Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Here's to the Microwave! Ding!

"They" say our demand for all things immediate began with computers. Indeed for the fortunate with lickety split machines, it may now be so. I will agree computers have encouraged our self-absorbtion. But nope, I think our first real interaction with immediacy began with microwave ovens.

After all, the microwaves reached the mass public sooner. And as I waited the eight minutes (yes, I said eight minutes) for my computer to boot up in this little corner of civilization I live in, I pondered about this.

Overall, microwaves renew our faith in immediacy. Unless you have a smart phone, no other electronic device gives more reliable instant ah, feedback (snicker).

It is a shame we don't use our microwaves for more--they certainly can do a great deal more than heat soup, defrost the meat and cook a baked potato. Best of all, they don't have to be updated, although they certainly can be. They work, and work and work, requiring only that you clean them to sanitary standards once in a while er, I mean regularly.

Actually, I suspect other than television sets, probably no other electrical device is more widespread in American homes. True, most homes don't have 3-4 microwaves and do have several tvs. But if the tv goes out or you forget to pay the bill, you can always go over to a friend's or read your graphic novels.

With a working microwave, you eat.

For folks who have computers and use them regularly, perceived reality is that everyone has computers. Nope. Forget retired folks, of whom I am one. We can do this sitting down, bozo. It's not rocket science (although sometimes when I click the wrong application, it certainly seems I am on another planet.) Many, many young families don't have them. Especially our poor young families.

If I hit 5 seconds on the microwave instead of five minutes, no problem. If I hit five hours, it's very likely I will catch my error long before time is up. The smell also might remind me. Computers don't smell, good or bad. They just sit there.

With my microwave, I can make lumpless gravy, cook chocolate pudding in the same time you fix that cookless stuff (mine is much tastier), fix baked potatoes for three, cook chicken for a spaghetti dish or pot pie, melt the butter and chocolate for yummy desserts and so much more. I can't believe some still steam vegetables on the stove, except those that contend microwaves are dangerous. Reheated pasta dishes are just as juicy and don't taste like leftovers.

A microwave doesn't heat up the kitchen in 100-degree weather, a boon to Texans everywhere this summer.

I can't play Angry Birds on it, but then, my son won't get off his own game long enough to give me game time on his phone or IPad.

With my microwave, a solid, middle of the road standard machine, I have never thought or said the words I have said to my computer or not-smart phone.

Wave your forks in the air, a tribute to non-conflicted instant gratification everywhere.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Texas Weather Affects

Unless you are interested in nature,anxious about enough water to drink, or care if Texans have it, this is a dull blog to read.

It is cooler. This morning Gracie was running mad circles in the back yard, reveling in the 61 degree F temperature. She felt frisky.

With the drop in temperature, I have to remind myself to water. A half-inch here, quarter-inch there rain is enjoyable. It does more good than the watering. It is not enough.

I was trying to explain to my fourth-grade granddaughter that yes, it rained, and yes, we are in a severe drought. She respects me. She doesn't believe me. Only time will prove what I say.

And I am afraid it will.

I will take pictures today of the almost denuded sweet gum and Barrett pear. I have tried to water, but that has been limited, too. My sweet gum has no leaves in the top third.

Here, in this climate, trees stay green and full till at least late October. Then, if we are lucky, the pecans turn yellow. Most years, the leaves turn brown and fall off. The winds come, and clear the leaves for us. Won't be as many to clear this year.

Fall gardens are doing well. Young trees, with watering, have come through.

I wrote a former Texas friend about a German Shepard puppy that fell in a "sun crack" and emergency services were required to get him out. Emergency services filled the large backyard cracks with sand for the puppy's future safety. My friend laughed, and said her Oregon friends would be amazed. It isn't uncommon in dry spells for the Texas clay to crack so much that small animals and even babies can fall in. Actually, it is so uncommon it seldom makes the news. The puppy, however, fell so deep it required attention to retrieve, which generated a registered call, which resulted in a short news story.

And you wonder about soaker hoses. They aren't for gardens, usually. They go around foundations or slabs built on this crazy Texas soil.

