"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Model for Our Economic Phoenix

I think the whole world’s run amok, and I don’t have much hope anyone will come up with a solution to save it from the poorhouse. Down the road a ways, after this bailout and that FDIC guarantee, long after the pols and the pundits have done their postmortems on this failed rescue and that useless intervention, we’ll still have to start all over. I think that’s what’s going to happen—we’ll limp along, trying one thing and then another, until we’ve no choice but to start again from the ashes of our financial system.

In the meantime, let’s look at some of the things that have happened so far. The government bailed out AIG, the big insurance company. AIG executives celebrated with a big party at a swanky spa. “Previously scheduled,” they claimed when the “fit hit the shan,” while the homeowner with a mortgage to pay and kids to feed watched in incredulity, pink slip in hand. A large bank was bailed out with federal money, but instead of using that money to make credit available to get the economy moving, it tucked it away and loomed like a vulture, ready to snap up smaller banks in trouble.

The three top wheels from the auto industry, which employs tens of thousands of people, went to Washington to ask for money to get this vital industry back on track. Did they drive? NO. In what would have been the perfect opportunity to showcase their fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles of the future, they chose to fly instead. Not commercial, mind you, but by corporate jet. And, no, they didn’t jet-pool. They flew in three separate jets, arriving in comfort with their satchels open, expecting Uncle Sam to fill them with greenbacks.

Then, some other big guys rode in to the rescue: delegates to the G-20 summit on the world financial crisis met over cheese, crackers and ginger ale to …. NOT! They dined at a luxurious banquet on quail, lamb and five hundred dollar bottles of red wine. About the only thing appropriate in that scenario was the red color of the wine, because that’s the color we’re bleeding.

Executives of failing companies make salaries and perks of multi-millions of dollars, and get golden parachutes that keep them in quail and fancy-shmancy wine for the rest of their lives. I’m sorry, there’s more, much, much more of this idiocy, but I’ve had enough. It’s more than I can take.

And what’s happening on the other side of the fence? People are losing their jobs, their homes, their savings, and their retirement accounts. Students are looking at tuitions beyond their means to pay. Seniors are afraid to check their investment portfolios for fear of bringing on strokes.

But most of all, we’re losing hope. And the pitiful thing is we’d been given a blueprint for avoiding all this. It’s been right there in front of our faces, complete with examples to follow, all dressed up in black and white formal wear, fluttering around our bird feeders. Okay, wait. Don’t toss this aside. Just listen to what I have to say. I want to tell you about chickadees.

First, chickadees usually mate for life. That means no broken homes and two wage earners providing for the present and the future. That means dad’s around to help mom feed the young. When statistics show that sixty percent of children living in poverty do so in a female single-parent home, there is much to be said for mating for life.

Second, chickadees’ wings beat twenty-seven times a second. A second. No couch potatoes in chickadee-land. And no unemployment lines, either. The chickadee either gets its butt out there and works, or it’s no sunflower seeds for it. Sorry, bird feeders don’t take food coupons. Which brings up another point. While tens of thousands of humans set out feeders with peanut butter and sunflower seeds, research indicates that up to eighty percent of a chickadee’s daily winter food supply comes from natural sources such as dormant insects, spiders, and even carrion. They’re not free-loaders, but hard workers, because their survival depends upon it.

Third, chickadees will lay between six and eight eggs, and the young fledge in about twenty-one days. Then, it’s off to work. No laying back and letting mom and dad bring the goodies home, because junior’s too precious to work at washing dishes or at a fast food joint.

Fourth, chickadees don’t necessarily eat all those black oil sunflower seeds at your feeder that day. Instead, they save for hard times. They save and they diversify. They find separate hiding places for each seed, and they remember where they put each one. They don’t tuck away their savings in the same spot where some raiding Stellar’s jay can clean them out with one beakful.

Fifth, chickadees don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. They excavate their own nests in rotten trees or decaying wood. They don’t over-extend, or try to pay the mortgage on an eagle’s nest when a woodpecker’s abandoned nest will do. No sub-prime mortgage problems here.

And sixth and last, the other trait I think humans should adopt, is this: chickadees keep an eye on the food-finding success of their peers. If one is doing especially well, the others emulate that bird’s behavior. They don’t go running to some chickadee appropriations committee, peeping for a bailout. They learn from the birds that are making the right decisions, working the hardest, and having the most success.

So, there it is—the blueprint for when our economic Phoenix struggles to rise from the ashes of the current meltdown. Come to think of it, it isn’t such a bad plan for social progress either.

Nov. 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

keepin' an eye on the world....

I subbed for Erin doing the mail route today--a hundred and thirty-some miles on ice, snow and slop. The drive into Moose Pass was tricky, and I wasn't looking forward to this day at all, even with studded tires all the way around. While I was in the post office taking care of business there, the sand truck want by, and my drive to and from Hope and Cooper Landing now invoved sand on those wet, icy roads. Much better.

Down at Tern Lake, rain was falling, adding slop to an already messy highway. And, keeping an eye on it all were these four bald eagles in a cottonwood tree. There's another in the small spruce to the left. Two more were across the highway, not visible in this picture.

There's something a bit unsettling about this picture. A driver rounds a sharp curve on a wet, icy highway and sees these birds of prey lurking above. They are not only hunting birds-- they also eat carrion...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

proof in living color.....

