Sunday, June 23, 2013

Egg Timers and Surveillance

The other day, Xander discovered for the very first time our egg timer. It’s very old style, a three minute hourglass style timer. Flip it over and watch your eggs. You have to watch closely, of course, because there are no bells and whistles that go off when the very last grain of sand falls through the narrow passage. Xander was fascinated. We decided to test the timer and see just how long it took for three minutes to pass. We combined this ancient technology with the microwave timer and discovered it took two minutes and forty-seven seconds for the sand to run out. We ran this experiment several times – a delightful and easy way to entertain an energetic and wildly curious five year old for more than half an hour toward the end of our day together. It was a multi-tasking little egg timer, well surveyed! Speaking of surveillance, I have to digress for a moment regarding the NSA leak. The big question, to me, is: ARE WE SURPRISED? REALLY?!! The fact is that our government has had citizens under surveillance. That the numbers have increased exponentially only means that the technology to watch us has increased likewise. Our online activities are being monitored constantly, as conscientious citizens scour material for buzz words and phrases that raise a red flag. This very blog may cause a red flag to be raised simply if I mention the word anarchy, or terrorist, or Snowden, or any other of a vast number of possibilities. Yet I do so openly because I have nothing to hide from anyone. I am not afraid of surveillance, but I object to it. I object more, though, to our government – and our President – lying to us about what they are doing. Face it, whether you like it or not, those people who run the country – who have the power – feel somehow obliged to make sure they stay in power. They might tell you and me that they are simply trying to protect us, but the fact is that we are their subjects, not their partners, and they will treat us as such. Any one of us who threatens or appears to threaten THEM might find themselves being watched more closely than Xander watches an hourglass. It’s the hypocrisy that bothers me most. We spy. We have spied on others since we have been a nation. All nations do it as much as their technology and funding allow. Americans willingly give up their privacy – as I am doing right now – on social media or walking down camera-embedded streets. The fact that we spy on ourselves doesn’t mean much, except that it shakes our trust and confidence in our own government. What little remains. It’s like a three minute egg timing hourglass that takes 2 minutes, 47 seconds to run out.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Twins, Bees, Surveillance: What’s the Buzz?

My first blog in weeks, and second in two months, and I have so much to say that I can think of very little to say. I apologize up front. So much is happening in the world today, or not happening, depending on one’s point of view, that there are literally hundreds of topics not to write about and yet remain cheerful. With the sun shining and the temperatures indicating summer is here, I find it had to avoid commenting on the NSA and the shocking leak and issues like that. Shocking? I am shocked that we are shocked to think our government is spying on us. I mean, when you have power you will do anything possible to keep it. And we’re surprised? Our allies are surprised? They do it themselves. Are you shocked? Again, apologies – I did not really want to write about any of that. I want instead to talk about the things I have been surveying of late around my house. The white tailed deer have been few and far between while the birthing season has gone on. One of our deer – I talk like they’re our pets – is an older doe who has lost sight in one eye, and we figured she must be past birthing. She always had twins, year after year. Last Friday evening on our way home, we saw her guiding her brand new twins along the road. The fawns were so new they still didn’t have their sea legs, stumbling along while she watched us closely. Xander was with us and was very excited to see them. The next day I saw something I had not seen in a while: a honey bee buzzing amid the flowers in my back yard. With the plight of bees in America, I was happy to see this one, like a new hope dawning. And finally, we have a guest family nesting in the corner of our house. I don’t mean wasps and yellow jackets, who keep trying to take up residence against our wishes. I mean two robins, who built their nest atop our motion sensitive outside floodlight (that needs replacing) just under the eve at the north corner. We have been watching the mother robin sit on her eggs, and waiting anxiously for new life. Such things are much more exciting and fun to watch for and write about than the idiocies of our rulers. I just wish the robins ate wasps.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It's About The Cat

Before we begin, I just wanted to let you all know that I am in e-print again. My story about finding the wedding ring was printed on Clever Magazine. Check it out online! Just heyword Clever Magazine. You'll find me. And thank you, Dianne! Today's blog: Saturday morning, when I came in from work, Kevin did not greet me at the door. This was odd. Kevin is my cat, and he always seems to be hungry, either for attention or for food. He always greets me at the door carrying a sign that says, “Feed me! NOW!” He backs that up with a soulful if decidedly sour verbal accompaniment. I was worried. I found him asleep on the living room couch. He barely moved to acknowledge my presence. This is my cat – if he hasn’t seen me for half an hour he greets me as if I just returned from six months at sea. He never stays by himself if a lap is present. I fixed his breakfast and he didn’t move; I put it under his nose and he sniffed twice before turning away. Something was wrong. Cats can go sour at the blink of an eye. In fact, cats are so good at hiding it when they’re sick that by the time you see the symptoms, they’re really ill. Add to that Kevin’s advanced age, thirteen human years, there was reason for concern. Of course, kids, pets and water heaters always get sick on the weekend. It’s the law. We decided to watch him closely and hope he started to feel better, but were ready to deal with a worse outcome and began calculating how to finance a visit to the Vet. Who was closed on the weekend, of course. Fortunately, by about four p.m. he began to act more normally, and by six he began to shout for dinner. The crisis had passed. It turns out -- we’re pretty sure -- that Kevin hopped up on the kitchen counter the night before (which is strictly against the law in our house, but cats don’t care about laws) and helped himself to a drink of soapy dishwater from the tub where we were soaking a casserole dish lined with fishy goodness, and made himself nauseated. I love my four-legged son. But I recognize the desperate truth: Kevin is a cat of little brain. He’s looking at me as I write these words, but all he wants to say is, “Get that damned computer off your lap, please.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Field Trip

We went on a field trip with our grandson Xander and his pre-K class. There were eight adults and eight five-year-olds – just about the right number, the perfect balance. We went to hunt bugs in the woods. We found lots of ants and a few other things, but mostly we found dirt and leaves and stumps where part of the forest was clear cut. So it goes. We still had a wonderful time, riding on the bus forty minutes to and back, with an hour and a half in the woods and snacking on the lake. Three things struck me. The first is the realization that, every time I get homesick for Holland (which is just about hourly), I can travel on the back way from Kalispell to Lakeside and encounter three rather large and well engineered roundabouts. They remind me of one that we encountered somewhere near Giethorn years ago, a roundabout right in the middle of the countryside with absolutely nothing around it, not even a road crossing the intersection. It was a simple left turn complicated by the compulsory entrance into the circular path. I think it was built just to slow people down in the middle of nowhere. Second: On the return trip, Xander started chatting with the boy in front of him in very animated fashion. They weren’t talking about bugs or the weather or the swollen Flathead River as we crossed it. They were talking about the latest version of Super Mario Brothers videogames on their respective X-boxes. I thought I was watching them battling withdrawal. Just saying . . . Third: We shared the return bus with a class of 4th graders. Their teacher had brought along a great project that combined science and art. Each kid places an arrangement of leaves on a piece of photosensitive paper. When the sun hit the paper it created a negative image – sort of like the Shroud of Turin, except with plant life – on the paper, suitable for framing. To us fellow oldsters, the teacher observed that, before the class set out, she wondered how many of these kids born in the digital age would even know what a photographic negative is. The answer, she learned, was zero. So this is my first blog for the month of June; I missed the entire Month of May. That was a busy month spent scrambling, writing, playing with Xander, and dodging raindrops. By six pm every night I just want to have a peaceful dinner with my bride and then spend the rest of the evening vegging out with our Netflix for the day or something on PBS, holding hands. Yes, we still do that – yes, we’re still nauseating.