All posts by Barbara in Rivertown

Our Favorite spots

The other day as I was typing a comment here on the Trail, I inadvertently slipped into “pirate talk”. I’m not sure why, but I suddenly had Cap’n Billy of the Muskellunge on my shoulder. It didn’t last long, but it’s not the only time lately that I’ve spontaneously conjured up one of the regulars from TLGMS – The Late Great Morning Show – MPR’s varietal music wake-up show which aired between 1983 and 2008. For instance, Lloyd’s of Monday pops into my head whenever something goes awry on a Monday.

For the uninitiated who might wander onto this blog, here’s an excerpt from a 2006 article describing the show: 

“Fans of The Morning Show know they can expect to hear comic sketches, ad spoofs and other skits featuring characters such as Captain Billy, Bud Buck and Genway’s Dr. Larry Kyle. It all originates at Dale Connelly’s keyboard. “Basically, I create the characters in the scripts,” Dale says, ‘then I hand the scripts over to Jim Ed and he brings them to life in his own way.’

[The late Tom Keith, whose stage name was]  Jim Ed Poole is a master at doing various voices, dialects and characterizations. ‘There are so many different characters,’ Jim Ed laughs, “that some characters are starting to sound like other characters.”

I’ve been missing the Morning Show a lot lately – I’ll be cooking and want some music instead of the yammering of the radio’s talk shows. Or I’ll turn on the classical station, but they’re playing something weird, so I try Radio Heartland on my iPad. But they don’t play the old favorites any more (from what I can tell), and besides, RH doesn’t do the fun stuff like those fake sponsors and quirky character skits I used to laugh out loud at.

Dial it back several years

What were some of your favorite “spots” or characters from Dale and Jim Ed’s collection?

(If you click on the little magnifying glass at the top right of this page, and type in your favorite character or “sponsor”, you may find old blog posts on that topic from the archives.)

A Little Diversion: The Queen’s Gift

Today’s post comes from Barbara from Rivertown:

Drawing on our recent discussion of what it’s like to be Royal, I wonder if part of the fun might be owning stuff no one else owns, and having the power to give things away if one was so inclined.

I happened on this article listing 31 unexpected things owned by HRH Queen Elizabeth II.

They are as follows:

1. All the swans on the River Thames

2. A pair of corgis

3. All the Dolphins in the United Kingdom

4. Nearly all of London’s Regent Street

5. Half of the UK’s shoreline

6. Six royal residences

7. More than 200 Launer handbags

8. A private ATM

9. The best seat in the house at Wimbledon

10. The Tower of London

11. 150,000 works of art (many of them priceless)

12. Queen Victoria’s Sketchbook

13. A winning team of race horses

14. A car collection worth more than $10 million

15. A tiara covered in 1333 diamonds

16. A massive Faberge Collection

17. Westminster Abbey

18. Hyde Park  [et al.]

19. A Gold Record

20. A bat colony

21. The world’s largest clear-cut diamond

22. Three Crown Dependencies

23. An Aberdeen Angus Cow

24. Two tortoises from the Seychelles

25. Her own flag

26. Four Guinness World Records

27. A bold Blue Peter badge

28. The British seabed

29. An offshore wind farm

30. The UK’s Continental Shelf

31. All of Scotland’s gold mines

32. 25,000 Acres of forest

33. Trafalgar Square

34. Queen Victoria’s wedding dress

35. Henry VIII’s armor

36. Queen Elizabeth II’s own tartan

37. Millions of square feet of retail space

38. A baptismal font

39. A national collection of Mulberries

The game is:  

The Queen has decided it’s time to “lighten up”, and will give each of you one  (or more) of these gifts.

Which of these items would you most like to have?

The Chess Gambit

Several baboons responded on Tuesday to a comment about the 6-part Netflix mini-series called The Queen’s Gambit. It’s based on a book by Walter Tevis (who is also author of three other books which became movies: The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth).

Apparently chess sets have been flying off the shelves, both in-store and online. I have located our set here, a Christmas gift years ago from son Joel. I’ve never really taken to chess – though Husband has tried to teach me, I never thought I had enough…  desire, mental acuity, or stamina to be a competitive player.

