Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Will You Adopt an Adorable Puppy?

I've been in Puerto Rico for the last week, working away at the Herculean task of packing up Allysen's mother's house for her move to the Boston area. A couple of evenings ago, her dogs Diego and Sixta ran howling up to the gate to see what insidious deed was afoot. It turns out their instincts were spot on. A family of—I can only call them lowlifes—had just dropped a litter of seven puppies in front of our house and hightailed it down the hill.  (Allysen got there in time to see them and ran after them yelling, but they fled. We are the last house at the top of a hillside road, and for years, people have been abandoning animals at our gate.)

We really needed this, while trying to pack up a lifetime of books, papers, artwork, and other possessions. But like it or not, the puppies were suddenly in our hands. And so now, we have fed them and bathed them (they were crawling with fleas), and have been trying to find a local rescue group who can take them. If we don't hear from Save a Sato or one of the other groups by tomorrow, we'll take them to the Ponce Animal Rescue and hope for the best. We could bring a couple of them back to the States, if we knew there were homes waiting for them. So how about it? Would you like to take in a heartstoppingly lovable puppy?

You can see six of the seven in this picture. In back is an adorable one I immediately named the Hindmost, a reference that any reader of Larry Niven's stories will recognize.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Truck By any Other Name

Is just as rusty. That was how it seemed for a while, as we were searching for a replacement vehicle for our beloved but aging Mazda, Thoth. (Named after an Egyptian god associated with writing and philosophy.) And then, last week, our fortunes turned, when I found a gray 2006 Ford Ranger (small pickup) in very good condition, at a good price. With a cap, no less. (Which will have to come off for some of the furniture moving ahead of us, but for routine use seems like a great feature.) Last week, our mechanic checked it over, and yesterday I picked it up from the dealer, Auto Country of Abington, MA. Good-bye, Thoth! You were faithful and a great car to drive. Not your fault you got old and started falling apart.

Hello, Star Rigger Land Shark! Welcome to the family!

These are dealer pix, and the seats are pushed back here, but I especially liked the extra room behind the seats, for the pooch and/or groceries.

Long live the Land Shark!



Obama Homers State of Union While Boehner Looks On, Constipated

President Obama gave his State of the Union speech last night, and it was a great speech. But for any serious people watcher, at least half the game was watching Speaker of the House John Boehner, sitting right behind the president.

Let me preface by saying that Congressman John Boehner is from my home state, the Great State of Ohio. I'm guess I'm not that much of an Ohioan anymore, having lived in Massachusetts for far longer than the years I spent growing up in Ohio. But still. You can take the boy out of Ohio, but you can't (entirely) take Ohio out of the boy.

And so it made me wince to see Ohio's most powerful member of Congress look like he'd eaten a bad Brazil nut for a solid hour, while listening to the president's State of the Union address. Okay, sure, Boehner doesn't agree with all of Obama's policies. Hell, I don't agree with all of Obama's policies. (What's up with the drone strikes, Mr. President? And why, after the Gulf oil disaster, are you so eager to fast-track oil exploration?) But most of what he said was, in my opinion, good common Midwestern sense, mixed with a healthy dose of much-needed inspiration.

So why did our most prominent Republican look as if he were receiving an hour-long prostate exam? Was it the bitterness of a vanquished foe? Or was it just a visible symptom of our still deeply divided country?

One of the many things I liked about the speech was the stories that Obama wove into it. I like stories. They humanize discussions that can otherwise become abstract and cold, and turn into endless confrontation between entrenched positions. Stories move us, and help us listen to each other. Who could fail to be moved to grief by the story of the young woman who, one week, was participating in the Presidential Inauguration, and the next, was struck down by gunfire near her home in Chicago? Or heartened by the cop who took twelve bullets while performing his job, and lived to inspire others? We can't make national decisions based just on stories. We need hard facts to help us decide what to do about global climate change, for example. But stories have their place. Sometimes they can soften a hardened heart, and help us pay attention to what the other is saying. They might not change our minds. But they help us listen.

And listening is something we need a lot more of in American political life today.


