LOUDER THAN WORDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #23

Oh let us speak first of love. When a man says he loves you, that’s nice. When a man shows you he loves you, that matters. Men, after they get over the huge masculine hurdle of saying “I love you” seem to have an even more powerful resistance to displaying love.

What does showing love mean? An unasked-for hug. The kiss that isn’t pre-sex. A bouquet of flowers that wasn’t bought at the gas station … and for which there is no special occasion. Just loving. A gift for no reason. All these speak of love.

In the world of “other things,” the senator who stands up for what he believes no matter how badly it affects his personal political agenda. The military man who goes in after a civilian caught in a cross-fire, even though it won’t win him a medal. The judge who recognizes a youngster with potential who needs help and offers it instead of prison.

Even small things. Holding doors for older people who are having trouble navigating an entryway. Waiting patiently in line even when the elderly woman ahead of you is having trouble making sense of her money and the clerk ho kindly waits for her to finish, even when the line is stopped and people are griping.

There are many actions that display an understanding of right and wrong which no words can show. These actions speak ever so much louder than words.

SUPER SQUIRRELS – Marilyn Armstrong

I bought a new feeder to replace the one which broke. I knew I needed a different feeder anyway because that small feeder went completely empty every 24 hours. It held 2 pounds of feed and I was a bit baffled as to how that feeder was emptying out so much faster than the other two.

Up in the air I go flying again! Up in the air, and down.

We put up the new feeder last night. It’s huge and holds a full 10-pounds of seeds. You can put in two different kinds of feed because the feeder is divided into two sections. It’s rather heavy, so over the weekend Owen is going to install two new, braced wrought-iron brackets.

Right before bed last night, I turned on the light on the deck, just to see if the new feeder was still on its hook and hadn’t pulled the bracket off the post.

No one was more surprised than I to see lots of furry white animals leaving the feeders. There had to be a dozen of them at least. First, I thought they were squirrels because they didn’t look feathery. They looked fluffy. And very light gray. Almost white.

But then some of them seemed to fly away, so I said “Birds? Big white birds? At night? Birds don’t feed at night unless they are insect eaters like owls. But owls won’t go near the feeders. Not their kind of food — and none of the seed-eating birds will eat at night. As far as I knew, neither do squirrels.

I was right. And I was wrong. It turns out, they were squirrels. Flying squirrels. I had no idea we had flying squirrels in New England. Apparently, we have not one, but two different kinds of flying squirrels here and most people never see them and don’t know they exist in this region. I certainly had no idea.

Not only do we have them, but we have a lot of them, both the northern and southern types. Both these species are small. There are a few (who don’t live here) that are the size of normal gray squirrels, but these are about 6 to 7 inches long and very light grey to nearly white.

On a bird feeder

They live in big nests of up to 50 at a time, are entirely nocturnal, and love birdseed — especially (yummy!) sunflower seeds which comprise about 1/2 of the feed we put out. They aren’t picky and will eat any of the seeds, including nyjer.

We had a flock (are a bunch of flying squirrels a flock?) all over the feeders. Obviously, I didn’t get pictures. It was dark and I wasn’t expecting to see anything. It was a real shock. Especially when they flew off the feeders. We don’t have flying squirrels, do we?

Gliding on the waves of air

Nothing will keep them out of the feeders, either, because baffles people put up to keep out gray squirrels? The flyers just glide in under the baffles. They were all over my three feeders. Of course, as soon as I turned the light on, they fled. In any case, we don’t have baffles. What seems to have happened is that the gray squirrels eat early in the morning and the birds get the rest of the day … and the flying squirrels chow down at night.

Hot pink flying squirrel in ultra-violet light!

Flying squirrels have been around for longer than humans. Their big eyes make seeing at night easier and for some unknown reason, they also glow a fluorescent pink at night. No one knows why.

A FEW MORE BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I was going to post this earlier and I got distracted. I get distracted easily these days. It’s an old-person thing. On the positive side of easy distraction, I don’t worry much because I forget what I was worried about. This would have been a really useful trait when I was younger and much more serious worrier.

Goldfinches

A Purple Finch and a Chickadee

A very Purple Finch

More Goldfinches

BUDS ON THE CACTUS AND FLOWERING ORCHIDS – Marilyn Armstrong

And the sun finally came out – February 22

The red cactus is covered with tiny buds and the orchid is blooming. Big fat buds, waiting to open. And indeed, the sun came out. It is supposed to stay sunny through the weekend, then get wet, rainy, and cold next week.

Blooming Orchids

Square Orchids, fat buds

Enjoying sunshine

DISCRETION AND VALOR – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #21

Where oh where have valor and discretion gone? What does this mean? Until you know what you are talking about, shut up.