A few days ago I was speaking on the phone with a friend who lives in Florida. Eventually she asked me what the temperature was in Moose Pass.

"Oh, it's warm," I answered. "Twenty above."

A long pause, and then, "That's cold."

"No, I said. "Cold is when it's below zero." All things are relative, I suppose. So when teenaged boys in Moose Pass need to burn off excess energy, they do some of the things teenaged boys all over the country do. They play basketball out in the yard. Here are the pictures, also from a few days ago:

Yes, that's a snow bank. Yes, he's wearing a tee shirt. See the bare arms?
No hat, no long sleeves, no gloves. Jeans, tee shirt, sneakers. Temperature? Around 25.
Sorry for the blurred images. The shutter speed on this camera isn't what it could be for nighttime photography.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

more than you ever wanted to know about Gullible...

How did we get from all this promise:
to this, in 67 years? and for all the in between years: http://picasaweb.google.com/gullible0/200608Aug#

Happy birthday to me....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

lest we forget...

Forty-five years ago today, President John. F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The following is an excerpt from his inaugural speech, a speech that summoned a new generation, a speech that will last forever.

"....... In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

" Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

" Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

" In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

" My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

" Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.:

believe it or not...

Not more than an hour ago, Pablo was ready and willing to tear my head off because I’d the audacity to don a gray sweatshirt in his presence. He is, as you might know already, a strict enforcer of the dress code in this house. He is the only one who knows the rules and nuances of that code, because he is the one who wrote it in the first place.

Lately he has been enforcing that code to the breaking point. Due to the high cost of heating fuel, I have been using the woodstove every day. Most times the fire has gone out by morning, and there’s a chill in the house. Am I allowed to wear a sweater or long sleeves until I get a fire going? No way. Not if I want peace and quiet, instead of a screeching ticked off parrot lunging at the bars of his cage, doing his best to get at me.

I’ve noticed, as this winter drags on, that he has further limited the approved wearing apparel to five tee shirts, all in subtle and subdued shades of gray and blue and green. He even seems to be deciding which pair of jeans I am allowed to wear—the pair he identifies with me staying home as opposed to
me going away for a few hours.

Now, offending garment hidden from sight, he sits on his perch in the loft as I work at the computer. He’s been making little happy noises for a while as I checked e-mail and a couple online sites I visit daily. At one, I laughed out loud. So did Pablo. Then I laughed some more to make I was hearing correctly.

He giggled right along with me. What an unusual sound, coming from this little green and yellow dynamo who scares every one of my friends who visit this house. They’ve never heard him like this—jovial, content, and oh, so pleasant to be around. I doubt they believe me when I speak of these moments. Or, of how he will lie on his back in my lap
while we play. No, they’d never believe that.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

oh, no, not with the doggerel again...

My glasses are missing, they can’t have gone far.
I’ve looked on my desk, I’ve looked in the car.
I’m sure I last had them when I sat in this chair,
and I don’t recall moving, to leave them elsewhere.

I’ve looked all around, on the printer and sill,
under the papers that threaten to spill.
They’re not on the top of my head in my hair,
and of course they’re my only tri-focal pair.

I hate to think what would happen tonight
if I try to cook dinner by fluorescent light,
wearing only the glasses that I use to read,
and not the ones that I really do need.

Oh, where are my glasses? Have you seen them at all?
I need them to go down the stairs and not fall.
If you should see them, please catch them for me.
I really do hate when they go absentee.

Later: more from the dark side of poetry:

I found them where they’d hid from me,
those wretched things that help me see,
not in the dark but in the light,
sitting there right in plain sight.

There they were, next to my walker,
Beside the book I register
the things I am supposed to do
when mem’ry gives me not a clue.

As I knelt beside the chair
where glasses lay in “hidden” lair,
I found the hearing aid that dropped
when it rolled off the countertop.

Now I’m missing only teeth,
not the tops, the ones beneath,
the ones I need to chew my food
so I don’t eat with manners rude.

With senior aids I am replete,
just two more, then I’m complete.
Can anybody tell me where
I left my mem’ry and my hair?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

in pursuit of dancing....

(At the Yahoo site where I hang out with a bunch of others I've met in online writing classes, one fellow is posting a weekly writing prompt. This week's prompt was "your character is being followed." It's all in fun, good practice in writing, and we can take the prompt wherever it leads us. I didn't have anything else to write about here, so the following is where that prompt led me. As to whether it's true or not, I'll leave that to you to decide, as you wish it to be. )

In Pursuit of Dancing

I was followed last night, but fear was not my companion. While the circumstances of the pursuit were eccentric in the extreme, they could not have been called nightmarish. I opened my arms and embraced them, and found myself dancing.

When I was very, very young—perhaps two or three lifetimes ago—I loved a man who was the epitome of elegance and grace. I allude not only to his physical bearing but also to his essence. He could speak, it seemed to me, with the whole of mankind’s knowledge within his ken. He spoke with eloquence and cogency, such were his intellect and learning.

Then, in an instant of inner roguery, he could utter words of such ribald mischief and hilarity that I would be rendered speechless and would gape in stunned disbelief before laughing. He would bite the insides of his cheeks in a successful effort to maintain a straight face, and I would see his dark eyes light up with deviltry as he savored my reaction. Perhaps it is testament to his nature and charisma that even his most risqué remarks were never offensive, but always witty and waggish and droll.

