BOLD YET MAKESHIFT – Marilyn Armstrong

Bold yet Makeshift  –  Plans Go Awry!

There on the rocky outcropping of the tiny island in the middle of the great waters, the two young ladies sat upon the shore. They had labored long and hard to create the great raft that would carry them to land. To civilization and a new world.

“Are you ready?” asked Carol.

“I’m ready,” declared her determined companion.

Dressed in filthy rags that mere hours ago had been clean, pressed play clothing, they pushed the raft into the waters — when they heard the fateful calling.

“Oh no!” cried Carol. But there was no mistaking it. It was Mom. “It must be lunchtime,” she moaned. “Now we’ll NEVER get it launched.”

Thus the launching of the craft was left for yet one more day. All they could do was hope the water in the deepest puddle in the neighborhood would remain one more day lest they have to add wheels to the  … well … whatever it was.

Raft, flotation device, or something else. They had built it from scraps and pieces of old crates. Somehow, it had held together, but they doubted it would hold together very long. Lunch might be too long for all they knew.

But the call had come and they had to go. You had to heed that call or dreadful things might happen. Dreadful things that might last well into the dark of evening!

And so homeward they trudged. Another hard day’s work lost to the calling of home. Their bold yet makeshift traveling device set aside for one more day …

Bold yet makeshift

WHAT ARE YOU BUYING WHEN YOU BUY A CABLE OR STREAMING TV PACKAGE?

How many people actually know what they are buying when they buy television services?

It used to be that you bought a television. What you got when you tuned in was whatever was broadcast from big towers on top of tall buildings — free. It usually came from the tower placed atop the tallest building or a mountain where you lived.

It cost nothing. You paid for the television and the broadcasting was for everyone, courtesy of the FCC.

That’s how it was supposed to be, anyway. What you actually got was something else. Unless you happened to be positioned perfectly to get clear pictures from the signal tower, you might or might not actually get the channel you wanted to watch. Or anything at all. Signals were weak, too. So you got “snow” and “rolling.”

If you had a big antenna on top of your house, that could help, but it was a lot of years before television had the kind of resolution we have come to accept as normal. “Free” signals have not kept up with the quality of reception we expect.

In fact, since the 1980s, we have mostly given up free television. Cable TV arrived. With a sigh, we exchanged free television for cable companies who could give us clear reception at a price — replacing all that snow, rolling, and rabbit ears. All we had to do was pay the bill.

With cable, you could see clearly — as long as the cable worked. You paid a price for this service. Initially, not a huge price, but it got bigger and eventually, huge. Ultimately, the price for cable television was bigger than the price for electricity, trash collection, and sometimes, heat.

They lured you in with “specials” for 3-months, 6-months or a year. And when the “special” ended, you got a bill so enormous, your heart nearly stopped.

Suddenly, along came streaming packages. Streaming — wi-fi — was the stuff that made our computers work. It turned out it could also power television.

Instead of trying to compete with wi-fi-based services, cable companies kept raising prices while customers said: “Screw this!” and dropped their cable packages. Despite all evidence to the contrary, cable companies are still convinced most users will hang onto cable because they are too stupid and/or lazy to make the change.

They are wrong. Of course, since they are still the only ones allowed to offer wi-fi, they can keep raising those prices too. I’m sure they’ll keep getting their piece of our asses forever.

Even old people like us refused to pay hundreds of dollars for inferior packages. Ironically, AFTER I dropped Charter (Spectrum — the absolutely worst cable company of them all) offered me a good package at a reasonable price. I said “NO” because I’m not playing their game anymore.

I know them. They’ll offer me a bargain and next year, raise the price by $50. Been there, done that. Not doing it again.

So I bought YouTubeTV which is not only a moderately-priced platform but includes MLB and our local sports TV channel so we can watch all the baseball everywhere AND our own team (the Red Sox) too. What’s missing? HBO and Comedy Central. I miss HBO because of John Oliver — but it’s the only thing we watch on HBO and for $15/month, that a lot of money for one very good show. As for Comedy Central, we can watch it on the computer for free. I hate missing John Oliver, but it’s a small price to pay overall.

