DORIEN SHOULD REALLY BE DARWIN – By TOM CURLEY

A quote from the weather bureau. A real quote. I am not making this up:


IDIOTS SHOULD BE WARNED NOT TO GO OUT INTO THE STORM.

I’m not sure why we name hurricanes. I have no idea how the names get picked. I could Google it and maybe find out, but I’m too lazy to bother right now.

Regardless, I think all hurricanes should be named Darwin. Why?

Because nothing weeds out the gene pool and brings out the stupid in people like a hurricane. The bigger they are, the dumber they get. As I’m writing this, Hurricane Dorian, or what I call it, Hurricane Darwin the 2nd (Irma was the 1st), having wreaked havoc on the Bahamas is approaching southern Florida.

The Weather Channel

The worst is yet to come.  I’m watching the coverage, which is the exactly the same on all the networks. An anchor, who makes millions of dollars a year, is sitting in a warm cozy network studio. (Except for Lester Holt who was out there in the wind and rain just like a real reporter.)

He’s talking to the poor schmuck who drew the short straw and is standing in the middle of the hurricane telling everybody how dangerous the hurricane is and how nobody should be out in it. Except of course for him and his crew.

Now, granted, I know that they aren’t in as much danger as it seems. I worked for CBS News for 40 years and I know they set up in safe spots outside the wind. They only need one shot where the wind is howling and it looks like they are hanging on for dear life. When the live shot is over they all go back inside, smoke cigarettes, have lunch, play Candy Crush on their phones and wait for the next live hit.

I know Garry is nodding and laughing right now. (Note from home: Garry is laughing because he isn’t the schmuck out there in the storm.)

The really stupidest are the people who think they can ride these things out. I watched a news report a few days ago where they interviewed two people who planned on riding out Dorian from a trailer park.

Excuse me? Did you just say A TRAILER PARK??? One guy said he already lost his mobile home two weeks ago in a run off the mill flood. They happen there all the time.  

His plan was to stay with a friend in another mobile home. They expected it to be destroyed too. What was their Plan B? To hang out in a temporary construction trailer! Mobile home lite!

I’m looking at the screen screaming “Are you nuts? Don’t you know hurricanes and tornadoes hate mobile homes?! A tornado will go around an entire town to get at just ONE TRAILER PARK!!”

To a hurricane, mobile homes are tasty little snacks! I know it’s much more complicated than this.  Some people can’t get out for valid reasons — lack of anywhere to go or no vehicle or destitution.

But, for the guy who goes surfing as the hurricane hits, and dies then dies, well …

And, the guy who is kite surfing as the hurricane hits  …

Oh Boy! I’m heading right toward the tornado! Cool!

And, the family on the beach with their kids taking videos of the guy kite surfing …

And, the poor schmuck interviewing them … who I should note has no choice because his idiot news director told him to do it or else …

I hope you all survive Hurricane Darwin the 2nd.

That wasn’t so bad.

I wish Mother Nature could come up with a less catastrophic method of weeding out the gene pool.

Seriously, folks — stay safe!

STORM STORIES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There are many interesting storm stories in my family history, starting with my Mom as a young woman. Sometime in the mid-1940s, before she married my dad, my mom and her friend Ethie were staying at my father’s summer house in the woods in Easton, Connecticut. There was a terrible storm raging outside, complete with brilliant lightning and crashing thunder.

Mom before she married my father

To wile away the time, they listened to the radio. That night, the radio drama piece that was on was a scary story about a woman alone in the woods on a stormy night. In the play, there was a sudden knock on the door. Cue the ominous music. In real life, there was a sudden knock on the Connecticut door, accompanied by an eerie silence. Then there was another knock.

Mom and Ethie nearly jumped out of their skins! They weren’t expecting anyone so they were terrified. They ran into the kitchen and each grabbed a heavy pot to use as a weapon, if necessary. They bravely approached the door. Ethie stayed behind the door and my mother opened it, pot brandished.

