Sunday, July 30, 2006

The weekend of my 8th grade class reunion was a bust, sorry to say. I add up the cost of the ticket of the dinner, of three tank full-ups to drive back and forth , thruway tickets, the cost of a hostess gift, picking up the tab at dinner, etc. It wasn't worth it. It's not the fault of the organizer. I know He put in a lot of time and attention to pull this thing together.
It's just that I got sick. Ruined the whole weekend. I was so looking forward to renewing old friendships, especially with a girlfriend named Joan. We e-mailed each other, so at least I have her e-mail address.
I dropped Rascal off at Beth's in Syracuse. Stayed overnight with her and woke up ill the following morning. Rats.
Continued driving to Buffalo, coughing all the way and blowing my nose. Rats again.
At my cousin Judy's house, I was greeted warmly. She couldn't have been nicer. My Aunt June was there, too. That was the best reunion, in Judy's living room.
The next day was the day of the class reunion. My coughing was worse. I felt exhausted from coughing. Judy would not accept an apology for bringing germs into her condo. Instead, she took me on a tour of my native city, Buffalo New York.
I saw that my old school is now an early childhood center. The old Kensington Theatre is torn down to make way for a mini-mall. Richard's house, the one He grew up in, has shrunk. The neighborhood is deteriorated. One can buy crack on the street where I rode my bike as a child.
Judy knows my interest in Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, so she took me to the Martin House, now owned by the University of Buffalo. They were giving tours! We bought tickets and I lasted only 15 minutes on my feet. Judy stayed for the entire tour while I coughed my head off in her car. Rats and rats and more rats!!!
The next stop was to Buffalo's historic Forest Lawn Cemetery. My favorite architect had designed a mausoleum on paper. The Cemetery association arranged for his design to be constructed in Forest Lawn. It's called the Blue Sky Mausoleum. FLW was light years ahead of his time. Each crypt is facing the sky, instead of being stacked one on top of another. A visitor can walk all over it, like sculpture inviting the visitor to sit on it. So I did.
Instead of a school reunion weekend, I had a Frank Lloyd Wright union..and a family reunion with my husband's side of the family. Not a bad exchange.
One last thing: like a kick in the pants as I am leaving Buffalo, someone stole the face plate off my radio. I didn't tell Judy. I drove straight home , 10 hours straight, fuming mad. Even Rascal knew that something was wrong.
Once home, still coughing and blowing my nose, I contacted the business that sold me the radio. They said they could get me a new face plate, but it would cost $150. No thank you.
Instead, I placed an ad on Craig's List, asking for a Pioneer faceplate. Several people responded. A new faceplate will be on my radio before the end of the week...and I checked their story to be sure it isn't stolen from someone else. I'm staying home the rest of the summer.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Squirrel Wars They're ba-a-a-c-k. Squirrels. They eat my strawberries and my peaches. Across the street, they strip my neighbor's pear and apple trees. My neighbor doesn't get any of the fruit He's grown. The birds get the blueberries and the cherries. It's a wonder that any fruit makes it to market. They don't touch my Brussels sprouts , chives or rhubarb. Fussy little pests.
On Park Circle, there is a little park. The squirrels love that wild area. From the park, they hop on the squirrel highway a.k.a. the telephone wires. Word has gotten around in the squirrel world, that Park Circle is good picking. They arrive over the telephone wires in hoards.
One wouldn't mind if they picked just one peach and ate it...leaving the rest of the fruit for me. I don't mind sharing. But no. ..those greedy little bastards attack my fruit trees before the fruit is half ripe. By the time the peaches are ripe, there aren't any for me.
I've declared war. I bought a Have-A-Hart trap. My neighbor bought two.
The traps are baited with a cracker with peanut butter on it. Reconnaissance: they appear about dinner time. I put the trap out and go away. A few hours later, I have trapped a squirrel. I've trapped 14 of them so far!
When they're in the trap, I can get close up and personal. They sure are cute little fuzzy, with big, clear eyes...tiny ears...alert and watchful of me, watching them.
I showed one to Rascal, my dog. She wasn't interested, unless they were out and she was free to chase them.