Because of this movie, I’ve become aware that women have been serious chess players for centuries first documented during the Middle Ages – this from Wikipedia:    “Chess games between men and women were a common theme of European art[2][3] and literature in the fourteenth through 18th centuries.” By the 19th Century, the field was dominated by men, and “during the 20th century, female players made significant progress in breaking male dominance on the game.” The first female International Grandmaster was Nona Gaprindashvilli, who received the title in 1978.

Back on the home front:  It wasn’t that I thought women in general wouldn’t be good at chess, just me. I am willing to rethink that and, with a long and at-home winter facing me, I think I just might take another stab at chess. I will, however, need to do a quick room-arrange to accommodate a table where we can leave a chess board up. And wouldn’t it be fun to paint our own chess board right on some old table?   

Here’s a puzzle:  Imagine you’ve decided you need a chess set and there are none to be had in all the land. By what art or craft would you create the board?

What found objects around the house could stand in for the various pieces – pawns, rooks, bishops, knights, king, queen ?

OR:

Because you may be home-bound for several weeks (or months), what other sort of learning might you tackle, that you would otherwise not have attempted?

The Find

This past Saturday morning, right before Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Husband and I decided to do a Deep Clean on an alcove right off the kitchen. This corner houses a tall shelf unit full of large items like crock pots and cookbooks, and a small chest of drawers. I had accidentally shoved something behind the tall shelves, noticed when trying to retrieve it that it was pretty dusty back there, and realized that space hadn’t been deep cleaned since we moved in 4 ½ years ago (!).

Well, you know how this goes. In the process of clearing everything off, you find stuff you’d forgotten you had – which gets returned to its proper place or tossed. Stuff piles up in the rest of the house for a while, but you promise you’ll put everything back before day’s end, and you roll up your sleeves. And you swear you won’t let the cleaning lapse for this long again.

Then you move the furniture out so you can sweep and swipe and clean everything in sight, and vacuum out the cobwebs and dust fuzzies. As the small chest was being moved away from the wall, I heard a “thunk” as something dropped to the floor, and discovered… MY CAMERA, which has been A.W.O.L. for about a year. I don’t own a smart phone, and luckily I hadn’t bought a replacement. I am so happy to have it back!

So, for the first time since last December, I’m able to submit a blog post AND supply the photo.

What have you found that was lost?  

What cleaning or clearing project are you likely to accomplish during self-quarantine?

Bird Stuff that happens while we sleep

I really don’t know where and when I got interested in birds. I don’t consider myself a “birder” who has a list to check off of birds I’ve seen, though I do sometimes write down if I see a new one. And I try to identify the songs for as many as I can, with the help of the internet, and a book that contains a tiny tape recorder:  The Backyard Birdsong Guide.

I also like reading about birds – What the Robin Knows, H is for Hawk; Suburban Safari; One Wild Bird at a Time… (OK, I haven’t finished them all, but they’re under my roof.)

A friend has alerted me that end of September is an extremely good time to hear migrating birds flying (way) overhead at night:

Migration alert: high intensity migration predicted for the night of 28-29 September 2020

To quote from this 9/28 article by Andrew Farnsworth:

“We estimate that 594 million birds will take flight tonight across the contiguous. And there will be additional, similarly large flights, in the coming nights! This will likely represent one of the largest series of migration nights of the year for this contiguous US.

For those in areas under heavy migration advisories, this will be a great opportunity to experience nocturnal migration by listening at night to vocal birds in flight, or by observing the following morning for new arrival and departures. In the highly urbanized areas, especially cities in the central and southern US, it is also particularly important to turn off lights at night to avoid attracting birds into hazardous conditions in which they can collide with buildings and other structures.”

And here, in 24 seconds, you can see Nocturnal Migration Flows from January – December… it’s quite dramatic:

And from Colorado State University’s Aeroeco Lab, are US maps of migration forecasts for the next several nights:

https://aeroecolab.com/uslights

“Aeroecology is the study of airborne organisms and their utilization of the lower atmosphere (i.e. aerosphere).”

What connection/interest, if any, do you have with birds?

Is there a bird that you would go out of your way to see? … or get out of your bed to hear?

