They’re Coming to Take Me Away

I’ve been aware for some time that nothing I do online is really private.  If I look at some clothing website on Tuesday, by Wednesday, I’m getting sidebar ads for that same clothing company.  If I watch a Paws for Hope video on YouTube, suddenly lots of their videos pop to the top of my feed.  Same with Facebook.  Not too irritating although it makes me wonder if cyberspace is smart enough to know what I’m looking at, why isn’t it smart enough to know when I’ve made a purchase so they can stop showing me the ads for what I’ve bought?

I have a “color-by-number” app on my phone – it’s a mindless game that I often play if I have the tv on or am listening to a book on tape.  It only takes up about ¼ of my brain (if that).  It has a function that offers me “hints” if I watch the occasional ad.  Most of the time I ignore that function, but occasionally the puzzles have little bits that are almost impossible to see, so I like to have a couple of hints available.  About a month ago I noticed that the ads on this game were aligning with stuff that I was searching for online using my phone.  Not 100% but close enough.  So now my game is paying attention to what I’m up to when I’m not playing.   I wasn’t sure if I should worry about this or not.

Then yesterday I had the tv on while I was working in my studio.  One of the interminably long Cindy Crawford ads came on – the ones in which they talk about the special melons in the south of France.  I flipped on mute and waited it out.  While I was watching out of the corner of my eye for the commercial to end, I thought to myself “Well, at least they don’t run those Crepe Erase ads anymore.”  I’m not sure why I don’t like these ads, but I don’t even like to say the words “crepe” and “erase” together.  I have nothing against Jane Seymour, their spokeswoman, but I just don’t like the ads.  So imagine my shock when about 20 minutes later, there was Jane Seymour hawking Crepe Erase!  Honestly, I haven’t seen one of these ads for a couple of years at least.  It’s clear they’re reading my mind – this crosses the line!

Do you have a favorite hat?

Kitty Lit

Photo Credit:  Alice Feigel

Nimue is not a super-cuddly kitty.  She comes around for treats and most mornings and evenings, she’ll curl up next to me on the bed if I’m watching tv or listening to a book on tape.  Very occasionally she’ll actually climb into my lap for cuddles. 

But if I want to guarantee her attention, all I need to do is read a book.  Every single time.  Doesn’t matter if I’m upstairs or downstairs, sitting on the sofa or laying on my bed.  I’ve seen her sitting in the back window watching me when I read in the yard.  She needs to be touching the book and preferably laying right on the book.  She doesn’t like to be nudged off when I have to turn the page.

I know this isn’t unusual but nobody seems to know why they do this?  Do kitties actually know how to read but can’t get the books off the bookshelf themselves?

What do you think?

Astonishing

As you all know, one of our family traditions is apple-picking each fall.  It’s just one of many places that YA and I enjoy going and things we enjoy doing together.  Zoos, petting farms, state fair, museums, apple picking, tree selection, shopping, gardening. 

You’d think that I’d be overloaded with photos considering all the things we do but you’d be surprised.  YA is very resistant to posing for photos.  If I’m lucky, I can get one photo per “out and about”, but that’s not a guarantee.  I plead, I wheedle and sometimes I bribe; these attempts don’t always work.  I don’t know why she resists.  

Yesterday we headed out to the orchard and after we’d filled our first bag (Sweet Tangos), she asked me to take her picture with an apple tree behind her.  I was surprised but took a few photos.  Then she wanted photos in front of a different tree.  THEN she wanted photos in front of the corn maze.  Now I was practically in shock.  When I asked why, she said she wanted to have pictures to show she had been on “an outing”.  At first I thought this was some feature of Instagram or Tik Tok or even the activity app she has through work but it turns out it’s nothing official.  She just wants photos in case she decides she wants to post somewhere. 

Lots more photo sessions ensued including the big adirondack chairs they have in the orchard and the most surprising of all, next to the dinosaur sculptures up near the barn.  I would have bet money she would refuse those but she happily posed.  All these photos were taken on my phone and she spent the miles back home looking through them and sending many of them to herself.  I was a little concerned she might delete them off my phone when she was done, but she left them.  I’m still in shock.

Anything extraordinary or atypical in your world lately?

Falling Weather

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Rosie and Guildy are still good. They look like they’re finally growing. They’re still spending most of the day hiding under something, but they do come out and go in by themselves morning and night so that’s progress.

We lost one of the creamy colored adult ducks. Still the two black and white, one creamy, one poufy, and 6 mallards. And two guineas. And roughly 52 chickens. Daily egg count is somewhere between 7 and 12, down from summer peak. Newest hens haven’t started laying yet; late October they’ll be 6 months old and they start laying somewhere in there.