They all look alike, but I've learned that they have different personalities. One squirrel went into an absolute panic. Another one was shell shocked. Then there was the squirrel who growled at me for the entire trip out of my neighborhood. A big human did not scare him (or her) I was challenged by a little bitty fluff of fur, caught in a trap. You have to admire him. He's a gutsy little rodent.
My neighbor pointed out an area across the bridge that seemed a good place to let the squirrels go. I drive the mile and a half, find the wild place with trees and let the squirrel go. They shoot out of the trap...faster than a speeding bullet!
This bridge is where my neighbor likes to fish from. After a fishing trip, He reports to me that he looked down at the base of the see a squirrel exploring the area...trying to get across the water. Could he figure it out and return home to Park Circle? I should have spray painted a red "x" on him so I would know if I was catching the same squirrel over and over.
This year, I am taking the squirrels three miles out, to Eisenhower Park.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

My friend said He loves the earth. He gets recharged by spending time in a natural setting. Me too.
Then I read Jared Diamond's book, "Collapse". (I also read his first one, " Guns, Germs and Steel". )
Each book is a well researched report on the topic . "Collapse" addresses societies and decisions made by the people and their leaders , that lead to success or collapse of their culture. It takes me at least a month to read and digest the information in these texts. I think they are college text books, or they should be.
There is no disagreeing with the author. He does His research well and reports his findings in a balanced, non-judgemental way. The conclusions are disturbing, although the author is a cautious optimist. I'm not so sure.
In our arrogance, We feel that the US culture is the best. Most people in the US over eat, drive a gas guzzling car, live in a house too big but it impresses the neighbors. We use throw away products, adding to the garbage problem. We guzzle energy and natural resources way out of proportion to our numbers. The word "glutton" comes to mind.
According to history, that is when the culture collapses, when population is highest and resources are used at a faster rate than they can be sustained.
There are at least three factors that bring a culture down. They are : leaders more obsessed with their own power than their responsibility to their people , not protecting the country's natural resources, and not planning for long term. The second factor is a population explosion...more people than the land and its resources can sustain. The third factor is a destruction of habitat by over use, over fishing, over harvesting.
Historically, civilizations have collapsed many times, but because of their geographical isolation, the rest of the world went on OK. Today, We are all one global village. If this civilization collapses, We'll all go down. We're interconnected.
The result of a civilization collapsing is disease, war and famine, reduction of a living standard, starvation and even cannibalism. People do what they have to do to survive. Historically, some people survived and migrated elsewhere. Today, there is no "elsewhere".
My friend wants to stay and protect the earth, to enjoy nature. I'm a pessimist. I think the problem is too huge to be solved by even the total number of informed people who can be effective. ...because of the sheer number of people who are ignorant and desperate. Think globally. There are teeming hoards of people out there, making more babies.
Everyone thinks they can have all the children they want. Some religions encourage this, because sheer numbers add to their political power. Third world cultures want all the trimmings found in first world cultures. They think they deserve it. They want to raise their standard of living. Who can blame them. However, it is clear to me that the earth can support only so many people and still sustain our natural world. It is clear to the author, as well.
Do you think that people will accept the fact that We have to reduce the number of people living on the earth? Some countries are now enforcing small families. Think of China. ..and some populations on Pacific islands. They can sustain their numbers for centuries, if they do not go past a certain number. (China cheats. They put up their daughters for adoption outside of the country.)
Do you think that people will accept the fact that they will have to reduce the amount of natural resources that they consume?
I don't think the world can solve this problem. Failure to solve the problem means a certainty of war and famine. If a country has a resource another country needs, there will be war.
Just like our animal ancestry: Each male needs territory to provide food for his female to assure the continuation of his blood line. Same thing for us. We are still a part of nature.
One difference between historical society collapse and today, is the stakes are higher. Not only is there no place to immigrate to, We have more dangerous means of destroying ourselves. Think of nuclear bombs, chemical contaminants, the poisons We pour into our water, land and air. We can collapse very quickly. A virus starting in the mid-east, can spread around the world in less than a year, because of international travel.
