MITIGATION? I SEEK IT! Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Mitigate

I went up the driveway to the car this morning. We are expecting a particularly ugly storm tomorrow and I needed to make sure the front of the car was well-wrapped. It is supposed to be snow followed by freezing rain and sleet. Then, a flash freeze.

All of my least favorite weather wrapped in one big mess.

The freeze means the ground will be covered by — as close as nature can come to it — frozen cement. We’ve parked the car at the top of the driveway so the plow can get through, assuming it’s deep enough to use a plow … and the plow doesn’t slide down the driveway and crash into the house.

Stranger events have been known to happen.

It’s also the day on which the Pats play the Chiefs in Kansas. That should be some kind of mitigation because they’ve been playing pretty well — but Kansas will have just gotten the same storm. The field will be bitterly cold and just icy enough to make staying upright problematic. Both teams are used to playing in bad weather so there’s no advantage for either side — and the Chiefs are the favored team. Usually, that just makes the Pats more competitive, but it’s the end of the season and everyone is damaged.

Football’s a rough game.

Our leaf-covered bunny slope — AKA our driveway.

I fell down on my way back down the driveway. Up is more difficult, but down is treacherous. Except — it wasn’t slippery. It’s the L.L.Bean boots I was wearing have a very hard sole which doesn’t grip the surface which is old and even in the summer is slippery. My feet came right out from under me.

For once, my back didn’t take the hit, but the back of my skull took a solid thwack. I’m still dizzy.

Meanwhile, to make this weird weekend even weirder, I discovered my dogs have ticks. How did they get ticks in January? I suppose the days warmed up just enough to make the ticks hungry … so I had to order tick collars for all of them  — a pretty penny for three dogs. Bonnie is the one on whom I found the ticks, but I have to assume where one dog has ticks, so do the other two.

Overall, I’m not seeing much mitigation to the complexities of life right now. It is what it is.

If we at least win the game tomorrow, that will help. A bit. I think I’ll go take some Tylenol. Drink more coffee. Eat a few cookies. If you can’t mitigate circumstances, have coffee and something crunchy which tastes strongly of cinnamon.

THERE’S NO GOOD TIME TO CALL AT&T – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Affable

Affable. I was in a pretty good mood when we got home from shopping, or at least as good as I feel after shopping when I have a cold and forgot to buy eggs. That was probably why I thought it was a good time to call AT&T and get my rates dropped. I’ve been overpaying for my phone for more than a decade and I was determined to GET the lower rates this time.

First, there is NO good time to call AT&T. No one knows anything. They transfer you back and forth and half the numbers they give you don’t work. Even when you get the right person, they don’t know anything. No one takes notes so you have to explain the problem over and over and over and by the fourth time I was repeating the same story, I was just plain pissed.

What I had done — THOUGHT I had done — was to transfer from my $53/month plan to the $29.99 plan which is part of the “Senior Nation” set of benefits for we old folks.

This required that I have an un-smart phone.

I wanted an un-smart phone in the first place because I don’t use the internet on the phone. If I want the internet, for this I have multiple computers. But our telephone distributor (they are morons there, too) said they didn’t have any, couldn’t get any — so you had a choice of a smartphone or? A smartphone.

We ended up with this Galaxy Samsung Google phone which does whatever it does pretty well, far as I can tell — but they only thing I do with it is to make an occasional phone call … like when we are on the road and lost (always lost, always and forever), or if the power is out and we have to call the electric company.

I don’t use it on the internet. I don’t use it to update banking or to text. I actually don’t know how to text. That’s embarrassing, I realize, but I simply haven’t done it … so I don’t know how. Garry doesn’t know how either. But Garry is anti-technical and I’m supposed to know all this stuff. I do know a lot of stuff, but texting isn’t one of them. Shoot me, but there it is. I also cannot change the ink in my printer. I hate printers and I refuse to even try.

After making this arrangement to get on the low-cost plan and get a free flip phone (yes, they still make them), I got a bill from AT&T informing me that I’d changed my plan and would now be paying them $90 next month and $60 for each month after that — which is significantly more than I’m currently playing. For having done absolutely nothing except try to lower my bill.

No mention of the senior plan. No mention of the free phone. No mention of nothing.

I called back. No one knew what I was talking about, but they kept transferring me from one department (who knew nothing) to another department (which knew nothing). Finally, I called back and said: “I’ve had it. Either you fix this right now or I’m leaving AT&T. You people are driving me CRAZY.” I have been an AT&T customer for about 15 years and there was a time when they actually had really good customer service.

Ah, those were the days. We were so young, so optimistic.

Phones

So eventually, I got the $29.99 (+ taxes, et al) and can use the phone I’ve got OR the one they are actually sending me. I don’t think you can transfer a smartphone SIM card to a flip phone. I’ll deal with that IF I ever get another phone. My current phone is five years old, but it looks brand new, probably because effectively, it IS brand new. I don’t use it. It lives in my bag and is usually off.

So much for affable.

