Archive for December, 2011

I wanna go for a pontoon boat ride

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

As I walked into the Group Home @Houghton Lake after a desperately needed walk “around” the point this afternoon, the GG greeted me with, “I saw you getting up off the ground a minute ago. Did you fall?” Well. Nooooo. I did not fall. I deliberately lay down on the sopping wet, snow-covered grass to take a photoooo of a little sheet of ice sticking up above the seawall. That photoooo didn’t turn out well so you get this one instead, of ice in various stages of formation, including open water. Despite large areas of open water on the lake, people are ice fishing. You couldn’t pay me enough… Anyway, I will never be a pro at photography — I don’t even aspire to be. You might guess that by the fact that my iPhone is for all practical purposes my only camera. But I know enough to know that to get certain kinds of shots, you have to lie down on the ground. Yes I am wet.

Apparently the Houghton Lake area got a couple inches of snow overnight but it is 40 degrees now and Long Point Drive is a mish-mash of wet pavement and slush with a few patches of built-up snow/ice. It is mostly not slippery to walk on, except for the patches of built-up snow/ice but those are easy to see and therefore avoid. The biggest hazard I encountered was when the Rosco Minibus came whaling along and sprayed a big sheet of slush at me.

I am not much for celebrating New Year’s Eve and our plans for this year have been more than a bit uncertain. Should we head back up to Siberia? In the end we decided not to but not without quite some trepidation. We’ll get back up there in a week or two. Should we meet up with the Uncly Uncle and The Beautiful Gay at their new house in Gaylord? That was a promising possibility but in the end their plans included some things that we didn’t want to do because yer fav-o-rite blahgger is a stick-in-the-mud 😉. AND THAT’S A-OKAY!!! Have *fun*, you guys! I’ll get to your house yet. With bells on!

I have to say that 2011 was pretty darn sucky for me although there were plenty of good times along the way. I got yanked out of my comfortable cube farm existence as a mild-mannered systems analyst last spring and was forced to deal with an ongoing and ever-changing situation that was totally out of my wheelhouse. I had to make a number of excruciatingly difficult decisions and I had to make them *largely* alone. Believe me, I second-guessed myself every step of the way and I am sitting here at year’s end second-guessing myself yet again. I am not Superwoman and I don’t have a magic wand or a crystal ball or a clone or floo powder. I am a baggy old kayak woman and I am more often than not stymied by life and how little control I have over it.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful New Year’s Eve whether you party hearty or veg out by the boob tube. I won’t tell you not to drink and drive. Y’all are getting bombarded by that admonition from every direction. Hee hee, I remember back in the Jurassic Age when it would be 25 degrees below zero in the yooperland and Canadian radio would air public service announcements telling people to go hang out at a barroooom (i.e., don’t go snowmobiling or whatever because you might freeze to death). Those days are long gone and tonight we’ll likely be hanging out by the tube. There will be whine or whatever. If 1) I make it to midnight and 2) we can’t find Times Square on the telly, I can watch the ball drop on my iPhone. Yes there is an app for that!

Love y’all and hoping 2012 is a better year,
Kayak Woman

White blue & green sale

Friday, December 30th, 2011

I was finally shamed into replacing the aged, threadbare towels in the Blue and Only Bathroom when the GG and I were on an expotition to Bed Bath & Beyond before xmas and he started looking at the towels. We didn’t buy any towels then but I quietly resolved to get off my you-know-what and obtain some new bath towels. Soon.

After looking around on the internet, I decided I would get my towels at Hudson’s Macy’s, so today I saddled up the Frog Hopper and trundled over to The Mall in time to be there when it opened. I picked out my towels in pretty short order and went up to the counter to pay for them and that’s when the ordeal started:

Clerk: Are you going to use your Hudson’s Macy’s card to pay for these?

KW: No, I’ll just use my debit card.

Clerk: Do you *have* a Hudson’s Macy’s card?

KW: Oh, somewhere. But I’d rather use my debit card. [I don’t have a Macy’s card and I was thinking, “it’s none of your damn business!”]

Clerk: We can look up whether you have a Hudson’s Macy’s account or not and if you don’t, you can open one and you’ll get 10% off and another 20%. [Or something like that, my eyes were totally glazed over by the time she started talking percentages. I not a math phobe. I just didn’t care.]

KW: No thank you. I don’t like to use more than a couple of credit cards.

Clerk [after I had paid for my towels]: If you had applied for a Hudson’s Macy’s card, you would have saved blah-de-blah.

KW [looking around wildly for the escalator]: That’s okay.

Clerk: And if you have a Hudson’s Macy’s card you get all kinds of loverly specials if you shop here a lot.

KW [deadpan]: I don’t shop *anywhere* a lot. [I lied. I shop at the Plum Market a lot.]

Customer *service* anyone? Can we pick this apart please?

First. This store used to be a Hudson’s store. I used to have a Hudson’s card. I even used it sometimes. The Commander’s first job after college was in the old downtown Daytwa Hudson’s store. When I was a kid, we would travel to Daytwa a couple times a year to see Grandaddy and Bolette and The Commander would take me shopping at the downtown Hudson’s. I would buy a couple outfits on the second floor and fabric on the eighth(?) floor and we’d have lunch on the mezzanine. It was her old stomping grounds and yes, I was excited to be shopping in a huge store in the then-bustling city of Detroit. Revolving doors and escalators and the whole bit. Hudson’s is long gone now and we watched the demolition of the old downtown store on TV. I don’t know why but whenever a Hudson’s Macy’s clerk asks me if I want a credit card or if I have one, my brain goes into a big meltdown and I sorta want to say that I already have a Macy’s card except I don’t. I *used* to have a Hudson’s card. So I sort of sputter around and if I am dealing with an aggressive clerk — like I was today — it ends badly and I leave the store hoping I never have to go there again.

Do I not like to save money, you might be wondering? Of course I like to save money. But not with strings attached. I spent a grand total of $117 today for six decent quality bath towels that I *think* may have already been on sale. So if my savings for opening an account was 20%, I’d have saved about $23 dollars. That’s all fine but even though we are not anywhere near the 1%, $117 is not going to break the bank for me and I do not need any more credit cards. Especially not one that I might use once a year. It’s just more clutter to keep track of.

