Monday, December 31, 2018

The Moths and the Murmuration

‘Tis (or ‘twas) the season to deplore the overuse of ‘tis, and summarize the highlights of the past year. In one of these two all-important tasks, I have fallen short.
So, having failed to produce a pithy Christmas card regaling friends and family with our adventures and misadventures of 2018, I thought I could at least bake something.

Not that most of you lucky souls will taste what I baked. It is the concept of baking that I imagined as an antidote to the lack of Christmas letter.

There I was in the kitchen, our lovely kitchen with its three big windows facing west, overlooking the field, the river, and the geologically thoughtful and imposing Palisades. In a certain cabinet I found two bars of fancy chocolate. How long had they been there? Had they been invaded and nibbled by pantry moths? Do pantry moths even like chocolate? They had not. But the question was valid, because on the way to discovering the chocolate, I came across a package of almonds that had been very much invaded and inhabited by moths. It was quite revolting, all the masticated almond crumbs globbed together with the spider-webby stuff the pantry moths leave behind. I took the whole thing outside and gave it the chickens, who love grubs and bugs and squirming larvae.
I started wondering about pantry moths. Evolutionarily, biologically, what exactly is their purpose?
I have no answer to that question.

Initially when I started researching pantry moths, I assumed my moths were the Mediterranean variety, whose ancestors, like mine, were immigrants to North America. (Also known as invasive species.)

That was wrong. My pantry moths, and most pantry moths, are Indianmeal moths. Indianmeal moths are not from India. They should not be confused with almond moths or raison moths, even when they munch on almonds and raisins with gusto. They also don’t mind eating cardboard or plastic if that is the best route to grains or nuts.
One of the things I was most delighted to learn about these moths, my moths and your moths, was that the females “oviposit on the second night after emergence. This is because they require a few hours for the sperm to move from the bursa copulatrix to the vestibulum, where fertilization occurs”.
How often do you get to use the word oviposit? Not enough, in my opinion. The same goes for copulatrix.
[Yes, I know we are dispensing with such gender specific, that is to say, feminized, words such as actress, waitress and aviatrix, but I hope we can keep copulatrix. Just because. ]
And when they do oviposit, the female moths oviposit between 116 and 678 eggs, in a food source, such as my almonds or whole wheat flour. Between exactly 116 and 678 eggs. I checked three sources, both online and in a real book, and they all gave those exact same numbers for the minimum and maximum number of eggs.

Why so much about pantry moths?
Because it seems especially important, at this time of year (birthday of Jesus, shutdown of the US government, wildfires, floods, holidays that conspire to break your heart, long nights, and then, arbitrarily, a new year with a new number) to recognize the depredations of age, usage, indifference, betrayal, neglect, breakage. Hungry moths.

There I was, checking out the moth carnage in the baking supply cabinet, when the light in the kitchen changed. Nothing alarming, just a shadow passing.
It was not a shadow at all. (Not my pictures.)
Outside, right in front of me standing at the window, thousands of starlings flew together from the branches of the birch tree up and over the field. They swooped together, they rose together, they dipped and swooped upward again. This, I later learned, is called “scale-free correlation”. Together they filled the sky, not completely, not as a dark blob, but as a giant pixelated moving wave. Together they curled and landed on the field, and together they alit and returned to the sky. I don’t know how long this Murmuration of Starlings lasted. They swirled and pulsated; their shape ballooned and then narrowed as if a belt were cinching a waist. They grew large and small. I didn’t have my camera, and any way, I couldn’t have captured this sky-filling avian ballet. Watch this on You Tube for an idea. For as long as they flew, ascended, curled back and dropped to the field, lifted in perfect synchronicity from the field and flew in wider circles, I watched. I felt hopeful.
Finally, they swooped northward and then flew in a wide parabola and headed southwest towards the river. I waited, in case they would circle back. But that was it, they went elsewhere.