Looks like another La Nina is forming in the Pacific Ocean. La Nina created the first year of drought. This means a second year of drought in Texas.

What scares me is the cyclical nature of weather. In the 1950s, Texas endured the worst drought ever with four years of La Ninas. We have too many people now. OK. But we also have many more resources.

It may be a blessing we haven't had 28 percent of our water this year due to zebra mollusk infestation in Lake Texoma. Authorities think they can eradicate the mollusk this winter. And of course, all bets are off if people have no water.

One of our water districts that covers several million people has announced they are going into Level 3 water preservation on Nov. 1. This will include Home Owner Associations. No refilling private pools or running fountains. No watering lawns except every two weeks. Water in restaurants only if requested. This lasts until March 31. If spring rains are as dismal as predicted, the ban will continue.

Which would you rather do? have water to drink or have a shower every day? Next year, it could get that drastic.

Which is why a lot of Texans prayed for a hurricane. That would bring the water.

Federal assistance to rebuild? Well, guess not.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I've already checked-No remedial obedience school

Gracie and I went to our first obedience class last night.

Boy it was embarassing.

Imagine your taking your spoiled but beautiful child to a party where all the other children know their manners. The only reason your beloved doesn't spin out of control, spewing chaos, is that you are holding on so tightly. Yeah.

The others had attended class one (this was two). The others had already established alpha dominance and, I think, some were more submissive breeds. There was only one other puppy--a chihuahua. Gracie's barking scared him so bad he could perform as commanded, but couldn't eat his treats. Too nervous.

Gracie barks at home only to signify danger ("there's a strange flower arrangement in the living room! Beware! Beware!") or to play. Boy, did she want to play.

Bless her heart. She WAS intimidated. Most of the other dogs could step over her without stirring a hair. Off lead, she might, after all, have scurried behind my legs. But she barked. And barked. THEY, however, were smiling silently, tongues lolling, heeling fairly well, doing sit and stay nicely, and really focusing on their owners and the forthcoming treets.

"Yes," the trainer said mildly. "This one needs a LOT of training."

I knew that. (sigh)

Time to get to work, Gracie, before we get thrown out of class.

She's a really good dog. Stellar. The behavior is my fault.

Four exercises. No more than 5 minutes at a time. Three times a day. At least three days a week.

Gotta get a really big box of some really small, yummy treats.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gracie is Officially a Southwesterner (and just maybe I'm a slob)

Gracie keeps telling me and telling me:

Don't leave food or my purse (unzipped) on the floor! ever!

I guess it shows my priorities that the stacks of books I have always had on the floor are now in safe places. My purse--usually. And my groceries--not so much.

Bringing in four sacks yesterday, I absentmindedly put the sack with the green chiles and flour tortillas on the floor. And I didn't pick it up again.

Huh. No wonder she wasn't hungry this morning. She had eaten about a third of a package of 24 tortillas (They are Mission, and I bought them to go with some green chile stew, but I personally don't find them THAT good.) The sack of chiles she had, in her usual manner, carefully opened without puncturing the sack. Looks like she played with the chiles more than anything-an occasional toothmark, but they are scattered over two rooms.

Guess she is officially a Southwesterner.

Her behavior was nothing if not predictable. I know better.

Okay, Gracie.

But now it's time for walkies. I've studied this. I can do this. Just 5-10 minutes. That's ONE thing I did wrong. Treats. Thank God SOME of my clothes have pockets.

And that's the real lesson Gracie is trying to teach me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lord, give me patience and I need it NOW

Somehow, I don't think "Stay! You blankety blank piece of blank!" is suggested as a command in the instruction book of how to train your dog.

Gracie and I kind of went for a walk this morning. We probably covered a half mile, tops. At least I wasn't the only one panting at the end.

She was very agreeable at first. She chafed at my efforts to keep her on my right side. (I think it's supposed to be the left, but I liked the right.) Oh, she didn't prefer the left. It was just a pleasant and usually sudden alternative.

