the fullest, knowing that today I would not be at the beach any more. I would spend my day on the soul-sucking southbound I75 SUV Speedway and I would end my day in the hot swampy Landfill Chitchen.

I made the drive today be as much fun as possible. I insisted on taking a few back roads and old highways, carefully planned so that we wouldn’t waste too much time. Meadows and forests and lakes large and small. I took over the driving between Topinabee and Indian River and I returned to the freeway at Vanderbilt. And, guess what? I was, as the title implies, driving an actual SUV today! The Beautiful Gay’s faarrr-engine red jeep Liberty. Why? Because it has a trailer hitch! Which the GG used to haul a boat trailer (and boat) up to Gitchee Gumee. They have got my Dogha in trade and I will bet dollars that they will be happy to get their jeep back tomorrow.

We had another stop on the way home today. My cousin’s beautiful daughter Charlotte was having a graduation party today. She is a 2010 high school graduate who will be attending Loyola University in New Orleans in the fall. We are proud of her and had a great time visiting with MacMullan family members we don’t see often and got a tour of the five acres surrounding my cousin’s new home. We didn’t stay too long though because our own San Franciscan daughter will be returning to her home tomorrow and we wanted to spend the evening with her. At least the part of the evening that happens before we fall asleep and she goes downtown to meet with friends. Of course, here we are and I’m blahgging and she’s listening to music and doing whatever. And of course, that’s okay. We can’t spend all of our time together sitting around having deeeeep conversations. Our brains would short circuit.

KW, from the swampy Landfill Chitchen

Tonka Trucks

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Klunk klang thud kathump. I was sitting down on the beach yesterday afternoon and there was all manner of racket coming from the rock peninsula at the eastern end of the beach. A half mile away! Sound does carry across water. I know that. I knew that the new neighbors were planning to clear another lot. I’m not happy about it but there’s nothing I can do. At first I figured they were knocking down trees. That would be bad enough but then I was thunderstruck with horror! What if they were moving rocks around over past the bend where I couldn’t see them? I have been walking those rocks all my life. They don’t change much over the years and I actually recognize a lot of individual rocks.

This morning when I went for my walk, they were at it again. Bang! Ka-thud klunk klang. I tried to ignore it. As I neared the end of the beach, to my utter horror, a big yellow arm came out of the woods. It was attached to a big yellow bulldozer that clambered down over the boulders and into the lake! I knew that it was right next to one of the old sunken rock cribs my dad used to show me when I was a little kid. I think he used to tell me some of the history of the beach too but I’m not sure I retained much of that. If I have it anywhere near right, this area was logged over in the 1800s and maybe the old rock cribs were related to hauling lumber out by boat.

The yellow bulldozer swung its scooper around for about 10 minutes. I wasn’t sure if it was scooping up rocks or sand or what. I stood at the end of the sand beach watching and taking pictures with my phone. I was chicken about approaching them and asking them what they were doing. I know that it is illegal to move stuff around in the water without a permit but I haven’t been terribly impressed with the DNR’s response to such violations. What were they doing? Did they have a permit? Did they KNOW that there was a 150-year-old dock under the water in front of their land? Did they CARE?

The bulldozer retreated back up the rocks and into the woods newly cleared lot. Lizard and I embarked on a little spy expotition down the beach and along the rock peninsula to Round Island Point and back. I couldn’t tell from land whether the dock had been disturbed or not. My best guess is that the boys with the bulldozer were just taking it on a little celebratory turn in the water after blasting a big path through the woods down to the water. Boys and a Tonka Truck. I could speculate on how many trees died for the cause of a nice wide path but what good would it do? In my few face-to-face encounters with these people they seem nice enough. They’re just incredibly clueless. Trees? Just knock ’em down. We’ll put in a nice lawn here instead. I think a lawn is out of place here on the shores of Gitchee Gumee. I’d rather have wild blueberry bushes. But who am I? And new trees will replace at least some of the ones they ripped out. An ancient rock crib-style dock is irreplaceable.

Mahmmy vlahgger? Naw…

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

I was making so many stoopid little iPhone videos this week that my long-suffering quarter-centenarian daughter asked me if I was going to turn into a vlogger. Fortunately for my five or six readers, the answer is no! But I needed a creative outlet for the week that didn’t involve a whole bunch of fancy supplies and tools and this turned out to be it. My videos are nothing to write home about. They are unprocessed phone videos. They are what they are. It was FUN! I ended up putting them on youTube. For now, it’s the best option, although facebook was fun because I have Yooper friends on there who probably wouldn’t see them on my blahg or YouTube. Three of my videos are below. I haven’t uploaded the others yet. Beware, there is a lot of obnoxious wind noise in the first one.

Oh where, oh where have my brain cells gone?

