Friday, December 15, 2017

2017: The Terrible, Awful, Very Bad Year

What a year! It's been SO hard! 

Perhaps we should all hang on to the maxim that "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger." 

That's what I am going with, anyway. 

Any other outlook drains my will and leaves me hopeless and bereft.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Returning to the Owl

We've had quite a spate of unusual non-rain weather here in December.  I have tried to take advantage of the pleasant conditions to get out into the woods and fields and play with the new camera and incredibly expensive, heavy-ass lens I purchased back in August.  And while I have managed to conquer my fear of the thing to a certain extent, the wildlife has been less than cooperative.
Two trips to the island yielded not one decent photo op for any animal or bird.  I didn't even see anything interesting that I wasn't close enough to get a decent picture of.  A few attempted birds-in-flight shots resulted in images not much different than fly-by's I had gotten with the old D40 and my screwed up zoom lens. 
Then there was yesterday. 
I have been trying to take advantage of the weather and make sure to get the dog out for a long walk and some exercise every day.  Which has worked pretty well for about a week.  But with the days of our dry spell (and decent picture-taking weather) waning--it's supposed to start raining tomorrow--and so few daylight hours available these days, I decided to try to combine the dog walk and the photo walk. 
Needless to say, this did not work out well at all.  My ADD dog is not one to just walk quietly and obediently by my side while I enjoy the weather and scan the fields, creeks and streams for wildlife.  She lags behind, she pulls ahead, she glues herself to every smear of bird poop on the pavement (bird poop is one of her preferred delicacies...)  My constant verbal stream of "No!  Get over here!  Drop!  Are you pulling?" is not at all a good way to sneak up on a photo op.  If there was any wildlife around, it heard us coming and headed for cover long before we got near.  It was a pleasant enough walk, but it was all about the she intended.
After an adequately long dog walk, I herded her back into her crate in the back of the van, and drove around my "Scappoose back-country" route, where I usually have some luck spotting raptors, egrets, or at least blue herons this time of year.  Came up empty again. Bah! 
I decided to take one more pass down the dike road, and that was when I finally spotted the unmistakable triangular shape of an owl silhouetted against the fading light of the rapidly setting sun.  I pulled a u-ie and made another pass...yep, still there.  Turned into the trail parking lot and drove as far in as I could, then got out and walked the rest of the way to the little stand of trees where I thought I had seen that telltale shape. 
And, by golly, there she was.  Though I could see nothing but a dark, owl-shaped thing sitting on a branch up close to the trunk of the tree, I knew what it was. 
I had a brief, one-sided conversation with the shape, then asked, "If I go back and get my camera, will you still be there?"  I did, and she was.
I fiddled with the camera enough to get some pretty bad pictures that were little more than proof that I had indeed encountered an owl.  Cranked the ISO up to 1250, and slowed the shutter to 1/40 second.  At that shutter speed, there was no possibility of getting a crisp image without a tripod (and I'm too impatient to drag that tripod around and set it up, even when I really should) not to mention that I had to use manual focus because auto-focus kept homing in on the branches in front of her face...and I couldn't really SEE what I was trying to focus on.  The fact that I got shitty images that were still unmistakably of an owl was a miracle in itself, considering the conditions.

Then I saw this, about eight feet below her perch
 and I was pretty sure I knew why Ms Owl was hanging out where she was.    

But what is really cool is that there is a second half to this story.

This afternoon, I decided to head out to the same location, this time to see if I could approach the tree from the other side.  The trees border on a large open field owned by the local nursery stock conglomerate.  They don't build a lot of fences around their property, so I was hoping I could walk out on one of their dirt truck tracks to the "front" side of the owl tree.  I parked the van on the side of the road, identified the grove of trees where I believed I had seen the owl.  I didn't take my camera, because it's heavy and awkward and the mud was slippery and I didn't want to take the chance of falling on my ass and tossing my $2.5k camera rig in the air while I was at it.  And, truthfully, I wasn't expecting to see anything photo-worthy.   

I slogged through the field to where I could see the nest.  And I do mean slogged.  Even though it hasn't rained in a couple of weeks, I had to wade through puddles, and picked up a coating of at least two inches of mud from about mid-foot down, on my hundred-dollar boots that are NOT trail boots.  Finally, I saw the nest. 

