TOO COLD FOR SEPTEMBER – Marilyn Armstrong

The forecasts have been promising weather in the low 80s tomorrow, so I’m refusing to turn on my boiler today … especially since I haven’t gotten a tank fill since I think May, but it might have been April. We aren’t out of fuel, but we don’t have much and until Wednesday, I don’t dare buy anything. We are in the hole we have every month during the week when I have to pay the mortgage.

If we are careful, we’ll be fine until the next social security check arrives. Meanwhile, our anniversary is tomorrow. We wanted to go out to dinner. Feeling as we do, that’s not a good idea anyway. I think we’ll wait until it will feel better. Right now, everything I eat makes me feel a little bit sick.

In fact, my granddaughter is having a birthday party today and we were invited, but with the way we feel, a pig roast does not sound alluring. To be fair a pig roast never sounds alluring. I like pigs. They are smarter than most animals including a lot of politicians.

I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian. I sort of tried vegetarian. Then I had to go on a heavy round of iron pills and they really don’t agree with me. I don’t seem to absorb iron well. As my body craves it, red meat is where to find it.

Sunset through clouds

I feel guilty eating meat and ironically, it’s not to save the planet (though that would be a great sidebar) but because I like animals. I hate raising them so we can slice them up for lunch meat. For completely illogical reasons, I don’t have the same warm and cuddly feeling about fish. I also don’t worry about whether or not vegetables are unhappy when we cook them. We do have to eat something. If we exclude everything, I don’t think we’ll fare well.

We were created as omnivores and while I have had many a Vegan pal give me a heartfelt lecture on the benefits of the diet, all the Vegans I know are too thin and pale. They don’t look healthy to me.

So I stay on a basically well-rounded diet and it seems to work out okay, guilt and all. Besides, guilt is my primary emotion.

Meanwhile, it’s cold. Garry says it’s a little warmer outside, but it’s gray and dark and it looks like rain is on the way. What a shock. That never happens around here.

I wonder how heavy the rain will be this time.

I THINK I’M TIRED – Marilyn Armstrong

I blame it on the dogs. Basically, I blame everything on the dogs, but this one is actually their fault. Specifically, it’s Bonnie’s fault because she is the nonstop barker.

Bonnie the unstoppable barker

We have lots of other issues, but if Bonnie did not feel — after sleeping through the night like a rock — the need to bark continuously from dawn onward, I’m pretty sure I’d have a better perspective on life in general.

Duke

After three hours of intermittent barking — she has a routine. A few barks to wake me up, five to ten minutes of peace which is exactly enough time for me to drift off — after which the barking recommences. This goes on and on for hours.

This makes me cranky. It doesn’t wake Garry because he’s not wearing hearing aids. It is all aimed at me. I’m pretty sure if I ever got a complete night of sleep, I’d feel better. I could be wrong, but I believe sleeping an entire night would help.

If the weather is nice, Garry will (when poked) put them and their water outside. Sometimes, when he does this, I sleep for almost the whole day. I’ve got a lot of broken nights with which to catch up.

So that’s bad enough, but we haven’t really gone seriously shopping for about a month. We’ve just been “filling in” shopping. A little of this, a replacement for that. Mostly, I didn’t mind because it’s summer and we don’t eat as much as we do in colder weather.

Cheese!

Yesterday’s conversation about cheese woke up my taste buds. By the time I got through looking at pictures of cheese, thinking about cheese, wondering if there was new cheese just waiting for me to try … I needed cheese.  I wanted Brie, Jarlsberg, Bleu cheese, and Cheddar. I wanted pub cheese, but without the hot peppers.

Moreover, I wanted sharp flavored cold cuts. I’m trying out the hot capicola ham as well as a couple of types of salami. I thought they would all go well with any kind of cheese. I also wanted sliced cucumbers and ripe tomatoes with Asian Ginger dressing to drizzle on the big, flat Portabella mushrooms.

Raw edible portabello mushrooms with herbs on wooden board

I even bought a new kind of pepper that’s a combination of red and yellow. It looks like Van Gogh painted it. And bright yellow summer squash with fresh redfish from the Bay of Maine.