What are we buying? We are buying a platform that includes channels, just like when we bought a TV and got channels. The channels come in LIVE — just like “real” television. We can save shows (an unlimited number of them) but we can’t fast forward through them to skip commercials as we did on the DVR. That’s something we thought we’d miss but it turns out we don’t miss it much. Instead, we go to the bathroom, the kitchen, turn down the sound and actually talk to each other.

YouTubeTV is a platform, not a channel. It isn’t Netflix or Acorn. It’s more like cableTV than an individual channel.

Each channel is an individual channel that comes in over the platform. Live. You aren’t buying a “channel.” You are buying a live platform consisting of many signals.

What do you get? All of the networks for your area and a bunch of other channels, depending on your location. We are in the “Boston area” and get that package. We have friends in western Massachusetts who get a slightly different package.

Regardless, it’s a big package. A lot better than what we got from Charter including a lot less junk. More watchable channels. Lots of sports. TCM. Plenty of movies including Sundance, TBS. A variety of news channels. If you hate something (Fox news comes to mind) you can turn it off (we turned it off). A few kid things we turned off.

There’s also a connection to YouTube (regular) so you can watch some very old movies that you can’t find anywhere else via your computer, too. I’m really happy with it.

If Netflix gets any more expensive, I may decide to ditch it. It hasn’t gotten better — just more expensive.

You also get five family connections. We’ve only used three: me, Garry, and our granddaughter. Owen isn’t sure they watch enough TV to bother with it.

It has taken Garry a while to realize that TCM is not a separate channel but a channel that is part of the package that is YouTubeTV, that all those channels are part of one platform. That it’s like getting an entire cable package. For $40 a month. Including baseball.

Oh, happy day!

THE SAFETY OF HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

While I was starting dinner, I was watching out the window. Suddenly, a hawk with a white front swooped by the deck then winged off into the woods.

I followed him with my eyes. The camera was in the dining room and I didn’t hurry to get it. I knew I’d lose the hawk before I got the camera focused. Mostly, I wanted to get a good look at him before he disappeared.

I was curious why he swept so close to the house.

Hawks are hunters and don’t usually get so close to houses. It turned out, after minimal research, to be a Cooper’s Hawk. It wasn’t hard to find because among the white-breasted hawks, there are only two living here: American Eagles and Cooper’s Hawks. I’ve seen plenty of American Eagles. They are much bigger than this hawk, so Cooper’s Hawk it had to be.

And he was hunting for exactly what was on my deck: birds and squirrels. Those are a Cooper’s Hawks two favorite foods. The deck is his perfect hunting ground, his dinner buffet.

This is one of the things I feared when I set up the feeders. We have so many predators in the area and so little prey. How did we get so out of balance? Doesn’t it usually go the other way? Don’t deer usually overtake the area?

I remember when we had so many chipmunks they used to line up and chatter at us in groups. Now, we never see chipmunks. We use to see rabbits sitting on the lawn in the sun in summertime. I haven’t seen a rabbit in years and until we put up the feeders, I hadn’t seen any squirrels, either.

Mice I know about because they invade our house every autumn. We have an annual battle to keep them outside. It’s not personal. It’s just that they make an awful mess in the house.

We also used to see more deer, but I’m sure the coyotes have taken them down.

I wonder now if the reason the squirrels have taken refuge on the deck is that they think the house is some kind of protection for them from the hawks and the other predators. Is this house protection for the birds and squirrels?

By sending them back into the woods am I sending them to their deaths? That’s a terrible thought.

I feel like I should invite them all in for a warm dinner and a comfortable nap, but I’m pretty sure the dogs wouldn’t get along with them especially well. It could get pretty raucous.

SHORT DIVISION – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Division

“Mom?”

“Yes. son?”

“We’re learning long division in school. I hate it. What’s short division? Maybe I would like short division better?”

“Son,” she answered, “Short division is what you can do with the fingers of one hand using just five fingers. If it doesn’t fit on five fingers, you will need medium division which uses two hands — ten fingers — after which it becomes long division for which you need a pencil and paper. At this stage, I use the calculator and a computer.”

“Oh,” he said. “Thanks.”

“And son?”

“Yes?”

“If it gets even more complicated? There’s always Google. Never forget Google.”

“You’re a real pal, Mom.”

“I know, kid.”