AND...the owl.  Sitting almost exactly where she had been the night before.

And I was camera-less.  Of course.

I spoke to the owl for a bit, and then I left...I didn't want to annoy her too much.  And I was NOT going to wade back to the car, grab my giant, heavy-ass camera, and slog all the way back.  My clothing/footwear was not adequate to that task.

But I DID go back to where I had parked the car the previous night, grabbed my camera and headed out (on the blacktop trail more suited to my footwear) to see what kind of daylight images I could get of my little friend.   


For the first time, I went back to a location where I'd met an owl, and it was there again.  Score!  I feel like I've performed some kind of photographer's rite of passage:  You gotta know where to find them, and you gotta be able to go back there and find them again.
Yay me!
Oh...and I have figured out that the new camera/lens combination takes hella pictures, even now, when I have NO idea what the fuck I'm doing.  I can only imagine what kind of results I'll get when I actually learn their proper operation!  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

You Learn Something New (or Old) Every Day

toxic masculinity (täk-sik mas-kyə-ˈli-nə-tē):   

The concept of toxic masculinity is used in the social sciences to describe traditional norms of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects.

a professor at The Wright Institute school of psychology, defines toxic masculinity as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia and wanton violence".

How is it that I have only just heard that there has been an actual term for this kicking around in psychological circles for at least 20 years?

If this doesn’t succinctly sum up about 95% of what is wrong with the world today (and of course this “malady” is not endemic solely to European and American men…), I don’t know what does.   

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Real Time

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Two more of American broadcasting’s high profile men have met the sexual harassment axe today. 

And you know what?  I am heartily sick of this whole "He sexually harassed/assaulted me years ago!" shtick. This is a complicated and serious issue that has recently risen to the level of pop culture fad.   As far as I’m concerned, you can’t dredge up an incident from thirty years, or even ten years ago, and apply today’s standards of acceptable behavior to it. 

For one thing, “today’s standards of acceptable behavior” are so out-of-whack and situational, they can’t be applied consistently to anything or anyone.   A celebrity presidential candidate assaults women and brags about it on an open mike; we just shrug our shoulders, mumble “Boys will be boys!” and vote for him anyway, because he’s gonna “Make America Great.”  If he messes with a few women along the way, who cares?  Let a liberal icon like Al Franken or Garrison Keillor come under the shadow of suspicion of sexual misbehavior, and the call for their heads on a platter can be heard round the globe.  But our sexual predator-in-chief remains steadfastly above the fray.  What the fuck? 

Secondly, we need to maintain a sense of the history of the issue.   I am a woman who grew up during the “sexual revolution,” and I can say with certainty that the path has never been easy.  Sallying forth into a man’s world of casual sex and work outside the home—an action almost universally perceived as a threat to American manhood—was bound to be fraught with tension, roadblocks, and, yes…harassment.  We took it for granted that that would be the case.  We quickly learned to fend off unwanted or threatening sexual overtures, ignoring when possible, striking out (sometimes literally) when necessary. 

Eventually, a body of legislation was created to give women legal recourse against harassment that threatened either our physical safety or our upward career path.  Not that these legal remedies are always effective…but they do exist.  And they did NOT exist fifty years ago.  Those of us who blazed the trail for today’s young women put up with a LOT of crap.  If we hadn’t, if we had allowed ourselves to be intimidated and dissuaded from our goals by a male-dominated culture that was going to do everything possible to maintain the power of the status quo, women would still be the sweet, silent sexual slaves chained to home and hearth that they were expected to be in the 1950’s.