Oh and then she lectured me about what kind of laundry detergent to use and not to use and how to dry the towels yada-yada-yada. Of course, the kind of laundry detergent that I *use* is the kind that she told me *not* to use and it’s unlikely that I’ll switch because I’m using that kind of detergent because it’s what *works* in my HE washer. Sheesh! I know how to do laundry and these are *towels*. I don’t really care how long they last. You could practically see through the ones I threw out today and I’ll probably keep these about that long too, because that’s how I roll. When they do get to the point where I can see through them, I’ll buy some new ones.

I wonder if the GG has noticed the new towels yet.

P.S. I greatly appreciate all of the wonderful book suggestions yesterday. Definitely sounds like stuff that’s up her alley and I may well download some of them for *me* too. I would like to buy a kindle for The Comm. It would certainly be the easiest way for her to get new reading material but I’m not sure how well it would work out. We’ll see…

Ivanhoe at nine

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

The latest crisis around these parts? The Commander is out of books! The Comm is an *avid* reader who claims to have read the book Ivanhoe at the age of nine. I think I believe her. At any rate, The Commander’s birthday is coming up in the next couple weeks and I want to ship her a bunch of big thick books to help alleviate the hardland of the winter.

The Comm has esoteric taste when it comes to books but she greatly prefers *literature*. You know, the sort of stuff that you can sink your teeth into. No romance novels or insipidly cute little aminal stories. Or fluff. When I was a young teenager, The Commander began sharing the books she was reading with me — that is, I got to read them when she was finished. She was reading all kinds of stuff including a few sci-fi things back then and I think that it was *she* who introduced me to Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. So when she bought the bestseller Portnoy’s Complaint, she said something like, “Of *course* you can read it when I’m finished.” But then. I never heard anything more about it. And it disappeared… I found it in a drawer, sneaked it out, and read it. Aaannnddd understood why she preferred not to share it with me. Interesting how kids learn about the birds and the bees. I didn’t *learn* it from that book but I also didn’t learn it from The Commander… It’s okay, I didn’t learn it by personal experience either.

I am more or less out of touch with literature these days. So, what are y’all reading these days? And what can you recommend for a 90-year-old intellectual who craves books?

P.S. We dropped Lizard Breath off at Metro this morning. She texted around two that she had landed at SFO and she is now at her home in the Mission district. Do I miss her? … … …

P.S. News from the north: Dramatic improvement.

Electrofragmoacceleromoglobulator

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

I have been cold all day. Lizard Breath said, “Moom I don’t remember you ever saying you were cold.” And I am usually not cold. It is not because I am sick. I am not sick. ArchaeoSam was on the edge of a sore throat today and I was almost wishing I was on the edge of a sore throat just so I would have an excuse to be slodgy. But I didn’t have a sore throat. I was just lazy today. Well, except for the part where we went to that place that has everything nobody wants any more Urban Outfitters (jeans for Liz) and Seva (lunch with Liz, Mouse, and NPJane). The rest of the day? Huuuunnnnngggg around the Landfill futzing around with the internet and feeling a wee bit very slodgy. And cold.

Although I have been known to slodge around for entire days in my life, sometimes multiple days in a row, I have somehow managed to get myself out of the slodging mode in the last year or so. I may hang out on the internet a lot but when I am at the Landfill, I keep myself busy cleaning and flinging and cooking and whatever needs to be done. Today I picked around the edges of those things. And it *is* cold here. Sam says we are having La Nina and I know she’s right but it has felt more like *El Nino* here with sustained warmer-than-average temperatures. Except for today. 19 to 25 degrees or thereabouts. I am not acclimated yet. I was cold all day. I even turned the thermostat up (to 65). It didn’t help. What did help was when we suited up in the late afternoon and walked over to the Plum Market. Go figger.

I don’t want to continue to put a lot of info on the internet about The Commander. I wrote what I did yesterday because I was absolutely at the end of my rope. One of these days The Comm herself will probably read it and then I’ll be in trouble. But I do want to provide an update for those who read this and know The Comm. She is doing very well. In fact, when I called her this afternoon, she was in her usual mode of talking a blue streak without letting me get a word in edgewise. That went on for a half hour and then I think dinner was about to be served and she cut me off in short order.

Lizard is making pasta with leeks and cannellini tonight and there is a faaaarrr in the faaarrrrplace and I am signing off for now. Good Night!

Grandma Moses

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

A few years ago, my beloved aunt Betty, known on this blahg as Radical Betty, landed in the blasted horspittal up there in Sault Ste. Siberia. She had cancer which had metastised onto her spine and so she had some surgery where they tried to glue some of her bones back together. It worked at least for a while but the surgery was rough on her. We drove up to Siberia when she was initially in the hospital and when I blasted into her room in the ICU, Uber Kayak Woman asked her if she knew who was there. Radical Betty said, “Yes, it’s Grandma Moses!”

I will never forget being called Grandma Moses. UKW and I laughed our silly old asses off! Radical Betty eventually clarified that statement to say that I was an artist. Well maybe not but I do try. And I know how much RB loved me and appreciated art in any form and then some.

The Comm is in the hoosegow yet again. Same thing as last time but a bit less. I do not know what to say. We were hanging out with her just a couple days ago and she was pretty darn fine. Opening presents in her room and later on motoring around her house like crazy. No one seems to be able to figger out exactly what’s going on. I can’t!

I’m not sure what’s next. As luck would have it, Dogmomster was up there visiting when K@FV called about the ER and Dogmomster and kids have been wonderful. We’ll see what’s next and we are prepared for whatever it may be.

