Monday, July 18, 2011

More Poly-Ticking

Sometimes, opinions are solicited about the budget crisis.  I wish I could say that it is about us, the people, or even about the budget.  Truthfully, I don't think it is about either.  Power plays and political moves have no one in mind but the narcissists who play the game.  Social Security checks and veterans be damned.  We've got to make sure which party looks bad to the American public.

In case you might think that such poly-ticking is confined to Washington, we have our own backyard brand of it right here in Podunk, Kentucky.  Although a local wildlife rescue and educational center is zoned agricultural and conservation, although the director cleared her plans with neighbors and zoning before moving into a subdivision, she is being cited for zoning and home owners association restrictions that the rescue organization says do not mention the rehabilitation of wildlife.  They think they are right and they aim to shut her down.  It is possible they know the right people to do so, and perhaps it all comes down to that. Not what makes this planet a better place and preserves a little more of our humanity, but who is right, dammit.

Days old baby squirrel

Who will we call when we find an injured or abandoned critter?  We can't legally keep it or rehab it.  Animal writhing on the street in pain?  Look the other way, for no one in the county will help. Tell your kids that.  Compassion for animals?  Out the window.  But let me tell you, I hope that the children who are NOT taught compassion for living things are the ones who change YOUR diaper and feed you, Mr. Zoning and Mr. Home Owners Association, when you are in the nursing home.

You see, how we treat the smallest of creatures helps us to learn to see the bigger picture.  My animals, they cost a lot to keep.  They take a lot of work.  But through our animals, my children have learned responsibility, compassion, perseverance, the pain of loss, both the need to let animals be true to their nature and loving yet letting go, of caring for those around us, of compromise.  All this so that when confronted with a bigger life changing event, they've already understood what this means on a smaller scale, have already learned they can deal with it and live through it.

This center, it can teach children how to understand the world and those that inhabit it.  The compassion for animals translates to compassion for humans.  If you think it doesn't, and you want to take that chance, well then, we'll see who's right in the end.

P.S.  I visited "Phyllis", the now named and recuperating groundhog.  She has finished her medication and is recovering nicely.  She declined to smile for the camera, and slept for most of my visit.  There are hopes for her eventual release.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Car Game

While I am most certain there are girls that like fast and amazing cars (two of my bestest friends are among them), boys most certainly can be counted on to make the study of cars an academic subject.  I have had to learn the names, makes and models, cost (a Mustang costs well over $40,000), how fast they go, the merits of having a car that goes 150 mph when you can never drive that fast anyway....

When this age was reached, I was woefully unprepared as I was not a car aficionado.   I drive a beige mini-van, for goodness sakes.  Finding myself often in the car with young boys who like cars and ask a lot of questions, none of which I know the answer to or for that matter, care to, I had to come up with an entertaining diversion.  Hence, the birth of "the car game".

The car game has grown, changed rules, and sometimes varies with the participants or length of a trip.  You can adapt it, if you like, to your own whims.  Here are the basics:

As you drive, you may choose a car you see that you would like to be driving.  You are now driving this car.  You must call out the name of the car you see, and that you call it.  You may change your car a total of five times in an average trip (30 minutes).

Other participants, however, may "give" you another car, usually the most beat up, ugliest, or funniest car they see.  This car supersedes your previous car.   You now drive it until you find a car worth giving up one change of car.  Each participant may only twice give a car to each person.

New rule thanks to a recent development by friend "A":  the car must BE a car, have an engine, and actually run.  You may not give your mother a Port-O-Let, just because it is on wheels, nor a garbage can.  The car you give someone must not be broken down along side of the road, thereby stranding the other player there forever.  Granted this is funny, but is against the rules!

We have managed to have participants driving garbage trucks, a truck with corn oil shaped like an ear of corn, a truck hauling an airplane wing, and in a brilliant move, a Brinks truck.  Of course, the "prize" is finding a Viper, something I'd never even heard of a year or two ago.  I'd settle for anything under 100,000 miles!

