Not a significant source of protein*

I watched some of Live Earth today while taking breaks in between the cleaning and cooking. I left the computer on while I was working and listened to some of it as I kept busy doing the things that need to be done around here. The laptop doesn’t have the best sound system in the world, but it was the only way for me to watch and listen so it was good enough.

The live stream MSN put up was nice in that I could choose which country to watch/listen to. Figuring that M the Elder will want to watch the network version on television tonight, and also figuring that since it’s an American network (NBC) they’re likely to play a lot of Al Gore’s speeches and the performers that played in the U.S. and the U.K., I decided to listen and/or watch places such as China, Japan, Brazil, and South Africa. I particularly wanted to watch South Africa to see/hear Angelique Kidjo and Joss Stone. I don’t know where I first heard Angelique Kidjo. But I liked her so much that I bought one of her CD’s even though I couldn’t understand the language she was singing in. I’m not sure language matters so much when it comes to music. At least not to me. That’s why I own such a wide variety of stuff I don’t understand, such as the Orishas (a Cuban rap group).

Joss Stone performed with Angelique Kidjo for one song (“Gimme Shelter”), a bonus in my eyes. I’m a big fan of both women.

That said, I got supremely annoyed with all the talk about “saving the Earth” or “saving the planet” or “saving our continent.” No matter how badly we fuck up, unless we somehow manage to blow the place to pieces, the planet will still be here. We can heat things up until the polar ice caps melt completely and the Earth will be changed, but she’ll still be here.

What I think they really mean to say, and should be saying, is that we’re trying to save ourselves. Seems to me we’re also trying to save our way of life. I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing, but will admit that I like modern conveniences and have never had a desire to go back to the past. Running water, water that is drinkable, and showers are all amazing things. I enjoy having heat and air conditioning, and I’d hate to give up my flushable toilets. While I’m sure I could live without it, I like being in touch with the rest of the world via the computer. I’ve made some great friends through this medium.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m almost as green as Kermit the Frog, and I’ve been that way long before it became fashionable (I’ve been called a “tree-hugging hippy” more than once, that’s for sure). I’ve spent a lot of years wondering why American businesses and corporations resisted the idea of coming up with green ideas and solutions. Just think of all the money to be made. Well, now that it’s fashionable and all, I guess they’ll be seeing how much money there is to be made.

I’m not all that fond of the ethanol idea that’s being promoted. Of course I think decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels is a grand thing. However, with all the farmers jumping on the ethanol bandwagon by growing corn and soybeans for that purpose (because that’s where the money is right now), who’s going to grow the food we eat? On the other hand, it might be a good thing if it brings back the small, local farm. Watch for rising prices in food and drink until this all evens out somehow. I read an article recently about how barley prices are going up because farmers are selling their barley crops to make ethanol. That means the price of beer will rise. So will the price of meat and dairy products since barley is often used to feed the livestock.

We lived near an ethanol plant in southern Ohio. It closed down while we were living there because ethanol wasn’t the “in” thing. Funny how times change. Ethanol plants stink, you know. It’s a little like smelling wort when it’s cooking. Wort, for those that don’t know, is the cooking brew that eventually becomes beer (boiling water, barley, malt and hops). Smelling it for a little while isn’t so bad, but when it’s constant it can become nauseating. I have no idea what the pollution from ethanol plants does in terms of the environment and air quality other than the smell.

Anyhow, I didn’t mean to start ranting or pontificating. Life will be simplifying for M and I in many ways when we move back to the Bogs after this sabbatical adventure. We were already working towards eating locally grown foods, cutting back on meat (we’re mostly vegetarians when we’re home), and doing what we could to cut back on our energy usage (such as hanging the laundry out to dry rather than use the dryer when I can, keeping the heat and air conditioning on a timer so we’re not heating or cooling the place when we’re not home, etc.). We recyle, reuse, and have reduced as much as possible.  As I watch all these “green” ideas flash by on the Live Earth broadcasts I can sit here with a slightly smug smile, knowing that we were already ahead of the game. The smugness and smile are only slight, though, due to the fact that I know there’s more we could be doing.