There stood a drenched man – Ethie’s boyfriend! He was worried about Mom and Ethie being alone in a secluded house so he decided to check in on them. Instead of the warm welcome he anticipated, he almost got his head bashed in with a pot!

Ethie with me as a baby

The earliest storm I remember happened when I was about six or seven years old. Again, we were in the Easton house and there was a hurricane that caused the power to go out. I don’t remember much except that I thought this was a great adventure. I loved watching my parents improvise to keep us warm, fed and entertained.

My dad lit a fire, which he rarely did. Our fireplace was mainly there for decorative purposes and often had flower pots or decorative objects in it instead of wood. That night it got to be a real fireplace with a real fire. That in itself was a treat for me. Then Dad proceeded to cook salami on a stick over the fire. It’s the only time in my entire life that I remember seeing my father cook. And I’ve never heard of anyone choosing to cook salami over an open fire. But it made a delicious sandwich!

Dad and me when I was around five

In my teen years, another hurricane knocked out the power in Easton and this crisis went on for days. My mother arranged with the local butcher to store her frozen meat in his freezer so it wouldn’t go bad. We had filled the bathtubs with water so we were able to flush the toilets.

Me at around fourteen or fifteen

When the tub water ran out, my mother got a clever idea. We could drive down to the pool (which was at the bottom of the hill that the house stood on) and bring pool water up to the house. So we took our biggest, cast iron pots with handles, and filled them at the pool. The problem was that the ride back to the house was on a bumpy, dirt road. We tried to drive slowly and carefully, but by the time we got back to the house, most of the water had sloshed onto the floor of the car.

Not an efficient solution.

Our pool

As we were trying to figure out how many trips we would have to make to solve our toilet flushing problem, the power miraculously came back on! We often laughed about this creative but flawed McGyver moment!

Another memorable storm story happened when I was a teenager. My mother and I were driving from our apartment in New York City to our house in Easton in a raging blizzard. The snow and the wind created total whiteout conditions. We couldn’t see two feet in front of us. We literally had to get out of the car to figure out where the road was and which way it went.

This was how bad the visibility was!

I had anxiety issues so this could have been a terrifying, stressful experience. But my mother was an upbeat, positive person with a wicked sense of humor.

She turned this situation into a silly game. I remember laughing hysterically as we blindly inched our way up the highway. Somehow Mom made it feel like an episode of “I Love Lucy.”

From then on, I tried to model my crisis behavior on my mother’s. I always try to find humor in muddling through. When given a choice between laughing and crying – always go for the laugh!

Mom when I was seventeen or eighteen

One more interesting storm experience involves Tom and my boat. When hurricanes directly hit our marina, the marina staff have to take the boats out of the water, to protect them. They put them in the parking lot, on stilts, like they do to store the boats over the winter. This happened in advance of Hurricane Sandy, in 2012. Amazingly, the small staff managed to get over 130 boats out of the water in about 36 hours.

What hurricanes can do to a marina

The crazy thing was that in the storm, the water flooded the parking lot and came all the way up to the bottom of the boats. Any more flooding and the boats would have started to float around the parking lot, crashing into one another. That would have been a major disaster. One sailboat from a nearby mooring also ended up in our parking lot, marooned when the water receded. It was a bizarre situation.

In 2011, we had lost power in the house twice, for a week each time. That’s when we decided to get a generator. It took forever to get it installed and it was operational just a week before Hurricane Sandy hit the next year.

Since then, our storm stories have been boring – the power goes out and then ten seconds later, it comes back on again. We often still lose phone lines and internet service, so it can still be an inconvenience. But nothing to write home about – or write a blog about!

This is our precious generator!

BRICKS ON THE STOOP? – Marilyn Armstrong

A Slight Chance We’ll Need Some Major Chimney Repairs?

Only slight?

What was (I hoped) a slight chance that our home insurer would reject our claim to fix our chimney became a much more solid reality when I got an 8 am call this morning. They are coming tomorrow to take a look at the roof. I need them to do that anyway because someone needs to go up there and see what’s happening and it sure won’t be Garry or me. Or, for that matter, Owen, who is afraid of heights.