That said, NOW is not the time to try to turn back the clock thirty or forty years—or even a decade—and attempt to apply the gratuitous outrage that has grown up around the subject in recent months to the time a guy grabbed your ass when you were 25.  Like everything else in our thin-skinned 21st-century American culture, the “crime” of harassment has been blown out of proportion, and the inconsistently applied “punishment” is not only completely arbitrary, but motivated by...anything BUT actual justice.  Conservatives rush to defend a senate candidate reputed to have indulged in sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old, while liberals allow men like Al Franken to roast over a spit of hypocritical right-wing outrage, because the left has to appear to adhere to higher values.  It’s a mess…and it’s just getting worse and worse.  Today, Matt Lauer’s and Garrison Keillor’s heads rolled from the sexual misconduct guillotine.  All very suddenly and, as far as I can tell, without giving Keillor at least the benefit of even a smigeon of doubt. (I've since dug up more about the Lauer allegations, and it appears that he really WAS a serial douchebag.  But the man was on the job at "Today" for over 20 years, and up until the past month, his behavior was tolerated with a "nod, nod, wink, wink" by those involved with the show.  What does this say?  That for nineteen years your bad behavior was tolerable, but thirty days ago it suddenly became a terminatable offense?  Again...what the fuck?)  

And, I’m sorry…I think it’s insane that sexual misconduct allegations have become so popular that women are coming out of the woodwork to report incidents from years ago.  In my humble opinion, you made a decision about whether to report or ignore an incident when it happened.  Waiting until now to gasp and point your finger in outrage about something that happened three or ten or twenty-five years ago doesn’t make you brave.  It makes you an opportunist. 

Yes…now the time may be ripe.  Our American culture of hypersensitivity has risen to such psychotic levels that virtually ANY allegation against a man who might be politically vulnerable will be not only heard, but hyperbolized  beyond any reasonable proportion.  There might even be financial reward involved in sharing unsavory details about the past of a media personality.  It’s much easier—and possibly more lucrative—to cry “Foul!” now.  When it would have taken real courage to make it an issue—at the time when the incident occurred—you chose to remain silent.  And don’t tell me that you were too frightened or too intimidated or too shocked to do anything at the time.  Bullshit.  You made your choice, for reasons that were obviously valid to you when the incident occurred.  Believe in yourself and your personal autonomy enough to let your decision stand and put it behind you, where it belongs.                 

No, I don’t believe that men should be allowed to objectify women, or touch them inappropriately, or demand sexual favors in exchange for career advancement, or engage in any of the myriad of ugly behaviors toward their female co-workers that they have been getting away with for decades.  But if we let them get away with it ten years ago, five years ago, or even last week, it’s OUR FAULT that the behavior still exists.  Now is not the time to get vindictive about past incidents.  You can’t change them…they are history. 

Now IS the time to draw the line in the sand.  To say, “No more.”  To put men we encounter in the workplace on notice that unacceptable behavior will be reported, and timely discipline will be demanded.

Can we do that?  Or are we going to allow ourselves to retreat into that “I don’t want to make waves” mindset that got us in this mess to begin with?

Come on, ladies.  Grow up.  Grow a set.  Shrug off the past and go forward with strength and resolve.

We can do this. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Dan Gets It Right

I've always thought of Dan Rather as a bit of a holier-than-thou blowhard.  But he has been through the right-wing wringer and lived to fight another day. And he still has a way of succinctly coming to the point, when it comes to the perils of our age.  This is from his Thanksgiving Facebook post:

"I am at an age where I never know how many more moments like this lie ahead, but the truth is none of us really do. And that is why we all must carve out time for peace and reflection. I say all of this acknowledging what a luxury peace is and recognizing that ...we have thousands of men and women serving in difficult and dangerous military and diplomatic missions overseas and for them and their families, there is no peace. And I reflect on the millions of my fellow Americans who are suffering in the aftermath of hurricanes and wildfires. For them, there is no peace. And of course there are the millions of personal tragedies, accidents, illnesses, and cruelties that are part of the human condition.

"We all must suffer through those, and that is why the added burden of the gratuitous and unnecessary chaos we see from our national leadership is so galling and damaging."

Nailed it.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving?

This has been a tough year.  I STILL can't believe the state of our federal government...indeed, the state of our nation in general.  Whenever I see or hear evidence that Donald Trump is in fact the President of the United States, my mind just...short circuits.  I can NOT deal with it on any level. 

Nor can I deal with the way Republicans have embraced this utter fool as leader of their party and the free world.  They have absolutely no shame.  And no love at all for this country and the people who inhabit it...we who at one time actually believed that our government representatives worked for US. How callow and naïve we were! 

