Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Review

I just finished a reading a book called "The Nightingale" written by Kristin Hannah. It's about two french women and their experiences during World War II.  That's all I'll tell you about it lest I spoil the read for you.

If you like history, especially World War II history, this is an absolute must read.  But even if you don't like history it's a book you should read.  It's the story of unbelievable human endurance.  It covers a huge range of  experience-from great love and sacrifice to intolerable evil. 

Fair warning though.  While this is one of the best books I've read, it is not an easy read and by that I don't mean because it contains a great deal of esoteric vocabulary.  I mean because it will leave you drained.  I can only imagine how the author must have felt after she finally penned the final word.

Read it.  You won't regret it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Day At the Polls

Yesterday I had an interesting experience.  I worked at the polls.  It was a long day.  I had to be there at 5:15 A.M. and I didn't get home until about 9 P.M. I never once left the building.

A friend of mine who is active in the political process in town called me and asked me if I would serve.  I worked  in the presidential primary election and I was a checker at the republican table.  (Ironically, many acquaintances who are familiar with my political leanings questioned why I was on the republican side so I explained you go where you're needed.)

The job consists of confirming a person's identity, residence in town and registration in the political party you're working.

For the most part everything went smoothly.  Occasionally there were people who were at the wrong voting place or who didn't know which party they belonged to. (Not kidding. This happened a lot or they weren't registered for either party.  They thought all you had to be was a registered voter to vote in a primary.) Eventually we straightened everything out and moved on.

A few observations:
There are more registered republicans than democrats in Newtown where I live.  While no one can see a completed ballot, the voters did talk among themselves and even to me while waiting to get checked in.  Generally, I got the sense they were overwhelmingly  Trump supporters.  Comments ranged from good old fashioned values to fixing the terrible immigration problem to those terrible socialist democrats.  In fact one guy called over to the democratic table which was right next to the one I was working and said their sign was mislabeled.  It should read socialists or communists!  (I felt like telling him I was in fact a democrat and he was a jerk but I figured I'd get in trouble.)

There was no particular demographic that I could see-young, old, blue collar or white collar.  One thing they all had in common was they were white.  Another factor could have been level of education but that was hard to tell. Besides having an education doesn't necessarily mean you're smart.

Another thing that caught my attention was the number of people who had switched parties to vote in the republican primary.  I think that says a lot about the way people are feeling about the political process these days.

As it turns out Donald Trump won the Connecticut republican primary along with four other states.  He is most likely going to be the candidate to go to the national election.

I'm wondering if I'll be asked to  work the big one.  That would be an even longer day because the verification process after the polls are closed is more involved and would take longer.  If asked, maybe I'll just take a pass.  It would probably be better if I did anyway because I might overhear some moron and make an inappropriate remark!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pet Peeve Number (who knows by now!)

Time for another rant.  It's been going on for the past few weeks and really getting annoying.  You know how right after a snow storm you'd be driving along and occasionally encounter a huge pile of snow on the right shoulder of the road extending into the road thus making you brake to go around it or even hitting  it?  That pile of snow is due to private snow plows pushing their customers' driveway snow into the road.  Not good.

Well there's a spring time equivalent.  It's blowing leaves into the road.  Some guys don't even wait until the vehicle passes.  They just blow all the leaves into your car.

Leaves aren't quite as dangerous as snow and the payback is if you get close and speed up a little you can blow a lot of them back into the guy's yard but it does affect visibility and I always have a bit of a concern that dry leaves will lodge against the hot parts under your vehicle thus igniting.  Also, you have to wonder what else is being blown into the road besides leaves.  Some other kind of debris that will damage your tires?  Who knows?

Anyway, that's it for today but the day is just starting so stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Do you like history?

I admit I like history more than most people.  I'm always looking  up information on what happened throughout history on particular dates.  Then I post many of them on Facebook.  I think it's interesting and important.

Take yesterday for example.  I posted on Facebook that April 19 marked the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord thereby beginning the American Revolution. The year was 1775.  A few people 'liked' the post but not many but that didn't bother me much.  Who's got time to pay attention to long-ago events (besides me, that is)? 