I don't want to live on the earth without polar bears and ice caps. I need wild places to exist, even if I never visit them, except by a television program. I don't want to live with global warming, pollution, floods and tornadoes. I don't want to live in a society where I have to defend myself from my neighbor. I don't want to have to act aggressively or I won't get my share. Basically, I don't want to come back here.
Our choices seem to be to have as many children as We can produce and cut the pie into smaller and smaller pieces for each one. (the aggressive ones will get your piece of the pie, as Well as their own.) Or We can reduce our numbers, study the natural world and see what the sustainable rate of harvest is.
Since I don't believe that We can get our act together, I am hoping to reincarnate on another world, where people have evolved out of wars of aggression...where they have learned to cooperate with each other for the good of society and for the good of the individual. A pastoral world, peaceful, where children can grow up unafraid and well guided by the adults in the community. That world, isn't here.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

God wants Andy to be safe in a place of his own. As he was traveling from Fort Worth to Milford, I saw a notice in the paper that the Milford Housing Authority had opened their list for new applicants. In 25 years living here, I never saw that list opened. I took it as a sign. One of the first things I had Andy do when He arrived, was to fill out the application and get it in the mail before the closing date.
Second step was to receive a notice back that Andy made the lottery. There were over 300 applicants and less than 100 went on the list. See, I told you God wants Andy in housing.
Third step: We got a copy of his birth certificate...took that to the Department of Motor Vehicles and got an updated photo ID. We were going to do that anyways , apart from housing.
It seems that the fourth step was a notice to go to an orientation session. At the session, they want to see Andy's social security card, a photo ID and his birth certificate. Everything fell into place. What perfect timing.
Andy was interviewed. The Administrator was very kind. She did not promise anything, but I am sure that within three months or so, Andy will have a place of his own. God is watching over my disabled grandson.
We went out and celebrated. I had a steak. Andy had pasta. He's a cheap date.
Update: There was one document missing for His application. That was a verification of income. Andy called social security to send a copy of his Notice of Benefit...the missing document. Social Security said they would send it. I started to worry, because July 17 was the deadline to apply. Each day, I checked the mail box for the missing document. It wasn't there. On the last day, it appeared. I drove it over to Housing Administration, with only hours to spare. So far, so good.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Clark Howard was on the radio. I'm a fan. I listen whenever I can . He's a very good consumer advocate. Mr. Howard teaches me a lot. Being a consumer advocate is my "road not taken". At one time, I was poised for that career, then decided to do something different. My interest did not wain, however.
Today, a caller was in trouble over credit card debt. This is a recurring problem on Mr. Howard's program. My grandsons are also in deep credit card debt. They have ruined their credit ratings. I learn that some people are paying 26% interest on their unpaid balances. That is outrageous! The credit card companies should be ashamed of themselves, but they get away with it because some time ago, We repealed the usury laws. Usury laws set a limit on interest that can be charged on a debt.
I think it was during the Ford administration that usury laws were repealed. We were having a terrible time with inflation. Remember the button, "WIN"? It meant, "whip inflation now". President Ford wore a "WIN" button. Inflation was running at double digits. Usury laws held borrowing to less than 5% interest. (I think it was 5%.) Banks stopped granting mortgages, because by lending money, they lost money as the loan was repaid. The economy was coming to a halt, so congress repealed the usury laws so banks could make a profit when they granted a mortgage.
Now the situation is completely out of hand. Banks look at credit reports and find any excuse to raise the interest rate. We no longer pay cash for things. We're a credit card country. Everyone needs a credit card. Young workers are particularly vulnerable. So are college students. It is too easy to get sucked under so much debt, the choice is to declare bankruptcy or keep paying more in interest than what the item cost in the first place. (Why can't people do without an electronic item until they can pay cash for it?)
Hospitals are now charging interest on medical bills past due. What does a person do when a medical emergency strikes in their family? I should think it is reasonable to work a payment schedule out with medical billing...and pay in installments until the debt is paid. At least, let the patient pay principle first. I don't think there should be any interest payment on medical bills as long as the patient is making regular payments.