 

Glen’s, Frank’s, Clyde’s, and Subway‘s

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Because there seems to be no rest for the weary, last night as yer fav-o-rite blahgger was doing the Christmas dishes at the Squatter’s Paradise, she noticed that the kitchen sink was not draining quite properly. This was not a new problem. It was noticed the last time we were up there and much ado was done with liquid drain cleaners et al to try to fix it. And that stuff seemed to have worked for the small bits of dish-washing we did after it. Last night was a little bit different. And so, the GG and Drain Doc Nassoiy spent muuuuucchhh time and kibbitzing trying to figger what was next. The kitchen sink was deemed out of commission (thank you god that it was not something to do with the terlet!). What a way to end an otherwise loverly xmas day.

This morning. I got up at six, packed the food, and was out at Glen’s Market by seven!

Somebody made the comment that I hadn’t been to a grokkery store for two days and needed a fix. I could go on and on about that but to make it short, logistics were tight up in the beautiful yooperland with only one vee-hickle. I needed consumer products for various people and places. The GG needed to pick up a snake or roto-rooter or whatever. And we were meeting the Mean Old Grunchie Old Grinchie at Frank’s for breakfast this morning.

We managed all of that and, despite the empty look to Frank’s, it is a very popular place. 8:00 AM on Boxer Day? A bit early for most people. Maybe they’re all out at Waldemort buying wrapping paper? But not the Sault Ste. Siberian branch of the Moominfam. Because, wouldn’t you know, by the time the beach urchins posed for this looooverly photoooo with their first cuzzint once-removed…

…RB walked in. I think RB eats at Frank’s *every* morning. He is my old coot’s cuzzint and therefore, he is first cuzzint once removed from both me and the Grinch and he is first cuzzint twice removed from the beach urchins. (Note that I did not meet RB* until a couple years ago and I doubt he recognizes me, so I can slide by without any awkward conversations. He recognizes the Grinch but I’m not sure if he knows they are related — or maybe doesn’t believe it — or something — so we didn’t talk to him.)

The GG and The Grinch managed to rent and manhandle the roto-rooter (or whatever the heck it was) in short order (wheew!) and we hit the long and winding road just before noon. By which time various people were starting to feel just a wee bit hungry. I was 99.5% sure that all of the Clyde’s Drive-in locations were closed, including the one in St. Ignace, and I was right. I wish it *had* been open…

After the windiest trip I think I have ever driven over the Mackinac Bridge, we headed on down. We marveled at the number of vee-hickles at the Gaylord Woldemort, we stopped for a few minutes at the Group Home at Houghton Lake, and then the Subway at West Branch. And on down to Dogmomster’s house to pick up the Ninja (thanks Dogmomster for letting us use your driveway). And home.

Good night and be merry!

* RB does not equal Radical Betty.

The only other white Christmas is in El Paso, TX (aka, it’s the new sausage biscuit bowl)

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

In which a baggy old kayak woman steals a few minutes alone on Christmas morning.

The Commander opens a package as Lizard Breath looks on.

A couple of freighters drifted by through the snow, including the Right Honorable Paul J. Martin, upbound. “Right Honorable” is something Canadian. I didn’t drill down through wiki-pee to figure out what.

A favorite set from The Commander’s carefully curated Santa collection.

A rocket trip to the moominbeach during a rocket trip to the yooperland. Ice is sloshing around near the shore. Not safe to walk to the island yet.

Beach urchins at the beach.

My Dear Uncle Harry’s outhouse is always open. It is a two-holer.

I didn’t think I was done for today after that outhouse photoooo, but it turns out that I am. The afternoon was filled with a trip to Woldemort (oh, don’t worry, it was closed), cooking, cooking, cooking, (and “presenting” whatever that exactly means). Result? I am daaaaiiiid taaarrrrred. Okay, I’ll leave you with one more photoooo of the Mean Old Grunchie Old Grinchie and the GG.

Sausage biscuit bowl

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

So, we have schlepped a modified version of the Traditional Landfill Xmas up here to Siberia. I won’t talk about the chaotic party schedule and vee-hickle wrangling that began yesterday and continued throughout half of this morning. I am almost sorry that I didn’t take a photoooo of the mess that was in the Landfill front living room when I got up at 0-skunk-30 this morning. The mess that we had to shoehorn into the Frog Hopper for the trip north. The GG got it all in but I remained in a mid-level state of panic until we all finally met up with the GB Fins for breakfast. The panic returned when I took over driving just as it started to snow. Fortunately, the snow was very light and the roads stayed clear although wet and we made it in about the usual time. Still, I am feeling a bit like how Frooogggy looks in the photoooo below. Except I don’t have fancy nostril jewelry.

And so… The Big Mac…

Aaaannnndddd. The John B. Aird enters the Soo Locks downbound, where it will drop 21 feet from the level of Lake Superior to the level of Lakes Michigan and Huron.

Our tree is down there at the Landfill but the GG very quickly “whored up” (his words, not mine) the Squatter’s Paradise. No way am I gonna hang out in the dark days of the winter solstice without a bunch of colored lights. I’m sure some of the neighbors are wondering what’s up though 😉

I gotta go but, last but not least, because I fergot to bring up some loverly xmas tree shaped butter (and a few other things that folks can’t live without), we have already made one run to the grokkery store up here in Siberia. Hope that’s all, fer kee-reist! (No, they did not buy Christmas tree shaped butter and I don’t have it at home either.)

Ho Ho Ho (hum)!

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

A beautiful venue for the annual Courtois Christmas party. Just a thin skin of ice over the lake.

Talking to Afghanistan…

Venturing into the deep end…

And then Santa arrived…

Meteor lands in San Francisco!

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

I really wish that I had had the presence of mind to take a photoooo of the chaos that reigned over at the Daytwa Metro domestic arrivals area today but I was hanging on to the poor little Ninja’s steering wheel and gearshift for dear life. Inching along in and out of first and second gear in about the fourth out of maybe six lanes of traffic, Dee-troit Po-leese absolutely everywhere, whistling and gesticulating madly and unintelligibly. Terrorist attack? (Meteor strike?) Naw, just about a billion people arriving home in the currently Great Gray Green Greasy Limpopo Great Lake State for the holidays. I was at a dead stop by door #2, so I texted (yes, it’s illegal to text from a car here but trust me, the cops were too busy to care): “At 2. Inching.” I knew she would have probably come out at about door #4 but she got my text and made her way down to #2 and found me. Whew! A bit more slow, careful inching along and we were on our way to the I94 18-Wheel Clogway, west bound for Chicago The Planet Ann Arbor. I am totally amazed that I didn’t get into some kind of low speed fender bender over at Metro today. Whew!