Tripping me? She gave me that insoucient adolescent look.

"Clumsy, aren't you? That wasn't MY fault."

There were some birds on the ground. She wanted to chase, and bark.

Many, many dogs in practically every house. She wanted to visit. We proceeded with my muscling her along (all four feet on the ground.)

She's a growing dog, approaching five months and 20 pounds of solid muscle and will power. She wasn't cranky about it. I was the only one cranky. She just tested, and tested, and tested limits.

How she got enough slack in the leash twice to run around me, leash totally tying my legs together, I don't know. I didn't fall, though. I think I said something about a piece of something again.

And when we started home on the two-lane highway, going south, well. Pretty good shoulder there, we were some distance from the road. Gracie made it perfectly clear that of the two of us, I was going to be the one closest to the motor vehicles. She was going to shelter in my lee, so to speak. And I didn't have the muscle to win that battle.

So we limped home. I flicked her with the leash when she yelled at the chickens. She's supposed to protect chickens, not yell at them. She proceeded with me and stopped lunging, but she barked several more times.

And this short little ramble took almost 30 minutes.

Guess I'll be reading up today.

Because, you know, having started, we have to do this again tomorrow.

What have I done?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Heat Isn't Finished Yet

Last week was lovely. Temps in the 50s in the mornings. Gracie loved it.

This week, back in the 100s again (true fall in Texas doesn't come until late November).

And the young fools living here are so happy. Dallas-Fort Worth should reach 105 today, making this the 70th day of triple digit heat. That beats 1980.

Texas already has the warmest average summer heat this year since the beginning of weather records in 1895.

I keep moaning about our 70th day. State capital, Austin, Texas, is now in day 93 of triple digit heat. Bastrop, near Austin, has now lost more than 1,500 homes, along with assorted beloved dogs, cats, donkeys, horses, etc. Fire sixty percent contained yesterday. School buses picked up the kids yesterday for the first time in a week to go back to school. Kids are at shelters, motels, hotels, with friends, etc.

No rain. None forcasted. Meanwhile, homeowner's associations require green, lush lawns and filled swimming pools.

Absolutely dumb.

It's time for me to investigate using my grey water to irrigate and invest in some rain barrels(also not allowed in HOAs). I suspect a lot of that is going to happen. Iime to look for another soaker hose or two.

We will get rain again. Sometime. But the size of the population will continue to grow. The amount of water is finite.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Can We Change the Script a Little?

Thank God THAT is over.

It is Sept. 12.

And yes, I've cried several times. My nine-year-old granddaughter saw a tape at school that sounds like it was pretty good. The school kids saw the new waterfalls and pools. She thought it was a nice gesture.

I tried to explain that yes, it was probably pretty nice, but the families still grieved.

Sept. 11 is supposed to be a day of commemoration and service. Didn't Obama and his daughter go help out at a soup kitchen or some such last year? Where was the service emphasis by Americans this year?

I went to church because I always do on Sunday, but I didn't go to mine. I went with some friends to theirs, and the adult Sunday School was participating in a four-week course on forgiveness.

It's healthy to forgive, of course. They also said no one should because they ought, but when they were ready. And then someone suggested I forgive the perpetrators of Sept. 11.

I don't hate the perpetrators of Sept. 11. The acts are too far over my ability even to understand. They are dead. We go on. We rebuild. But I don't forgive. I don't have to forgive evil. There's a dodge-ball organization I probably will never see with my own eyes to blame. That's all. I certainly am not mad at people of different faiths. I don't even agree with a lot of the people I'm supposed to share a faith with.

Would I let my grandchildren play with their kids? No. That's not hate.

Did we have to sit on our fat American rumps (and most of them are fat) and cry? Apparently. The news media entertained us with hours of maudlin reminescence and recapping and solemn ceremonies. And we accomplished zero good to offset the evil that still reasonates.

Next year, I'm cleaning up a park. Or I'm taking a page from the Egyptions and taking my broom down to sweep the streets around the city square.Or...something active, something good, something satisfying those good people who died might have enjoyed doing as well.

