’18 A To Z Challenge – L

 

Challenge '18letter-l

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anything worth doing is….worth overdoing.
If you’re like the wife and I, when you reach our age, you’ll have too much of everything – except money.

The wife’s adopted totem is the

LADYBUG

which is why she used to blog under the pseudonym, GranmaLadybug.

We (she) have ladybugs of all sorts and sizes.  On the metallic whiteboard in the kitchen, where we write shopping lists and notes, she has 12 little-fingernail size magnetic ladybugs, along with a 1½ inch plastic one.  On the side of the filing cabinet in the computer room, there are 6 thumb-nail sized magnets.

The little timer in the laundry room is a 2-inch ladybug.  We have a 2-inch fabric one that is supposed to be a pin-cushion, but sits on a display shelf with other curios.  There’s a 3 inch wooden one, stuck to the fridge, and a 4 inch stained glass one on the wall above the computer.

I found a 3 inch plastic child’s toy one in a mall parking lot.  When you squeeze it, it lights up, and we hung a 4 inch framed cross-stitch version beside the kitchen whiteboard.  She has three sets of ladybug earrings, and a ladybug pendant necklace, some ladybug stickers, and a ladybug stamp that she adds to birthday cards and personal notes.

The grandson and fiancée bought her a wooden step-stool with painted ladybugs all over it.  She set up my new computer so that I click on an icon labeled Archon to fire it up, but she’s not fooling me.  There’s a ladybug above my name.  There used to be a 6 inch ladybug whirligig in the garden, but after years of exposure to plastic-destroying ultra-violet radiation, the madly spinning wings have disintegrated.

Aside from being cute, ladybugs are useful.  They eat things like aphids, which suck the sap out of the gardener-wife’s pretty flowers.  Until recently, all local ladybugs were a good solid red color.  Like the Asian zebra mussels which now infest the Great Lakes, and the Asian carp in the Chicago River, that we’re trying to keep out of the Great Lakes, we now have Asian ladybugs.  They’re more Crayola crayon orange.  If one should happen to land on you, they can give a nasty little bite.

When President Kennedy was assassinated, Texan VP, Lyndon Johnson took over, and we found that his wife was known as ‘Ladybird.’  I thought nothing of that cute name, but recently found that, especially in the Southern United States, it means the same as ‘Ladybug.’  In the heat of the South, they must grow them big, to call them ‘birds.’

I recently took an online IQ test.  I only scored 133, disappointingly below the 140 level needed to get me into Mensa.  Ahhh….I wouldn’t want to be a member of a group who would accept me as a member.  One of the ‘questions’ was a picture with the black outline of a Victorian woman in a bustled dress with a parasol.  Beside it was the black outline of a crow, or raven.  This represented….?  A: mammal, B: reptile, C: bird, D: insect.  Hmmm…a lady, and a bird.  I picked D: insect, because I speak a little Redneck.

I hope I haven’t bugged you with my Babylon babbling.  I hope to see you here again, soon.  😀

Storm-Stayed

airport blower

 

 

 

 

 

On my Digging In – Digging Out post about heavy snowfalls, I got a comment from a fellow writer who used to truck produce from the ferry dock, to the other side of Newfoundland, a large island-province off Canada’s east coast.  It is affectionately known to its residents as ‘The Rock.’

He told of a time when he and several other truckers were stranded for three days at a truck stop, when 125 inches (That’s 10+ feet!) of snow fell, accompanied by high winds.  I admitted that Ontario’s weather problems were often puny, compared to Newfoundland’s.

My familiarity with all things “Newfie” has been gained both online, and by association with many ex-pats, now working up here, but he apparently felt it was from personal experience.  The following is an explanatory email.

If, by your comment, “Ha, you’ve been, I see.” you mean to The Rock, the answer is no.  My financial, and the wife’s medical, restrictions make that nearly impossible.  However, there are almost as many Newfies up here, as there are left down there.  I worked for four years in the Hespeler section of Cambridge, ON, where the population is about half Portuguese, and half Newfie.  Drive down the street and yell, “Hey Joe (Joao), and all construction stops. Every second Newfie is named Sean or Shawn, and that includes the women.