I think I've found the perfect car for me, but I'm guessing that I'm unlikely to see it driving down the road, so I won't be able to call it.  All fantasy, of course.

One day, my lovely sister gave me a heart attack at 8 o'clock in the morning.  (She is not an early riser normally).

"Are you listening to this on NPR?" she asks.

I am wondering if there's been a terrorist attack, someone famous killed, the second coming of Christ.....  My heartbeat races.   "What?"

She tells me that on NPR right now they are talking about longevity, and goes on to repeat "a subset of motor vehicles is simply unstoppable".  I begin to breathe again.  Apparently, if a car lasts beyond a certain number of miles, it is just as likely to keep going.  Forever.  Terrific.  I'll be 80 years old and still driving Eugene the Van.  No Batmobile for me.  I thanked her for the heart attack.  I may not make eighty with phone calls like that.  The good news is that I'm easily recognized by my friends.  Not many drive a beige minivan from the late 90s. "There goes Eugene!" I imagine them saying.

Overheard:  "The more I read, the more I like it." - William

Note:  I know that I should have photos on my blog, but it seems that my batteries are jumping out of my camera and finding their way to TV controllers, xBox controllers and the like. "Not Me", my invisible Chinese son, is blamed when I ask who took my batteries?  I bought another pack today, and I'm hiding them in an undisclosed location.

Next blog:  Assembly Not Required

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It is SO hot....

...that the plastic string in the weed eater was melting in the head of it, and breaking off.  I hadn't figured out what was happening until the rental guy told me two other people had had the same experience this morning.  The plastic was fusing inside the feeder, keeping it from feeding out when I "bumped" it.  Myself, I was so hot that water was running down my face and my safety glasses were fogging up.  And this was at 8 a.m.

You may wisely ask why on earth I was weed eating in this heat?  There was a stand of weeds at the end of our driveway, preventing drivers in cars to see any cars coming up a dip in the road before our driveway.  I envisioned someone hitting my girls or a visitor, and it was a safety issue.  Because I had rented it for the day, I used the weed eater to also clean up some other taller weeds.

Pleased with my efforts and it getting hot, I returned the weed eater to the rental company, exchanged pleasantries with the owner, and drove home.  It was then I saw the "mowing ahead" signs.  The county had chosen THIS day to mow along the road.  Had I waited ONE day, they would have mowed down those weeds and I would not have been out in the heat cussing red plastic string.  I did get other spots done, too, so I'll focus on that.  It's like cleaning out a closet.  You know, how after a large cleaning out, you have to go several times a day, stand in front of the closet and look at it?  Now, I have to go look out the window a few times a day at my tidy borders.

I filled out Lauren's gas chart, where she keeps track of gasoline she uses so that she can reimburse us.  "mom" I write out in the column for driver.  Purpose:  "weed" I abbreviate for weed eater, not all of it fitting in the box.  That doesn't look good, I erase and write smaller, "weed eater".  Never tried the stuff and not going to start now.

The heat takes its toll.  Our hen, Rosy, the oldest of our brood, died in the nest box last night, doing what she does best.  I hadn't noticed she was ailing yesterday, and feel badly about that.  She was still laying now and again.  I have a fan on the baby chicks and have let out everyone but one rooster.

I go mid-day to hose off the horses.  They don't appreciate it, of course, until they're back in their stalls in front of their fans.  I'm hoping for a big thunderstorm today to cool things off.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Groundhog News

First, "he" is a "she".  After I wrote my blog yesterday, I again contacted the animal rehabilitator who agreed to take the groundhog.  Finding out that it is illegal here to keep any sort of wildlife unless you are a certified rehabber, I drove it to her place 12 miles down the road.