But I don’t have a photoooo of cops and cars and chaos. So you get lemons instead. Not my beautiful expensive 1996 Island Teal Plymouth Voyager SE lemon. It’s long gone and not without some tears. And not my beautiful, expensive late-model MacBook Pro lemon. It is chugging along as if it didn’t have a short circuit somewhere in its brain or nervous system but I know that it does. (Hello? Hal?) Nope, you get some of my crazy relatives instead. The two on the left are esteemed members of the Moominfam and of course that’s the GG on the right. I commissioned this photooo last Friday night and just received it this morning.

So, lemme see… 1) Lizard Breath is home. 2) The next two days are gonna be so crazy that I hope I live through them. 3) I have an air plant. I love it. I hope I don’t kill it. I’m told it’s pretty hard to do. Oh, and 4) I love when I mention my fave @Plummarket in a tweet and they reply. I wonder if they connect @kayakwoman with the old bag who schleps grokkeries home in a little black backpack.

P.S. I miss Sam and JCB. One-a these summers we will get over to the Green Cabin again.

When the mooooooooon is in the seventh house and juuuuuupiter is aligned with mars

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Life was not particularly dull today. That is, it was dull until about noon. I got up and faaarrrred up my laptop. Everything was all right. Took a walk, came back and got back on my laptop. Everything was all right. Went to work. Everything was all right.

Went home for lunch. That is an unusual event in itself but we were expecting guests tonight (yes, really, us) and I had some stuff to do and things were kind of drifty at work so I took off for a bit. I walked into the Landfill Chitchen, did my stuff, and faaarrrred up my laptop. Everything was all right. For about 60 seconds. Aaaaannnnnndddd then. My trackpad was hosed. AGAIN!!!! I re-a-started my laptop. The trackpad worked for about 60 seconds. I re-a-started my laptop again. The trackpad worked for about 60 seconds. Later, rinse, repeat. My anxiety level started to rise. That trackpad was the THIRD trackpad I’ve had in this very expensive piece of you-know-what. I shut it down one more time and forced myself to settle down and drive back to work.

Arriving home at the end of the day, I was hoping against hope that I had imagined the lunchtime laptop experience. Started it up again. Everything was fine. For about 60 seconds. Alas, trackpad failure again. The last thing I wanted to do in the remaining couple of days before the xmas holiday was to W-A-I-T around at the Apple Store “genius” bar (AT THE MALL!!! THREE DAYS BEFORE XMAS!!!) for yet another “genius” to tell me that I just needed a new trackpad. I’m sorry but I know that this is not a trackpad issue. I think that the hardware goes into a failure mode and stops “TALKING” to the trackpad. Or starts talking to it in some other language. Or whatever.

Well, sometimes you get lucky in life, don’tcha know. As luck would have it, my laptop failed on the very day that Sam the Archaeologist and THE GURU were scheduled to stop for dinner. And, of course, the Guru couldn’t help but get caught up in the laptop mess. Because that’s what he DOES!!! He was all over it, looking into what processes were running, etc., ad infinitum. The GG was looking into “genius” bar appointments for tomorrow (good luck). The only ones available were in the afternoon or evening, NOT good times for me. We were looking at Friday morning and then… Hello? There was one available tonight at 7:45 PM. The Guru said, “take it!” This was waaaaayyyyy above and beyond the call of duty but we did take it and the GG and the Guru trucked on over there while Sam and I (and Mouse, for a while) hung out here with whine and much-needed talk.

The outcome? New trackpad (#4) but this time with the promise that if it happens again, they will figure out what we all believe is an underlying problem. I am eternally grateful to the Guru for helping out here — especially for believing me when I said I didn’t think it was just the trackpad and being willing to schlep my laptop over to the Apple Store on the spur of the moment. The stars seemed to be aligned in some rather strange ways today.

I am not happy about the genius bar employees freaking out because there was a scrap of dried blood on the top of my laptop. Fer kee-reist, the GG was on a kick of sharpening long-dull kitchen knives around here throughout the weekend and I wasn’t really paying attention and, yes, I cut my finger. My finger is fine but it bled profusely until we could get a bandaid on it. Fingers do that and, well, fer kee-reist, it isn’t the first time I’ve bled on a laptop!!! (I was so disgusted by that little incident that I didn’t consider it blahg fodder at the time. Now I do.) I am also not happy that they apparently threatened to void my warranty because there were a few crumbs of food on my computer. I use my computer IN THE KITCHEN!!! IT IS A LAPTOP?!?! How many people use their laptops at Starbucks or wherever??? Sorry geniuses, but your computers need to be able to withstand a few crumbs. I do CAREFULLY keep liquids away from my laptop. I accidentally spilled a few drops of coffee into a DecWriter III terminal in about 1982 and I have been careful about that ever since. Not happy that the geniuses found a way to make me feel small even though I was not there. Sigh…

Dear @Apple, I hope there isn’t another chapter to this story.

Goodnight! Godspeed Sam & JCB and thank you again about a thousand billion times. Love.

And peeeeeeeeace will guide the plaaaanets. And love will steer the stars.

Grinchity Grunch

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

This is my annual Kristmas Kvetch post. You know. The one where I wish that my Jewish buddies would kidnap me for the duration. Not that they would really want me hanging around and one of them is flying to Floriduh on xmas day anyway.

I have a couple of big-time disclaimers here. One, no matter what I write in this post, I AM ALL RIGHT! I do not need advice, sympathy, or some kind of psychological intervention. Commiseration is okay. But really I am just having a bad mood kind of day. Of course, it doesn’t help that we are near the winter solstice although the short and often dark days don’t really bother me. I just go outside and I am okay. Hmmm… I think I will save the second disclaimer for the end.