Who are these starlings, and why do they do what they do?
For starters, starlings, like my ancestors and most of yours, were immigrants to these shores. Though my grandfather, a German cotton broker, did not arrive here with a Shakespearean agenda. Starlings did.
On a snowy day in 1860, Eugene Schieffelin, a German immigrant, released 60 European starlings in Central Park. It was his wish to introduce into North America all the birds mentioned by the plays of Shakespeare. (Clearly, the concept of invasive species was not yet au courant.) Ironically, Schieffelin succeeded with starlings, who get one puny mention in all of Shakespeare, whereas the more frequently mentioned skylarks and nightingales never adapted to North America.
When Schieffelin died in 1906, his obituary in the New York Times listed his memberships in the NY Genealogical and Biological Society, the NY Zoological Society, the American Acclimatization Society, the Union Club, the Society of Colonial Wars, the St Nicholas Club and the St Nicholas Society (Seriously. Both.) There was no mention of the starlings.

These days starlings are considered a nuisance, pests, and hazards. And of course, an invasive species.
According to the Coordinator for the USDA Airports Wildlife Hazards Program, starlings are “lean and mean. In the industry they're often called feathered bullets.”

Along with the enlargement of my vocabulary with oviposit and copulatrix, I was delighted to discover that our government supports an Airports Wildlife Hazards Program.
And so with this, I end the year, and wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Sane 2019.

Friday, November 2, 2018

In living color.

There is so much that is unfair and wretched in the world, that I hesitate to describe the unfairness I encountered late last night, reading The New Yorker. But I will.

It was an article by Margaret Talbot about the discomfiting and often disregarded fact that the ancient Greek statues and Greek buildings were not pristine white. They were painted. Painted colors. Those lustrous white marble torsos, those pure Ionic capitals, those Classic pediments, gleaming white under the Mediterranean sun. They do not represent what the Greeks created, what the ancient Greeks saw each day. “The idea that the ancients disdained bright colors “is the most common misconception about Western aesthetics in the history of Western art.””
It was not a misconception held by my mother. Years ago, as long as I can recall, she knew that the ancient Greeks and Romans painted their statues and facades. Not only did she know it, she insisted on it. She drilled into us that they were painted, that they were anything but pristine white marble. They were in fact polychromatic, lively, bright, even gaudy. If we, her children, learned anything from our mother (and we certainly learned much) we learned about the polychromatic Greek statuary. Also fenestration.
The unfairness lies in the timing of this wonderful article. My mother will not read this article. She will not enjoy the satisfaction of having known of ancient poly-chromaticism all along. She will not make multiple photocopies of the article to send to all her children and selected other relatives and friends, even though we have explained to her multiple times about the merits of simply emailing a link to a given article, and thereby saving paper, postage, etc.
When I read this article about the painted Greek statues, all I wanted to do was talk to my mother, to revel with her in this affirmation of what she had been telling us all along.

But I will not talk to my mother about this article. She is still here, but she is gone. The mother who was so bossy and confident and correct about colors, is gone. The mother who believed that all her grandchildren needed to know that the large front window at the Orchard was a Palladian window, and what that meant, is gone. The mother who encouraged me to paint, just below the kitchen molding, a wide band of a certain intense blue, Izniak tile blue, she is gone. Benjamin Moore, not having the benefit of my mother’s color knowledge, called it “Big Mountain Blue”. However named, the blue is still there, and it looks marvelous. She was so right about that blue.

As an architectural historian, and also a color consultant, my mother made it her business to know what colors were ‘appropriate’ and ‘historically correct’ for your house, your living room, even your bathrooms. In New England, where the slavish devotion to white clapboard approaches cult status, there were brave souls who strove for something more, something with color, and they paid my mother. They paid her real consulting fees to tell them what historically appropriate colors they should paint their houses.
I enjoyed this fact, because of course my mother told me what to do, for free. Gratis. Without a fee, my mother told me what color to paint my house, what color I should dye my hair (I balked, and prevailed), and what color clothing would suit my sallow Belgian complexion. About paint colors, she was invariably right. That is, she chose wonderful colors that
I would never have had the courage, or imagination, to choose. She steered me away from pastels, and I have never looked back.

The current article in the New Yorker, which I recommend, makes an additional point about the painting of Greek statues that even my mother could not have predicted*. Slithering in, on ancient polychromatic cat feet, are political implications. “Some white supremacists have been drawn to classical studies out of a desire to affirm what they imagine to be an unblemished lineage of white Western culture extending back to the Greeks. When they are told that their understanding of classical history is flawed, they often get testy.”**

My mother still knows her colors, some of them, most of the time. She remains very fond of blue.