We really went shopping. Which means I had to go through the fridge and throw away all the stuff that was never getting eaten and Garry had to haul the wagon upstairs three times, which is a lot of hauling. Now, though, he only hauls it to the main floor entry and I run it upstairs on the chair lift. (They have many uses.)

When I finally managed to find places to put everything, I realized I was exhausted. I had moved was past tired to a new place. Good thing dinner was simple. Sesame crackers, pub cheese, sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, plus hot capicola and a side of ginger ale.

I have fresh cherries, plums, and strawberries waiting for me, too.

While realizing I was seriously tired, I also realized Duke’s tick collar was too tight. He isn’t fat, but he has thickened up. He has a mastiff head these days to go with the pushed in muzzle and lopsided ears. I’d love to see his DNA.

I couldn’t loosen the tick collar and eventually had to cut it off. I realized that quite likely Bonnie and Gibbs need new collars too, so I sighed and ordered three of them. Back to broke. Again.

My right wrist has had it. My right shoulder is patched with lidocaine and the rest of me is full of Tramadol. I might be fine if only Bonnie would let me sleep!

THE GREAT MOLASSES FLOOD – By ELLIN CURLEY

I’m a history buff and I particularly enjoy learning about the odd, unusual occurrences that often don’t make it into the history textbooks.

For example, On January 15, 1919, a freakish but deadly accident occurred in Boston. A massive, 50-foot tall tank storing molasses which were used in the production of industrial alcohol, ruptured. It created a giant wave of molasses that engulfed everything and everyone in its path.

The molasses swamped one of Boston’s busiest neighborhoods, killing 21 and injuring 150 people. (NOTE: Each newspaper originally claimed a different number of people died or were hospitalized. It apparently took a while to get the numbers correct and finalized.)

Globe headline – the great molasses flood

The statistics of the flood are gruesome. 2.3 million gallons of molasses created a black tidal wave 25 feet high and 160 feet wide that traveled at 35 miles per hour. This generated enough power to crumble small structures, knock the firehouse off its foundation and rip away a supporting beam for the elevated train tracks.

Two city blocks were quickly under the glue, so to speak. People outside drowned and suffocated as did people trapped as their homes and basements quickly filled up with the unforgiving goo. Others were swept away with the sticky tide. It was more deadly than a similar amount of water would have been because it was thick and sticky and trapped many people who might have escaped from a flood of water.

Boston, MA – 1/16/1919: Smashed vehicles and debris sit in a puddle of molasses on Commercial Street on Jan. 16, 1919, the day after a giant tank in the North End collapsed, sending a wave of an estimated 2.3 million gallons of molasses through the streets of Boston. Twenty-one people died and 150 were injured. (Boston Globe Archive)

During the summer of 1918, residents began noticing leaks in the giant tank. Being a typical corporation with little governmental regulation, the company responded by painting the tanks brown instead of grey. That way, you could no longer see the molasses seeping through the cracks in the tank. It was a literal cover up!

Local historical marker from the event

The litigation that followed the disaster lasted six years. The 1925 verdict held the company responsible. It was ordered to pay to the victims’ families the equivalent of 9.2 million dollars in today’s money — or then, about $7000 per family .

One of the company’s defenses was a claim that the tank rupture was caused by an anarchist’s bomb.  But there was no bomb nor any anarchists.

Damage from the great molasses flood – Boston 1915

In 2015, a Civil Engineering Magazine published an article that concluded that the walls of the tanks had been too thin and that the builders at the time should have known this.

This story is reminiscent of the tragedy of the Titanic, which sank in 1912 because of faulty design and inferior materials, including rivets. The iceberg caused the rivets to burst, flooding a fatal number of chambers in the Titanic’s hull. Just before the 1919 molasses flood, people heard popping sounds as the rivets on the tank popped and the contents of the tank exploded onto the street.

I love quirky historical stories like this one. I hope you enjoyed it too!

PICKLES: THE ONLY FOOD OUR DOGS WON’T EAT – Marilyn Armstrong

I love pickles, but the dogs don’t

Picking up on the theme of “placate” from Fandango’s FOWC, pickles are the only known food our dogs will not eat. To be fair, none of them are overly fond of plain old cucumbers, either … but pickles? They get them in their mouths, make a very strange face (for a dog) and drop them on the floor. They then stare at us with a look that screams: “What IS this stuff? What are you trying to do to us?”