Here it is. I LOVE my job. I am treated VERY well. I get decent pay et al, I have an absolutely wonderful boss (the LSCHP does not read this), and I couldn’t ask for nicer co-workers. Vacation time? Not so good. I work for corporate America and you know that usually means two weeks of paid vacation plus a smattering of personal days or whatever in the early years of employment. And five days of sick time. (And I used those last year but not because *I* was sick. I wasn’t EVER sick. Thank you god or whoever.) I understand how the system works but I am wishing for more time. Because I have spent just about every blasted moment of vacation time in the last year, well, let’s just say not in the typical vacation places like Cancun or whatever. (Not that I would go to Cancun if I did have time to go there but that’d be a whole ‘nother story.)

I don’t regret one bit how I spent my vacation time last year and there were plenty of fun times along the way but here we are at the holiday season and I don’t have any blasted time off left. I just wish I had a few more days off. I am psychologically tired and I soooo baaaadddly need more time to chill. Be with my beautiful grown-up beach urchins for a bit and, well, that’s actually the only thing I can really think of. Well, and The Commander in some place besides the horsepittal, fer kee-reist. And maybe a dumpster in the driveway…

Second disclaimer. My problems are silly little first world problems which is maybe enuff said. And there’s a third disclaimer, now that I think of it but I’m not gonna put it into words. Just please, everybody, particularly those that I love, be careful out there!

I *did* go outside in the dark of the late afternoon today. I walked [again] to the Plum Market. There was no line and I got two of my fav-o-rite cashiers (one bagged my stuff into my backpack while the other rung me up). I did feel better after that expotition!

Love y’all,
KW

Nimbosity

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Well, I have softened my opinion of the superwoman but just a bit. First, I appreciated the comments. I tend to agree more with some of them than others although I don’t totally *disagree* with any of them and I love to hang out with all of the commenters whether it be on the internet or bombing around the Great Lake State. I loved the Grand Poohbah’s story. I hope for that kind of outcome from our superwoman but I am not optimistic.

And then, I read this article, by the Ann Arbor Chronicle. The Chronicle generally reports things in greater detail compared to a2.com (and I think both news sources have their place). Some might even say excruciating detail and I have heard even the most avid followers say that reading some of the reports is like watching paint dry. But if you need to know what happened at a civic board meeting, the Chronicle is the place to go. And this article did not disappoint. I got a much clearer picture of the events that led up to the controversy and the process that took place at that board meeting than what I got from a2.com.

I am still not impressed with our school board and administrator. I agree that you have to offer high salaries to get “top talent”. And that’s in quotes because, like I said before, over the last 10-15 years, we have hired one “talented” superintendent after another. They last a year or maybe two or even three and then they are booted out. Why? Not sure. I’m pretty sure that the Planet Ann Arbor is not the easiest place to walk into as a super. But we are a community and so often I feel as though whatever super we hire, no matter what paper credentials he/she comes with, has a tin ear. This is a tax-payer funded position and the super is a public figure of sorts whether he or she wants to be. So we’ll see what this superwoman does… And make no mistake, although I am convinced that our school board didn’t violate any of the open meeting rules, they sure handled the whole thing in a ham-handed fashion. We’ll see how that plays out when they put the planned “technology” bond on the ballot…

I think I am just about done with this issue. But not quite. That pesky achievement gap? Let’s get real here. The gap is NOT gonna get closed by the schools. It is a socio-economic status problem. When our society is such that all kids arrive at whatever flavor school they attend without any baggage from home, maybe we can erase the gap. But that is a utopia. Right now, I think that the schools are only one tool available for helping with the achievement gap. And, while I think that every employee that our school district hires should be committed to helping close that gap to the best of their ability, I do not think that they should have their feet held to the fire if they can’t close it. Not even the superwoman.

Oh-oh tii-iidings of co-omfort and jooyyyyyy.

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

I am on the verge of being maudlin tonight I think. It is so hard in this day and age for some of us to keep up connections with our families. I mean, we can get on facebook any time we want and that’s okay. Facebook is a wonderful tool for keeping up with far-flung family. But it is so hard to find time and space to connect face to face.

We went to a MacMullan family party today. The Macs are The Commander’s family and they were originally based in the Detroit area. The Commander followed my old coot to the yooperland many many moons ago and I grew up there but we would drive down to Daytwa a couple times a year to visit my grandparents and other relatives in the area.

Many many thanks to my youngest Mac cousin Doug and his beautiful wife Jennine for again hosting a wonderful holiday get-together at their gorgeous house. For many years it seemed that the Mac family only got together at funerals. The older generation has been slowing down and some have died and the younger generation(s) have scattered and everybody is busy and yada yada. Doug and Jennine have stepped up to the plate of keeping the family together, at least at the winter holiday season.

Sooooo much fun today. My cousin Cathy’s kids (and grandchild!) are so beautiful and nice and doing so well. I hope she can see them from wherever she is. She was something like three weeks older than me and I wish she was still here. We would’ve been talking each others ears off tonight if she was still around. But then. I absolutely loved talking to my cousin Sally today. She’s the oldest cousin in the Mac family and I have always admired her so much. She is an artist and I can remember her teaching me about the color wheel using the crayons in my 64 Crayola box when I was just a kid and she was going off to college. We are both baggy old bags nowadays and can I just say we were laughing our you-know-whats off today. Along with Jennine. And Dogmomster and the GB Fins eventually arrived and I dunno. It is so hard sometimes to keep up family connections but it is well worth doing.

Love y’all and seeya Friday — some of y’all anyway,
Kayak Woman

Here she comes to save the day!

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Who? The superwoman, of course! Swooping in to save the Planet Ann Arbor school district. For a quarter million dollars a year.

Our wondrous school board hired a new superwoman last summer. I think she is about the sixth superintendent since the late 1990s. I guess the superintendent’s office has a revolving door? Anyway, our wondrous school board, in its infinite wisdom, thought it would be a good idea to pay the superwoman $245,000 a year. To attract top talent, don’tcha know… The superman she replaced was paid something like $170,000. Okay, here in the Great Lake State, we are dealing with extreme cuts to our public school budgets — 14 million dollars in our district this year. What did the parents, teachers, and taxpayers think about this? Not too much. Who was this woman? Why was she worth a quarter million dollars? She must be a superwoman! I am always a skeptic when a highly paid HMFWIC position like school superintendent seems to have a revolving door and you can bet I had a bad feeling about this.