The suggestions that Live Earth are flashing are not new ideas.  They’ve been around for a while.  But now they’re fashionable.  Perhaps making them fashionable will finally make a difference.  Who knows?

More change is coming for us in the Bogs. Food waste will be going out to the compost pile. I’ll be canning and freezing the locally grown harvest. I also plan to start baking our own bread and going back to homebrewing. I’m a little out of practice with the homebrewing (other than the mead I made last spring), but it’s so much like cooking that I’m sure I’ll have no problem getting back into the swing of it. Barley is probably going to be more expensive, though.

I still haven’t decided about the chickens. One thing at a time. The garden first, and then the chickens. Maybe.

*An inside joke around here that really has nothing to do with the contents of this post. M and I recently bought a quiche to have for dinner and the packaging made it clear that it was “not a significant source of protein.” I thought that kind of odd, given that it was made with eggs and cheese. Go figure.

Go away

Door mats ain’t what they used to be.

Over the weekend, while out and about, I noticed that the good old “Welcome” has been replaced with such lovely sentiments as “Go away.” I’ve seen a couple of these unwelcome mats. We arrived back at the apartment last night to find our new neighbor across the hall (who must have moved in over the weekend) has a brand spanking new mat which does not equivocate in the least. The message? LEAVE

Nice. Makes me want to march right over and introduce myself. And maybe stay a while.

To be honest, I chuckled when I saw the first “Go away” mat. I’ve certainly felt that way numerous times, especially at home in the Bogs where I can look out the window and see the well-dressed Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses coming long before they get to the door.

But, but, but…

What happened to the idea of welcoming people into your home?

Sure, solicitors (of products and souls) can be a pain in the arse, most of them not wanting to take no for an answer. That’s their job, I guess. Especially those soliciting souls. They can be extremely persistent.

It’s the rudeness of the message that bothers me. There’s too much rudeness in the world these days. Common courtesy and good manners are hard to come by some days. If you don’t believe me, try working in the service industry (any service industry) for a couple of days. Please and thank you are few and far between (and much more appreciated when they do get said).

No wonder world peace is so difficult to achieve. We can’t even be nice to each other on a one-on-one basis.

Anyhow …

We had a nice weekend.

The visit with our friends from the Chicago area was all too short, but it was great to see them again. We went to a local pub for some libation and then we took them to a pizza and hoagie joint for hoagies. We first introduced W and G to hoagies when M was in graduate school. My parents had come to visit us (in the Chicago area), bringing hoagies, something you just can’t get outside of the Pennsylvania/New Jersey area. You can get subs, heroes, and grinders, but not a decent hoagie.

G was looking forward to having another hoagie. As far as I know, the last time she had one was back in the 80’s when we shared the bounty that my parents brought for us. That’s a long time between hoagies.

That was pretty much it for the visit. They had to make their way to Allentown for a graduation and we had to make our way to Lancaster County to visit with M’s family for the weekend. It’s always best to get out of town before rush hour, especially on a Friday.

(Marietta Day. Photo by Robin. May 2007)

On Saturday we went to Marietta Day. Marietta is a small, Susquehanna River town in Pennsylvania. Marietta Day is basically a big yard sale/flea market type of event. The main street is closed and people set up tables and display their wares. There was a band playing near the town square and plenty of food vendors. In the early years of this event, I’m told, there were lots of good antiques to be found. That’s no longer the case. All the older folks have already sold off their antiques or given them away to their children and grandchildren.

(More Marietta Day. Photos by Robin. 2007)

As you can see, it’s a pretty well attended event.

We went to Marietta Day with M’s sister, brother, and his brother’s girlfriend. M’s brother and SO brought this little guy with them:

I’m not much of a dog person, but after meeting this guy, I think I could be. Look at that face. Isn’t he adorable?

We spent about four hours walking around Marietta. It was a gorgeous day for it, bright, sunny, and without a cloud in the sky. Then we spent the rest of the day getting caught up with M’s family.