I always point out that they were the ones who asked for it. I didn’t go into the fridge looking for pickles for them. I wanted one for me. I’m particularly fond of the big sour or half-sour dill pickles. I think they might actually eat the sweet ones, but I’m not nearly as fond of them and always go for the dills.

If we had more pickles in the house and fewer tasteless crunchy treats, the dogs would be slimmer and possibly I would be slimmer too. You can eat a huge number of pickles without putting on an ounce. It’s like eating a cucumber with super-powers.

This morning, my darling Garry and I are actually socializing, going for brunch with another couple. He’s an old Channel 7 colleague and she, like me, is the other part of the couple. Two stars and their less famous (but not unworthy) wives.

We’ll make a dynamic duo at the J & M Diner in Framingham!

PLACATING THE FURRY PEOPLE – Marilyn Armstrong

Placating the furry friends

They want food. It doesn’t matter if they are hungry. It doesn’t matter if they consumed an entire meal a minute and a half before. They figure if we are in or even near (which is to say, on our feet and moving) the kitchen, they want something. Anything. Literally anything — except pickles. It’s the only food they won’t eat, even on a bet.  Note to self: Buy more pickles.

Boinnie

Why? It’s probably our fault. They are absolutely sure that any movement on our part indicates a treat in the works. It can be a big treat — “That leftover half sandwich would work for me,” says The Duke — or a little crunchy, tasteless thing from a big jar of little crunchy tasteless things.

Recently on Amazon, I found a version of tasteless crunchies from Milkbone that declare them to be “the guilt-free” treat for over-treaters.

I think we are probably over-treaters. We are easily guilted. A stern look from eager dogs makes us sad. We feel, after all, that can get anything we want from the fridge or cupboard, but our poor pathetic (beefy, overweight) dogs depend on us.

Gibbs

So as soon as we finish up the approximately 20 pounds of stuff already bought and in closets, I’m going for the guilt-free stuff. Really, they are only big boxes of very small biscuits and we probably will wind up giving them two or three of them, even though I know for a fact that it’s the idea that counts with dogs. They really don’t notice if it’s a big lumpy thing or a tiny little thing. It’s all about the concept.

Duke

I had never realized how much guilt dogs could stir in a human heart. I think I had the same problem with cats if I remember correctly.

I have toughed it out with the plants, though. I do not water them no matter how much I want to.  At least plants don’t bark or meow at me if I don’t water them.

They merely wilt. Frankly, I find that difficult enough.

HOT, HOTTER, HOTTEST – FICTION BY RICH PASCHALL

The Greenhouse, by Rich Paschall

It was another hot February day in the nation’s capital.  Many people had flooded the city’s cooling centers to get away from the unusual heat, as well as the “rolling black-outs.”  Even some of these air-conditioned locations would go without power for a few hours a day. It was unavoidable.  Just a few structures, as well as most government buildings, were exempt from the power outages.  There were a variety of factors straining the power supply in many regions of the country.  Heat seemed to be the main one.

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When the 21st Century was coming to a close, the President at that time had to admit the impact on the earth that was caused by human factors.  When elected, he continued to insist that climate change was a hoax, just as many Presidents had done before him.  The 45th President eliminated the Environmental Protection Agency  The 46th left the United Nations in order to stop hearing worldwide complaints about the nation’s lack of action.  The 47th President demanded that the space agency stop commenting on the climate and stop posting pictures of the earth that were taken from space.  Despite all of these actions, it became inevitable that the nation should face the truth.  Everyone was living in a greenhouse and the heat was on the rise.

The average temperature of the earth had risen ten degrees in the 100 years leading up to the overheated dawn of the 22nd Century. Some areas of the world had seen an even higher increase and were suffering greatly from it.  This caused a great migration away from the center of the earth and toward cooler climates.  This crowding of certain cities and towns lead to a crisis of jobs, housing, education and electrical power.  The final president of the century had no answers.  He had spent too many years denying the problem.  Now his best advice to the nation was to “Conserve and Optimize 2 preserve energy.”  The slogan resonated with no one.