What has the superwoman done since she began her tenure? Hmmm… I haven’t heard all that much about her. A bit of gobblety-gook about closing the achievement gap. Good luck with that, lady. Some “forums” to get “community input” on the upcoming budget cuts. Roight. Like they really want input from the community. Been there, done that. And then this, as I understand it:

  • A “deputy” superintendent retired last summer. (Or was it an “assistant”? I’m a little confused by the titles.)
  • The superwoman hired a replacement. The replacement is being paid $140,000 per year, which is 7% and 12% higher than the other two “deputies”. It is also apparently significantly more money than the person who retired was paid.
  • Oh, by the way, the superwoman hired the replacement without discussing it with the school board. A few noses out of joint? I think so.
  • The superwoman decided that the other two deputy supers needed to have their salaries bumped up to *match* the new person’s salary.
  • The issue was placed on the agenda for Wednesday night’s school board meeting.
  • At the beginning of Wednesday night’s school meeting, the board voted to table the discussion for the time being (something like that). A citizen attending the board meeting was told at 10 PM that there would not be a vote that night (and left).
  • At *1:45 AM*, the board president moved to vote on the issue.
  • The board voted 4-3 to raise the salaries in question before adjourning (at 2:20 AM).

(Two articles on Annarbor.com.)

I would say I am flabbergasted by this but I am such a skeptic about the public process and highly paid officials like this in general (bank executives, anyone?) that I am just shaking my head in jaded dismay instead. What were they thinking? We are cutting cutting cutting education budgets all over the place. Our teachers, bus drivers, custodians, all of the little people are taking pay cuts or going without raises for *years*. Some people argue that the salary increases don’t amount to a lot of money. Maybe not but the message being sent by those at the top just stinks. “*We* are more important than those pesky little people, you know, those teachers and students“. If I were one of those top administrators*, I would refuse the increase and tell the superwoman that it is inappropriate for me to get a big raise when the teachers (and others) are not getting raises and class sizes are increasing, among other things.

I don’t know what the superwoman actually does to earn her keep. If I were hired as a superwoman*, I would come in to the community and try to learn what makes it tick. If I were this particular superwoman, I would be aware that many folks in the community are less than happy that their elected officials saw fit to pay me an exorbitant salary and I would do everything in my power to make sure I earned that salary. I’m just a baggy old taxpayer so maybe I don’t know anything but I haven’t seen the superwoman do much of anything yet. Except for this little scenario, which reeks of incompetence and arrogance. The phrase “piece of work” comes to mind. Seems to me that people like the superwoman are just modern-day confidence [wo]men. Hey, I don’t know what to do with your sorry achievement gap problem but I’ll blather about it and you can pay me to do mostly nothing for a couple years and when you finally throw me out, I’ll go to Little Rock or someplace and they’ll pay me $310,000 or whatever. Because my contract requires that you give my a glowing review. Blech. Blech. Blech.

It is particularly upsetting to me that I personally *know* two of the board members who voted *for* the salary increases. I mean, I actually know them pretty well. Or at least I thought I did. Why can they not see what’s wrong with the picture?

Sincerely yours,
Citizen KW

*That would be when hell freezes over, of course.

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas (not really)

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Okay, I am itching to write about the Superwoman. Even people from work are talking about her and we don’t usually talk politics. At all. But it has been a long day and I am taaarrred and I can tell I am gonna barely be able to squeak out an intelligible story about that! I mean my boring long day, *not* the Superwoman.

I worked from home today. I wouldda rather gone into my loverly dog-poopy cube today but… I don’t know who had the bright idea to schedule two vee-hickles for maintenance in the same day at different times and at dealers across town from each other but that’s what we did today. How many vee-hickles do we own these days? Some may want to know. We own exactly TWO vee-hickles! I do not think we have owned a mere two vee-hickles since the first couple years of our marriage.

We began with a couple of Ford Fiestas and that was all we needed at first. Then Lizard Breath came along. After a few months of stashing her in the back seat of a two-door vee-hickle, we bought a Jetta. Four doors, thank you very much. I wish I could say that we were finished with two-door vee-hickles forever but that wouldn’t be true because The Indefatigable only had two doors. Actually I think those four-door Wrangler-type things are kind of weird looking, like a person with four eyes or something. (Don’t worry, I won’t get started on that tonight.) Anyway, then we had the two Fiestas and the Jetta and then Mouse was born and we had a scorcher of a summer with temperatures reaching up into the upper 90s or low 100s every day. Guess what? We did not have a vee-hickle with air conditioning. That may have been okay when I was a kid up in the Great White North but not down here on The Planet Ann Arbor where you have to keep your vee-hickle locked everywhere you go. Windows up. Locked. Just try to put a couple of small children into an oven a few times a day and see where it gets you. So, mini-van with a/c and, at that time in history, we owned four vee-hickles. I would like to say that we never again bought a vee-hickle without a/c but that wouldn’t be true because The Indefatigable did not have a/c.

Four vee-hickles? Yes. Although for a long time, the state didn’t know about one of the Fiestas because it was uninsured and hidden back in the shed. Eventually, it came out of there and sat in the street for a while. I finally nagged the GG to get it running so we could sell it or whatever. Well that was just wonderful. It had been sitting over a pile of leaves and so, when he started it, there was a faaarrrr. The faaarrrr trucks were called and Burke took a video and everything. No damage though and we sold it for $50 to somebody with a vee-hickle that didn’t have any seats. Yes.