At this point, I’m plain pissed off, even though I think (I hope, I believe) I have the issue dealt with. But who knows? I may get another bill any minute. Nothing like a long afternoon on the phone with customer service to finish off your good mood of the day.

Now I’m watching the news. The final crunch. I have such a nasty headache, too.

A NEW BIRD – Marilyn Armstrong

I knew we had another couple of other woodpeckers. We have a full red-headed one — not the big Pileated Woodpecker — but a smaller one who is as rare as the big one. Maybe more so. This woodpecker is not rare, at least in the way that birds are counted … but he doesn’t show up much, either.

Gold-Fronted Woodpecker with a Junco

This one is a Golden Fronted Woodpecker. I’ve seen him before but never had a chance to get a picture of him. The woodpeckers — collectively — are early and late eaters, not middle of the day feeders. They feed before I finish getting my coffee put together.

Bright head of the Gold-Fronted Woodpecker

This morning, the oil delivery truck showed up very early and I had to hustle the dogs inside the house. I turned on the coffee … and there he was! Not the one with the solid red-head, but a completely different one. In appearance, closer to a flicker than a woodpecker, but The Book says he is a Gold Fronted Woodpecker and he is quite lovely.

He also only eats from the flat feeder from which I have a very difficult time getting pictures. I managed to get these, however. The odd blind slat reflection is exactly what it looks like — a reflection of our living room blinds on the glass in the dining room.

It’s difficult to take pictures when it is sunny early in the day. The sun shines almost directly in through the back French doors creating a lot of refraction, reflection and odd bounces of light.

Today, I got pictures.

For your amusement and amazement, here is our Golden Fronted Woodpecker. With a black ladder-back and gold around his beak and wings, and one scarlet (almost dark orange) patch on his head. A lovely fellow!

BEING AN EXPERT ON ME – Marilyn Armstrong

I know a few things. Along the road of life, I’ve done a bit of reading and studying. Like many writers, I’m a generalist.

I know something about this, that, and a bit about that other thing. A lot about a few things, less about other stuff — and I’ve forgotten more than I currently know. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge needs to be good for something.

Heritage Lights 13

I’m an expert at just one thing. Me.

I know my body. The strange way it works. I know what I like. I’m good at knowing what I would like, too.

To illustrate my point, this is the story of a lens I bought — and why I’m passing it to another photographer who hopefully will get more use of it than I have. Call this: Photographer, Know Thyself.

In November 2013, I bought the Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I used it once, to shoot a “lighting” at a museum in December.

Heritage Lights 30

That set of photographs are among the best night shots I’ve ever taken. The Panny 20, as it is fondly called, is a sharp, fast prime lens. Slightly wide-angle. Perfect for people who like to do street scenes, especially at night. It was the first lens recommended to me after I got my Olympus PEN E-PL1. That was many Olympus cameras ago, but the lenses still fit because the format has not changed. I think that was in 2011. Maybe 2010. 

The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive. No free now, but a lot less expensive because so many more lenses have come on the market. It was especially costly for me. I was much more broke six — almost seven –years ago than I am now, which is saying something.

Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were many fewer lenses available in 4/3 format back then. This one had a great reputation. Except I didn’t think I’d use it. At 20mm (effectively 40mm in 35mm terminology), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond.

It’s unflattering as a portrait lens. Not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of friends or dogs.

Dancing in the dark heritage museum

I don’t do much street shooting. Mostly, I shoot landscapes and casual portraits. I didn’t feel this lens would be the one I’d reach for as I headed out the door. I like longer lenses for portraits and wider ones for landscapes.

Eventually, I gave in to the pressure. I bought it.

I used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, always ready to go. Always the lens I think I might use, but never do. For “normal,” I use my Olympus f1.8 25mm. If I’m going out and don’t know what I’m going to shoot, I take a camera with a long zoom so I’m ready for whatever pops up. At home, my favorite lenses are the Olympus 12-50mm (with the macro button, though it’s not “true” macro), the f1.8 45mm for portraits.

Let me not forget the f2.8 60mm macro which I use to take most closeup flower shots — and my 100 – 300 Panasonic zoom which is my birding lens. It is a great birding lens. When I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it (it is the most expensive lens I own), everyone said it was perfect for shooting birds. Which is what I wanted it for. I am not alone in the bird shooting department.

What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t.

Red capped woodpecker

No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to know what suits me. As a photographer for so many years, I know the types of pictures I take.  I’m not particularly thrilled by “normal” lenses in the 40 to 55mm range. I never was, even back in the dark ages when I was a newbie photographer.

Unless you’re just starting out in whatever, trust your instincts. Save your money for things you will love. Whether photography equipment, computers, food, clothing, or vacation … go with your gut. Leroy Jethro Gibbs always does … and we know he is always right.

Where you are concerned, there is no better expert than yourself.

THE VANISHING POINT – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Vanishing Point

It’s that point in the distance where the road, river, valley, or bridge comes together. It’s the natural end of a parallel set of lines.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – The last of autumn in early November

Curves also have a vanishing point

Down our snowy road – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Worcester-Providence Railroad

Take a walk along the river