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I am flummoxed. I have been monkeying around all week figuring out how to blahg up here on the shores of Gitchee Gumee with a rather motley collection of devices: iPhone, That Device (when I can get my hands on it), and the Mothership, aka my aging MacBook. I have been successful, as you well know since I’ve been bombarding you with banal beach blather. In truth, it has been a bit of a challenge. I’ve been mostly using my iPhone to take photooos this trip. Yeah, I know… And I don’t care. It is what it is. The point is that, if I want to get those photooos onto my blahg, I have to monkey around getting them out ON to a blagh entry somehow *before* it is published, then circle back and edit it to get the text in. Now, I can do all that with my phone if I need to. It’s painful here with only the AT&T Edge network but it works. If I do use my trusty old Canon powershot, like I did to get yesterday’s photooo (because I needed the zooooooom and megamegapixels), I can only get the photooo on the web by copying it on to the Mothership and finding broadband wifi to upload it.

I have been through any number of complicated gyrations getting all of this crap published all week and all I’ve got to say is that if it makes MY brain hurt, it will make your brain hurt even more, believe me. Unless you are a guru in which case you are probably rolling your eyes but there’s only guru that I know of who might ever read this (hi, jcb). Anyway, I am like water, if one path is closed to me, I will find another and I have found a few different paths this week.

Except. Flummoxed? I cannot figure out how to post the stoopid little videos I have made this week — with my phone — anywhere but facebook. I started posting them there because it’s easy to upload them from my phone (with wifi) — that is, until today when the whole internet seemed to move like molasses. Broadband? Edge? Both of them. I finally got my video uploaded today, after some gyrations and a lot of waiting. Problem. It’s hard with my current setup to share my facebook videos with most of you and it’s impossible for anyone with only a phone or That Device to watch them at all. Because of Flash and that’s more than y’all wanna know. I want to share my videos and I wish I could just host them on my own blahg but it isn’t that simple. I need to figure a better host. I may have to resort to youtube. I’ve used it before but I’m not crazy about it, only because it’s too big. But it’s the only one that I know of that works well cross browser………. Stay tuned.

And cocktail hour resumes…

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Nothing like a little boat rescue expotition to liven up a typical boring day on the moominbeach. “Isn’t the sun over the yardarm yet dear?” “No, not for another four hours.” And so another long, hard afternoon of sitting in the sun reading, napping, facebooking, debating ad nauseam how to cook a bat should you find one flapping around in your toilet or what the little metallic flecks in that rock are and whether or not it should be licked, begins.

Yesterday afternoon we hit the jackpot! The wind came up into a little bit of a nor’wester, maybe about 2-4 foot waves? I may be overstating those a bit, I’m not sure how they measure waves. Anyway, one young cousin decided it was just about right to sail the old Boston Whaler. I thought, “Sure, why not?” After all, that old tub is supposed to be unsinkable and un-tippable. That’s what we were told back in the Jurassic Age when it was new and, of course, that was a challenge to all of us kids to try to tip or sink it. And guess what? I don’t think we ever managed to accomplish either of those things, even with 12 of us in it or whatever.

So, perfect day for a sale sail (sheesh) in a little unsinkable, un-tippable bathtub boat. Our hero dredged up the sail and stuff and off he went. He had a bit of difficulty getting launched at first and got pretty wet in the process but finally he was off sailing around the bay with something resembling aplomb (or whatever word is appropriate here).

I retreated up to the moomincabin at that point and was working away at dinner and cocktail hour when the GG came running up from the beach yelling, “he tipped the boat over!” Fortunately, he wasn’t very far out and it only took moments for those on the beach to realize that he was all right and actively trying to right the boat. By the time I got down there, a certain red-headed heroine was paddling steadfastly out to retrieve our hero and the old bathtub boat. She towed him in and we all lived happily ever after. Or at least managed to resume our cocktail hour.

Not to end on a sour note but this is a beach on one of the great lakes. This little story ended happily but some of them don’t. There were people on the beach reading facebooking watching our hero, ready to come to his aid. Don’t swim or boat alone (among other warnings and admonitions) and always, always watch the weather conditions, ever-changing on the great lakes.

Love y’all. Be safe,


Butts up in the blueberry patch

Monday, July 12th, 2010

So says Uber Kayak Woman when she comes across a blueberry bush. She has inherited a bit more of the berry-picking DNA than her cousin KW, aka yer favo-rite blahgger. I guess she got it from Grandberry, our grandaddy. He was a champion berry picker.

We didn’t really call him Grandberry as a rule. We called him Grandaddy. But one afternoon when he returned from a wild strawberry picking expotition, he showed his bucket of berries to Radical Betty and some of his other children and grandchildren. Radical Betty and a few others had spent the afternoon indulging in some kind of adult beverage, and she exclaimed, “Look at all the strawdaddies that Grandberry picked!”

Like me, I don’t think Radical Betty got much of the berry picking DNA. But she was a really good sport about just about everything (well, maybe not politicians and real estate developers and a few other baddies) and she could be up for the occasional blueberry picking expotition.

The blueberries are starting to get ripe here at the moominbeach and I have decided I am going to make blueberry pancakes tomorrow morning (and bacon) or die trying. Fortunately I have the help of some others who are, well, better blueberry pickers. We’re picking them in front of the moomincabin. And we’re picking them in front of Radical Betty’s. I know she would want us to use her berries. Although I think she would also want us to leave some for the birds and beasties. I do not think the Grinchie will care if we pick there. He certainly won’t be picking them. I do not think he inherited much of that DNA either. But he MAY benefit from a few pancakes. And bacon.