Nowadays, we own only two vee-hickles: the Ninja and the Mean Green Frog-hoppin’ Musheen. That is all. No more. Both of them have four doors and air conditioning. I wish I felt like that meant we have come up in the world but y’all have to know that we are still amongst the 99. Especially whenever we attach the crappy old Courtois trailer to the Frog Hopper. Look out. Snowbillies coming through! Anyway, somehow we managed to schedule both of these vee-hickles for maintenance in the same day. At different times. At different dealers. I wish I could say it all went off smoothly but it was not so much. For the most part, I didn’t have to bear the brunt of that because I was working. From home.

It was the kind of December day that tries its darndest to suck the life out of you. I saw the sun rise this morning. It was a beautiful sunrise. Then gray skies all day long. Dry, windy, and cold outside and in. At least in the spot I rather haphazardly chose to set up my work computer today. At the end of the day, I had to *force* myself to head outside to walk downtown to meet the GG for dinner. As I knew would happen, once I got out there I felt better. It got dark quickly. The gray skies faded and holiday lights replaced them and I warmed up as I walked and by the time I got to the Drop Acid, Not Bombz bridge, I was grooving along.

I did not make it to the sports bar tonight. I am feeling guilty about that. The GG went but I knew if I got there, I would probably just start yawning and wanting to go home. It isn’t the company. It’s that I was already turning into a big, ugly pumpkin.

I am not ready for xmas. Are you?

And nobody ended up wearing a lampshade on their head

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Ah yes, the annual holiday luncheon. That was today. In my industry, things get reaallly slow in December. Except for the folks who man the call centers. Those have to be covered. Most everybody else will start trickling out tomorrow or Monday, at least at our backwater office here on The Planet. At least those who still have some available time off. That would not be me. Anyway, the annual holiday luncheon was today.

I remember being at work the last weekday before the holiday the first xmas of my career. It was a different job at a different place and I was a 25-year-old flunky without any experience with “computers”. I was happy to have a job but I certainly didn’t consider it a career at that time (but that’d be a whole ‘nother story). I guess I should probably not detail where I worked then but I will tell you that we partied hearty that day. Somebody came up to our [“customer” service] “window” at like 9:00 AM with a tray of chocolate cups containing Amaretto. Sure, I’ll have one of those. Thanks! I don’t remember the rest of the day. Oh, I don’t mean I got drunk at work. I’m sure we even did some actual *work*. But there was a big potluck and alcohol was available. That was at the tail-end of the three martini lunch era and at the dawning of the zero-tolerance period.

I don’t yearn for the three martini lunch era but I also don’t agree with zero-tolerance. Once in Florida, we went to a beach with a zero tolerance alcohol policy. Now, we were there with our then grade-school-aged kids and The Beautiful Aunt Suzie (who was definitely of age) and there was no way that we were gonna sit there and drink bourbon or whatever all afternoon. But. At one point, the GG drifted off and, when he came back, he had a big Sprite from the concession stand spiked with whatever was in the back of the Exxon Tanker Valdez (aka our old 1989 red minivan). Us three adults shared it. Nobody got drunk. Everybody was happy. The Beach Urchins were well taken care of. I don’t know what the answer is here.

Anyway, since I now work in private industry, on rare occasions there is alcohol at work-place parties. Not today. It was a wonderful luncheon with catered subs and salads and all kinds of potluck side dishes and desserts. Our beloved team member C volunteered to make “Cheesy Potatoes” and we all took her up on that offer although a couple others brought desserts. Alcohol? Naw. Not today. Those of us who are in the December slump lingered over our lunch but others who have to actively deal with clients grabbed a plate of food and ran back to their cubes. And some people didn’t participate at all, even to eat the catered food. And that’s okay. It is so nice to be able to hang out or not and not be judged either way.

I am not sure how I got here. I wanted to write about office xmas gifts, not to mention the latest antics of the Planet Ann Arbor school district Superwoman and her sycophants on the school board. But I veered off somewhere else and I think I am done for now. You got some memories instead. And you are happy about that.

It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride grokgrok grokgrok groooookkkkk….

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Err, roight. Where is that loverly pontoon boat when I need it? You know, now that I know how to drive it. [Or not… ;-)] And… Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is for somebody to patch up the crack in the Landfill Dungeon wall so I don’t have to keep splashing my way over to the laundry area. Because I do not have a pontoon boat down there.

I am really not complaining about the lack of snow. I usually *like* snow. It’s good for things like skiing, et al. What I am not crazy about is slippery commutes in a vee-hickle with performance taaarrrs. (Hmmm… Dear Santa, snow taaarrs?) I like the Mean Green Frog-hoppin’ Musheen just fine but I loooovvvve my cute little Ninja. Just freaks me out thinking about being on the bad side of an accident with somebody in some big SUV. Or even somebody in a Frog-hoppin’ Musheen.

On the other hand, I suppose if I can telecommute from a horsepittal long-term care facility or an un-insulated cabin on Gitchee Gumee in June [yes, it was colder than blue blazes and I was sleeping in leggings and a polartech jacket], I can probably telecommute from the Landfill. It’s a whole new world these days. But there are also those five-hour trips up to the Great White North, not that it’s very white these days. Actually, in the last six months or so [after that June Gitchee Gumee cabin episode], it has more often than not been warmer up in the Yooperland than here. But it was NOT 75 degrees up there today. Not outside. If somebody tries to tell you that, do NOT believe them! (Er, Love you Moom ;-))

I don’t really understand those big lighted blow-up holiday decorations that some people have in their yards at this time of the year. For one thing, it seems like it probably takes a lot of lucky-shucky to keep them going, especially [?] those snow globe things. And then there’s a friend of mine who would put a big snowman out and the hoodlums in her upscale neighborhood would come around and puncture it or whatever. [You have to know some of those hoodlums “grew up” and went to Harvard or wherever, prolly *not* without help from their doting parental units. I’m not going there tonight.] I dunno. Some of those blow-up things are sort of cute. But.

More than anything, I prefer light displays. Not necessarily the ones where the whole house is covered with lights, although those things can be fun in their own way. I like strings or clusters of lights on trees or bushes or whatever. This year we are minimalist. We have: 1) a multicolored string of LEDs across the eaves along the front of the house (we leave it up year-round and only turn it on in the winter), 2) the purple LEDs that have been in the front window for years. 3) Blue lights (LED? think so but can’t remember) along the top of the front living room wall.

