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?

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!!)

A Woman And A Racoon Walk Into A Bar. . .

Yesterday the Fargo Forum reported that bar patrons in Maddock, ND, who were in the Maddock Bar the night of September 6 needed to be aware that they may have been exposed to rabies. It seems a rather intoxicated woman came into the bar holding a racoon she had rescued days earlier from the side of the road. She was asked to leave the bar, but not before she walked all around the bar showing people her racoon. The racoon was reportedly injured when she found it, and she had nursed it back to health and was keeping it as a pet. It is illegal to keep racoons or skunks as pets here due to the threat of rabies. They are still looking for the woman and her racoon. The bar employees say they are going to dress up as racoons for Halloween,

When I was about 6 years old, I tried lifting a friend’s rather fat beagle into my father’s fishing boat that was stored along side the garage. The beagle was not amused, and bit me on my face. It was just a nip, but my mother was panicked about it. The beagle’s owners refused to lock the dog up the required number of days to see if it was rabid, so I had to have a series of rabies shots. I got the shots under my shoulder blades. It was painful. I wouldn’t want to go through that again. The beagle wasn’t rabid, by the way, and he and I remained friends.

Know any good bar jokes? What animals would you like to see in bars? What are your experiences with rabies or rabies shots?

Dish Drainer Jenga

I saw a funny picture on Facebook last week – dish jenga.  I laughed because it’s true – at least in my life.

Usually it doesn’t come to this but on Monday, it was the perfect dish drainer jenga storm.  YA took the last brownie to work – an empty Tupperware.  Cooked down the last of the raspberries into a sauce. Made a bundt cake – mixing bowl and then bundt pan.  Three jars of pesto – that was a biggie as it uses the salad spinner and most of the food processor and accessories.  Then add in the dishes from breakfast as well as all the measuring cups, spoons and spatulas for all the morning endeavors and I was well and truly jenga’d. 

If the dishwasher were working I suppose I could have filled it up instead and if I’d been willing to get out a dishtowel to dry, I could have put things away as I was working.  But for some reason, while I am willing to stop between steps of projects to wash things, washing AND drying doesn’t seem like a good use of time when I know dishes will dry on their own.  I’m guessing this is the kind of thought process that results in most folks who end up with dish jenga.

I’ve never liked the actual Jenga game very much.  The groups I’ve played in haven’t managed to keep the game going very long and it’s not that much fun when you are constantly having to pick up all the pieces.  And life-size Jenga is terrifying; I only played it once on the beach in St. Thomas and it gave me nightmares.

What are your favorite board games?

An Apple a Day?

My dad was a big baby about getting sick.  Luckily he didn’t get sick often – mostly when my mom would just be recovering from something.  Right about the time she was feeling a bit better, he would come down with whatever bug had afflicted her.  My sister and I had always joked about it but then it got really funny the summer before my junior year when he caught my mom’s “persistent stomach flu” and it turned out she was actually pregnant. 

That old trope about women marrying men like their fathers hit a little too close to home with my second was-band.  He was pathetic and unbelievably whiny when he was ill – to the point that I was usually out of patience within the first 24 hours.  Me!

With these shining examples, I’ve pretty much always kept my sicknesses to myself.  Since my doctors figured out my adult-onset allergies, I’ve actually been quite healthy for the last 20 years, including managing to get through pandemic so far without contracting any of the variants.  Then last week I came down with a cold (yep, just a cold; I’ve tested twice).  It’s the first time I’ve had a cold in at least 10 years. 

Being retired, I didn’t need to call in sick so except for an occasional “stuck with a summer cold” text, I was pretty much just laying low.  As the weekend approached, I realized I might have a couple of conflicts that didn’t jive well with having a bad cold.  First was my other book club that was scheduled at my house on Saturday morning.  One of the members is a little fragile; didn’t want to her to catch the cold and honestly I wasn’t up to cooking and getting the place picked up.  On Friday morning I contacted everybody and re-scheduled.  Was still hoping to attend Steve’s celebration in person – tripled masked and standing in the back of the room.  Saturday morning I was still too symptomatic so switched to the virtual celebration.

It made me feel a little silly, bowing out of commitments I had made, just because of a cold, and I worried a bit that I was blowing my cold out of proportion, acting like my dad or my was-band.  But if pandemic has done anything good, it’s made me realize that I really shouldn’t drag my contagious germs around and expose innocent folks, even if it’s “just a cold”.  And I did put on a dressy shirt and earrings for the virtual!

Guess I have a couple more days of laying low and looking up silly sick memes.

How do you take care of yourself when you’re sick?