This is Rooster #3 — Kelly calls him ‘Top Gun’ because he thinks he’s hot stuff.

Some of the latest batch of chickens have more black around their eyes than other years. They are ‘Black Australorpe’ breed and they have good longevity, but they can be kind of ornery. I like them. Most chickens in a close up just look ornery.

I’ve been busy at the theaters this week. The HVAC being installed brought in a scissor lift and I use it when they’re not. Replaced a bunch of non-functioning fluorescent lights in the theater with LED retrofit kits. Pulled down all the cables for the stage lights so we could redo them. (It just turns into a rat’s nest after a while. Good to pull down and start fresh.)

Created some new doorways and redid other odds and ends over the summer break between shows. On Saturday all the platforms for the seating are going back in place so I must finish the bulk of the work that I want with the lift before that.

I’ve been saying there’s not much happening on the farm. That’s not true. I’M not doing much on the farm, but there’s a lot happening. The corn and beans are both maturing and drying out. Beans are losing their leaves and drying down, corn is turning brown, maturing, and drying out. Birds are migrating, bees are busy, deciduous trees are turning colors, the world rotates, planets are moving, the moon changes phases… there’s a lot happening. Just not by me.

I watch some youTube farming channels; they’re busy getting things ready for harvest. Soybeans could be going in our area in another week or two.

The pod right in the center of the photo has 4 beans in it. BONUS! Most only have 3. Four isn’t unusual, but it’s not the normal either. See the pods at the very top of the plant? Those are the ‘bonus’ pods. Not only because the deer didn’t eat the buds off the top, but the plant develops from the bottom up, so the better the conditions, the better resources the plant has, the more pods it can create. It’s looking like a pretty good year for my crops. Knock on Wood.

WHO HAVE YOU KNOWN, OR DO YOU KNOW, THAT LOOKS ORNERY BUT WASN’T OR ISN’T? 

OR ARE THEY?

DO YOU HAVE AN “RBF”?

Euphemisms

Our puppy needs a haircut, and is a very fuzzy boy. I noticed that he had two rather large dried on pieces of poop on his rear end, stuck to his fussy hair. I told husband that he had to help me with the “clinkers”, as we have called such things since we got our first dogs many years ago. I started thinking about the word and the euphemisms that we use. I am not talking about hurtful or derogatory ones, just interesting ones.

I suppose many euphemisms stem from talking about body parts or functions. Many of my child/adolescent clients are embarrassed to death to have to refer to body parts by their proper names. A good friend had a daughter who referred to boys’ parts as “hoses”, which I thought was a pretty good descriptor. I don’t know what she calls them now that she is a grown woman.

What are some euphemisms that you use? What words are hard for you to say in public?

GunDel?

Photo credit: Fernhern A/S

I see in the news that they are building what will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel.  Linking Germany and Denmark under the waters of the Baltic, construction actually began in 2020 and is expected to be complete by 2029

I’m sure lots of folks are excited about this but not me.  I don’t even like driving through the I94 tunnel downtown and last month when folks got stuck in The Chunnel for several hours, I almost had a panic attack just reading the news story about it. 

Any phobias you’ll admit to?

Dog Beds

Guinevere has multiple beds.  YA can’t resist them so there is one in her kennel in the breakfast room, one in my room and one in YA’s room.  Recently we’ve changed up sleeping arrangements; during the day Guinevere and Nimue pretty much ignore each other but nighttime is a different matter. The last month or so, Guinevere has moved from my room to YA’s room at night.  Every day YA moves the dog bed from my room to her room because “Gwen likes that bed during the day”.   I noticed today that both of the upstairs dog beds are still in YA’s room. 

Beds & Lambies

In addition, Guinevere has FOUR lampchop chewy toys.  This is in addition to a huge basket full of other balls and toys, but the lampchop ones are definitively her favorites.  YA and I used a giftcard last spring and bought several of them, so we have extras on hand if the current flock gets nibbles too much.

Guinevere is also refusing to eat her kibble this week.  This happens every couple of years when she just decides that her currently dogfood isn’t fitting the bill.  While YA and I are both fine with changing her food, neither of us is willing to throw out half of a large bag of kibble.  I voted for letting her go hungry on the theory that she won’t starve to death and eventually she’ll eat what we have.  YA is frantic about the non-eating.  So far this past week on different occasions I’ve seen lots of delicacies added to Guinevere’s dish: peanut butter, vanilla yogurt, maple syrup, pumpkin and also some very smelly dog sauces in pouches.  Each of these items worked moderately well but we’ve still got at least 2 weeks before we’re ready for a new brand of dry food. Good grief.