*Though I may be not properly crediting her. Another thing my mother always insisted on, in the matter of representational art, was that Jesus was not ‘white’. My mother grew up in Cairo. She loved the Middle East. She was well aware that a young man from Galilee was not likely to be the paleface so revered in Western iconography.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

My Rant about Black Walnuts and their Drupes

Have I ranted about the black walnut* missile attacks before? Most likely. Most likely I do so on a biannual basis. Specifically, during mast years.
It’s been a great year for black walnuts, Juglans nigra, and for squirrels.** It has been a tragic year for my driveway, my back porch, and for CSB’s windshield.

Yes, I know that the black walnut tree is native, and native plants are good. I also know that the wood of black walnut trees is beautiful and valuable.

My gripe is with the fruits of the tree: the drupes. ***

We have tried, really tried, to find uses for black walnuts, to justify their existence, and in particular justify their voluminous existence in front of my house. You should never, ever, on any planet, on any continent, plant a black walnut tree near your house or driveway. Because, as Richard Powers says in The Overstory, they are “Trees that bomb the ground so only their young can grow.” What he doesn’t say is that their bombs can stain the wood on your back porch, puncture of your car, cause concussions, and sound like fireworks when they hit the driveway.

The problem with the black walnut drupes is exacerbated during wet and windy weather, the autumnal storms which we are experiencing in unprecedented profusion. With the rain the black walnuts become saturated and heavier, and with the wind the branches flail about and broadcast the black walnuts. Here at Let it Bee farm they bombard the back porch where they splatter on impact and stain not only the wooden planks but the white clapboard to a height of over 8 feet. They pour down on any patch of dirt aspiring to grow anything but Juglans nigra. They fall on the driveway by the thousands; and they attack any car foolish enough to be parked within the dripline. These foolish cars end up with pockmarked roofs and hoods, and recently, a shattered windshield. When cars drive over the black walnuts on the driveway – because we can’t spend every minute of every day shoveling them up with an industrial strength snow shovel – the bursting of the drupes sounds like machine gun fire.

Why do we put up with this tree, in the bosom of our abode? Exactly how idiotic are we? Would not a normal, well-adjusted, rational person chop the tree down, stack up the wood, and plant a benign azalea there instead? I often ask myself: what would a normal, well-adjusted person do in this circumstance [take your pick: recalcitrant chickens, political crises, randy squirrels on the roof, dementia]?
I often bemoan the phenomenon in electoral politics whereby huge swaths of the voting public appear to vote against their own best interests.
Yet here we are, living under the tyranny of the Juglans nigra, every year, and especially every other or mast year, complaining bitterly about the mess and the noise and threat of concussion. We could chop the tree down. CSB’s chain saw is not big enough, but there are plenty for excellent arborists who would happily come and take down this old tree, in stages, at some cost. We could even defray the cost of having the tree taken down by selling the wood: according to the all-knowing Internet, a single tree can be worth $20,000.

But we don’t chop it down, and we will not. Because it is a tree that belongs to this continent that has already spent (possibly) one hundred years growing in that spot. I have not spent one hundred years doing anything consistently.

As for justifying the black walnut’s existence in our particular spot, I read recently in Peter Wohlleben’s wonderful The Hidden Life of Trees, that the same compound (Juglone - a natural herbicide) that prevents other plants from growing in its vicinity, is considered so unpleasant by mosquitoes that “Garden lovers are often advised to put a bench under a canopy of walnuts….where they will have the least chance of being bitten by mosquitoes.” He makes no mention of the danger of sitting on that bench in the autumn, when the drupes are hailing down. I have to admit that we are rarely afflicted by mosquitoes when dining on the back porch all summer long.

*I will make a point of referring to the black walnuts that populate my yard as black walnuts, to distinguish them from the walnuts you buy in the grocery store and put in brownies, or not, depending on your familial preferences, which are European walnuts, Juglans regia, also of the Juglandaceae family, but so much easier to open.

**Factoid: Black walnuts make up 10% of the diet of an eastern squirrel. That is true in many places, except my yard, where they make up at least 50%.