Sunday was a relatively quiet day. M helped his sister with a few chores that require a bit of muscle, we did a little shopping at the outlet mall, and then it was time to head home.

Family. That’s what I’m going to miss most when we move back to the Bogs.

The noise is killing me

(Borrowed from The Original Noise Busters.)

No, I’m not talking about the voices inside my head. Not that I have voices inside my head, but I thought I’d better preempt any of you smart-asses out there before someone thinks to make that comment.

The noise here in Sabbaticalville is awful! I knew it was noisy before we took our all-too-brief trip back to the Bogs, but lordy, lordy…not this noisy! There are a few good reasons for that lack of immediate knowledge of our noise situation.

One is that I welcomed and enjoyed the peace and quiet of being in the Bogs where it’s not all peace and all quiet all the time. However, I’m used to the frogs and the birds and the wind.

The other reason is we were still experiencing winter temperatures in Sabbaticalville when we left. The windows were closed most of the time. It was noisy. Just not as noisy as it is now that we’ve opened the windows to keep from roasting in the apartment.

(What noise looks like. Borrowed from here.)

I’m going to go insane. And then I will be hearing voices in my head. Heh.

Sirens, drunks, crazies, buses, trucks, cars screeching, honking, or without mufflers. Motorcycles or souped-up cars that roar. The street cleaner rolls out about 2am, leading the parade of drunks when the bars close. The garbage trucks start making the rounds at 4am.

I haven’t slept well in at least 2 days.

But the very worst of all is what’s going on right now. On the second floor of the building there’s a patio which I think is referred to as a place where you can sit back, put your feet up, and relax in the brochures and on the official website. They haven’t yet put the patio furniture out (something M and I have been wondering about). I know why it’s not out yet.

Power cleaning. That’s why. Right now someone is out there with a power cleaner that sounds like a cross between a jackhammer and a sandblaster cleaning the deck. The noise stopped around noon. Silly me, I thought that meant they were finished out there. Nope. It must have been lunchtime. And lunch break is over.

What amazes me is that the Mexican kid out there doing the work (there are a lot of Mexican kids here in Sabbaticalville doing the scut work) is doing so without any kind of ear protection that I can see. I hope he at least has some of those small plugs in his ears. He really ought to be wearing those big, padded headphone looking things. That noise has got to be pretty high up on the Noise Thermometer. About 120 decibels, I’d guess.

I suppose people get used to this racket (as in clamor and confused clattering of noise) in the same way I adjusted to our country noises. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this. Thank goodness I don’t have to, this being a temporary situation and all.

Ahhhh…at last. Peace.

One good thing about the violent sounds of the power cleaner: Now that it’s stopped, the trucks and buses don’t sound so loud.

I leave you with a moment of Zen:

(Sunset in Sabbaticalville.  Photo by Robin.  April 2007)

Pulling back

I’m more than a little embarrassed by my Monday evening rant. I could delete it and hope that no one read it. I’d feel better if no one had read it, but I can’t count on that fact. Besides, I’m not ever going to feel better about having posted it. It was one of those rants that I probably would have deleted right away, but the power went out and there it sat for the next 17-18 hours while I waited for the power to come back on.

Lesson learned.

It was a rant following a day of watching the body count go up. I could have, and in hindsight should have, turned off the television. I didn’t.

It reminded me of September 11, 2001 when I found myself glued to the television, watching the same two planes crash into the same two buildings, over and over and over again. For days afterwards we were bombarded with those same images. I don’t remember when it was exactly, maybe a week later, that counselors and psychologists and psychiatrists started talking about what the constant repetition of these images were doing to people in terms of fear, depression, trauma and, as a result, the images were shown less and less.

Since that time, I’ve been highly sensitive to the way the media continues to bring these events into our homes. It has had me sitting on a rather strange fence. On the one hand, we need to be informed (and I’m completely against censorship of any kind). On the other, at what point does information become exploitation?