As we made our way side by side along the corridors and sidewalks of our town, I had the sensation he was floating, rather than walking. There was fluidity in his movements, as if he need not bend his knees to walk as we mere mortals did. I caught myself, one sunny afternoon as we talked and strolled along a sidewalk, unconsciously mimicking his walk, but I cannot describe how it differed from the norm.

I asked him once if he danced. A soft and gentle smile appeared on his lips and in his eyes as he shook his head and said he did not. Yet that is how I remember him, moving with the gracefulness of a dancer, dressed in the handsome and elegant suits he wore. When I hear a particular type of music, I often imagine being in his arms and dancing with him. “See?” I would say. “I always knew you would be a fine dancer.”

So I suppose it is not outlandish, when he came to visit in my dreams last night, that we were strolling the sidewalks of our neighborhood on a lovely summer afternoon. As he walked beside me on the path of concrete, we occasionally held hands, occasionally placed an arm around the other, occasionally embraced. All the while we chatted and smiled and laughed as we made our way down the street to the avenue that connected his home with mine.

When we reached that intersection, the avenue glistened with a film of ice. I let go of his hand, ran a few steps and slid along the ice as if skating. He followed me a ways, then caught up, taking my hand as he passed, drawing me into his arms as if we were dancing. Suddenly, in that wondrous, miraculous manner of dreams, we both were wearing ice skates, spinning around backwards and forwards, waltzing on ice in a sunlit dreamscape.

And I was right. He was a fine dancer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

along the way...

The truck and I both needed our licenses renewed, so it was off to Seward today to accomplish that. Here are a couple views on the way home, late afternoon...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dreaming in Poetry, Hallucinating in Doggerel

Beth’s dreams are like gossamer illusions in poetry; mine are more like histrionics in doggerel.
Her dreams soar, like the allegorical eagle in the morn. Mine, to complete the equation, hoot like a screech owl at midnight. When she writes of her phantasmagorical dreams, her prose is lyrical, pastoral, and enchanting.

Listen—don’t simply read, but listen—to what she’s written of her last dream, posted on her blog at “Switched at Birth:”

“…I awoke in the morning …with my head singing, full of fantastic, colorful, music-filled dreams. There were children playing in a sprinkler and a young couple bathing their baby in a small robin’s egg blue Victorian bathtub that had gorgeous flowers painted on it. I saw an old couple holding hands, sitting side by side, their thin legs touching, in a white wicker glider. I met an elderly judge in a l9th century suit complete with ornate pocket watch who flirted with me over tea and scones in a most courtly manner. People gathered for ice cream under the canopy of huge spreading oak trees, and I enjoyed conversations with many of them.

“Last night Aristotle visited. We walked in a grove and talked about some of his favorite subjects: change, movement, purpose, and potential. I practically sprang out of bed, fully rested and recharged.”

She sits around in those bucolic dreamscapes chatting with cool dudes like Aristotle. Of course she wakes up refreshed.

I think if I had dreams like that, I’d jump out of bed fully rested and recharged, too. Instead, after I summon the strength to roll over and manage to pry open one eye and so I can see the big red numbers on the bedside clock, I mutter, “Oh, crap.” I’ve slept late again. And each day, it seems, it gets later and later. Yesterday I briefly entertained the idea of letting this insomnia/late-sleeping thing just runs it cycle. Then some day in the far off future, I’d go through sleeping all day and getting up at night, to finally getting up at a decent hour of the morning. Impractical, I thought, and abandoned the purposeful chase of that strategy.

I know exactly why I don’t spring out of bed “fully rested and recharged” like Beth. I work all night. I’m worn out by morning. Take last night, for instance. It started out with just one big white sulfur-crested cockatoo that someone found alongside the highway in sub-zero temperatures, and brought to me because they knew I’d once tried to live with one. I located a cage and placed said cockatoo inside. The bird disassembled the cage in seconds. I put it back together and put the bird inside. As soon as I turned away, the bird took the cage apart again. If you’ve never had the experience of knowing one of these Australian parrots, trust me when I say they can escape from anything.

Soon there was a second cockatoo, and putting them in the same cage was a mistake. I found another cage, and put the second cockatoo in that. While I was reassembling the first cage, the second bird was disassembling the second cage. All of a sudden, there were cockatoos of all sizes running about. I spent all night putting cages back together and chasing cockatoos.

When I woke up at ten this morning, I didn’t say, “Oh, crap.” I said something else.

And while Beth was sojourning with Aristotle in a diaphanous arbor and waxing philosophical, I was doing my darnedest to get hamburgers to hold together. Then some moron orders Bouillabaisse.

Bouillabaisse! Come on, the two menu choices were spaghetti and hamburgers. It was bad enough that the woman I was working for insisted that I put a paper towel on the grill and cook the darned hamburger on that. Then she nixes the spaghetti because everyone’s ordering hamburgers that won’t hold together because the meat’s too lean. So, half the night I’m trying to peel pieces of paper towel off chunks of hamburger that won’t ever get done because of the paper towel.

Then in comes this Gregory Peck kind of guy, and my boss takes a shine to him, and lets him order Bouillabaisse. I’ve never eaten Bouillabaisse. I’ve never ordered Bouillabaisse. I will never cook Bouillabaisse. But I ruined what might have been a halfway decent night’s sleep by attempting to fake my way through Bouillabaisse. Of course, she didn’t have most of the ingredients for what I thought Bouillabaisse contained.