***Drupes are “ fleshy fruits with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed”
This word is so delightful, and so much fun to say aloud, that it almost reconciles me to the Assault of the Drupes. But no, it doesn’t really. Other excellent words related to drupes are: drupaceous, drupelets**** and indehiscent.

*****My favorite of the drupe set of words.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Springtime on the Front Porch, tucked inside the Boxwood

April 24May 4May 7May 10May 13May 14May 15May 16May 17May 18May 20 The fledglings have flown. Here lies the empty nest.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Choose a Title

During recent meetings about Leigh Fibers, textile waste processing company in Spartanburg, SC, I learned quite a lot about the challenges of the recycling industry. Nothing is easy when you are dealing with junk.

You do realize that the cheaper virgin materials are, the less like likely industries are to recycle or buy recycled products? For example, when oil is cheap, the interest in recycling used polypropylene drops through the trapdoor.

That is just one of the many depressing facts I learned in our 17th floor conference room.

But, honoring the delightful signage on the factory floor that a decade ago gave me Sort Quench, and Dump, I gathered a few other random phrases from the arcane world of recycling and manufacturing, always looking for interesting titles. Titles for what? That remains to be seen.
These are what I came with. I welcome your comments, and favorites.







Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Why Kentucky? Why the Falklands?

Like certain sexually transmitted diseases, the archive that is the pile of still-unsorted papers from the Orchard has proved to be the Gift that keeps on Giving.

Yes, we moved Mom out of the Orchard 3 years ago, and we sold the house 2 years ago. But, in her valiant effort to empty the house in time for the sale, my sister took hundreds of pounds of unsorted files and papers back to Maine with her, to sort at leisure. A very funny concept of leisure, it is true.

Over the years some of us have enjoyed the wide variety of weird solicitations that come in over the transom for my mother. And for the past 3 years my sister and I have been fielding, ambushing, and then jettisoning said weird solicitations.

We were pretty inured to supplications from Little Sisters of this and that, the Needy Orphans of Cairo, as well as the Fund to Save the Gothic Revival Outhouses of Western Massachusetts, or the Steering Committee for 2035 - Celebrating 400 Years as Bucket-Town, even the Society for the Reinstatement of New Belgium in the New World. We thought nothing could surprise us.
Wrong, again.
My sister just shared with me this personalized solicitation that my mother received in 1982. And then saved for the next 30+ years.

Why Kentucky and the Falklands? Yes, I know about conflict between Argentina and the British. I just don't know what Kentucky has to do with it, or why. Thus, I have wasted several hours researching the two regions and am no closer to an answer. But I do now know a few things about Kentucky and the Falklands.

While the population of the Falklands hovers around the 3,000 mark, Kentucky has 4.4 million inhabitants: in both cases most of the residents trace their ancestors to the British Isles.

Kentucky has more miles of navigable rivers than any other state in the US. It has also the two largest man-made lakes east of the Mississippi, and the longest cave system in the US. The Falklands are 0% water, but – predictably – are entirely surrounded the Atlantic Ocean.

Kentucky has horse racing, bourbon, tobacco, coal, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Falklands have sheep. Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon. The Falklands have five varieties of penguins (King, Gentoo, Rockhopper, Macaroni and Magellanic) and some very large albatross colonies.

The entirety of the Falkland Island print media consists of The Teaberry Express and The Penguin News. Kentucky has colorfully-named conflicts: The Beaver Wars of the 1670’s, and the Black Patch Tobacco Wars of the twentieth century.

The Kentucky state seal features two men facing each other in what we can only hope is friendship; one is wearing buckskins, the other is wearing formal tails. The Falkland Islands seem to have two coats of arms: one depicts a sheep, while the other pictures a somewhat misshapen seal.

It is unclear whether my mother sent money to the Kentucky Committee for the Falkland Islands. Who was this person, this Kentuckian, so obsessed with the valiant Falklanders? And why should anyone else care? His solicitation strikes me as equivalent to me hitting up everyone I am connected to on Linked In and everyone they are connected to, for the Fund to Pay Groundskeepers for the Holy Wells of Dubious Historicity in Brittany and Wales.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Pleasure of Random Reading

I’ve written about it before, a year ago more or less, but it is no less true now than then, that one of the most pleasurable aspects of a week spent in Aquiares is reading at random.