But what did bother me a little is the fact that there wasn't a single mention of it in papers or on TV news.  Don't you think the event should have at least been acknowledge to remind people about "the shot heard around the world" and "don't shoot until you see the whites of their eyes" and finally that famous ride of Paul Revere, Samuel Prescott and William Dawes.  THE BRITISH ARE COMING! THE BRITISH ARE COMING!

I wasn't expecting an hour-long special mind you-just some mention of arguably the most important day in American history.   Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I wonder if schools mentioned it.  I'll have to ask my grand kids but I'm not hopeful. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Brooke's pictures

My older grand daughter, Brooke, has taken an interest in photography.  Click on the link below to view some of the pictures she took on a recent trip to Jamaica.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

When entertainers speak, some think it's gospel

Who has more visibility to the general public than entertainers and politicians? Not many. Unfortunately when they  speak of things about which they know nothing,  there are many who tend to believe them.

Now we all know politicians are full of it so practically no one believes them but what about people like actors, singers and even to a great extent professional athletes.  When they start making remarks outside of their field of expertise people tend to believe them only because they like them for what they're known for-not for the issue they're addressing.

Of course it's possible for an entertainer to know more than their craft.  George Clooney and Robert Redford come to mind.  They're both involved in outside issues and they're able to speak with great authority on them.  But the vast majority are not in that category. 

Take for example something I saw this morning on the Today show.  Robert DeNiro was being interviewed and he was talking about a variety of topics one of which was immunizations and autism of all things. He made the rather absurd statement that there was a link between the two. 

This theory originated many years ago by an English doctor who published an article in the British medical journal Lancet.  It raised quite a stir.  There was even more of a stir when it was later discovered that the entire thing was a fraud.  But to this day people still insist that their children not be immunized lest they contract autism. 

To neglect to vaccinate children is the height of neglect and irresponsibility.  The overall health benefits of vaccinations far, far outweigh the risks.  Yet here's a great actor like Robert DeNiro making these kinds of outrageously stupid statements and because he is a popular actor people will believe him.  Numerous people from the medical community including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were quick to react but for many it will fall on deaf ears. After all, Robert DeNiro said so! 

Beware. We're surrounded by idiots.  Don't believe what people say just because they're popular in a totally unrelated field.

Thus endth my rant for the day!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Miss Daisy

It's vacation week in the local schools.  Pete, Jen & the boys are off to Puerto Rico. Mike, Becky & the girls are off to Jamaica.  Sandi is still working long hours making the world safe from the IRS.  So that leaves just me and Daisy to fend for ourselves.

Daisy is a one-year-old yellow lab.  She's the sweetest dog you'd ever want to have...but, she's still very young.  That means very early mornings, exercise periods and dog proofing the house.

Dog proofing is quite a challenge. It's similar to child proofing when yours or someone's very young children are at your house. For kids you do it for their safety.  Dog proofing is to keep everything else safe.  Things like pens, pads, slippers, shoes, coasters, books, pretty much anything light enough for a fairly strong dog to grasp in its mouth and chew until it's unrecognizable.  Even electrical cords are fair game.  Thank God she outgrew that particular phase.  When we first sat for her I had the presence of mind to unplug various lamps and gadgets.  Good thing too because on one particular occasion I discovered a plug laying in the middle of the living room floor which had come from a nearby lamp.

Another challenge is keeping her in our yard.  We have over two acres but she still likes to wander into the neighbor's yard and explore.  She also likes to chase squirrels but of course she doesn't know where the property lines are.

At first I walked her around on a leash and when she started to go toward another yard, I would give a good yank to keep her on our property.  That actually seems to have worked but better still is the pocketful of treats I always have with me so when I yell 'come' or 'treat' she comes flying back from wherever she was, sits in front of me and gazes anxiously at me with her big brown eyes.

Like I said, she's a sweetie.  But she's also like having a toddler in the house again.  Becky & her family will be home Sunday.  I'm sure when Daisy returns home, it will be like when the grand kids go home.  Quiet and peaceful. Too quiet and too peaceful.  Fortunately none of them are far off.
Time to go.  Daisy needs her walk.  At least I'm getting exercise too!

Friday, April 8, 2016

The End of Common Sense??