In case you’ve never eaten, ordered, or cooked Bouillabaisse, you can do what I did: do your research in “The Joy of Cooking.” I knew that it was a fisherman’s stew with its genesis in the Mediterranean. I knew it had a tomato-based broth, and had shrimp, fish, and clams and mussels—shells and all. I never would have guessed the saffron, though. Onions, yes; leeks, no. I’m not a stranger to leeks. I’ve used them many times in my previous life, the one in which I cooked, as opposed to my present life in which I lean heavily on microwave magic.

I never did get the Bouillabaisse cooked in my dream. When I woke up, I was still searching for the harvest of the sea ingredients. The closest I came was freeze-dried salmon and some foil-wrapped leftover scampi that the boss had brought home from a restaurant back in the Pleistocene era. But, the secret to authentic Bouillabaisse is this: you need to use a rock fish that can be found only in the Mediterranean, and which is high in gelatin content.

I should tell you something else about Bouillabaisse. First, you heat some olive oil in a casserole then sauté all the non-fishy ingredients—the veggies and the spices. Then you add cut-up pieces of fish and cover all that with Fumet and let it boil. Now, Fumet is a fish stock, and it’s the piscatorial version of all the pieces you always suspected hot dogs were made of.

Bouillabaisse has its devotees. I am not one of them. “The Joy of Cooking” is, though. In fact, in the three long paragraphs of something Beth could have written, is this: “We offer a free translation of bouillabaisse into American—realizing fully that we have succeeded only in changing poetry to rich prose.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

filigree in birch

I don't think there's a prettier tree in winter than a birch covered with hoar frost.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

do you see what I see? Answer

Does anyone see something a bit strange about these two Christmas cards? Nice pictures, to be sure, but something doesn't look right. Look closely....

See the airplane in the winter scene below? It's on wheels. Where does a small craft land on wheels in the snow? See the airplane in the scene below. It's Christmas alright, but not in a place where it snows or the lake freezes. So, what's an airplane doing rigged with skis, which are for winter landings in deep snow?
Can you tell me what it is?
So I don't get myself in trouble here, in case these are copyrighted cards, they are available at holidaycardcenter.org/asf. The artist for the top one is Elaine Maier, and for the second, Darrell Bush. They came to me from AOPA, which stands for Aircraft Owners and Pilots association, of which my husband was a member. A percentage of the profits from the sale of these cards went towards safety and education programs, and we bought from them for many years.
So, can you spot the anomaly in each picture? Leave me a message.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

for this I gave up Spider Solitaire...

My wrists could tolerate only an hour of this quality time with the snowblower....but that was long enough to plow all the way out to the highway--more than 500 feet. As far as you can see white winding through the trees is driveway.

By the time I was ready to quit, my hat was off, and the jacket was going to be next. The temperature was right at 32 degrees.

Veteran's Day

I came across a quote attributed to Ambrose Bierce in 1887 that seems most appropriate on this post-election Veteran's Day:

"We have four boxes used to guarantee our liberty: The soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box".

today at Muskeg Manor...

I have two choices:

1) I can start the snowblower and spend the rest of the daylight hours clearing several inches of wet snow from my five hundred foot long driveway, or

2) I can stay in my warm, cozy, neat as a pin loft and avoid looking out the windows, wasting the whole day playing Spider Solitaire because my muse is nowhere in sight...

My plight reminded me of something I "wrote" last year when facing the same question.

Snow Soliloquy

To plow, or not to plow, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis wiser in the mind to suffer
The bumps and jolts of aged snowplow,
And to take blade against a sea of snowflakes,
And by plowing, stack them. To rest: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The back-ache and the thousand jarring shocks
That spine is heir to, ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To rest, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of night what snows may come
When we have parked the plow,
Must give us pause.

© Gullible 2007

Hmmph! I don't have a snowplow. Maybe the muse will show up while I'm out there battling a snowblower that's too big for me to handle with ease....

Monday, November 10, 2008

shock and awe in the culinary challenge

I feel as if I’ve been challenged. Yes, challenged to raise this blog of mine to higher standards. That challenge comes from two of the several blogs I check each day. There are links to each over there in the left column.

One of them is Ree's, who blogs as The Pioneer Woman. She has a special section to her blog that gives recipes and step by step photographed instructions for the cooking-impaired. She has a cookbook in the printing process now, and I’m looking forward to it.

The other blog I follow faithfully is written by Beth, who blogs at Switched at Birth. I love Beth’s writing and her touch with words. I also love the photographs she posts, especially her food photos. She recently e-mailed me that she wished we lived down the road from each other (she's in Florida) so we could have a face-to-face writers’ group. I wrote back, after looking at her blog, that I wished we lived down the road from each other so she’d invite me for dinner.

In addition to yummy-looking food, both women present their entrees on exquisite serving plates, which greatly compliment their creations.

Beth must have read my blog about cleaning up my writing studio—the place where I take dictation from my muse, who has been absent for several days. I’ve found that doing mindless physical labor is one way to locate her, because sometimes during the labor when the mind is otherwise absent, the muse is quietly at work in the background, which explains many of my imcomplete chores. The other is to simply start writing crap and she’ll show up and start over so she doesn’t have to take the blame for it. Doggerel is especially helpful for that.