It happened in New York and changed their community profoundly. I understand in a more minor way that was not minor at the time.I lived in Dallas when John Kennedy was shot. I got out of class at noon and heard people talking. I began running towards my dorm and the television. And from noon that day till late Sunday afternoon on a college campus, I didn't hear a single laugh. Kind of like when we didn't see a single plane flying for days.

When I came home for Thanksgiving, I was shocked to hear old classmates away at other schools were given the day off to watch Kennedy's funeral. A lot of them slept in or used the extra time to go to parties.

Not in Dallas. And all these years later, we are still a little conscious all the time of the Fifth Floor of the Book Depository Building, from which an assassin killed a president.

All these years later, the pain is still there. More in Dallas, always will be. More on the East Coast for Sept. 11, always will be.

There has to be something we can do besides sit around and cry. Or glower.

Besides, I think it will be good for my soul.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Toughness is part of American DNA

How badly do Texans want rain?

Some are praying for a hurricane.

Really. It seems the only way we are going to get wet. But that isn't going to work, either. The winds don't favor us.

I do know my mouth watered as I watched Irene climb over the east coast. I keep telling you Texas is big. Irene would have covered Texas with just a little sticking out for our friends in drought-striken New Mexico and Arkansas.

That one hurricane would have ended our drought for some months, at least. After the ground was saturated, the runoff would have filled our rivers and man-made lakes. Ten to fiftheen inches of rain. Sounds delicious.

An examination of soil at the site of the Possom Kingdom Lake fires last week showed one percent of normal moisure. The fires in Bastrop County won't be truly contained, a firefighter said today, until there is rain. None is coming. The cooler temperatures and lighter winds help.

So far, about 1,000 homes burned just this week. Overall for this year in Texas? has to be several thousand. Some of these are old homesteads and Victorians that are 100 to 200 years old. Area burned 3.6 million acres, now about the size of Connecticut.

But as one man said this morning after the home he had lived in for decades burned to the ground: "I've come too far in my life to let this get me down. We'll just keep goin'."

Maybe this is my tribute to the 10th anniversary of the fall of the towers.
I remember that wonderful accent when a New York firefighter was honored for his heroism.
He gave a little shrug, a little smile, and said simply,"I'm a New Yorker."

Whether dealing with terrorists or misbehaving Mother Nature, we will survive. After ten years, the message to me is that we are a tough people, and we will survive.

That is a fact, a memory, well worth the knowing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I actually put on a sweater this morning to go outside--temp in the 50s.

Wonderful, even if the state is burning up, which it is. (More than 1,000 homes so far, this round.)

Gracie was glad to see me yesterday, and also glad to see my oldest son, who has done most of the feeding for the past week. As usual, she has set me an example for not whimpering, whining or sulking, and making the best of it. Honestly,I have thought, "What would Gracie do?" several times recently.

I have been in the hospital, an out-of-the-blue, couldn't have planned it situation.
Met some nice people, had some really good food, and am home. Have to spend some regular time with doctors for awhile. Fortunately, the docs are very smart, and also pretty funny.

Low potassium. No precursors. A doctor hired by the hospital to solve medical mysteries like mine seems to have done it. Fascinating work--I'd like to talk to him some more. Anyway, looking back, knowing how jumbled my brain was, I'm surprised I wrote any coherant blogs. With any luck I'll improve with a more fully functional brain.

My recovery depends pretty much on taking a dose of sodium bicarb, or baking soda, every day for the rest of my life. Not expensive, or much of an impact on life otherwise.

We always brood a bit over the close calls, and this was one. I suspect not too many years ago, I might have died. Nowadays, I didn't even qualify for acute care.

I think they let me out because I had started walking the halls to get some strength back. I only know that staff had my discharge papers ready 30 minutes after the doc signed off, and I don't THINK I had been that irritating.

I had felt so bad so long, my house really needs a good scrub. And I don't LIKE housework, yet I'm looking forward to this.

Maybe I'm still a little sicker than I think I am!