Valor isn’t doing something stupid and dangerous. It means doing something that may cost you your life to save someone ELSE. It isn’t bungee jumping or tightrope walking between highrise buildings. Discretion isn’t being quiet when you know something important that others need to know — like our recent ‘senators’ who were supposedly judging Trump’s impeachment. That wasn’t discretion. That was spinelessness. Cowards minus one.

“Discretion is the better part of valor” suggests that unless you have the facts, you should keep your mouth shut. It does NOT suggest that refusing to talk when you have knowledge of important (maybe critical) information is a good thing.

Discretion has been nearly eliminated from the national dialogue. Facts are discarded along with civility. No one seems to know the difference between valor and doing dangerous things for fun. It is why when someone actually stands up and does the right thing, we go crazy. These days, we feel it’s remarkable when anyone shows real character and honesty.

That’s the world we have made. I hope we unmake it soon.

A SORE SHOULDER AND THE MOUSE CATCHING MAN – Marilyn Armstrong

We live in the woods and many creatures live here too. They lived here first. We are squatters on their land. Among the many other creatures with whom we share space are millions of carpenter ants who periodically try to take over the house. And then, there are mice.

Almost everyone who lives in the country has mice. There are many ways to deal with them. The cheapest and dirtiest is poison bait which they eat and then die.

For the past few years, we’ve had a company “dealing with” our mice and ants. The last company we dealt with promised us that if we bought their “Gold Package,” its price would be reduced each year since there would be less to be done. This year, they raised their price by $200. Meanwhile, despite three years of their support, we still have mice and intermittently, ants, Not only had they promised us a continued price reduction, but we still have mice and ants. I didn’t think they had earned a raise. I’ve been patient, but enough is enough.

I fired them and hired a new one today. The price is exactly the same — about $600 more than we can afford. Regardless, we need pest control. Maybe more than ever.

This very warm winter means the mouse population has been growing, not shrinking as it normally would do in a colder winter. Worse, there will be a lot more insects in the warming months to come. A lot more ants, many more fleas, and a yard full of ticks. And wolf spiders emerging from their little woodland nests searching for more food.

We were up early to meet and greet. He promises to not merely poison mice, but seal up the house so that they stop coming inside. He is sure that in less than a year, we will be mouse-free. And not need a contract.

While all of this was going on, he pulled the stove out from the wall and you can guess what was under there. And so we cleaned. Scraped. Swept. Scrubbed. I washed the floor. I was going to pull out the vacuum and do the living room rug and change the covers on the sofa and love seat.

Our own wolf spider

That was when I realized how sore my right shoulder is. I have to stop using my right arm for a few days. A day or two of light-duty will probably set it right.

I sure hope the mouse guy is right. I would like to solve the problem. Permanently.

PLAY TAPS FOR ME – Marilyn Armstrong

It was one of those days. It started out normal. We had to get up a bit early because I had a doctor’s appointment and even though we left plenty of time, we got out of the house a bit late. Time slipped away. It was coffee. I needed ONE MORE sip.

My appointment was fine. Next stop? Grocery store.

We couldn’t get to the store. There had been a fire. Or something. The street was closed. Not the whole street, just the couple of hundred feet in front of the parking lot.

Other than the fire engine with the flashing lights, there was no hint of a fire or evidence of anything. No smoke. No injuries. No water on the street. No crime scene tape. A blocked street where we needed to go. They were allowing cars to drive through from the other direction. So there was no sensible reason why we couldn’t go a few dozen feet to the parking lot. Nope, we had to take the detour.

Uxbridge not being a real city, a detour isn’t a quick trip around a city block. We were in Douglas before we could start looping back to town. By which time they had parked the fire truck and there were no official obstructions.

Shopping concluded, leaving town was our next trial. Civic excitement is rare in our little town, so everyone had to take a long look at the … what? Fire? Crime scene? False alarm? One of the rubberneckers was riding a bicycle. We were behind him, trying to drive at 1 mph. As soon as we (finally) got around him, someone pulled out of a side street, slowed down to about 10 mph. Directly in front of us. We crawled home. Karma is.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Groceries were unpacked. Television was turned on. Surprise! The television still wasn’t working. I tried rebooting again after which, I hold my breath and call Charter. They’ve been having a bad week too and this is my third call in two days. Any day on which I have to call Charter is not a great day.

After a long hold, the agent assures me they are merely doing (more) repair work, but they hope it will be finished any day now. They’ll call me when it’s finished. Maybe even today. I go to make dinner and step in a pool of dog pee. I don’t know which dog did it, but I don’t get it. Why? They’ve got their own door and it isn’t even raining.

Eventually, dinner having been served, eaten, and cleared away, the phone rang. Charter (recorded message) says “Repairs are complete, thank you for your patience.” But it is not fixed. The television wi-fi is still not working.