Beth apparently feels the same, as she started her blog like this:

“What is it about writer types that when there is something big brewing, something fermenting in the true ink pen or the walking hard drive of the mind, that we find something -- anything -- else to do, like I did today?”

Her latest food photo of Chardonnay seared sea scallops with capers on garlic mashed potatoes with steamed baby spinach did me in. Yesterday it was barbecued pork chop with mashed sweet potato, boiled greens and a bowl of speckled beans.

I'm embarrassed. I must rise to the occasion and post food photos of my own.

But first, a warning to all who knew me "back when." Be prepared to have your previous perceptions of me shattered. Be prepared for shock and awe, culinary style.

Ahem. Welcome to Gullible's Fine Dining Bistro. The featured special today at Gillible's is Rotisserie Chicken Salad on a bed of leaf lettuce, accompanied by imported sweet red grape tomatoes. The entree' comes complete with an exceptional black plastic container, which does double duty both as a serving tray and storage container, and the ever convenient plastic fork. Saves dishwashing, you know, in these economically troubling times. From the refrigerated deli display at Costcos everywhere. The gourmet filled bottles in the background are all for show, and not on the menu here at Gullible's.

To accompany your meal, we recommend the beverage of choice at Gullible's. No sugar, no carbs, no calories....just pure flavored water. On sale at Wal-Mart for $4 for the convenient fridge pack of twelve cans.

Icky and yucky outside? Want something hot from the oven to warm you up? Select your favorite from a variety of Microwave Magic meals stocked at Gullible's:

In a rush? Too busy to eat? We have just the thing: Delicious Milk Chocolate Delight Shake, loaded with vitamins and bursting with flavor. Only one net carb after you fool (yourself) around subtracting the dietary fiber and certain sugars.

And to complete you meal at Gullible's Fine Dining Bistro, may I recommend Alaska's favorite frozen dessert. Here we have Moose Tracks, a delicious vanilla ice cream swirled with chocolate fudge and tiny peanut butter cups. If you really want to indulge, have some delightful oatmeal-raisin-walnut cookies. Both desserts available at Safeway stores. (Sorry about the blurry photo. My hands were shaking in anticipation...)

Once in a while, we actually cook here at Gullible's, as evidenced by this Chicken Tortilla Soup, served in this lovely scalloped bowl. Simply boil whatever's left from the Costco rotisserie chicken carcass, add onions, a can of corn kernels, a can of black beans, a can of diced tomatoes, salt, cumin, coriander, garlic and dried cilantro. Serve with Nacho Doritos topped with shredded cheese. Bowl from Wal-Mart's collection of fine dining culinary ware. Sorry, no brand on bowl.

Seating is available in the living room in front of the TV, at the kitchen counter, or upstairs in the loft in front of the computer. Wherever you choose, as long as you share with Pablo. He'll eat everything but pickles and olives. He'll even eat green peppers and marshmallows and meringue, except those things aren't served at Gullible's Bistro. He especially loves winter squash. Ever seen a parrot with an orange beard?

Sorry, no pix available of the left-over-from-Halloween peanut butter taffies. I'm saving those for myself. They're only available once a year, like Jonathan apples.

Do you believe in miracles?

If this isn't a miracle, then I'm not sure if I'd ever recognize one. Ten hours later....

You come up the stairs and don't trip over the vacuum cleaner hose. There is open floor space.

All the books are on shelves, somewhat straightened up. I've run out of shelves, so some have double rows.

This is my window seat. It was hard to see before due to the unfinished projects that were piled in, on, and around it.

Even a clean sheet on the desk blotter, pen and pencil ready. The tea bag ("T is for Trespass") was a Christmas gift from the author Sue Grafton. The bookmark, in an Aboriginal design called Turtle Dreaming, is from Australia.

The "in" basket still over-floweth, but that's another project. That cart next to the desk is a handy item from Costco. It's marketed as a scrapbook cart, and has fifteen drawers for paper and supplies. I've adapted it to my needs: now I have a place to put the various drafts of stories I'm working on, or the chapters of the Alzheimer's book. Perfect.

Ah, floor space.... You can even see the book shelves.
Just in case you haven't figured out why I'm baring my messy loft and my soul, well, the muse has been missing for a few days. I'm trying to entice her to return. We have an assignment for the on-line Mystery Class. This is the big one--we have to solve the mystery, figure out the plan,climax, and ending. I'm at a loss without her.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gullible bares all...

Weapons of mass mess and destruction....

Quickly now, before I change my mind and decide to spare myself the embarassment, I am posting these pictures to show what happens when the muse comes for an extended visit. As you can see, my loft is not bright yellow, as it appeared to be in previous pictures.

The two openings look out over the living room. The vertical black thing is the stovepipe from the wood stove down below. In the foreground sits the Kodak Carousel projector, still right where I'd used it a couple months ago to sort a ba-billion slides.
The above photo shows the command center in its usual state of perpetual disarray.
I call it "Katrina's Home Page," and I don't mean it fondly. Yes, that's a game of Spider Solitaire on the monitor. Medium difficulty, two suits of cards. Note Pablo's proximity to the command center. That makes it easier for him to spread feathers and sunflower seed hulls all over my desk.