What an experience!  You see, you never know where you'll be led to learn when you pick up a groundhog in the road.  This woman has a beautiful place on 14 acres, a barn that looks like a ski lodge and is nicer and bigger than my house, except it houses raccoons and opposums!  She was reluctant at first to take my groundhog because after building a new outdoor enclosure (all of hers are tasteful, painted and not at all a detraction to the property), a neighbor has seen fit to cause her legal trouble and they're trying to shut her down.  She's the only rehabber for mammals in our county, she regularly educates school kids about mammals, and is certified and all that.

She took extra time to tell William and me all about the playful baby raccoons and the sleeping baby opposums.  The opposums' mother was found drowned in a koi pond.  When a human pulled her out, the babies were still alive in her pouch!  Amazing.  It looks like a great deal of work to keep cages clean (raccoons are messy) and yet, it looks like a show place.  She told William about her pet skunk and explained de-scenting.

We transferred the groundhog to a large cage, and as the rehabber picked her up, the groundhog urinated with blood in it.   She thought the hindquarters did not look right, so I left with not much optimism for the outcome.

This morning I received this email:

I am so happy to report that the groundhog seems so much better today. Yesterday, she was given some IV fluids as well as a strong antibiotic injection which she'll continue for a few days. She seemed more alert and when she peed on me for the second time (ha!) the blood was much more diluted. I have high hopes of a full recovery. It actually brought tears to my eyes this morning that she ate as soon as I offered her some food. She picked out her favorites and is leaving the rest for later.  She is also receiving a pain killer and anti inflammatory. Thanks for saving her. I don't think she'd be here today if it weren't for you.

So, we learned a little, connected with someone I'd just read about in the newspapers, and now, I'll write to my magistrate to protest the trouble they are giving this woman who is doing work no one else will do on her own time.  Perhaps there was a reason for a groundhog to be in the road.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck....?

In my mind, I see my son traveling around in a golf cart with his grandpa on his farm, stopping to drop rocks down the woodchuck, aka groundhog or whistle pig, holes.  Groundhogs can be dangerous to farmers, creating large holes in pasture, not to mention crop damage.  Juxtaposed to that image is the one of the two groundhogs that live in our bank's backyard.  For years, my girls and I have paused to watch them after a bank trip, assured that it was now spring because the groundhogs were out.

My quick trip to Walmart this morning brought these memories forward.  I swerved to miss something in the road, as did the car in front of me, and in my rearview mirror, I saw an animal injured and trying to crawl to safety.  I didn't know if it was a dog or cat, but I couldn't leave it.  I turned around and got out, instructing William to stay put, which he did not, of course.  It was a groundhog, hit by a car and panting heavily.  I could not leave the poor thing to lay there in the heat on the asphalt, waiting for the car that didn't swerve.  

In my car, I had my Walmart reusable shopping bags, so I gingerly scooped it up in one.  A man walking with his three children stopped to look, all of us peering at it.  William worried about me, fearful I'd get bitten or attacked.  A valid fear, I told him.  I tied the handles and we got in the car.  What to do?  I pictured the thing recovering quickly, getting out of the bag and attacking!  But no, the bag moved only with his quick breaths.  I suggested we go to animal control to have it put down.   My child had other ideas.  Could I not at least try to find someone to help it?

I headed over to the Humane Society building, where I was surprised to find people there, today being a spay/neuter clinic - and they had no drugs to put it down.  I next visited our old vet, a kindly gentleman towering about 6'5".  He took the animal out and said although it seemed in shock and could have internal injuries, nothing was broken and it should recover.  It was a baby, only 6 - 8 weeks old.  He recommended returning it to the same general area and "letting nature take its course".  HE doesn't have to answer to a nine year old.

I called an animal rehabilitator, who currently cannot accept animals because her neighbor complained about her cages.  (I take note of this.)  She maybe can find me help if it makes it through the next few hours.  But I still have not made it to Walmart - and it is a very hot day.  Although William likes that our pool is green because it is like swimming in a Star Wars swamp, other mothers are not likely to be so delighted to have their kids in our green soup.  So, I grab ahold of the Walmart blue bag and walk in.  I only need one thing, right?  I stop at the garden cashier station.  