It would not be an overstatement to say that reading is an enormous, and an enormously important, part of my life.

Much of my reading is project oriented. For instance, I have lately been reading Hungarian novels because I have created a character in my novel who is Hungarian. I have never been to Hungary, not do I know much about Hungary (current politics are rather unfortunate, so I read), but I believe that through novels I will gain an understanding of what it is to be Hungarian. Hence: Szabo, Esterhazy, Banffy and several whose names I cannot spell.

Likewise, with a reading group led by the remarkable and remarkably Proustian Anka Muhlstein, I am making my way through Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (about 60 pages to go), which led me to Chateaubriand, my latest crush. Also to Proust and the Squid, which isn’t really about Proust but about reading itself.

I particularly like guide books and reference books. Anything about reptiles and snakes in Costa Rica is appreciated.

The existence of this blog notwithstanding, I rarely read on a screen, especially small screens. I always have a small paperback in my handbag, because you never know when you will be stuck in a traffic jam or an airport or the checkout line at Costco. (Unlike Foodtown, where the magazine stand allows me to catch up on the peccadillos of celebrities I have never heard of.)

I feel about reading books the way others might feel about running, or eating chocolate: a non-reading life is not worth living.

So when I arrive at Aquiares, after making sure the volcano is still smoking, the first place I go is the bookshelf. Volcan Turrialba, seen from the Esperanza patio, and closer up, from the road to Irazu.
This past visit I discovered a novel by the poet James Schuyler, Alfred and Guinevere, about siblings who spend the summer with their grandmother and Uncle Saul, and are largely left to their own devices. It is simply brilliant. Then I picked up John Buchan’s Greenmantle and got about 50 pages into it before I realized it wasn’t necessary to continue; a little stiff-upper-lip, self-congratulatory, Brittania-rules-the-waves, can go a very long way. It felt perfectly acceptable to abandon Richard Hannay to his heroism, and turn to Barbara Pym’s Quartet in Autumn. This story of four single people, two men and two woman, who work together in an office that will soon become redundant, and their circumscribed lives, is rendered with exquisite and often painful tenderness and exactitude. My reading was enhanced by the pithy and witty marginalia of another sister-in-law, Fritz. After that I thought I would give mysteries a try, and there was Sue Grafton’s G is for Gullible. No, I just checked on-line, it is G is for Gumshoe. Either way, I couldn’t finish it. Her detective’s earnest heartiness became a little cloying, so I guiltlessly abandoned her and discovered Dawn Powell’s memoir, My Home is Far Away. This was not for the faint of heart. Anyone embarking on step-motherhood could find in those pages the absolute worst you could be. Lastly, I plucked Nabokov’s Transparent Things, which I had most likely read decades ago during my Nabokov-obsessive period, but even so, just in the first 10 pages I had to consult the dictionary four times and was rendered befuddled (I still am) by “unintentional pun” on page 14.* What could be better?

I wasn’t the only one reading at random. My sister-in-law, Sandra, was seen quietly laughing over Alfred and Guinevere, and then devoured several Barbara Pym’s. Even CSB, having dutifully read our book club selection, found some Faulkner that beckoned him. Only my brother Carl resisted the temptations of the bookshelf, and kept plugging along at Hawking’s Brief History of Time. I encouraged this, because I hoped to have him explain it to me. It is not exactly brief. Carl highly recommends the illustrated version.

We left Aquiares sadly, but one consolation was realizing that there remain several books, unchosen by me, that look intriguing. Until next year.

*3 Photos

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Passion in a Village on the Side of a Volcano

The last time we were in Aquiares, a coffee farm on the slopes of Volcan Turrialba in Costa Rica, for Semana Santa (holy week), was almost forty years ago.

That first Semana Santa, my daughter was just learning to walk, and she practiced her steps on the dirt roads from our house, called Esperanza, to the Aquiares village church, where small girls in home-made saint costumes, were carried aloft on wooden platforms by their older brothers and fathers. Now all my daughter’s children walk and run, and I limp.