There is one spot that's relatively tidy: it's the Heat Surge electric heater I recently installed in place of a gas heater that wouldn't work in this location. Worked fine in the shop, but not here. I suspect it has something to do with it being vented under a four foot roof overhang. My theory is that the exhaust swirls around under the overhang, the sensor detects carbon monoxide, and the safety shuts off the gas valve.
On the heater's mantle--oh, yes, "made by the Amish," though I question why the Amish are making mantles for ELECTRIC heaters--are three birch bark baskets. Above that, waiting to be properly framed, is an authentic Aboriginal painting that covers the place in the wall where the gas heater stovepipe penetrated. The painting's design depicts a watering hole in Australia's Outback, and men hunting kangaroo. I bought it for $50 from a colorfully-dressed, barefoot Aboriginal woman in the Outback near Alice Springs. I still remember her eyes--bottomless and fathomless.
To the right, in front of the window seat, there is a folding table covered with the remnants of projects started and interrupted. The gray box is a portable filing drawer that contains most of the chapters for the Alzheimer's book-in-progress, as does the other plastic box on the window seat. On the rest of the table is a dry erase board that I've been using to diagram and structure a story I'm writing for the Mystery Wrting class I'm taking online.

In the right center of this photo are the stairs that lead down to the rest of the house. Snaking up those stairs is the hose for the central vacuum system, dropped in place several days ago when I realized that a quick lick and a promise around Pablo's perch just wasn't going to cut it.

And here he is--the lord and master of the loft. Today he's in a good mood. He's recoved from the trauma of being placed in the stainless steel kitchen sink and given a shower. Even his battered feathers look nice. This is the peaceful, friendly version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The towel is to provide more surface room for him to perch, as well as make the perch softer. He doesn't fall too often from this arrangement, but when he does, feathers and seeds go flying. The ragged thing hanging down from is perch is the previously-destroyed towel.
Parrots don't eat grit, and have no saliva. About half-way up that strong upper mandible is a spot almost like the underside of a shelf. When eating, they use the sharp lower mandible to slice, crush, and grind food against that tiny spot, which is why they make such a mess when eating nuts and the like. Pablo will leave a circle of "nutdust" around him. Oftentimes food will become impacted against that notch, and parrots will chew on things to "clean" it, things like the towel, peanut shells, napkins, wood, anything they can find. My husband used to give Pablo toothpicks.
Okay, I've bared it all. Enough stalling around. Back to cleaning up this mess. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be able to show you some "after" pictures. Oh, wait. "Desperate Housewives" is on tonight...
(I've tried four times to edit this post so there is space between paragraphs, but this site refuses to allow that today. I'll try again later. In the meantime, sorry about that.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

more from Potter Marsh...

Who's having more fun? This little girl dreaming of running a sixteen dog team in the Iditarod some day, or the folks in those multi-million dollar mansions up on the foothills of the Chugach Range?
Stopping for a chat ....
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In the summer months, this marsh is where Canada geese, ducks of many varieties and seagulls hatch and rear their young. The only and only highway south of Anchorage runs immediately along the marsh, and I can attest that it's mighty hard to keep your eyes on the road.

this afternoon at Potter Marsh

I drove into Anchorage mid-afternoon today and when I reached the outskirts at Potter Marsh, I saw dozens and dozens of people doing what it takes to "survive" Alaskan winters. Skaters, very young hockey players, even a guy on a bicycle were enjoying what winter has to offer.

Dogs were everywhere, having way more fun than their people.

Mama was taking a young 'un for a skate...
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This little guy thought he was at least as big as that retriever than had just run by. His owner was reminding him that he was just a little dog.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Times They are a-Changing…

I’m telling you, there are going to be some changes around here, or else. Much like our forefathers sent a message to King George in England about his onerous taxation policies in the New World and had their own version of afternoon tea, I’m about to challenge the authority and confront some vexing policies in this dictatorship.

Don’t agree that this is a dictatorship? You think that no person is legally subservient to another? I beg to differ. The restrictions under which I live are far more inflexible than the constraints of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Let’s take the first two amendments to the Bill of Rights:

“Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech….or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…” Yeah, right. Oh, I can say anything at any time I want, except when I'm talking on the telephone or when there are friends visiting. Then I can guarantee there is no speaking without abridgement, or assembling with any scintilla of peace.

And the second amendment:

“…the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Oh, you bet. If you want to keep your arms around this place, you better not bare them! Shouldn’t that be “bear,” you ask? No, I used the correct homophone. Let me elaborate: under certain circumstances, walking around my house with bare arms will result in severe bodily harm.

And those circumstances? Unrelenting enforcement of the dress code in this house, a code that has become alarmingly narrow and limiting. As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to throw off the mantle of oppression and strike a blow for freedom. Pablo the Parrot is going to have to learn who the boss is in this household!

I recall twenty years ago when the dress code established by Pablo was restricted to Carhart clothing and ball caps. My husband used to wear ball caps all the time, and if Pablo saw him so attired, the parrot’s anger would last for days. Of course, Pablo hated my husband back then so it was hard to tell if Pablo’s screaming was directed at the man or the cap. After Pablo suddenly decided he liked my husband and not me, we knew for sure that the screaming had to do with the cap.

“He doesn’t want anyone having a bigger beak than his,” said my husband in what I considered–but never voiced–a typical male deduction regarding size. I thought the parrot probably had been teased by someone wearing a cap, taking the typical female path of attributing bad behavior to emotional trauma. We’ll never know for sure because Pablo doesn’t deign to discuss it. He just screams.