Lobbying for a Hobby?

This is the last State Fair update, I swear.  Until next year anyway.

On opening day of the fair, I always go by myself.  I go where I want, do what I want and don’t have to give a moment’s thought.  This way I can spend as much time in the Fine Arts Building and the Education Building as I like.  Over the years I’ve discovered that most everyone else does not have enough  tolerance for how much time I can spend looking at dioramas made by 2nd graders, woodworking projects by junior high kids and robots built by high schoolers. 

I also spend a lot of time looking at the quilting projects.  I love looking at quilting – it is just fascinating to me.  Taking all those smaller pieces of fabric and imagining a bigger piece of art.  A little bit like crop art, now that I stop and think about it.  Every year I walk slowly through the entire quilting section; I particularly like the “Quilt on a Stick”.

Quilt on a Stick

Then I always spend the next hour thinking about taking up quilting as a hobby.  Where I could take some beginner classes, where I would put the frame, what kind of cabinet for fabric.  It takes about an hour before I shake it off.  I always have more than one time and space-swallowing hobby!  My paper crafting takes up an entire room my of house.  The number of kitchen toys I own (fancy-dancy pans, fondue pots, ramekins, apple peelers, salad spinners) necessitated a huge shelf in the basement.  My gardening stuff takes up the back wall of my garage.  I really do NOT need another hobby. 

Unfortunately this year YA wanted to do the Education Building on one of the days we went together, so I got to see the quilts twice.

Then I needed to talk myself off the ledge.  Again!

Any hobbies you’ve toyed with starting?

Is It Fall Already?

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

The days are clearly getting shorter. It’s a little discouraging it’s already dark by 8PM. The barn swallows have moved on and the hummingbirds seem to be gone. Maybe the RedWing Blackbirds too. I do enjoy fall. I really like the change of seasons and fall and spring are my favorites. I enjoy the fieldwork and planting crops in the spring, and then fall and the harvest and doing that fieldwork and completing the cycle for another year. Not everyone in the house appreciates the earlier darkness and cooler temps. It’s all good.

Healthwise I’m improving. After feeling like I plateaued a few weeks ago, I can tell a difference again. Got the kidney stone removed a couple weeks ago. Got the stent they placed after that removed the other day (Lots of new experiences!) I can stand on one foot for a few seconds. Left knee will hurt until I get it replaced, but I’m walking better and driving and even climbed up on a box to reach something the other day. I even went to the car with both hands full one morning! AND I stepped over the dog in the kitchen! Getting there!

The sandhill cranes were out in the pasture this past Thursday. It was really nice to see them. Thanks to Steve for sending them our way…

Header photo is neighbor Dave’s cows. Kelly took a walk one night and was talking to them.

Chickens and big ducks are doing well. I went out to do chores and they came running.

We’re having a tough time with the ducklings. Down to two.

The one with the bad leg didn’t make it. And one day I let three out, and an hour later, one of them was dead. I don’t know. Fingers crossed for these two.

Crops are looking good. Corn stalks are starting to dry out and the kernels are dented. There’s still milk in the kernels, but it is coming along.

Multiply the rows around (16) and kernels in the length (36) = 576 kernels on this ear. Then we count the number of ears in 17.5’ (remember we counted the plants this spring. That’s 1/1000th of an acre) and it will vary, but roughly 30 ears per 17.5’, x 1000 = 30,000 x 576 = 17,280,000 kernels / acre divided by 80,000 kernels / bushel and that gives us 216 bushels / acre. Which is way too high for my farm on average. Factor in the deer damage, corn on the edges that the trees impact, ears that aren’t so good, hope for a late freeze, and well, we’ll see at harvest. But it does look like a decent crop this year.

Who were your neighbors when you were growing up?

Midnight Flight

One of my colleagues was excited last week for the arrival of her mother for a visit from Washington State. She was flying from Spokane to Bismarck via Minneapolis, arriving in Bismarck on the midnight Delta flight.

There are very few commercial airports in ND, and very few commercial carriers that come into the State. I knew exactly what the midnight flight into Bismarck is like. The airport terminal is almost dark, nothing is open, and all the airline counters are closed. There are a couple of lighted offices, and one or two rental car desks whose occupants look exhausted. The long term parking kiosk is closed, so you better have exact change for your parking bill, or else a debit/credit card.

It is sort of comforting, sort of odd to live in such a remote place and know the details of these things so well. I wonder what it will be like to move back to Luverne when I retire, and what new things I will learn, and what old things are still there.

What communities are you the most familiar with? How have they changed for better or worse over the years? What are some of the more interesting airports you have been in?

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