What were the odds that this would be the month the chimney started falling apart? Slight? More than slight? If I could actually see the chimney from anywhere on the property I might have a better grip on it, but sadly, I don’t.

So here is the story. You’ve all heard it — or some similar version of it — before, so you are welcome to sing along.

Life comes in waves. One year, everything is about dogs or cats. Or bugs and the trees. Another year is an automotive year, as one car leaves and we need to start again. One year was about furniture. All the old stuff left and the new stuff arrived.

And from the backyard …

One year was plumbing. Pipes broke. Toilets and sinks were replaced. And the basement flooded.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – In the blizzard

This is “the house is crumbling” year. Last summer, we put in a new front door. Which was a very big deal. We also replaced the water heater — which was a huge deal and a financial wipe out. Oh, and then there was the washing machine and installing the lift chair, two minor and one not so minor car accidents — without any injury to life or limb, but considerable pain and suffering financially.

This year, we attacked the ants and the mice (who knew there were so many?) and the bathroom, at least to the extent we could afford it (so much more needs doing (sigh) — including the shower outlet and the lighting. The builder came and replaced the window in the front of the house and a good piece of the whole front wall of the house too. Also, the new vacuum cleaner arrived today, but we’re too tired to take it out of the box.

A computer sort of died — and new computers arrived. During this period of change, I have spent more time talking to people in customer and technical services than most people spend in the better part of a lifetime. I breathed a sigh and thought: “Maybe now we can relax for a while.”

Until  I found the bricks.

One more payment, honey, and it’s all ours!

I was coming in the front door yesterday and I looked down and saw bricks.

Bricks? There are no bricks in this house. It’s wood (or something related to wood), vinyl siding, and asbestos tile. Except … the chimney is brick. A part of the chimney was laying on the stoop.

What were bricks from our chimney doing on the front step? “This cannot be good,” I said to myself.

It’s hard to see the chimney. Even if you back up all the way to the fence, you can’t see the whole thing. I went inside and pondered the meaning of storms, blizzards, and wind events. How we had three huge storms in a single week in March. How the trees broke — and many remain broken — and how the branches flew around in hurricane-level winds.

Then, I collected myself, realized there was no reason why we should be different than everyone else who is replacing pieces of chimneys and roofs and siding. You live in New England and deal with the storms, physically and architecturally. The only remaining issue is who will pay for the repairs? It would be nice if it were insurance, for which we pay big bucks annually, but usually, it’s us.

Footsteps — mine — from house to road

This was a damaging, rough winter. March alone was worth two normal winters. I thought we had miraculously escaped serious damage. Not.

The bottom line? Was it “officially” storm damage or will they deem it something that was due for repair anyway? When I talked to the guy at the insurance company, he asked me if anything else had gone wrong “up there.” Like I would know?

“I have absolutely no idea,” I assured him. “I’m 71 and my husband is 76 and neither of us is going up on the roof to look around. I’m pretty sure someone is going to have to go up there and see what happened. I know a big tree didn’t crash through the roof. I’d have noticed that. But did tiles blow off? And how much chimney is damaged? No idea.”

Oh the irony. We haven’t used our fireplaces for a long time because using the fireplaces raises heating costs. The heat from the fire turns off the thermostat. When the fire dies and the house gets cold enough to trigger the heat, it has to reheat the whole house.

We have terrific insulation and if we keep the house at a low, but even temperature — like about 68 — our heat costs half what it used to when we used fireplaces. It has been at least five years since we lit anything in either fireplace, so it is just one more piece of household money-pit irony that we need to fix chimneys we don’t use.

We got away with years of minimal repairs to the house. Mostly because we had no money. It’s amazing what you can live with when you’re broke. But we are in a bit better shape now — though by the time we’re through with this summer, I have a feeling we won’t be. Expensive summer just beginning.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I suppose it’s time to set it to rights, within the limits of what we can afford. I wish I thought insurance would pay for the chimney, but it’s unlikely. I suspect they already made the decision — and they haven’t even looked at it yet.