Have you ever had a hand in spoiling someone?

Can’t…. Stop….

I decided to put the egg table up Sunday afternoon (since I had to skip Blevins due to continuing cough).  This just involves setting up the candle, cutting wax into teeny bits, lining up the kistkas that I’ll need for this year’s design and also making the dyes I’ll be using.   The actual set up takes less than an hour but there’s a 24-hour lag before I can start working on eggs.  The dyes need to be completely cooled and the eggs need to be room temperature.

Yesterday when I woke up at 5:30 (about the norm), it was all I could do to keep myself from going downstairs, firing up the kistkas and getting started.  I know myself well enough to know that the minute I start, I’ll be obsessed until I’m done.  Sitting in that chair for too many hours in a day just makes my back and shoulders hurt so starting at 6 a.m. is not a good idea. 

There are very few things that I get this obsessed about.  In card-making, I don’t have any problem putting things away at a good stopping point.  Jigsaw puzzles can keep me busy for quite some time but I do tend to run out of puzzle steam after 3-4 hours.  Reading is a passion, but except for the rare “I just have to finish this book right now” situation, I can stop when I need to.   (I do occasionally have to throw YA out of my room if I’m down to the last few chapters of something I’m really into and I was once late to work!)   But once I start the first egg, the decks need to be cleared because I want to keep going and going.  In prior years (before retirement) I used to take the egg week off from work because I’d end up sitting at the table until 2 and 3 in the morning.  Several years ago when I didn’t take the week off, I ended up pulling an all-nighter; that was ugly.

Waiting until 7:30 to go downstairs was a good idea.  I ate all my meals at the table today and except for an hour when there was a tradesman here measuring stuff, I worked straight through to 8:15 p.m.  Then I hobbled upstairs and headed straight to the ibuprofen bottle!  I figure, based on yesterday’s work, I’ll have four more days before I’m done. 

What do you obsess about?

Soak It In

I am a Neil deGrasse Tyson buff.  I’ve read several of his books, follow his current podcast (Star Talk) and own a t-shirt with a NdGT quote and a bracelet that I saw on his website of the planets in order.  (I actually made my own bracelet based on his design and I added Pluto – he may be smart, but Pluto will always be one of my planets!)

One of the things that I admire most is his ability to take difficult concepts and to distill them down so that most of us can understand them.  I was re-listening to his description of how the tides actually work/exist and wondered what it would be like to take a class from him (an entry-level class of course – I’ve encountered some of his work that is NOT distilled down and it is way over my head).

My favorite classes in college were always lectures.  I don’t need any small discussion groups or multi-student projects – just let me sit in the presence of great professors while I soak up their knowledge.  Between Carleton and Metro State I took five Shakespeare courses from two different professors – fabulous.  There was a spellbinding Chinese Middle Kingdom class and the professor who taught my King Arthur in English and American Literature (yes, a real class for which I got credit) held my attention like no other.

But based on YA’s master’s program experience, the current trend in education is all about self-teaching, small group projects and collaboration (I detest this word).  Her description of every single class she took for her MBA made my skin crawl, so I guess I probably won’t be going back to school in my retirement.  I’ll have to remain self-taught in the areas that appeal to me.  I’m still doing my online Italian class; I’m almost at 900 days straight.  I’m still working my way through biographies of the English monarchs as well as the American presidents.  Banned books are high on my list of interests as well as reading on Black Lives Matter.  Science is also a love of mine although I would say I have a broad science curiosity  as opposed to a deep curiosity. 

If I were to take any classes, my first choice would be anything taught by Tyson; it’s possible he could do wonders from my understanding of physics.  Add a course covering the history plays of Shakespeare.  I’d like an economics class that specializes in the real world and does not discuss guns or butter.  Literature courses of just about any kind.  No math (I got through trigonometry by the skin of my teeth) and no classes where anything has to be cut up!  

What were your favorite and least favorite classes in school?   

September

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Our two ducklings are doing well. Kelly has named them Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Rosie and Guildy for short. They seem to be afraid of everything. Mostly they spend the day hiding. But considering they’ve lost seven of their siblings, and the whole animal ‘fight or flight’ mentality, maybe they’re the smart ones and that’s why they’ve survived this long. And they just learned to walk up the board ramp to go in at night on their own, so that’s pretty smart of them! No more trying to wrangle them in at night. Now we’re trying to see if they’ll come out on their own in the morning so we don’t have to chase them out.