More recently the AquiareƱos decided to mount the whole Passion story over the course of the three days leading up to Easter.

I have certainly heard of Passion plays all my life. I did after all go to a lamentable Catholic school where the only subject taught was religion, and even that badly. And in my hagiographic period I sought out and admired many saintly relics of dubious veracity and taste. But I had never seen a Passion play. What exactly did I expect?

Thursday evening we walked down to the playground where we found the table set for the Last Supper, on the basketball court. This proved to be a convenient choice, as there was existing lighting. An extravagantly bewigged and bearded Jesus entered from stage left, followed by his twelve apostles, with their names written in large letters on sashes across their chests. This being the 21st century, even in a small Costa Rica village, several of the apostles were played by young women. Then bread was eaten and wine was drunk, and words were said, words that that had been said thousands upon thousands of times before. Then Judas – a much coveted role – snuck out to meet with the Roman soldiers and tell them how he would identify Jesus with a kiss. For this, he got his 30 pieces of silver.

Judas returned to the basketball court, kissed Jesus and set the betrayal in motion. The Roman soldiers rushed the stage and took him away. I am sorry we have no more pictures, but it was quite dark by then and I had only a cellphone camera.

Good Friday was the big event. It was drizzling. We had Gallo Pinto, huevos, mangoes and papaya for breakfast, and headed up the Cuesta Dura hill. A large portion of the village was there, but not everyone. (Even Aquiares has a few Evangelicals, and presumably they would not be caught dead at a Catholic Passion Play.) People raised umbrellas or went back to their houses to get umbrellas. Mothers adjusted their children’s costumes. It was hard to tell when the action began. Then it did. Soldiers marched back and forth, very seriously, very much in step with the drummers drumming.

A word about the Roman soldiers: there were dozens of them, in age ranging from six to forty-six. They all wore tunics, capes, fitted pants, and soldierly boots. They all carried shields emblazoned with SPQR or a crab. They all wore silver helmets topped with broom bristles in a variety of colors. (Here, as previously seen in the Aquiares ‘super’.) Many soldiers had leather wristlets, and many others carried swords. Others drummed.

The soldiers brought Jesus out, his face almost completely obscured by his extravagant wig. His brown tunic was now marked with red paint. They flogged him with sponges attached to sticks. He made all the noises of pain, and a few children started to wail. If any young parents were questioning whether this spectacle was likely to traumatize their children, they did not make themselves known. The procession commenced, as it did nineteen hundred and eight-five years ago, with Roman soldiers marching, locals watching, commenting, greeting each other, and Jesus carrying the wooden cross. Along the way, various women stopped the procession and spoke to Jesus, often at length. It did not go unnoticed, by me, that all the long monologues were performed by young women. Halfway down the hill, Simon of Cyrene was enjoined by the Roman soldiers to help Jesus with the cross. And so we processed through the village of Aquiares, past houses of old friends, past sleeping dogs and lost shoes, past a pulperia and the ‘Super’ Mercado, past the tailler and the beneficio, to the churchyard. There, behind a scrum of Roman soldiers spreading wide their cloaks, Jesus was laid upon the cross that had been fashioned by the local carpenter earlier that week, with a platform for standing and straps to hold up his arms, in lieu of nails. More soldiers pulled the cross upright with ropes, and the well-known words were spoken, and a vinegar-soaked sponge was offered, and thus ended the day’s events.

What was our place in all this? The idle spectators? The gringos? The local populace? The interlopers? The Philistines?
Obviously, it is not every day that Jesus is crucified. It is also just an ordinary drizzling day in the village of Aquiares, and neighbors are chatting, and mothers are making sure their kids have snacks, and chickens are squawking on patios, and everyone, including the priest, is taking pictures on cellphones.