As for Carhart clothing, those tough, insulated, rip-resistant brown jackets, bibs, and coveralls, I know exactly why Pablo hates them. When Pablo is throwing a tantrum about not getting his way, I don my Carhart jacket, along with a pair of leather welder’s gloves, and I am protected from that perilous beak of his.

As the years passed, the dress code became more restrictive and came to include any piece of clothing that hinted we were not staying home that day. As long as I was dressed in jeans and tee shirts, a truce reigned in the house. As long as my husband took off the ball cap out of sight downstairs, that tenuous peace endured. Occasionally the bird would see him out in the yard and wearing a ball cap, and punishment would be exacted. After my husband died, Pablo became even more narrow in how he interpreted the dress code.

Here is the repressive dress code under which I labor today:

1) I am allowed to wear only one pair of jeans—the baggy ones with the tear in the left knee, a result of close encounters of the chain saw type. These are my work jeans and they generally mean I’m staying home. Shorts are allowed, subdued colors only.

2) All bright colors are verboten. I am allowed only tee shirts in drab and muted shades of green, brown, blue, and gray. Gray is the optimum color. Black is not allowed. Red is akin to wearing Carharts AND a ball cap. Absolutely nothing dressy is tolerated. Have I made clothing purchase decisions based on this narrow interpretation? Yes. Many.

3) Jackets and sweatshirts are not permitted. No long-sleeved shirts are allowed. I found this out recently when I donned a long-sleeved gray thermal shirt because the temperature in my house was sixty-two degrees and the wood stove was struggling to warm even itself.

Enough! I’ve had it! It’s time to negate tyranny. I’m weary of living with the constant threat of attack. I’d toss all his sunflower seeds in the pond out back, but it’s frozen solid and the effect would be impotent.

As I sit writing this, wearing the baggy jeans with the rip in the left knee and the gray tee shirt with its miniscule design in brown, I have devised a shrewd and subversive plan: I’m putting the long-sleeved thermal shirt back in the closet.


And just what do you think you're wearing? Long sleeves are not permitted. You know that. (note how he has crouched, ready to spring)

I can't believe you're actually daring to wear that! I've told you before! (his body language and raised feathers show ire, and he is complaining vocally

You make me so mad, I could scream!!! (and so he does. Loudly! Constantly! Note the blazing orange eyes with the pupils constricted to a pinpoint.))

I want to bite something!!! (he is shreading the towel wrapped around his perch. I liken this to sharpening his sword. )
And don't try sneaking up behind me either! (Interesting photo. He almost appears to be a hologram.)

In that last picture, you can see why I tolerate this little dictator. He is thirty-six years old and finds it difficult to stay top-side on his perch. He falls frequently, battering his beautiful feathers against the bars of his cage. I wrapped a towel around the round perch of his stand where he sits and keeps me company in my loft. It is soft under his feet, and allows more surface for his balance.

Oddly, when I placed a piece of towel on the perch in his cage, he refused to have anything to do with it, and would not go near it. Go figure.

I apologize for the lack of quality in these photos. My good camera is in the hospital and I didn't know there was a "fluorescent lighting" mode on the camera I'm using. My loft is NOT bright yellow. I blame that on the compact fluorescent blubs I recently installed. I also decided to spare myself the danger of donning the offending garment and re-taking the pictures.

today's sonata...

Today's Alpenglow sonata is in pink and gray:

With a seamless transition to "Moon" Indigo...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

rhapsody in blue...

I spent part of today sniveling and whining and wishing I were in Mazatlan with my friends, eating totilla chips and guacamole, and washing it down with Pacifico. I even sent an e-mail to that effect to one of them. Following more than a week of temperatures in the single digits, but on the top side of zero, we finally got some warmer temps and several inches of snow.

After working and playing at the computer, and pretty much wasting a few hours, I debated between dragging out the snow blower for its maiden voyage this season, or a more expedient method of dealing with five or six inches of snow. I opted for expedient: I drove my truck up and down the driveway a number of times, packing down the few inches of wet snow. At the top of the long drive, where the state highway plows filled the upper twenty feet with snow from the pavement, I pushed the heavy snow into the ditch with a snow scoop.

Then it was back to working and playing at the computer, with Pablo the parrot keeping me company. Darkness comes early now that we're off daylight savings time. Plus, we're losing almost five and a half minutes of daylight a day. Because this valley is ringed with mountains in the four thousand foot range, we lose direct sunlight entirely from mid-November until mid-February.

After fooling around wasting more time, and accomplishing little except for a lesson in advance file management for Word 2007, I decided to go downstairs and watch the five o'clock news. As I stood up from my chair, I was treated to a rhapsody in blue outside my loft window:
A few minutes later it was too late as darkness embraced the forest once again.

You just can't see anything like this in Mexico....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

thoughts on the day after...

Gullible admits she is politically cluelesss, so forgive as she offers this:

Thoughts on the day after...

I’ll say this right up front: I didn’t vote for him. At my age, and especially in these economically disastrous times, comfortable old shoes are less risky than new. As I watch my small stock portfolio shrink to a mere shadow of its former self, I am stuck in the old behavior pattern of “riding it out.” When I think of the insidious zealots who threaten our safety, I look to a warrior with experience. And so I took a pen and filled in the oval next to the familiar.