NOT ESPECIALLY FLUFFY — UNLESS YOU COUNT THE DUST BUNNIES

I’m trying to think fluffy. It isn’t working. Last night, we had a storm. High winds. Rain. How fluffy can things be when the rain is coming down so hard it sounds like little rocks?

We got the promised torrential rains and wind — with a 4-hour power outage too. It was the dead of night — around three, I think when it hit — and it was repaired by morning. For the first time ever, my cell phone was dead. I usually turn it off when I’m not using it, but I must have forgotten. The WiFi was down of course and the only phone number I have for the electric company is on my cell.

So — brilliant move, if I do say so myself — I plugged the phone into the laptop to got enough charge to call the electric company. I figured it was late. Although the whole street was blacked out, I might be the only person awake to notice it. If I waited until morning, there wouldn’t be (gasp) COFFEE when we got up!

I was right. No one had called, but there were several lines down and the power was back this morning. Now, the sun is out and the trees are bare. The 70 mph wind last night finished them off in a hurry.

In the course of last night’s meanderings around the computer, I was checking out a DNA research area called “GEDmatch.” It’s not an ancestry testing company. It’s more a researching humans on earth thing. It is free. So if you already have your DNA from some other organization — doesn’t matter which group — you can dump it into GEDmatch and get information about yourself and to whom you might be related.

The main problem is that this is pretty heavy scientific stuff and I’ve been staring at it for more than a week without it making any sense at all. Then, last night, I ran one more test. It showed up as a list and a pie chart. Bing! It made sense. I realized exactly what the pie chart was showing and how to get additional information on what each pie slice comprises. I love it when the light bulb goes on for the first time.



There are email addresses for people to whom you might be related, so I picked the one from the top who would be my closest relative in that heap of Ashkenazi Jewish people … and wrote a note explaining that I feel like a moron, but I’m too curious to not at least ask a few questions. He got back to me this morning. He’s trying to figure it out too.

I think he is my second cousin — or more to the point — the grandchild of my grandmother’s sister or brother. I think sister, but I’m guessing.

There are three or four more on my father’s side, too. A huge chunk of what might have been family was wiped out during the Holocaust. No surprise there. That may explain why the family never ever talked about the rest of the family that we didn’t know. It was not exactly forbidden, but it was definitely not encouraged. Without getting complicated, I think my mother found it too depressing to discuss. With anyone. Ever.

If you have had your DNA run by any company — doesn’t matter which one — you might want to check out GEDmatch. Prepare for a lot of “HUH??? Does this mean anything?” Total confusion — speaking of fluff — seems to be the initial reaction. There are some parts of it that are so completely obscure, I doubt I will ever make any sense of them. But I’m beginning to see bits and pieces of  information popping through the mishmash.

You can hook up with them on GEDmatch.com.  

You have to register, but it’s free. They do encourage donations because research costs money and research funding is hard to come by. If you have a packet of DNA from any company, you can add it to GEDmatch. After a while, you might get information you find useful. I’m getting there. It’s a giant puzzle, but it’s probably good for what remains of my brain.

ALL HURRICANES SHOULD BE CALLED DARWIN – BY TOM CURLEY

I’m not sure why we name hurricanes. I have no idea how the names get picked. I could Google it and maybe find out, but I’m too lazy to bother right now.

Regardless, I think all hurricanes should be named Darwin. Why?

Because nothing weeds out the gene pool and brings out the stupid in people like a hurricane. The bigger they are, the dumber they get. As I’m writing this, Hurricane Irma, or what I call it, Hurricane Darwin the 1st, is hitting southern Florida.

The worst is yet to come.  I’m watching the coverage, which is the exactly the same on all the networks. An anchor, who makes millions of dollars a year, is sitting in a warm cozy network studio. (Except for Lester Holt who was out there in the wind and rain just like a real reporter.)