I think congress should reinstate the usury laws to prevent the credit card companies from becoming predators. I think people should practice more self discipline. Set goals. Save money. Pay cash. Thumb nose at interest payments.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It is fun to peek at other people's groceries while standing in line to be checked out. It is clear who has a cat, who has a baby, who is single buying single serving entrees. I bite my lip to not lecture the person in front of me who buys unhealthy food...and expensively packaged , heavily advertised foods. Neither package nor advertisement add to the nutrition in the package. While tempted to comment on the amount of carbohydrates in their cart, I say nothing.
While exiting the video store today, it occurred to me that the video people know a lot about me by my taste in videos. They have a computer that keeps track of what I rent, which must be so different from what other people rent. My grandson likes videos with violence. If the story has a car blown up as part of the plot, I probably haven't rented it. If it is high school humor, I pass that one up as well. Adolescence doesn't interest me any more.
We tell the world more about our self than we mean to. Oh sure, the casual observer can tell a lot by looking at us. They know if they are looking at a man or woman, young or old. Our style of grooming, our choice of clothes, the way We walk, if We are healthy or if We drink too much, possibly our financial status are all advertised...intentionally and unintentionally.
The dry cleaners knows us by what We bring in to be cleaned: is it a conservative suit or party clothes?
The sanitation workers know us by what We throw away. Are our recyclables in the recycle bin or in the trash can? Do you throw away take out containers, baby food jars, cat food cans, liquor bottles, empty pill containers, junk food wrappers or vegetable peelings? Cigarette butts? Dog droppings?
The mailman knows me. He brings my dog a biscuit. I joke that Rascal is a hold up artist...won't let the mail carrier go by without receiving tribute of a dog biscuit. Scott, our mail carrier, knows my mail, the catalogues I receive if I buy from them or not. He knows who on my street gets stuff in plain brown wrappers, letters from overseas relatives, stock reports and overdue bills. He knows who shops at the Shopping Network. Scott passes house after house with clues who live inside. Some houses have very neat front lawns, some are weeds. Is there a bike in the driveway? A disabled car? Trash? Handicap ramp? We advertise who We are to the world.
The clerk who processes our credit card bill gets an impression of us without ever meeting us. What did you charge this month? Luxury vacation and rent-a-car? Charged your income tax payment because you didn't have the cash? Groceries or books? Took the family out to a restaurant and a movie? Have to have the latest electronic gadget? The whole world knows more about us than We intended them to know.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I grew up in Buffalo New York at a time of segregation. glad that We've eliminated segregated neighborhoods. If a minority (read: black) family moved into the neighborhood, all the white families moved out....shame on us. The result is, neighborhoods deteriorated and no one I know, still lives in "the old neighborhood". When the old gang graduated from school, every one scattered. It was impossible to keep track of friends from childhood. By a miracle, I am friends with a few. They are treasures to me...people who knew me when I was a little skinny girl, afraid to speak up, ignorant and incompetent. I've come a long ways from my roots, baby.
From time to time, I wonder where those people are now. How did their lives unfold? Is someone living close to me and I don't know it? Would they be interested in how my life unfolded? If someone mentioned my name, would the other person say, "Who?" Are We all fat and grey? Who died?
There was a big surprise in the mail the other day. My elementary school is having a reunion. How did the organizers of this event, ever find me and my classmates? We've never had a reunion, ever. The last time I saw those people...the kids in my neighborhood, We were in eighth grade. Now We are retired. That is a long stretch of time. Included with the invitation, is a list of names and addresses of my classmates. Hurray! The day is spent on the Internet, e-mailing some of the women who graduated with me. In sorrow and shock, I read the list of 11 names of my deceased classmates. Roger was a brittle diabetic. I am not surprised his name is on the list. But, Don was an athlete and a good one. His name is also on the list.
I read over the history of the school and the list of the succession of school principals. My principal is the second last one. The building is now an early childhood center. No more eighth grade graduations from PS 61.
There is also a list of deceased teachers. Every teacher I learned from is deceased. I suppose this is to be expected, as those dedicated men and women were my parent's age. Reading over the list of names and dates, brings back so many memories. Of course I am going to the reunion.