Any day on which I have to call Charter once is not a good day, but if I have to cal them twice? That is very bad. They tell me to reboot. They send a repair signal. Nada. They can’t get a tech here until Thursday.  I am grouchy but there doesn’t seem to be a choice. I realize I’d better write it down because these days I forget everything immediately.  I turned on the light.

The bulb exploded.

My day is done.  Play taps for me.


RDP Friday – Annoying

CREATORS AND DESTROYERS: WE ARE ONE PACKAGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #57


Are humans better at creating or destroying?


We are good at both and moreover, a lot of our creations turn out to be destructive.


Ten Medieval Inventions that Changed the World:

  • Mechanical Clock. Timekeeping devices have emerged since the ancient world, but it was not until the Middle Ages that the technology was invented that allowed for mechanical clocks to accurately keep track of time.
  • Printing Press.
  • Gunpowder.
  • Water and Wind Mills. (Note: Ancient civilizations all over the world had invented grinding mills for corn and other grains. The big invention, in this case, was attaching the grinder to rushing water to make it work on its own.)
  • Coffee House. (France, Louis XIV)
  • Eyeglasses. 13th-14th centuries. Also telescopes.
  • Public Library. (Another note: How “public” they were depends on your definition of “public.” I’m not sure peasants or even the middle class were “public” at that point.)
  • Flying Buttress.

Although I’m pretty sure the flying buttress never destroyed anything, gunpowder surely did. We didn’t invent it. Marco Polo imported it. The Chinese invented it in the 9th century but didn’t use it for weapons. They preferred fireworks.

Plastic was an amazing invention. It hasn’t worked out well for the world but who knew what incredible slobs humans could be? On the other hand, coffee houses and libraries remain terrific places to hang out.

The clock showed up in the 13th century. Imagine that! A time-keeping device in the 1200s. Wristwatches took a little longer. The 13th century, mostly noted for the Black Plague that swept the world also forced the invention of the central government. Was that a good thing or a bad one? It was good when they created it because everyone was starving (no peasants to plow the fields).

A central government could build giant granaries and dole out grain so that whoever wasn’t dying of plague might not die of starvation instead. It was a way of keeping a few citizens around when the plague finally left. Incidentally, this also created a middle class. Today’s government doesn’t ideal, but it would be difficult to run a modern world without it. Maybe impossible.

The Egyptians and Romans were very big on government as were the Chinese, Macedonians, Greeks, and probably many other cultures about whom we don’t know enough to make a firm statement. It varied in style, but its centrality was undisputed.

Gutenberg printing press

We invent things. We mismanage the things we invent. We invent something else which is supposed to fix what went awry the first time around … and when that goes awry too, we do some more inventing. When we think we are out of inventions, we aren’t. There is always another genius in the wings.

You could say that humans have invented everything that isn’t animal,  mineral, or vegetable.

In the 1400s, we got the first golf balls and women discovered the “golf weekend.” The first piano — called the Spinet — was invented the same year and soon we were all taking piano lessons. In 1411 they invented the trigger to go with the gun. That opened up the world of warfare which we have turned into a video game. By the 1500s, the Japanese had invented artillery. It took a few more centuries to build much bigger explosives, but we done it.

Modern-style oil-painting showed up in 1420 (or thereabouts) though there were many other kinds of painting long before that.

In 1421 in lovely Florence, someone invented hoisting gear. This probably helped get those flying buttresses up where they belonged. In the middle of that exhausting century — around 1455 (no one is exactly sure of the date), Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press using movable metal type. The printing press was probably a bigger deal than even the cell phone. (NOTE: The Chinese invented movable metal type in the 9th century, but we didn’t learn about it until five centuries later.)

Medieval moldboard plows

The list of inventions is almost endless. We are incredibly inventive. The problem is that we have an ugly habit of turning these inventions into ways to destroy the earth and each other. A lot of people who invented things that went wrong were really sorry about it. Later. When it was a bit late. Like Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite. He was so sorry he also invented major awards. Oh, wait, they’ve been around awhile. Oops, sorry.

The irony is that I don’t think we are intentionally destructive. Of course, this is not counting Trump and his toadies. We think we are protecting something or fighting for god or battling demons and in the course of doing what we think it really a good thing, we destroy so much in our wake.

What are we? Creative? Destructive? We are both, by turns. We create things of great beauty, extraordinary value. Then, we blow them up.


Take a look at a Timeline of historic inventions in Wikipedia. We are creators. We just have no damned discipline.

THE SLANTED LIGHT BEFORE SUNSET – Marilyn Armstrong

It was late in the afternoon and the sun had swung from the northeast side of the house where the orchids are growing to the living room which faces northwest.


I love the slanted yellow light which shines through the front window. It only shows up during certain months of the year, mainly late February and March as well as September and October.

The house sits kitty-corner at an angle, so no window faces directly in any direction. We have two areas that face southeast and southwest — the bedrooms.