The other morning I watched a hawk swoop right down over the pen and then sit in a nearby tree. R & G weren’t out yet, but that might explain why some of their siblings disappeared. A few minutes later, when I was in the shed letting them out, a brown chicken hopped down out of the rafters right in front of me. Scared the bejezzus out of me. (By the way, when I dictated “bejezzus“ into my phone, it translated as “big Jesus” and I thought well, that works too). It scared the big Jesus out of me.

Still not much happening on the farm, beans are turning yellow, corn is drying up. I’m keeping busy with more summer projects at one theater and working on our fall show at the college. Sure has felt good to put on my toolbelt  again. Man, am I out of practice. Doesn’t take much to wear me out. Course I haven’t really done much this whole calendar year. Building up my endurance. I did haul a 50 lb bag of chicken feed over to the chickens and dump it in the wall feeder. And put two bags of water softener salt in. Progress! 

I’ve spent a lot of time sitting on the garage steps just watching our little corner of the world. It’s nice.

Our apples and pear trees are overloaded this year. In fact they are so overloaded they broke a few branches on the apple tree. Yeah, it needs to be pruned. I think they’re Harrelson‘s. They sure are good anyway.

Who knows anything about Minnesota pears? I think they were called golden? They’re small, and green and only get to be slightly larger than a ping-pong ball, and really hard and they do not taste good. Do they ever get better? What do I need to be doing with them?

Kelly and I froze some sweetcorn last weekend. Only four dozen; daughter helped me husk it, and then I cut it off the cobs and Kelly bagged. I remember doing that with my parents, and for a few years my sister would come out to help me and Kelly. It’s a fond memory I have with mom and dad.

WHAT DO YOU WEAR TO FEEL GOOD?

Page Turning Pariah

As a voracious reader, I depend a great deal on other folks’ recommendations.    Ten years ago I added a column to my reading spreadsheet – Inspiration.  When a finished title gets added to the spreadsheet I notate where I got the idea for reading the book.  If it’s a specific person, I list their name.  If it’s a bookclub selection, BBC, Illiterati or MIA.  If I actually remember where I first encountered the title, I enter that (Scientific American, Goodreads, CNN).  If it’s book off one of my various lists, that gets written in (Monarchs, Presidents, Banned, Newbery, Caldecott).  And, if by the time I finish a book (that’s a whole new blog topic – my over-curated library account), I don’t remember where I got the idea any longer, then O&A, Out & About, is the label.

All of this to say that I do take book recommendations seriously.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve read 75% of the books we’ve talked about on this blog, not because, as Steve used to say “VS has read everything” but because when somebody mentions a book on the Trail, I write it down or go to my library account immediately. 

I have a friend in Indianapolis who reads as much as I do and although we don’t always gravitate to the same thing, I’ve found most of his recommendations fascinatingly good reads.  (For example, I would never have picked up Countdown Bin Laden by Wallace & Weiss of my own accord, but since he spoke highly of it, I gave it a shot.  It was excellent and is likely to make my top ten this year.)  When he suggested a title that I had heard of from a few other folks, I picked it up from the library.  That’s when I found out that the title is also an Oprah Pick and has either won or been a finalist for just about every literary award out there.  93% of folks who have reviewed on Amazon have given it one or two stars.  Just 1% rated it with only one star.  This is unprecedented so I was really looking forward to getting into it – I even suggested it to my other book club.

I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like it to the point that if it hadn’t been a book club title, I might not have finished it.  It was WAY too long; it’s really two stories, related but distinct enough for two separate treatments.  Then there was the jumping around in the timeline, which I didn’t find to be well-handled. Too much repetitiveness; probably could have trimmed 50 pages by leaving out all references to “collard greens”.  But the biggest problem was that there wasn’t one likeable character in the entire book; 400+ years of story and 900+ pages of book, that’s a LOT of unlikeable characters. They ran the gamut from heinous to slightly sickening, but really not one really decent person among the lot of them. 

But it’s really hard to dump on a book that appears to be universally loved and admired.  REALLY hard.  And because I like to think I’m a discerning reader, it has made me wonder what’s wrong with me. What have I missed. In fact, I’ve been writing and re-writing this blog post in my head for two weeks trying to decide whether to name the book or just ruminate on feeling so out of step with what feels like the whole of humanity.  I do feel out of step a fair amount.  I’m not interested in fashion. I think reality TV is an abomination. Much of what is generally valued by current culture leaves me “meh”.

That’s why I am extremely grateful that I have found niches where I feel like I fit in, with good friends who think a bit more like I do.  This is one of those places, of course.  Thanks for all of you in my life and on the Trail who leave a place for my quirky self at the table! 

Tell me about the last book that you DIDN’T like.  (And if you’ve read the book I’m talking about and liked it, that’s OK… you’re in good company!!)

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