There was a time when it took longer to bring news into our living rooms. I’m not going to wax nostalgic about the golden years of my youth. I think there are distinct advantages to the ease in which we now receive our information. This openness allows the media to shine their light on things we should know about it (when the media isn’t busy being cowed by the government and the threat of being called “unpatriotic”).

But I also think the news media needs to pull back a little on some of these stories. As I watched the body count go up yesterday, horrified and saddened and wondering what kind of world this is we live in, I found myself getting irritated with the constant updates that provided no new information.

I wasn’t watching a cable news channel. I had the television turned on so I could listen to the soaps as I went about my spring cleaning day. Yes, I’m a soap opera addict; I got addicted in my teens. I remember the first episode of All My Children because I watched it when it first aired. I wasn’t irritated because the soaps were being interrupted. Lord knows, I’m not that attached to them and barely listen to them as they make background noise while I work. Ten minutes of watching a week is enough to keep anyone updated on the happenings of daytime drama.

I was irritated because I once again felt that sense of fear, sadness, and disillusionment with the human race. I was irritated because the news media has this terrible habit of reporting right away, without gathering all the facts, so that each new report meant another death. I’m not saying they have to be absolutely accurate in their first reporting, but for Pete’s sake, at least take the time to actually gather some facts before reporting. And stop asking the same stupid questions. If you’re interviewing someone and they say, “I can’t answer that” or “I don’t know,” then stop asking. It’s ridiculous to hear reporter after reporter try to reword the same damn question when it’s already been asked and answered.

Are there any real journalists anymore? People who take time to check and recheck their information? People who go out and find information rather than relying upon spokespeople to feed it to them?

Well, I’m ranting again. And that wasn’t my intention.

My intention was to lead you to someone who wrote a really eloquent post about her reaction to what happened. If you have a moment, hop on over to Down the Rabbit Hole and read her post on the Virginia Tech Shootings.

It might not be up to date, but it is thought-provoking. And a better first reaction than my rant last night.

A little rant

I am saddened and horrified by the shootings at Virginia Tech.

That said, I don’t understand the need of the news media to bombard us with their lack of information regarding these events two or three times every hour.  It’s not as if the gunman is still on the loose, shooting people.  This is not a state of emergency where we need to be updated on a regular basis.  And the fact is, the news media does not have all the facts right now and are not likely to have them for quite some time.

In my opinion, we don’t need to be constantly reminded of the evils in this world.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t be kept informed, but to continually hype these events with nothing new to add  serves no purpose other than exploitation.  At least wait until all the facts are in before reporting on it.

No wonder we’re such a neurotic nation.


Yesterday I read this article: At Wal-Mart, Lessons in Self-Help

To be honest, I’m not sure what to think about it.

When I first started working in the pharmacy at Wal-Mart, I vowed to myself that I would quit work if I ever developed what I call “the Wal-Mart shuffle.” The Wal-Mart shuffle is something you see a lot among the older and/or overweight associates (for those not in the know, Wal-Mart calls their employees “associates”). It’s a way of walking, or shuffling, that gives off the message: I am in pain. Physical pain is a large part of it, but there’s also the mental and emotional pain of working for a company whose management style, in my experience and opinion, is designed to beat people down, sucking the life, the confidence, and the self-esteem out of them.  I’ve even see a few members of management acquire their own version of the shuffle due to Wally World’s trickle down policy.

I’m pretty sure I was doing a version of the Wal-Mart shuffle when I quit. The back pain and sciatica were heavy contributors, but in hindsight, the job itself was wearing me out. I was lucky in that I’d had some good bosses (pharmacy managers and pharmacists) throughout my almost six years with Wally World. I also had the misfortune to have worked with some loony toons who had no business working in a pharmacy and/or with the public.