I am gonna leave these lights on as long as it is dark most of the time. It has nothing to do with any kind of religion. It is winter and it is dark. We need light!

There is some kind of blasted *fly* in here. A fly in December. It isn’t the first time. And with that, I guess I will end…

Walkin’ in the winter wonderland…

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Sigh. It is the happy happy holiday season and I have been trying for two days now to mail a package to my beloved mother, aka The Commander, up in Sault Ste. Siberia. It is not a Christmas present. It is a phone cable. She needs a longer one. I have this one smallish envelope with a phone cable in it but I can’t just put a stamp on it because I am not sure how much postage it takes to mail it. Usually that’s okay. I just take it over to the Stadium post office branch and use one of the two (count ’em) uscans. It takes about three minutes to process an envelope or package at the uscan and most of that time is waiting for the machine to print the postage. But…

Yesterday morning, I tried to go to the post office to mail my loverly little phone cable. Kee-reist. There was a long line inside. One of the uscans was stuck on a “Windows loading” thing. A fussy little man with four or five packages was *trying* to use the other one. I waited for about 10 seconds and then I muttered something like, “I do not have time.” And I left…

I tried again this morning. Again. There was a long line inside. The same damn uscan was stuck on a “Windows loading” thing. And… Sigh. A sort of fidgety looking old, long, tall, blondish, flaky looking woman had about five clumsily wrapped packages was at the other uscan. Oh, don’t get me wrong, she was taller than me but otherwise not that different. In looks but maybe not consciousness. I waited for about 10 seconds and then I muttered something like, “I do not have time.” And I left… But, fer kee-reist, if you have that many crappily wrapped packages and you do NOT know how to use the uscan, GO INSIDE!

Other than that, we did upgrade our iPhones today. We went from the 3GS to the 4S. That means we skipped a phone. Whatever. My 3GS was still fine, maybe a bit glitchy but nothing I couldn’t deal with. What got me to upgrade was the improved camera. I remember when I had to drag along a phone and a camera and whatever else. I love being able to pull a decent phone out of my pocket or whatever and take a picture. The 3GS (and even our original iPhones) had pretty darn good cameras. I’m looking forward to playing with the 4S.

I didn’t get a first pic with the 3GS two years ago. Actually, we were buying a whole bunch of apple stuff that year. Phones for us and a new laptop for Lizard Breath. It was nuts at the mall and the Apple store that day, so I forgot to get a pic. Today was a little more sane and I remembered to get a photoooo on the way out. Tattoos? Yes, we have an upscale mall here. We also sell sugar gliders as pets at a kiosk in the hall outside Sears. Do not get me started on that…

I have my blasted phone. I hope I don’t have to navigate the damn mall again this season. Good night. –KW

P.S. Y’all are wondering something like, “What’s up with the bagels?”, roight? Wouldn’t you know, I was so busy mucking around getting my apps downloaded out of the cloud onto my phone (and arguing about what to call the new 3TB backup drive we also bought) that I totally forgot to include one of the main points of this entry. Which is that the bagel pic is the first photoooo my old iPhone 2 took back in August 2007. That is, it is an accidental photooo that MMCB took while she was inspecting my phone. She wanted me to delete it. No way!

The woman who never has a bad day

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I don’t remember when I first encountered TBV, probably over at Haisley. My first coherent memory of her is watching her stand in Vet’s Pool throwing her daycare kids into the water. They were having a great time and so was she. I remember her wearing an absolutely trenormous pair of plastic blue earrings, probably two by four inches. (Eventually those earrings destroyed her holes but that was okay, she went out and got new ones pierced plus a couple more on each ear lobe, just like the cool kids. Me? I didn’t even HAVE pierced ears then. Finally got it done at age 37. Really.)

I was immediately attracted to this exuberantly over-the-top woman but I didn’t think we’d ever be friends. A meek little person like me could never approach someone like that and I doubted she’d ever notice me. I was definitely not in her league. And then, we *were* friends. I don’t remember exactly how that happened either but by the time our younger children landed in a rather dysfunctional first grade class we were good buddies. Many mornings, we would drop our “pea pods” (her phrase) off and take off walking all over the neighborhood, downtown for coffee, or whatever. I could go on and on about all the volunteer stuff we did over the years but you would click away in about a nano-second.

One of my fav-o-rite stories about TBV *ever* is The Purple Room. At one point in time, TBV doubled the size of her [then] house. I walked by that house a LOT and into it quite a bit (without knocking, just like at the moominbeach when I was a kid) and this one weekend, I walked by her house a few times and it kind of looked like she was painting the living room purple. I mean ROYAL purple, not some subtle pastel shade of purple. That Sunday morning, I was walking by and TBV, dressed in a royal purple exercise outfit, grabbed me off the sidewalk. “Come and look at this!” Yes, all of the walls were purple. Royal purple. It was beautiful. Except that it was the *living* room. Later that day, for whatever reason, I was walking by there *again* and her husband and sons had returned from a weekend scouting trip. Hubby was sitting on the porch with a dazed look in his eye. A neighbor was yelling from down the street maybe 10 houses away, “Got a purple living room?”

A long long long time ago, another friend who didn’t know TBV very well [yet] once referred to her as “the woman who never has a bad day”. But TBV does have bad days. Just like we all do. I was friends with her on bad days. This woman may have some bad days but ain’t no way she will be kept down. Nowadays? She has moved far away from the Haisley neighborhood. She is doing very well and yesterday, we were honored to attend a holiday open house at her beautiful new house, a half hour away from mine. Old friends and new friends were there and, even though our children are grown and we have moved on to new jobs et al, we still fall into conversation as if we were dropping off our 1st graders again. Disclaimer: I did not partake of the $230 bottle of bourbon.

TBV has been a role model for me as well as a friend and I love her. Who knew, all those years ago at Vet’s Pool (which I pretty much hated) that the over-the-top woman wearing huge earrings and throwing 5-year-olds into the pool would become one of my BFFs.