When you stop and think about it, though, how big of a leap was it from a Congress that took upon its shoulders as its sacred duty the mission to make the previous president fail--to the point where it brazenly denied him the honor (bestowed upon him by the Constitution) to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that occurred during his term-- to a Congress that would accept with open arms a childish deranged sociopath as its ideological leader...because he won with their number on his back?    Party is everything.  Power is everything.  And those with the financial means to keep that power where it "belongs" are everything.  The rest of us are just...collateral damage.   

So, sad to is what I think Thanksgiving, at least on the political level, is all about this year:

Kind of spoils one's appetite, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

From a Distance

From a distance the world looks blue and green,
And the snow-capped mountains white.
From a distance the ocean meets the stream,
And the eagle takes to flight.

From a distance, there is harmony,
And it echoes through the land.
It's the voice of hope, it's the voice of peace,
It's the voice of every man.

From a distance we all have enough,
And no one is in need.
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease,
No hungry mouths to feed.

From a distance we are instruments
Marching in a common band.
Playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.
They're the songs of every man.
God is watching us. God is watching us.
God is watching us from a distance.

From a distance you look like my friend,
Even though we are at war.
From a distance I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting is for.

From a distance there is harmony,
And it echoes through the land.
And it's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves,
It's the heart of every man.

It's the hope of hopes, it's the love of loves.
This is the song of every man.
And God is watching us, God is watching us,
God is watching us from a distance.
Oh, God is watching us, God is watching us,

God is watching us from a distance.
Song by Julie Gold  Recorded  by Bette Midler

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Go Ahead...Lose It

More wisdom from Purple Clover:

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Bus, the Wind, and Teachable Moments

My commitment to ten posts per month has kind of taken it in the shorts since about mid-year, hasn’t it?  Well, at least I haven’t let entire months go by without a peep.  I may have failed at resolution, but I haven’t completely failed at blog.  Yet.
Since I think of my blog as a journal, and not JUST a place to blow off political steam, I feel compelled to record  some life events worth noting.  Specifically, events of this month... of which the 13th fell upon a Friday.  And a properly petrifying Friday the 13th it was!
October has had its... highlights, for lack of a better word.  After shelling out something to the tune of almost $4k in repair bill to get it running, we finally brought our “cheap” bus home…that wonderful thing that was going to be the foundation of our “food truck,”  forever ending our days of doing business from under a flimsy, blowy 10 x 10 ft canvas canopy.  But after blowing $4k on repairs, the husband had to abandon his first trip abroad in it, because neither he headlights nor the windshield wipers were reliably functional.    
I was not happy.  The bus was ugly, it stank, and it had all the earmarks of a total money pit.  Oddly enough, though we have actually had a pretty decent sales year with our little business, this time of the year is when all those crappy bills that you forgot about start to come in:  Licensing and insurance and taxes and even fees for next year’s events.  I was feeling so broke, even with the money from our best Scandinavian Festival ever in my hot little hand, that I told the husband I was NOT flushing any more money down that toilet of a bus.  Let’s admit we bit off more than we could chew, cut our losses and list it on Craigslist.  Just get it out of my face.
October is also the month of the Hood River Harvest Fest.  I knew when I signed up for the thing that weather might be a factor.  In the past, we had done this event with “Big Red” the class IV concession trailer, which we no longer own—we sold it when we realized our dream of a brick and mortar restaurant.  (Some things are such royal mistakes that you don’t even like to think about them!!!)  We have been reduced since then to doing events with that aforementioned 10 x 10 canopy, which for most any event we do in summer is perfectly adequate.
But keep in mind that Hood River is on the Columbia Gorge…famous for winds that make it the windsurfing capitol of the country.  And Hood River in October can be anything from pouring rain to sunshine to wind to frost…or even snow.  I crossed my fingers and sent out the application anyway, not TOO intimidated by the thought of a little wind…after all, we do markets on the coast where it is always windy.  We have the proper weights in place to keep ourselves from blowing away!
And there was nothing wrong with hedging one’s bets a little…  Once upon a time, a friend encouraged me to boldly present my requests to the Universe.  So for two weeks prior to our trip east, every day during my morning salutations, I boldly asked the Universe to bless our time in Hood River with good weather and prosperous sales.   
I was also clicking on my “Weather Channel” weather app every five minutes for most of that same two weeks. At first, things weren’t looking too good.  But, wonder of wonders, gradually rain left the forecast and sun and bright weather moved in.  There would be the off chance of showers on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be beautiful.
And so they were…Saturday and Sunday we had some of the most gorgeous weather I have ever experienced in Hood River.  Bright sun, little wind, not too warm, not too cool.  Almost perfect.  And we were rewarded with pretty great sales numbers for those two days. 