He’s talking to the poor schmuck who drew the short straw and is standing in the middle of the hurricane telling everybody how dangerous the hurricane is and how nobody should be out in it. Except of course for him and his crew.

Now, granted, I know that they aren’t in as much danger as it seems. I worked for CBS News for 40 years and I know they set up in safe spots outside the wind. They only need one shot where the wind is howling and it looks like they are hanging on for dear life. When the live shot is over they all go back inside, smoke cigarettes, have lunch, play Candy Crush on their phones  and wait for the next live hit.

(I know Garry is nodding and laughing right now)

(Note: Garry is laughing — because he isn’t the schmuck out there in the storm.)

The really stupidest are the people who think they can ride these things out. I watched a news report a few days ago where they interviewed two people who planned on riding out Irma from a trailer park.

Excuse me? Did you just say A TRAILER PARK??? One guy said he already lost his mobile home two weeks ago in a run off the mill flood. They happen there all the time.  

His plan was to stay with a friend in another mobile home. They expected it to be destroyed too.

What was their Plan B? To hang out in a temporary construction trailer! A mobile home lite!

I’m looking at the screen screaming “Are you nuts? Don’t you know hurricanes and tornadoes hate mobile homes?! A tornado will go around an entire town to get at just ONE TRAILER PARK!!”

To a hurricane, mobile homes are just tasty little snacks!

I know it’s much more complicated than this.  Some people can’t get out for valid reasons — lack of anywhere to go or no vehicle or destitution.

But, for the guy who goes surfing as the hurricane hits, and dies ….

And, the guy who is kite surfing as the hurricane hits  …

Oh Boy! I’m heading right toward the tornado! Cool!

And, the family on the beach with their kids taking video of the guy kite surfing …

And, the poor schmuck interviewing them …

I hope you all survive Hurricane Darwin the 1st.

That wasn’t so bad.

I wish  mother nature could come up with a way, WAY less catastrophic method of weeding out the gene pool.

Seriously, folks — stay safe!

SNOWING, SNOWING AND SNOWING

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In memory of all the storms that almost were … It’s winter in New England and no plan is guaranteed. Snow will have its way with us.

WHEN A WINDOW OPENS

Every time I hear “God opens a window when he closes a door,” “God will take care of it,” ” Have faith, God will save you” I wonder if we are so helpless we can’t, in the face of difficulties, do anything more than pray for help. 

75-RoxburyWindow-NIK-1Why should helplessness be comforting?

What makes you think God closed that door? Maybe the wind blew it shut. Maybe some passerby gave it a push.

God may take care of you in a spiritual sense, but practically speaking, for every person I know who feels God saved them, there are many more who didn’t survive. I prefer “God helps them who help themselves.” Because it suggests we have the equipment to survive. that we are not entirely at the mercy of forces beyond our control.

So when that door closes, walk over, brace yourself, and open the window. You don’t need to ask God to do what you can do yourself.

I believe with free will comes responsibility. If scripture means anything, God gave us gifts — intelligence, reason, creativity. We know right from wrong, understand good and evil.

I don’t believe clouds have silver linings, but I believe storms are okay. We need rain and wind. It’s part of life, the normal ups and downs. Rain is not worse or less valuable than sunshine, only different. You may not like rain, but the earth loves it.

There are many things over which we have no control. The road we travel is unmapped and full of potholes. We can’t fix all the broken things and death is the only certainty. And those pesky taxes.

But while we have life, we have choices to make and responsibilities to meet. If we can’t make everything go as we want, we can do the best we can to take care of ourselves and each other, do the best we can with what we have. Pick good occupations and partners. Make friends who will support us through good times and bad. Look for solutions to problems and treatment for illness.

We don’t have to wait for a higher power to take care of us. We are grown ups. Expecting God to take care of every boo-boo is infantile.

Do I think prayers get answered? Uh huh. But sometimes the answer is “No.”  No one — mortal or deity — promised to make all the bad stuff go away or said life would be easy. So, I’ll continue do my best to take care of me and mine as long as I’m able. Because I think that’s what I’m supposed to do.