The thing about this new plan of Wal-Mart’s is that I can’t help but wonder if the associates would be better off in the long run, healthier and happier, if Wally World would take the money used to fund their new program and give it to the associates in the form of higher pay, better benefits, and compassionate work schedules. With their open availability policy and erratic scheduling, Wal-Mart makes it difficult on their associates to build healthy habits (such as regular exercise). Maybe it’s just me, but I find it much easier to maintain an exercise habit if I get into an exercise routine where I work out at the same time every day. It’s difficult to do that if your work schedule varies from day to day and week to week.

It should be noted that when I worked for Wal-Mart I did have a fairly regular schedule which varied according to the comings and goings due to a high turnover of techs and pharmacists. I was lucky in that I was hired in to work week days between the hours of 9-5. I didn’t work nights or weekends unless I was asked to fill in for another tech. That said, I do know that most associates are not so lucky. Back in the 90’s I worked as a cashier for Wal-Mart and my schedule was so erratic that it was impossible to plan anything. It was also exhausting in that I’d often be scheduled to work until closing (“closing” is when the store is clean and tidy as declared by a member of management which means that a particularly sadistic manager might keep everyone there until 1, 2 or 3am) and then scheduled to open the next day at 7am. That sort of scheduling, in my experience, is more the norm than my own schedule while working in the pharmacy.

The program sounds, in theory, like a great idea.  Self-improvement and environmentalism.  Who could argue with that?  And who knows… perhaps many of Wal-Mart’s newly self-improved associates will self-improve themselves into better jobs.

Exploding soda cans, an exercise in sarcasm

(The shrapnel. Photo by Robin. 2007)

M left a 12-pack of birch beer (soda/pop, depending on where you’re from) in the trunk of the car for several nights. In case I forgot to mention it, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t forget, winter has finally arrived and the temperatures here in Sabbaticalville have been below freezing (both highs and lows).

Do you have any idea what happens to cans of soda when they freeze?

They explode. Rather magnificently in some cases.

M bagged up the cans that hadn’t exploded in the trunk (of the lovely convertible) and brought them up to the apartment where, over the course of an hour or two, they started popping. The first pop, in hindsight, wasn’t too loud, but it did make me jump. I thought about moving the cans after that first little explosion, but I was worried that they’d continue to pop open as I tried to carry them down to the dumpster (which is a long hike from the 5th floor of the apartment building).

About 20-30 minutes after the first pop, the second, slightly louder, explosion occurred. The mess was still contained within the kitchen sink, with a few spots and splatters on the countertop. It was at this point I decided I should wait to get my shower. There were still about four more cans that hadn’t yet popped and I was worried that the neighbors might call the police because those exploding cans sounded a lot like gunshots. I really didn’t want the cops, thinking someone was being shot, busting down the door while I was in the shower. Talk about potentially embarrassing moments.

My thoughts concerning M at the time were none too good, although I was trying hard to be patient about it all. Monday, the day before this exploding soda cans occasion, hadn’t been a good one (all kinds of things went wrong and I ended up spending the entire day trying to finish two loads of laundry), I hadn’t had much sleep the night before and well, there were soda cans exploding in the kitchen! How would you feel? Wouldn’t you be wondering why he didn’t just throw them in the dumpster? Why haul them from the parking garage all the way up to the apartment?

In all fairness to M, it didn’t occur to me that the thawing cans would continue to explode. Because if it had occurred to me, I’d have told him to turn around and take those cans back outside immediately and we all know by now that I didn’t do that.

A little while after the second pop, there was a HUGE explosion that caused birch beer carnage throughout the kitchen, the dining area, and into the living room. The top from the can (the evidence pictured above) came flying into the living room where I was innocently sitting and typing. I’m lucky I wasn’t a little closer to the doorway. That lid could’ve ended up embedded in my brain or something.

Birch beer, in case you’ve never seen it, has a reddish color. When it explodes all over a kitchen painted white, it looks like someone or something was slaughtered. There were drips, spatters, splatters, and drops everywhere, even up on the ceiling. I have photo evidence. It really did look a bit like the scene of a murder.

The moral of this story:  Penny wise means lots of clean up.  Throw those frozen cans in the dumpster or find someplace outdoors to warm them up and thaw them out.