At my auto-parts plant, there were 2 dozen Newfies for 200 employees, including four from Bell Island.  Add my online friends…. and I’d like to add you as one.  Would you wish to admit where you’re currently parked, so that I can overwork my map program?

At the risk of clogging your email, I have a snowing/driving story I wish to share.  In my Location, Location, Location post, I wrote of Kitchener being just far enough from three Great Lakes to miss ‘a lot’ of snow.  Also, it’s mildly hilly, cutting the wind and preventing a lot of drifting.  Just to our west, it soon becomes flatter, and drifting can be serious.  If the Ontario Provincial Police shut down Southern Ontario’s main artery, Highway 401, it’s almost always just past Kitchener.

A brother-in-law drove for years for Koch Transport.  His run was from Kitchener, 70 Km to St Mary’s, and back each day.  He (and wife) were taking two weeks holidays, and going to Hawaii, flying out on a Saturday morning.  On the Friday, he made his run, and got back to Stratford, where he found police blocking the road to Kitchener.  They waved him into a strip mall with two other big-rigs, and a half-dozen cars.

He left it running, and climbed down to talk to the others.  One of the car drivers asked what he was going to do.  He replied, “I’m going to wait until there’s an accident, and the cops leave, and then I’m going to move that barricade and make a run for it.  I’ve got to get home.  I have a flight out tomorrow.”  The guy replied, “I’m going on a trip tomorrow too.  Can we follow you guys?”

And so, they convoyed out, with the semis breaking trail, and the cars following.  With the trucks leading, the driving really wasn’t all that bad, and they all soon got back home safely.  The next morning, as he was boarding the plane to Hawaii, he ran into Mr. Sedan-Driver again, on the same flight.

 

Archon

 

 

Location, Location, Location!

I live in the best place in the world!!  You may love the place you were born, or the place you’re living now.  You may hate either, or both.  Doesn’t matter!  I live in the best place in the world.  There is no perfect place, but mine is the best compromise.  I live in the center of Southern Ontario, Canada.

I live within an hour’s drive of three of the nicest of the Great lakes, hundreds of miles of white sand beaches and cool (but not cold) water.  Some, near the bigger cities can be contaminated, but if you’re willing to drive a bit, it’s worth the trip.  All the tourist traps and the natural magnificence of Niagara Falls are but an afternoon’s trip away.

If you don’t like the big lakes and the big crowds, there are dozens of little lakes where you can put up a cottage and go fishing.  They’re a bit reedier, muddier or rockier, but often so small they’re like a warm jet-spa.

The land ranges from pool-table-flat, to hills tall enough to ski on in the winter and keep the eyes interested in the summer.  Mountains are magnificent, but they block out the sky.  The land is covered with some of the most fertile soil in the world.  Sadly, urban sprawl is eating a lot of it up, but a huge selection of meat and vegetables are locally grown, and fairly cheaply.

My city called itself “The Biggest Small Town in the World”, almost 50 years ago when I arrived.  It’s grown a lot, but it still has a small town feel.  It’s big enough to be interesting, without being so big it’s dehumanizing.  We have a concert hall, with a local symphony.  Acts like Roger Whittaker, Brad Paisley, Jeff Dunham, Cats and Rent have come to town.  If you want more than that, Toronto is only an hour’s drive away.

We have two Universities and a widely renowned Community College.  The Kids Museum morphed into themuseum (allonewordnocapital), still with stuff to interest kids, but with added paintings and sculpture, plus defunct equipment telling the tale of vanishing local manufacturing.  The house where J. M. Schneider, who founded the meat packing business lived, is preserved, and can be toured.  Doon Pioneer Village, on the outskirts, used to highlight the 1870s, Mennonite heritage, but has moved up 50 years, and now showcases life in the early 20th century as Doon Heritage Crossroads.