Campaign 2100 brought a demand by the people for action on all the problems caused by the weather.  A rise in sea levels had flooded many coastal cities and one city on the Gulf was declared a complete loss.  Former President Tower had seen his beach front home disappear, which many thought was poetic justice.  Much of the southwest was completely unlivable due to heat.  Severe storms and tornadoes had destroyed much of the middle section of the country.  And while heat had dried up some areas, increased rainfall flooded others.

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A weary populace seemed to turn against traditional candidates while giving hope to independents and other parties.  The Green Party candidate, Arthur Klima, gathered the most interest in 2100.  The former chief scientist for the space agency had been fired by a previous administration for his comments on global warming.  His supporters counted on that very fact to propel him forward in the race for President.

Klima had little political experience and had never run for office.  Green Party officials convinced the scientist that the nation not only was ready for a drastic change, but needed a climate change expert in charge.  So off Arthur went on the long campaign that was ironically well-funded by billionaires hurt by the climate and entertainment luminaries sick of “politics as usual.”

Arthur started in the southeast to explain how the melting of the polar ice caps so far away brought flooding to them.  Then it was to the southwest where he stood in 110 degree temperatures to review how greenhouse gases radiated the heat of the sun back down to the earth, rather than escape the atmosphere.  In the middle of the country, he told the followers how heating the planet caused a rise in water vapor, which meant more clouds and more storms.  In the far north, Arthur was dressed in a short sleeve shirt and summer time shorts when he told the crowd they should all be wearing winter wear at that time of year.  The wildlife they loved, he explained to deathly quiet crowds, were surely going to die off due to loss of habitat.

Klima won Campaign 2100 by what many would consider a landslide.  The favored topics of the main party candidates were of little interest to those without power or water.  Now the people were going to rely on a scientist rather than a politician to bring them answers.  There was only one problem with that.  While Klima could define the problem for them, he did not know how to solve it at this late stage in the earth’s life.

At 30 days into his administration, Klima was preparing to address the nation with an action plan as he had promised throughout the campaign.  It was just a few hours before he was to go live from the Presidential office when Vice President Colton was reading the final draft.  She was a lifelong politician and she knew a smokescreen when she saw one.  She decided to tell Klima as much.

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“What is this?” she asked in their private meeting.  “You call for increased use of wind power and solar energy, with less reliance on fossil fuels.  Decreased emission from cars and factories!  These are minor improvements and will have minimal impact.  It will take years for this to mean anything.”

“Yes, I know,” Arthur said quietly.  “We should have been doing these things over 100 years ago.  The reports and studies we have reviewed  in the past month show we may not be able to save the planet after all.”

“Then what are you saying to the people with this speech about water vapor and nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane gases.  What are you offering with more solar panels in the southwest?”

“Hope,” Arthur replied.  “It is the only thing we can offer.”

 

See also:
Arid – Where There’s Not Enough Rain

DROP, DROP, DROP

DROP

It is raining. It has been raining hard and steadily for two days — so far. According to the forecast, it is going to continue to do this for at least a week. After which, there’s a good chance we’ll have a short break followed by more rain.

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It’s mud season in New England.

This is not unusual. March is traditional mud and flood season. A combination of melting snow and spring rains turns the ground to goo. Mold grows on every surface. Did you know that vinyl siding can grow green with mold? It can and does.

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This year, we have no melting snow, but we are getting plenty of rain. We need the rain. (Rain is good. OM.)

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Although I am painfully aware of just how badly we need water to refill rivers, ponds, and the aquifer, a lot of rain in a very short time makes life difficult.

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The good news about rain? You don’t have to shovel it. When it’s over, usually that’s the whole story. The flowers and other plants love and need it. It refills our wells.  Our water pressure gets better when the well is full.

The bad news?

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Mud. Yucky, sucking black mud. With many paws coming in and out of the house, the amount of dirt is impressive. It doesn’t take long to make our living room floor suitable for planting.

If the rain continues with enthusiasm for a long time, the valley will flood. The rivers rise over their banks and try to eat the towns. This is a river valley in which every town is built along one or more rivers, so it’s messy.

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Basements flood. We’ve got a system of French drains as well as a sump and a pump. In recent years, this has been enough to keep the water outside, but if it gets bad enough … well, it goes to show you never can tell.

Anyone who has ever been in a flood knows what I mean. You can’t hold back water.

It starts with a drop, continues with millions upon millions of drops. After which, there is the mud.