SPIKY PINK CACTUS – Marilyn Armstrong

Spiky Pink Cactus – 03/16/19

It has been very springlike for the past couple of days, though it will be rather colder for the next few days. Probably because spring is actually coming and it always seems to get cold as the season technically arrives.

This is more or less normal in this part of the country. It’s usually in the low or mid-40s as we slide into spring. It’s not uncommon to get a few inches of snow in April, too.

More square pink cactus

Wet snow that feels slushy even as it falls, mind you. I need the snow to go away because I need to replace our mailbox. They will not deliver mail until we replace the box

Square cactus and it’s also rather pink

And I absolutely have to fix our chimney. It has been a seriously windy, stormy year. The chimney wasn’t in good shape before all the storms. It’s worse now and I don’t know how much worse. I have to get someone up there to see how bad it is and deal with it. A collapsed chimney is a big, expensive problem. Summer doesn’t last very long. We need to get to fixing things before we are into next winter.

I have to remember it’s not only spiky squares. I have to look for other things, like jagged, barbed, bristly, serrated, prickly, spiny, and pointy things.

A FEW MORE SHOWER INSTALLATION PICTURES – Marilyn Armstrong

I hardly ever find a use for my wide-angle lens, but this was perfect. The bathroom is very narrow, so I got a few extra shots using my 12-mm Olympus lens. It gets much better color than the Panasonic lens does and I think also a sharper finish, too.

The room, well-lit

You can see a little more of the way the whole interior of the shower looks, too.

Plenty of room for our “stuff.”

It’s quite spacious since it takes up all the space that used to be used by the full-sized tub. Also, the seat is kind of pebbly, so it isn’t slippery. Very comfortable to sit on.

It’s comfortable. And so nice and clean!

CALLING THE SQUIRRELS TO ORDER – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Order

It used to be that my merely tapping on the window glass convinced the squirrels to move on.

I have nothing against feeding a hungry squirrel, but the woods are warm. It is time for them to begin their return to eating foods which nature offers. They need to do a little digging, hunting and stop making a gawdawful mess on my deck.

In the name of saving a few bucks — and also delicately suggesting to feathered and furred critters that they need to return to the wild, I’m buying cheaper food. I know they don’t love the milo seeds in this feed.

It’s part of the encouragement to find food they like better. Meanwhile, there are piles of milo all over my deck which they toss there. Every evening we sweep it off the deck to the ground below where the doves — who actually like it — will stroll around the grounds munching on it.

When nesting begins, I’ll get richer food again. After nesting is finished, though, they need to remember to be wild. It’s a hard call and I’m a bit of a softie, as referees go.

Oh yeah? What are you gonna do about it?
Let me try a different approach …

This morning — and I don’t mean early this morning — the squirrels were chowing down with enthusiasm.

It was well into the day by then, like ten-thirty or eleven. The sun was high in the sky and shining brightly. I looked out my window. There was a party of squirrels fighting over who should be hanging on which part of which feeder. At least three were on the flat feeder and another pair were on the hanging feeder.

Scarred and scornful, I stand my ground!

I tapped loudly on the window and no one so much as twitched. Finally, I opened the window and called out “Hey, Fuzzies. Move your butts. Time to let the birds have a go at the food.”

They didn’t move. At all. They ignored me.

I finished dressing and made my way to the kitchen. A few squirrels had walked away. Slowly. No hurry. Probably laughing at me as they strolled slowly into the woodland that we otherwise call our “backyard.” Two more were still hanging on the flat feeder.

I tapped.

They ignored me.

I tapped harder.

They ignored me harder.

I see you. You see me. I’m eating, do you mind?

I finally opened the door, stepped out on the deck and said: “You guys need to move on. It’s almost noon. The sun is shining brightly. Betake yourselves to the forest and make your case with the oak trees. Find acorns. Rejoin nature.”

I’m still hungry …

They looked at me. I looked back.

Slowly they turned and even more slowly they climbed down the upright pole and made the short hop to the ground. It’s obvious that soon I will have to go outside and physically push them off the feeders.

Even that might not do the job. Soon, they may well decide they need to come into the house and sit at the dining table for a full dinner.

Is this a case for … (drumbeat) … the squirrel whisperers?