Yesterday a Newtown Middle School teacher was arrested for having a  loaded hand gun in school.  It was under his shirt but someone spotted it and reported him.  He had a carry permit but in the State of Connecticut it is illegal to bring hand guns to school. It is also a Newtown Public Schools policy that no teacher shall be in possession of a hand gun at school.  The teacher is on paid leave of absence until his arraignment later this month.

Aside from the legalities of the situation which only an attorney can really understand, one would logically ask what in God's name was he thinking?  To bring a gun to school in Newtown of all places where we're still dealing with a horrific tragedy is enough to question this guy's sanity.  Was he making a point?  Is he just plain stupid?  Did he forget he had it strapped to his waist? Was he trying to be 'cool'?  No matter what explanation he ultimately offers, he's done teaching-as he should be-unless maybe some lunatic state like Texas welcomes him with open arms.  In that case good bye and good riddance. Seriously, I can't wait to hear his defense. 

Anyway, here's the kicker....he was a former student of mine.  In fact he lived not far from where we lived and I believe my son may have known him.  Thinking back to when he was in my class, nothing particular comes to mind.  He was just an ordinary kid.  And it should be noted that in regard to this particular situation he didn't do anything violent or threatening. He just made a monumentally stupid decision.  The wrong place at the wrong time type of thing. 

The deeper issue here of course is guns in general.  The NRA and its legions of admirers supports this kind of thing.  Guns are so deeply ingrained in American culture as to be pretty much inseparable.

What's it going to take to get people to realize that the United States of America numbers among the most violent nations in the world and this needs to change?  Maybe one of my children or grand children will lead the charge (unarmed of course).

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Night visitors

Last week a night visitor made its way to our humble little house knocking down our bird feeder (see below).   At first I thought time and the wind had blown it over  but then about 20 feet from the feeder I found a big pile of scat (that's science talk for animal poop-see below).  It definitely wasn't deer or dog or turkey so I did a little research and it turns out it was from a black bear.

Over the 30 years that we've lived in this location I have seen  interesting changes in the wildlife habits with whom we share our modest 2 acres.

We started out with mostly deer and turkeys-lots of both of them.  The turkeys would come and go.  Sometimes there would be 20 of them around our feeder and other times we wouldn't see them for several weeks or even months.  Yet, recently four of them literally came on my front porch and pecked on the front door!

Deer have always been around-singly or in packs.  This past winter however there has been a noticeable drop off in deer activity.  Maybe one or two here and there.  Part of the reason for this is the relatively mild winter.  Apparently they've been able to find food in the woods.  However read on for another possible explanation.

Red foxes are also here from time to time chasing chipmunks and squirrels who are always around in great numbers.

Another relatively new factor influencing all of this is the recent arrival of coyotes.  We hear them in the woods across the street and one day while I was snow blowing the driveway, one followed me for a short distance before veering off into my neighbor's yard.

Coyotes may well be the reason for the reduction in the turkey and deer population.  It's all simply nature at work.

Now enter the bear.  They have a very wide territory and it's not unusual for them to show up in a yard at one time and not return for several months.  I've talked to several other people in the neighborhood including my son who is  about 2 miles away and they all report seeing a bear in their yards.  It's more than likely the same animal.

For now I'll put the feeder back up and see what happens.  I've also installed a borrowed a trail cam and for the past week there's been no unusual activity.

We'll see how it goes.  Stay tuned. 

To see more pictures of area wildlife not necessarily in my yard but very close by, click here  Click on the photo gallery in navigation bar.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Welcome, April!

April 1st brings back many fond memories of my teaching days.  Of course school children live for April Fools Day.  It's the one day out of the entire year that they get to prank their teacher without getting into too much trouble.

April Fools jokes range from the usual verbal stuff to chalk in erasers (nowadays kids don't even know what chalk is!) to coffee that's been tampered with to the one trick I will never forget.  A former student of mine in consert with her mother stayed up late to make a chocolate layer cake but the joke was the layers were filled with horse radish.  When I took a bite, I turned bright red and started to cough-all to the delight of the entire class who was in on it. 

Clever.  That little girl is a CEO somewhere now!

April brings more than tricks.  Spring starts in earnest with flowers growing and rain to nourish them.

Historically, April is a very important month.  Many wars have either started or ended in April.

To learn more about the month of April, click here