The weather too is varied enough to be interesting, but almost never vicious.  We have four distinct seasons.  Johnny Carson was dismayed when he moved from New York to Los Angeles.  He found they only had two seasons out west, wildfire and mudslide.  When the temps went from warm to warmer, the city crews took in the green plastic plants, and put out the brown plastic plants.

In the summer, our temperature usually ranges from mid-70s F. to high-80s F., with just enough humidity in the air to be comfortable.  Places like Arizona are great for people with asthma and other breathing problems, but are so dry the skin flakes off your face, as readings soar over 100 F.  Places like Georgia have slightly lower temps, but moisture levels so high, even healthy folk have trouble drawing a breath.

In the winter, readings usually hover about 10 degrees below freezing, not like western Canada, where it can plunge to minus 30 or 40, and the wind whistling across the prairies can make it feel like -50 or worse.  It can get hot in the summer, and cold and snowy in the winter, but not for long.  The area is so unexciting that even the weather gets bored, and moves on.

We generally get just enough rain in the warm months to feed the crops, not cascading off the mountains and washing us into North Dakota.  Kitchener is near enough to the Great Lakes that they moderate our temperatures, but far enough away that we are not inundated with snow.  We get enough to provide spring watering for farmers but not so much that we have to exit buildings from second, or third, floor windows.

We are not subject to monsoons, or tsunamis.  The tail end of an occasional hurricane blows this far north and inland, like last fall’s Superstorm, but rarely causes much damage.  We do experience the infrequent tornado.  I once drove within a quarter-mile of one, on my way to visit my parents.  It snapped a few tree branches off and swirled a couple of wheat fields, but wasn’t at all like the half-mile-wide, twenty-mile-long swaths that march though Kansas.

We get the occasional temblor from Montreal, or Ohio, if they’re fracking for natural gas.  Just enough to rattle dishes, but no real earthquakes of our own.

We manage to find all kinds of things to bitch about area politics and politicians, because it’s a game we don’t want to miss.  Compared to other spots on the globe, local politics is bland and boring.  We don’t have oppressive regimes like Cuba, Iran, North Korea or China.  We are caught at the edge of the World meltdown, but our Pols still guide us better than the 23-party, can’t-get-a-decision-made, coalition in Italy, or the fiscal ineptitude of Ireland or Greece.

We escape the polarization of the U.S.A., probably because most far-out opinions are not expressed, and are ignored, not fought about, when they are.  While we appreciate America being the world’s policeman, our tiny, under-supplied Army leaves us money to provide health care for our citizens.  This is socialism, not Communism.  If it’s good enough for the Swedes, it’s good enough for us.

Religiously and morally, it’s pretty much live and let live.  Jews, Muslims, Christians and Shintoists all live in the same communities.  No-one wants to force their beliefs onto others or drive non-believers from town.  Of course, we all hate the Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially when they ignore the Do Not Ring Bell sign early Saturday morning, when we’re trying to sleep off Friday night.

Abortion and gay marriage are both permitted, although it’s more like just ignored.  There are those who are disturbed by both, but there are others, just as numerous, for whom the removal would be just as disturbing.

All in all, I live in Goldilocks-land, not too hot, not too cold, not too bland, not too exciting, a bit of everything, but not too much of anything.  Come and visit us when you can.  Keep Ontario green; bring money.

I Can Read You Like A Book

I’ve read books all my life.  As I saw myself getting near to retirement, I laid in a stock to keep me interested, and my time filled.  There must be 25 or 30 lying around the house that I haven’t got to yet, with more arriving all the time. I promised poor Art Browne @ Pouringmyartout, that I would read his eBook by October, and here it is January.

I discovered blogging, and, composing my own pitiful output, as well as reading and commenting on what you guys write, has cut down on my book-reading somewhat.  The busiest year I ever had was 1977, when I read 72 books in the calendar year.  Usually I read about a book a week, or about 50 a year.  This past couple of years, the totals have been less.  In 2013 I read 31 books.  The following is a list of how I spent some of my time.