"This," I say, "is a groundhog.  It was injured.  I just have to get one thing and then take it home.  I don't want to open the bag."  Yet, I don't want to be accused of stealing and want her to see I am bringing something in.

She looks at me like I have three heads and leans back.  She says nothing, so I go on in.  The groundhog moves a bit and I hurry William along as he begs for swimming goggles.  Can't see in green water anyhow.
We get back to the car, and I drive home, abandoning other errands.  As I'm nearing home, the bag starts moving and I drive a little faster.  Ack!  I hope it doesn't recover and run screaming around my car.  Oh, the scream would be me.

Finally, I get the groundhog settled in a cage in my basement.  A little water by dropper and it sleeps.  Or, it's dying.  Either way, I've done all I could and it isn't dying in the heat on the road.   Check back to see if it makes it.  I'm sure this will be an interesting learning experience.

We received a shipment in Styrofoam.  William asks (the girls never asked this), "Can I destroy this?"
I say sure, but remember it makes little white balls everywhere, which YOU must clean up.  He pauses, "Nah, it isn't worth it."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Through the Looking Glass

Most people that recognize me say, "I didn't know you work here..." and I shrug, replying that I have two in college.  I work weekends, mixing paint at a do-it-yourself store.  I won't write about the company, or much about the people where I work, but only my own learning experiences or perhaps a story or two.

Having been at one time, a lifetime ago, trained as a chemical engineer and now, dare I say reduced to, wiping the floor of a can of paint a careless customer dropped, I think perhaps I've hit a new low.  I repeat to myself, "Jesus was just a carpenter" and other adages that enforce that all work done well is worthy work.  I tamp down my tendencies to want to improve how things are done, and try to focus on learning the trade and doing what is expected.  There is much to learn, both practical and if I chose to, educational.

I fear becoming the Mr. Nigel-Murray of the paint desk.  From the more experienced employees I've learned how to prepare and stain a deck, which product to use, the difference between this brand of paint and that, how to strip wood or waterproof a concrete wall.  But that usually isn't enough for me.  At home, I Google that xylene is chemically ortho-, meta- and para- dimethyl benzene and toluene is better named methlybenzene.  I call the rep for a driveway sealer and ask why the supreme contains only one polymer and why the lesser formula contains co-polymers.  Bits of my former education come back to me.  

My co-workers vary and several have come and gone already.  I've come to enjoy the ones that have endured, and found strengths in each.  I find myself on the other side now, no longer management, and it shines a new light on the world of work.  Looking out from the other side of the mirror is an interesting experience. 

As for customers, most are patient, kind, and appreciative.   And a small number....aren't.  Remaining positive, we won't discuss the few, but I will only say that everyone should work retail and go out into a lot of a store and gather carts (something we must do periodically if not helping customers).   It has made me much more patient myself with store clerks, and I always return my cart to a carrel.  

A story:
A young Japanese couple inquired about eco-friendly paint.  The man spoke only broken English, though his wife was a bit more fluent.  She glanced at their only girl child, three or four years old, in the bascart.  
The man asked, "What paint you have that is eco-friendly?"
I show them our 0% VOC paint.
"What VOC?"
A quick explanation of volatile organic compounds gets their heads bobbing in unison.  Yes, this is what they want, glancing again at their offspring. 
"How much?"
When I tell them it is $50 to $60 a gallon, the man responds, "What other paint you got?"
It seems that being environmentally conscious only goes so far.  

It became apparent that someone was switching labels from economy paintbrushes to our eco-friendly bamboo-handled paintbrushes, thereby paying considerably less for the "green" version.  I pictured a poor hippy who can't afford to protect the earth, so he steals the eco-friendly brush.  No, I am told by the paint manager - it is a better made brush.  


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