But Friday.  Friday! 
Things were going along okay for awhile.  The sun came and went behind skittish clouds.  Being Friday afternoon, the crowd was a little sparse, but we had decent sales, all things considered.  Then around mid-afternoon an ominously black cloud appeared in the Northwest.  I mean, really black.  I watched that thing like a hawk, and was grateful when it appeared to pass north of us. 
Until it stopped.  And turned.  And came back.
I'm not an expert in climatology, but I'm pretty sure that storm clouds don't actually behave in that manner.  In reality, I believe it was a fast-growing thunderhead...though it WAS moving, it appeared not to be moving because it was continuing to our direction.  All I can say for sure is that it stalled over us until its backwash was right on top of us.  And it is a fact that the worst winds of a storm trail behind the cloud. 
That son-of-a-bitch sat there and blew on us seemed like an hour, but it was at least 20 minutes.  It immediately became obvious that our milk crates full of 30# weights were not going to hold against the gale.  My sister, my brother-in-law and I each grabbed a corner post of the canopy and held on for dear life.  Occupied as I was by trying to keep myself and my stuff from blowing away, I didn't get any pictures of THAT weather phenomenon.  But this is what it felt like.
It was the scariest thing I have EVER encountered in the fifteen years we've been doing outdoor events.  And I...I could see my whole livelihood riding the wind into oblivion.  My work table lifted and slammed down on its side, sending a cooler full of ice and salads sliding across the black top. I hung on and leaned harder into the wind, trying desperately to keep my $2k convection oven from suffering the same fate.  Tears streamed down my face; I glared at that fucking cloud--I would have shaken my fist at it if I could have let go of the pole...and I screamed, over and over: "Go away!  Go away, goddammit!  GO AWAY!!!"
Good thing people were too busy trying to keep themselves tethered to the ground to hear me screaming at the wind.  Except my sister.  She thought I had lost it.  And I had.
Eventually, the wind calmed some...enough, at least, for us to be able to let go of the poles and start the hysterical business of tying the canopy to trees, our trailer and anything else nearby that we thought had a chance of remaining earthbound in a gale. Though the forecast insisted there would be no more storms, it is said that only fools and foreigners try to predict Oregon weather.  I would have been up all night worrying if we had not taken every possible precaution against the wind.
We headed back to our rented digs that evening, exhausted, sore and completely freaked out. 
The weather did indeed turn lovely, and on Saturday and Sunday we got the conditions and the sales for which I had boldly asked the Universe.
But at what a cost! 
I kept turning over and over in my mind, the manner in which the Universe had granted my request.  Why make me go through that horrendous experience on Friday, and then bestow all I had asked and more for the rest of the weekend?
I have never believed that Friday the 13th is unlucky.  In fact, I've had some pretty decent luck on those days in the past.  And I don't believe in punishment emanating from the Creator, so I couldn't swallow that the hand of a wrathful god had reached down to smite me for some past misdeed.  However, I do believe that the Universe provides "teachable moments."  But surely the Creator's aim in all this was NOT to teach me that Friday the 13th was indeed a day best spent hiding under a bed.
On further contemplation, the thing that came into my mind was a little voice saying very clearly, "You need to think twice about getting rid of that bus, now, don't you."
So I have chosen to include in my morning salutations, thanksgiving for the weather and success I had asked for; along with a bold request that the Universe guide us as to how best to make use of the stinky, ugly, spendy vehicle which, apparently, it has directed us to hang on to.