The first two batches are the community writing I posted about.  They are credited to a “James Axler”, but no such author exists.  Instead, 8 or 9 writers for each series, rotate publishing a book a month.

Deathlands Series:  Hell Road Warriors1-Hell Road Warriors

This is the book I had the most trouble with.  The action scenes are fine, but the story starts 50 miles from my home town.  Early in the book I was already saying, “That highway doesn’t connect to that one.”  Then it goes north across Lake Huron.  This is the passage where they got there early to get a good birth on the ferry, but forgot to chalk the wheels, and the breaks failed.

Then they went through the Soo Locks, to get into Lake Superior.  The “locks” are giant log and steel constructions, pulled across the river by 40 pairs of oxen, to prevent unpaid passage.  This ignores the 21 foot difference in water level between the two lakes.  Every chapter, sometimes every page had a word misusage.  This is probably the straw that broke this reader’s back.

2-Palaces of Light 3-Wretch Earth 4-Crimson Waters 5-No Man's Land

 

 

 

Palaces of Light – Wretched Earth – Crimson Waters – No Man’s Land

****

Outlanders Series:

1-Dragon City 2-God War 3-Gensis Sinister

 

 

 

 

Dragon City – God War – Genesis Sinister

***

One Day on MarsTravis S. Taylor – One Day on Mars

*

1-Grantville Gazette IV 2-The Eastern Front 3-The Saxon Uprising

Eric Flint – Grantville Gazette IV – The Eastern Front – The Saxon Uprising

***

4-The Tangled Web (Virginia DeMarce)

Virginia DeMarce – The Tangled Web

*

5-The Papal Stakes (Charles E. Gannon)

Charles E. Gannon – the Papal Stakes

*

1-Overkill 2-Undercurrents

Robert Buettner – Overkill – Undercurrents

**

1-Killing-Floor 2-Die-Trying 3-Trip-Wire

Lee Child – Killing Floor – Die Trying – Tripwire

***

1-Sinai Secret 2-Voodoo Fury

Greg Loomis – Sinai Secret – Voodoo Fury

**

Fire Ice

Clive Cussler – Fire Ice

*

1-The Knowland Retribution 2-The Lacey Confession

Richard Greener – The Knowland Retribution – The Lacey Confession

**

1-Tinker 2-Wolf Who Rules 3-Elfhome

Wen Spencer – Tinker – Wolf Who Rules – Elfhome

***

1-The Human Division

John Scalzi – The Human Division

This book was originally 13 long chapters, essentially short stories, published in an on-line journal.  They have the same general group of people, on and off the same interstellar spacecraft, but the paper and print compilation seems somewhat disconnected.

*

2-The Inquisitor's Key

Jefferson Bass – The Inquisitor’s Key

*

3-Deep Fathom

James Rollins – Deep Fathom

This is the first in a series new to me.  There are eleven more, and all available at no cost from an on-line library – if I can wrestle the Kobo away from the wife occasionally.

*

4-The Righteous Mind

Jonathan Haidt – The Righteous Mind, Why good people are divided by politics and religion

This is the deepest and most educational book I read all year.  The author explains how and why people make certain thoughts and ideas “sacred”, even when others, or the evidence, don’t agree with them.  It gave some nice insights into puzzling behavior.  I’m almost proud of myself for reading this one.

We all read, because we all write.  Anybody else want to brag about a book or two you’ve recently read?

Frankenstorm

We’re fine!  Thanks for asking.  The whole East side of North America went through the storm of the century, and all I got was this lousy, wet tee-shirt.  One woman in Toronto was struck and killed by wind-blown debris.  A guy in our northern twin city was slightly injured when a large tree crashed down on his house.  A family in town had a large evergreen tree uprooted and neatly deposited lengthways down their in-ground pool.

In the last year, we have had a new roof installed; that was timely.  And we had all new windows and doors put in.  There was a lot of wind and rain out there, but, out there was where it stayed.  While the dregs of the storm may linger for a day or two, it appears the worst is over and the water is starting to drain off, all except my rain-water collection barrels.