Saturday, February 09, 2013

After Nemo

We awoke to a lot of snow today...



After about four hours with the snow blower, shovels, and help from our downstairs neighbor Jill and the youths, we finally ended up with this. 

And after that, I came in and ate breakfast, then napped. All is now very quiet.

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Into the Blizzard

Winter Storm Nemo, they're calling it. I think of Nemo as a cute little clownfish, but Jules Verne's Nemo is probably a more apt referent. I'm writing this at about 1 a.m. Saturday morning, which should put us a third or halfway through the snowy Nor'easter. They're already calling it the Blizzard of 2013, and snow accumulation for the Boston area could break previous records. Looked like about a foot so far, the last time I was out, which was a few hours ago. Hard to tell, with all the drifting. I can hear the wind gusting out my office window right now. Oddly, the weather bug on my computer desktop says "Fog" for current conditions in my area!

We lost power at around 10 p.m., and I was just starting to wonder how cold the house would get without heat (or how fast it would get cold), when I saw utility truck lights out in the street. They had us back up in about half an hour. (They were on site so fast I'm guessing maybe they shut us off while they corrected some hazardous condition, maybe a tree branch on a line or something.) Hats off to those guys out there working on lines in these conditions! I had to take Captain Jack out, so I walked over and asked the nearest worker if I could bring him anything. Nope, he said. A neighbor had already brought him hot chocolate.

A glance at the power outages chart for Nstar in Massachusetts shows a lot of people hurting, especially down on the south shore and Cape Cod. Here's hoping they get taken care of fast.

It's supposed to end late this morning, so I'll try to remember to take some pictures before I fire up the snow blower to tunnel us out.

If you don't hear from me again in the next day, that'll probably mean the power went out again. Either that, or I'm too sore from shoveling to sit down and write another post.

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

We Eat Problems for Breakfast

Yes we do, here at the Starrigger Ranch. Good thing, too. I wrote earlier, in brief, about what the first quarter of 2013 looks like for the Carver family. Allysen's mom, Fay, is moving from her long-time residence in Puerto Rico to live closer to us—not with us, but in a continuing care community not too far away. This is sad, because she loves it where she is. But it's necessary.  She's in her 80s, and at several thousand miles distance, we have been her closest family since Allysen's dad passed away two years ago. This means not just moving, but closing down, fixing up, and preparing for sale two separate properties—and finding suitable disposition for a lifetime's worth of stuff, much of it very nice stuff gathered from work and travel all over the world.

To this end, Allysen has taken a leave of absence from her job, and she's already down there working on the Puerto Rico end. The rest of us will be going down at various times to contribute to the effort. Meanwhile, at this end, we're still finishing the job of getting her charming little condo here near us ready to put on the market. (To a large degree, that means boxing everything up and moving it into our basement for interim storage.) I've been putting up a lot of shelves in our basement.

Just to keep it interesting, at the same time, we've been looking to replace our aging '98 Mazda. We decided a while back that a small pickup truck would make a handy replacement, because even before all this started, we always seemed to be facing situations where we wished we had one, but something smallish, like a Ranger. So we've been looking. It's amazing how much time and energy you can put into shopping for a used truck. Especially when all the dealers who sell them seem to be an hour's drive away. I believe, hope, and pray that I have now found one. Tomorrow it's to be checked over by our trusty mechanic. If all goes well, we'll have our new (to us) truck by next week.

Meanwhile, just to keep it more interesting, I was in the basement knocking together shelves when I turned around and saw water leaking out of our hot water tank, a tank which had just passed out of its ten-year warranty. Thank God for good plumbers who come when you need them. (Thanks, Pat!) Then, the day our hot water heater was replaced, our brand-new washer went on the fritz! What is this, a conspiracy?

Making that sequence even weirder, I called Allysen down in PR to tell her the news. Her reply? "The hot water heater here just quit, too." And the next day, the new washer there broke, locking their wet clothes inside.

It's really got to make you wonder.

But as I say, we eat problems for breakfast. Nutritious and full of fiber!