Surviving 2020

Last Friday here on the Trail, right after it was learned that a hero named Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, the comments shifted, from musicals and the fires out West, to her passing:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. That is so difficult to accept.

Now it all gets surreal.

I was so sure she would simply refuse to die with 45 in office.

…I feel just hollowed out by this.

This news comes on the heels of the devastating fires in (mostly) California and Oregon; the crippled economy and school system; continued protests, violence, and looting in some cities following several instances of police brutality and murder, particularly to people of color – all this as we still struggle with the isolation and loss of life from Covid 19.

The next comment pretty much sums up how I’ve been feeling as this 2020 election approaches:

…Someone close to me is having such a bad time with political events she is seeking medical help. I’m struggling too, relatively speaking. These are difficult times.

The anniversary of our son’s death was last Sunday, 9/13, and I hardly acknowledged it. Then I felt guilty for not feeling the usual grief, not doing something special to mark the day, and suddenly realized – I’m already feeling so much of a different kind of grief, it didn’t occur to me to pile any more on.

Mostly, I’ve been grieving for the country and culture I thought I knew, and thought I was living in… the place where people can feel strongly about something, but can agree to disagree, and still live and work side by side. The place where we can still respect each other and treat other civilly even when we’re totally at odds.

The level of vitriol and hateful speech that has come out, for example, over whether or not masks are worn leaves me speechless. I’ve found myself shying away from Facebook because of what I might find there. (I’ve refrained from Unfriending a couple of acquaintances from “the other side”, to see if I can figure out how they think.) I frequently run into something so nasty it makes me want to cry, for the person who posted it as much as for those of us liberals or Demon-crats it’s aimed at. I don’t want to totally give up FB because I also, at times, find very beautiful or funny things there.

So I hang out with like-minded people or baboons whenever possible. I’d like to pick your brains a bit – could be in your own words or someone else’s, could be poetry, jokes, stories, music, art … anything: 

Do you have any words of wisdom about how we all hang on till we’re through it, whatever “it” is?

What To Read Right Now

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown.

When Toni Morrison died on August 5th last summer, I was amazed to realize I’d never read anything by this Pulitzer (and Nobel!) Prize winning author. Then I watched, on CBS Sunday Morning, and excerpt from an NPR interview, and promptly read three of her books to get a sampling of her writing. They were not an easy read.

What I’ve realized in the past few weeks is that, while I’ve heard myself say I love to read about women’s lives (and lately some men’s, too), I’ve read precious few books about black women’s lives, most by Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker – either fiction or memoirs. There have been tons of posts on FB, etc., about what it is like to be African-American in this country (not to mention Native, Hispanic, Asian) – stories that try to explain what the term “white privilege” means, and I think I’m just beginning to understand.

Something  PJ said the other day on the Trail spoke to me:  “At the moment I’m immersed in learning more about American history, race relations, politics, and the changing vocabulary and strategies that have been used over time to divide us along racial, economic, and political lines. I’d much rather be doing something else, but it feels as if it’s my civic duty to be as informed as I can be so I can better understand what’s going on all around us.”

To that end, I’ve ordered James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, after hearing a conversation about him with MPR’s Angela Davis. I came upon this “Anti-Racist Lit. Starter Kit.”

It can be argued that we need to do much more than try to fix it by “throwing a book at it”. But like PJ, educating myself is what I can do right now.

Do you have any recommendations for books we could read right now, to further understand what needs to change in our culture?

Cossack Pie

In Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook is a recipe I have always intended to make, called Cossack Pie. Until now I have had either not enough time, or was missing several of the ingredients. It calls for cabbage, broccoli, onions, carrot, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, a little white wine, spices, and a sour cream/yogurt mix. Oh, and a pie crust. When I came upon the recipe the other day, I realized I had everything except fresh mushrooms, but I did find a can of them in the back of the cupboard. Voilá!

There was a lot of chopping – I spent two hours on this thing – but was rewarded. It was delicious, out of the ordinary, and used up some things that needed using. Husband even liked it a lot.