I had been using watering cans to take water from the barrels, and pour it around our Mulberry bush (where our weasel pops), the Magnolia bush, and four Rose of Sharon bushes.  It’s been such a dry summer that the wife suggested deep watering, soaking the ground, for better growth next spring.  I had emptied the two single barrels, but, even before this big storm hit, we had had rain about every second day.

The three ganged barrels beside the house just kept refilling.  I finally gave up.  The soil around the bushes is as soaked as it will ever get.  I have a faucet installed on one barrel, so I just hooked up a garden hose, ran the end down near the front sidewalk, and turned the tap.  They refill faster than the hose can drain them, but eventually I will get to disassemble them and invert them for the winter so that ice formation doesn’t damage them.

One that I had inverted blew around between the houses, but nowhere I couldn’t find it.  The young father in the other half of our semi had assembled an eight-foot high wooden *castle tower* play set for his two young daughters.  It had another two-foot high nylon parasol on top, for sun protection.  It’s now lying in his yard.  I may have to volunteer to help him right it.

The son was just thinking of getting ready to leave for his Monday, midnight shift, when his supervisor called to say it had been cancelled.  Day shift worked.  Afternoon shift might have been sent home early, but they worried about overnight.  The winds and rain were picking up.  If they had a power outage, there would be no buses or taxis for workers to get home in the middle of the night.

The gal next door can telecommute for some of her job, so she stayed home Tuesday.  I met her outside, and she gave us a 12-pack of new pint canning jars that someone had given her.  We’re the only people she knows who can anymore.

The area of Southern Ontario between my home town and my current address is one of the most stable, fortunate pieces of real estate to live in, in the whole world.  We don’t get hurricanes, we don’t get tornadoes, we don’t get earthquakes, and we don’t get floods….usually.

Earthquakes occur five hundred miles away, near Montreal, or south of the Great Lake, in Ohio.  We sometimes feel a little edge of a tremblor, but no shaking houses down, or even rattling dishes.  If we hear of two tornadoes in a season, it’s unusual.  They mostly occur a hundred miles south and west, and only knock down small trees, or the occasional cow.

We were driving north several years ago, to visit my parents for the weekend, when we ran into a fierce storm.  Rain so hard I could barely see the road, then we got pounded with hail so big I worried about damage to the car finish.  The wind was howling like a freight-train.  The wife peered out her window and said, “I think I see a funnel cloud.”  I told her, don’t be silly, it couldn’t be, we don’t get tornadoes up here!

When we reached the parents’ place, there was Dad, watching his TV on the weather channel.  He informed us that Live Weather had just reported a small tornado where we had just driven through.  Had we seen anything?  Yikes!  Yes!  My ass getting blown into some farmer’s barn.

The last time I saw a perfect storm this bad, in this area, was back in 1954, when Hurricane Hazel came to visit.  She brought lots of wind, and tons of water.  One of my uncles lived out on the edge of town.  You turned off the highway and crossed the railroad tracks that paralleled the road, to access his property.  Back then, we still had train service.  In fact, that far back, the engines were steam-driven.

A hundred yards past his house there was a large steel culvert under the highway, for rainwater to flow down to the lake.  It just emptied into an earthen ditch.  Years before, there had been a wooden trestle over the large ditch, but it had been replaced by a concrete version, solidly planted on both banks.  With the amount of water flowing, the bridge was still solid, but the two banks had been badly undermined.  When the afternoon train slowly rolled into town, the trestle looked good, but the weight of the engine crushed it, dumping it into the creek.  The engineer and the stoker both died of steam burns, a horrible way to go.

Even as I write this, the clouds to the west, behind me, have broken, and sun is streaming in the window, making it difficult to see the computer screen.  I’m going to go look out the back windows.  If I see a rainbow, I’ll know the worst is over.  The storm really didn’t bring us much trouble.  We are very fortunate.  I just hope that all my good blog-friends were as safe and lucky.