Paradoxically what I feel the day after the election, though, is quite familiar also I had the same feeling in November of 1960. That election was my first as an eighteen-year-old. It was also the first time Alaskans were eligible to vote in a national election, as it had gained statehood only the year before. I don’t remember where my polling place was, though I suspect it was at a nearby school where I had attended sixth grade. I have voted in so many elections since that first one, I have no distinct memory of the physical act of marking my choice on the ballot.

What I do have though, are emotions as indelible as Terrell Owens’ Sharpie autograph on a football. The cultural revolution that began when Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock around the Clock” blasted out of radios everywhere, and gained unstoppable momentum when our parents were treated to the shocking display of Elvis shaking his pelvis (made all the more delightful to us because of their shock), came to full bloom when this country elected its first Roman Catholic president. Despite the dire warnings of those who said electing John Fitzgerald Kennedy would subjugate our country to the Pope and the Vatican, the Irish Democrat from Boston was elected over Richard Nixon.

It was the beginning of national change. Gone were the old gray-haired politicians reiterating party platforms—except for Lyndon Johnson, the powerful Senate Majority Leader who was Kennedy’s vice president and who successfully landed several states. Instead, America elected the handsome young Senator who offered change from the stagnation of the Eisenhower years and vowed that the U.S. would catch and pass the Soviet Union, both militarily and economically. Cold War tensions were stretched to the breaking point, and American faced a desperate situation.

Nixon, on the other side, promised to continue the peace and prosperity that the country had experienced under Eisenhower’s terms. He represented the comfortable old shoes of that race. This was a decade before his personal flaws would bring about his worst defeat, as sure as any antagonist in any novel is destroyed by his own failings.

“Ask not,” said Kennedy, “what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” With those words and many more in his eloquent inaugural, Kennedy called the country to service. His words were heard by a generation that responded, much as their parents had responded two decades before when bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor. The Peace Corps was born., and many more young people found employment in national and state parks, placing country first. Young people connected with this charismatic man, adored his wife and young family, and felt a visceral participation in what had been an exclusive men’s club of government.

But verbal eloquence and skilled oratory do not a leader make. Kennedy had to prove himself, and history has shown how the man once considered “too young and inexperienced” was able to rise above politics and become that leader. By leading with strength through the Civil Rights movement, Kennedy inspired a nation to better itself and made possible what happened yesterday—the election of the first African-American to its highest office.

As for our newly-elected president, also a charismatic man with verbal eloquence and skilled oratory, he, too, is considered “too young and inexperienced.” His past and present associations with extreme radicals and anti-America blatherskites, those who represent the antithesis of how I perceive this country, is worrisome. His skimpy record leads one to think he is a party hack without the political courage to challenge his fellow Democrats and bring about the changes he has promised.

I watched as the television cameras panned the faces of the crowd in that Chicago park last night, and I saw many things. I saw tears in many eyes. I saw over-whelming emotion on faces of color. I saw eyes that glistened with a messianic fervor. I saw joy. I saw hope. I saw pride in the outcome of a battle well fought. And, I saw the connection of a young generation to a new and promising leader.

I struggled with my decision. I wanted to believe. I wanted another leader with the potential to do what Kennedy did for my generation. I wanted my country to be righted and set on a new track. I wanted its reputation restored around the world. By voting for John McCain, I chose the comfortable old shoes, and it brought home to me how difficult a decision my parents and their parents faced in 1960.

As I listened to McCain’s concession speech, I had tears running down my face. Not because my choice had not prevailed, but because of the man’s character. His speech, given at what was a most difficult time for him, was the epitome of grace and class. His promise to work with his successful opponent rang true. If character can be the measure of a man’s potential, what an outstanding president he would have been.

As for Barack Obama, I am more than willing to follow as he leads us towards the promised land. I want to wallow in the aura of hope. I want to rejoice in the promise of change for the better. I want him to rise above the constraints of his political party and lead with wisdom and universal cooperation. I want to believe he is not a charlatan, as he has been called, but a man of destiny. I want him to fulfill the dreams of his supporters by being the leader they think they see in him.

As I said earlier, verbal eloquence and skilled oratory do not a leader make, but they can inspire and motivate and revitalize. Perhaps that will prove to be the magic of Obama. If the people of America believe they are being led by a man of great promise and potential and ability to make this nation better, those very people will make it happen.

Yes, we can.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

life interrupted....

My plans to finish splitting the firewood were interrupted yesterday when snow began falling. I covered everything with those ubiquitous blue tarps, then moved the split wood into the woodshed in the rear of the picture. The wood splitter followed, and the trailer with the wood yet to be split wound up in the carport to keep the snow off it.

But, before the snow began, we'd had a number of cold days and hoar frost covered the trees. On the way out to the end of the long driveway to get the paper one morning, I noticed patches of particularly heavy hoar frost. I moved closer to investigate. Beneath each patch of heavy frost there seemed to be a hole in the ground, under a mound, beneath the roots of spruce trees, etc.

I think I had discovered some critter habitats.

I was reminded of our early snowfall on Oct. 5. Again, on the way to pick up the newspaper, a brown snowshoe hare paused in mid-driveway when it saw me coming. Because they turn white in the winter, it thought it was disguised. Actually, it was as obvious as a brown hare on a driveway covered with snow....