My California friend Fern recently posted on Facebook something like:  Time to check the back of your cupboards, bring this stuff out and do something with it! Here are a few articles that may help in this process:

Food Expiration Dates You Should Actually Follow,

Here’s How Long Those Condiments in your Fridge and Pantry Are Supposed to Last,

and No Flour, Eggs or Butter? No Problem! 23 Cake Recipes for When You’re Missing an Ingredient,

With that explorer’s spirit, I will continue to look through my Moosewood Cookbook and see what else has gone unmade lo these many years.

What have you discovered in the back of your cupboards, or freezer?

Any recipes or ideas you want to share?

The Basement!

Photo credit: Wonderlane

I think I may have figured out how I am going to stay sane through all this isolation. I have “discovered” a new room on our house – heck, a new floor! – our Basement. Saturday (I may have mentioned here) we cleaned and organized enough that it feels comfortable down there. It’s an OLD basement (1930 era house) but at least it’s dry. There are five small windows, and the ceiling and walls are painted white, which makes it pretty light.

The joy of it is that I can spread out down there with my mask sewing project – there is room for a cutting table and ironing board. There’s an old rug under all this so my feet don’t get cold – if it feels too cool, I just add another layer. I still need a coffee kiosk, or I suppose I could go up to the “fireplace” niche in my (tiny) bedroom – the Break Room!

But the best thing about this is it feels a little bit “away” from the rest of my life now.  I have a commute – even if it is only up and down twelve steps, it will be a bit harder to get to the kitchen. And with a 900 sq. ft. house, it will give us both some well needed space. Heck, I might even get fully dressed to go to “work”.

Some of the “baboons” here (if you’re relatively new on the Trail, click on FAQ at the top) may already have this sort of space in their abode. If so,

is it useful at this time?

Is there some nook or cranny (attic, closet) at your about that you haven’t explored lately?

If you are living with others, do you have a place where you can get “away” if you want to?

Unplugging! / Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Photo credit: Crissy Jarvis

I had already begun a tech-related post about social media, (see below) and then found on my Firefox start-up page a notice about National Day of Unplugging

beginning this Friday at sundown. This, then, is the Public Service Announcement segment of the post.

According to one study:

75% of Americans spend 3 or more hours per day on their devices (smart phones, tablets, computers);

48% use the devices 5 or more hours; and

32% check in before getting out of bed in the morning.

I know myself well enough that I will probably not wean myself from my computer for an entire 24 hours, but will try to cut down during that period. (I don’t have a smart phone, and rarely use our tablet.)

Meanwhile, here’s the post I’d already started:  Should I stay or should I go?

A California friend recently posted one last item on her Facebook timeline, saying: “I’m going inactive on FB. A book can change me and THIS ONE DID… Picture the same posts: me baking, fostering senior dogs, meeting up with friends and reading, and watching Netflix, and volunteering, and going to Church. Contact me via email for a while.”

The book in question is Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts RIGHT NOW, by Jaron Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer. From the book’s dust cover:  “Lanier’s… reasons include its tendency to bring out the worst in us, to make politics terrifying, to trick us with illusions of popularity and success, to twist our relationship with the truth, to disconnect us from other people even as we are more ‘connected’ than ever, and to rob us of our free will with relentless targeted ads.” It’s not a huge book, just 144 smallish pages, and he skims over a lot of detail (and gives numbered references to innumerable online articles). I understood maybe 1/3 of what I was reading.

But he’s right about the Big Brother aspect to our current online society. I hate it when I go to, say, a Perkins restaurant (and pay by credit card), and see online the next day (for the first time) ads for Perkins’ Signature Burgers. It’s creepy – I feel like I’ve been spied upon. I’m sure you can all relate similar happenings.

Oxford’s definition of social media reads:  “Social media is computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities. … Users engage with social media via computer, tablet or smartphone via web-based software or web application, often utilizing it for messaging.”

I got on Facebook years ago so I could see photos of far flung relatives, especially the little kids who are growing up so fast. Lately I find myself getting on sporadically, but once I’m on I seem to be addicted for days. I have also been addicted at times to msn.com’s news feed (which is full of junk), and of course I find myself checking emails – and this blog – multiple times on days when I’m home. And I’m starting to play Spider Solitaire more often… Who knows what I’d do if I had a smart phone!

Are you comfortable with your level of involvement on social media?

If not, what would you like to change?