The living end of the house faces north, east, and west. Really, the rooms in the middle are sort of neutral and don’t get much sun any time of the day. Of course, also there are trees and we are very well shaded.

HEY, DON’T BITE ME! – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #19

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!


Sometimes the dogs get overly excited about whatever treat I’m holding. Gibbs got too enthusiastic about raw meat. When I trim the meat before cooking it, he got all worked up and sometimes took not only the meat but a piece of finger too. He got over it. It took a few months until civilization caught up with him.

Bonnie is more dainty. After she gave up puppy nipping, she has never done it again for any reason. But she has been with us from her earliest days. I doubt she can even imagine a home that isn’t here.

We did have to teach the Duke to leave the hand, just take the food. Now he is very delicate and careful. It took him a while to learn to leave some space between meat and finger. Now he waits patiently and has even given up jumping on us in the hopes that we have saved a little extra something in a pocket.

Our dogs do not really get this message and need to be taught. They always look very upset when someone yells OW after they’ve grabbed food and finger. They don’t mean to bite. It’s just enthusiasm.

So while, in theory, one should not bite the hand that feeds one, nonetheless, it occasionally happens. We just hope that the hand and the brain to which it is attached understands it was accidental.

2019 MOVIES IN REVIEW – Marilyn Armstrong

We’ve been catching up with the movies we never got to see in 2019. Many — maybe most — of them have been available on Netflix, Hulu, or Prime for a while, but we never got around to viewing them. A few more we got as gifts. So this is what we’ve seen of this year’s movies.

The first movie we watched was “Little Women.” I’ve read the book who knows how many times and visited Orchard House many times. I’ve also seen all the productions of the movie, my favorite being the 1994 version with Winona Ryder as Jo March. It’s still my favorite version. This one was weirdly disjointed.

I understand what the director was trying to do, but I didn’t think it worked. If I hadn’t read the book many times and seen all the other versions of it, I wouldn’t have had any idea what was going on. It’s not terrible, but it’s not exceptional in any way. With a cast of such great stars, it should have been better. A lot better.

Our next movie was “Harriet,” the story of Harriet Tubman. Garry has an issue watching movies about slavery in the same way I have an issue watching stuff about the Holocaust. We were both over-exposed to our collective history in early childhood.

I pointed out that “Harriet” actually had — as much as any movie of its kind can have — a “happy” ending. She was a historical figure, so we knew how it worked out. It wasn’t just all your ancestors lining up naked to be gassed en masse. He agreed to watch it. I don’t carry the weight of slavery as my personal history, but it turns out you don’t have to be Black to hate slavery and slave owners on southern plantations.

By the end of the movie, when Harriet rides off with a rifle on a white horse, I was cheering. Garry thought it might make a good television series. Harriet could rescue slaves every week and maybe blow away a slave owner or two.

We were so encouraged that the next movie we watched — or tried to watch — was “A Marriage Story.” I don’t care how many Oscars it won. By about an hour into it, neither one of us could watch any more of it. It’s available on Netflix, by the way, so if you are in the mood to watch a couple tearing each other to pieces while getting a divorce, feel free to watch it. How interesting that this movie won Oscars, but “Harriet” didn’t. Make of this what you like, but Harriet was by far the better movie with better action and acting top to bottom.

Even after turning it off, “Marriage Story” left a bad taste in our mouths. Garry suggested “The Two Popes,” a movie I had marked for viewing a few weeks ago. We hadn’t gotten to it.

It was about the papacy of Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and the 2013 election of Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce). Two great actors dominating the movie and I thought it was excellent. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it was gripping and often quite funny. It’s also playing on Netflix, so if you can, it is definitely worth seeing.

We took a pass on “The Irishman,” also on Netflix.

We also saw “1917.” Garry liked it more than I did. The pointlessness (futility?) of war and all that. I thought it was a good movie but not a great one. Garry may differ on this one.


And this is as far as we’ve gotten with last year’s movies. I’m not sure there are any more in which we are interested.

And having run out of new movies, we settled happily last night into a rerun of “The Mask of Zorro.” Give me a handsome dude in a mask, riding a glorious horse and I’m a happy camper.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Not a rainy day nor a sunny one. Just a day. Cold, no snow or rain. Coming home from Connecticut. Feeling better about the world.

Good thing I had a camera. Traffic was mostly bumper-to-bumper from when we left the Curley house until we were almost home. At least occasionally, until it was fully dark, I had something to do.

Not exciting pictures, but … pictures.

A cloudy sky

Clouds through the trees

Too many cars

Still too many cars

Darkness is falling

Through a tunnel

And back on the road, but getting too dark to shoot

I tried some interesting textures since the subject wasn’t exactly thrilling. I had fun playing with photographs. There’s not a huge amount of excitement between Connecticut and Massachusetts. Just too many vehicles.