That evening, the evening of good Friday, after the crucifixion CSB had trouble breathing. He couldn’t catch his breath. It was troubling enough that, after ascertaining that the local doctora was away from the farm, we headed for the nearest emergency room.
There, in the waiting room at the William Taylor Allen Hospital there was a flat screen television mounted in a corner, showing Ben-Hur. With the sound off. At first I didn’t know it was Ben-Hur, or what it was. I guessed Spartacus (Roman soldiers, ancient times, hunky actor) but I was wrong: that was another movie, with another actor. Even in a Turrialba waiting room, it is possible to Google “Charlton Heston, movie with Roman Soldiers” and quickly discover Ben-Hur.
Like the Roman soldiers in Aquiares, the soldiers in the movie wore tunics, fitted pants and capes. Their shields bore the letters SPQR or the image of a crab. They wore silver helmets, and maybe the costume department at Universal had not refashioned brooms to create their bristly comb, but the effect was the same as in Aquiares.
The health care was excellent and unbelievably cheap. It took a long time to get all the necessary tests read, but even so, we did not see the end of Ben-Hur.
I hear the movie ends well. CSB also is feeling much better.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A little self-puffery, from a robot no less

Truly, I appreciate all my SQD readers, small and select group that you are. But the following may well be the highest critical praise my writing has received…in quite a while.(And from a dirtbag, no less. We take what we can.) Someone at Roomba sent this to my rather remarkable niece, Eliza:

Your aunt is truly very talented and we look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. Perhaps she should write a book with poetry or even short stories? We think more people should see this and witness her amazing writing skills.

I am not sure where Alenda at Roomba got the idea that I have poetic talent. Maybe she was thinking of poetic license?

Response By Email (Alenda J.) (03/04/2018 12:54 PM EST)
Hi Eliza!

Thank you for sending us with this glorious piece which was written by your aunt Eliza!
It was an absolute pleasure reading this and we think that she has a real talent in poetry.

Being a Roomba owner myself, I've also had many ways I wanted to describe my Seth to my interested neighbors and friends but I was never able to find words that can be used to describe the beauty of Roomba. Your aunt was able to write how I felt about Seth with just a few keystrokes and for that, we thank her.

There were a few parts that were especially very interesting such as "When Roomba first arrived, I decided to name it. In our never-ending effort to be politically correct - why should house cleaners always be female?" This is precisely why I decided to name Roomba with a masculinity just for the sake of equality!

We also loved reading this; "I already have a vacuum cleaner, an Electrolux that is generally considered to be a first-class vacuum. But my vacuum requires a human being to push it around the house. Roomba requires only that he is recharged. And his dirt bag emptied."
Eliza, this is exactly how we want our customers to feel about our robots. We want them to feel at ease and relaxed while Roomba does all the work needed to keep a home very comfortable.

Your aunt is truly very talented and we look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. Perhaps she should write a book with poetry or even short stories? We think more people should see this and witness her amazing writing skills.

Again we do thank you for the opportunity to read this lovely piece and we wish you and your aunt all the best!

Additionally, we would like to know if you own a Roomba or if your aunt's Roomba is registered with us. Please let us know by responding to this email or calling us at 1 (877) 855-8593. We are available Monday through Friday from 9am to 9pm, and then Saturday & Sundayfrom 9am to 6pm (EST).

Warmest Wishes,
Alenda J.
iRobot Customer Support

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Dodging Bites and Branches

This came from the Hastings police 3 days ago:
Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department: currently tracking a wild coyote that maybe rabid and attacked two people and their dogs this evening. Please Stay out of all wooded areas in particular Hillside Woods.

The next day this came:
The Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department is currently tracking a wild coyote that maybe rabid and attacked two people and their dogs this evening. One incident occurred on Kent Ave. The second occured in Hillside Woods. The injured parties were taken to the hospital.

And for a change in what to worry about:

But we haven't forgotten the coyotes:
Message from the Mayor: Coyote attacks in Village
Last night, between 6:30 and 8:00PM, three people were attacked and bitten by a coyote and a small dog was killed. Two of these attacks occurred on Kent and on Overlook, and one in Clarewood Village. All attacks occurred on the street. The three victims have been treated at hospital and released. The animal also charged a number of other residents (and, in several cases, their pet dogs) though did not inflict any injury. The coyote has not been located and destroyed. It was last seen running toward Hillside Woods.

Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department: Coyote Information & Safety Tips
On February 28, 2018 at approximately 3:50 PM the Village of Hastings on Hudson Police Department received a call from a resident who reported being involved in an auto accident with a coyote on Broadway near Burnside Drive. Patrols were detailed along with the Greenburgh Animal Warden. It was determined the coyote suffered fatal wounds. The animal was transported by the Greenburgh Animal Patrol to the Westchester County Health Department for testing.

How many coyotes were there? Are they all dead now? At least one is still at large, licking its chops in anticipation of munching a lapdog.

Tristram was bitten by a rabid dog on his honeymoon, at a Temple outside Hanoi. He got a series of rabies shots, in Vietnam and back in the US, and hasn't thought about it since. (Unlike his mother.)

One small dog was killed, and at least 4 people have been attacked. I am pretty sure the dead deer I saw on the Aqueduct on Tuesday was killed by a coyote. I didn't think about it at at the time, which doesn't say much for my powers of deduction.

One coyote was captured and killed on Dunwoodie Golf Course. It was a scratch golfer.

Yesterday afternoon my mother's caregiver, Ava, called me from the Red House. I don't want to say she was hysterical. She was in a tizzy. Ava is somewhat zoophobic. Insects freak her out. When we set mousetraps in Mom's house, one of us has to go check on it early in the morning, before Ava can even see it. So it follows logically that Ava would be rendered quasi-hysterical by the coyote alert in our village.

The local police had knocked on the Red House door and told Ava and Mom to stay inside, because the coyote had been spotted in our backyard. I reassured Ava that coyotes cannot open doors, so that as long as they stayed inside, all would be well. I read in the paper this morning that a few minutes after that call, a car killed a coyote across the street on Broadway and Burnside, saving the sharpshooters from Albany the trouble. I never saw the police, or the coyote. Not this time.

I thought the coyotes were going to be the scariest thing to contend with today. And the most troublesome thing to contend with would be the leak in the bathroom ceiling. The ceiling leaks whenever there is heavy rain, and today there was heavy rain, and so much else. Then the sink upstairs started leaking, or just oozing water onto the floor. And since the stand is encased in porcelain, I cannot turn off the water valves, which I am capable of doing when such things are accessible. At the same time, the toilet in the powder room next to the kitchen started leaking, but CSB was able to shut of the water valve.
Coyotes were looking like a minor blip in the day. The chickens were safely locked inside. And as I told Ava, coyotes cannot turn door knobs.

The wind keeps blowing. In the kitchen the wind generates a high pitched squeal that has something to do with the weather vane atop the cupola. Upstairs the wind sounds like whistling, particularly like the whistling of someone with a missing front tooth.

I had an appointment this morning with the water company meter reader. For many months they have been sending my mother (me) estimated bills because no one was reading the meter. The Suez service guy arrived. Ava wouldn't let him wait in the house, so he sat in his truck and I walked over to meet him. He drove down the driveway and I walked through the trees to the far northeast corner, where the property abuts our neighbor's property and Broadway. I noticed that the new owners of the Forge Cottage had installed a large wooden compost pile on our property, on our side of the fence. That seemed odd. I was thinking about how to address this issue, in a neighborly way. I haven't even met these new neighbors, and I didn't want the first thing I said to them to be: Please put your compost onto your side of the fence. And welcome to the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the water meter was right where CSB said it was. Then the young man headed back to his truck to get his tools, and I was still in the wooded area checking out the snow drops when there was ominous cracking, and then more ominous cracking and then an enormous limb came down, snapping off more limbs on its way down. I started running away from the falling tree, when I heard more and louder cracking, and an even bigger tree came down. I kept running to get out of the trees. The meter guy quickly departed, leaned out the window of his van and said they would call to make another appointment.

In the grand Darwinian tradition of idiots going for walks in swampy woods during a wind storm, I was almost flattened by a tree.

Afterward,I stopped in to see Mom and Ava (still all agog about the coyote). I did not mention the near miss by the descending tree.Going home I kep far away from any trees.

Just a few minutes ago I was having yogurt and berries in the dining room (the kitchen table can't go back until tomorrow) when I heard another loud crack and watched as the biggest of the birch trees went crashing down. Away from the house. That is two trees I've dodged today. I am feeling superstitious.

The birch is iconic to this house and this property. Something inside my head cracked with it.

PS: This was written yesterday, but I I couldn't post it as we had no internet. We still don't. I am getting creative.