Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ovenbird vs. Governmental Regulations

A man I know--well, I have read many of his posts, but have never met him otherwise--made an observation about the oven bird pictures that I sent him that showed the process involved with its nest building techniques. His reply and observations just tickled me pea green, so I thought I would share. Now to give background, the oven bird builds its nest with a series of teeny tiny beaks full of mud stuck to a flat surface somewhere away from the ground in a normally inaccessible place. But that type of structure would NEVER be beyond government intervention in Keith's mind:

Interesting pictures. I was curious and looked up the bird. Took a little effort in Google to confirm my first impression. It’s an Ovenbird, more precisely a Red Ovenbird. They get their name from the mud nests they build that look like small mud ovens. I found another picture of a similar nest in a tree. Not sure what the greatest skill involved is. I don’t know of many carpenters who work with mud. It certainly is a feat of engineering. It got me to thinking.

If we would build a similar home for ourselves we’d first have to submit the idea to the engineering department. They would propose multiple designs and subject them to thorough testing over a three year period. Other engineers would experiment with several varieties and consistencies of mud and do more tests. Chemists would look in to making synthetic mud in case the demand for mud houses resulted in mud shortages. Prototypes would be built and cost estimates determined. The marketing department would develop a strategy to bring the design to the public and convince them they really need this. Finally blueprints would be submitted to appropriate government agencies for approval who would reject the plans because the house has only one point of egress.

There would be a host of social and political issues to deal with. Residential window and door manufacturers would oppose them since houses with only one door and no windows would pretty much eliminate most of them. The carpentry and woodworking unions would protest that this is a Republican conspiracy to take work away from them. Home Depot and Lowes would lay off thousands of employees and shut down their indoor lumberyards as demand for two-by-fours and plywood dried up. Environmentalists would be pleased with a reduction of logging but worried about strip mining mud for all new houses. A super PAC would be formed to support only politicians who subscribed to their motto, “Mud houses are for the birds.”

Well, I didn’t say it got me to thinking very clearly.

Keith [Mattson]

Friday, July 27, 2012

Eye Wash On Demand

Well, this has been a week of eye wash on demand, especially if one considers tears that fall involuntarily a simple eye wash. The 'on-demand' part just means that thinking about Fang caused my eyes to blur with tears. And what really seems strange is the happy parts that still made me cry. A visit to Betty J. had us both in tears when we talked about our husbands. Then a message on the answering machine caused so much distress that tears were right on the surface for the rest of the day and into the evening. By the time dinner was served by the hosts of Under Angels Wings, several of us had cried together again. Yet we were able to find a good laugh when told the story of a friend who had stepped on her boob---after surgery for breast cancer, she had one of those bras with inserts that looked like boobs. She dropped one on the floor and accidentally stepped on it. Then she went in and told her husband that she had had a terrible accident. All concerned, he asked whatever had she done to hurt herself. "Oh," she said, "I didn't hurt myself; I just stepped on one of my boobs."

When we finished laughing at that story, we had a wonderful potluck dinner and visited for a couple of hours. Each of us comes from totally different backgrounds, but we all have some traumatic loss in our lives--husbands, children, parents, siblings--even a divorce. No matter what the cause, we needed the reassurance of like-minded friends to help us through this part of our lives. It doesn't help for anyone to tell us that time will heal, we will get over it, or that we should 'get on' with our lives. We are irreparably scarred by this experience. And we hurt. However, it helps to know that others have been where we are and were able to get their minds back to some semblance of normal. The immediate two or three weeks after Fang's death are a fog in the back of my mind by now. Our daughter reminded me of something that happened shortly after his death, and it simply was not 'there' for me. It undoubtedly happened, but my memory just did not record it.

Today should have been a fairly decent day. A friend whose husband died last December came by and picked me up for a run around town to several of her errand sites. We talked almost non-stop going from one place to the other. Then we had breakfast at a place we both know and enjoy--Pioneer of Texas on Maplewood Avenue. Again, the waitress knows us and was so sweet. The food was good, and the chatter was simply special with several good laughs. Then when I opened the front door of my house, a special UPS delivery (next day air) was in between the inner and outer door. That was a relief! Now I don't have to deal with Ameritrade or any of their financial brokers ever again. When the check clears, I can leave an account open for the estate affairs and go on with whatever I need to do without someone trying to tell me that I am not handling money wisely. Plus, the lady at the bank was able to tell me how to invest the funds for the most interest without any fees attached or any risk involved. Whew! It is simple; but I would never have known that without having gone through this other mess with a financial broker. I think the word broker is pretty well descriptive. 'Nuff said, I suppose.

The neighbor down the hill came this evening and put extra screws in the car shed roof and in its legs to better anchor the thing against the constant wind we have on this hill. When it was built, the men used the least amount of screws necessary. Their technique might have been fine and dandy in a state that has no wind, but in this part of Texas, we have wind when we don't have anything else. Anyway, he and I talked about the old dog he loved for 14 years that died last night. I had already heard from his wife about Max, and we had both shed some more tears together. Dang! No one knows how important love is to a person until that love has to be put away. Our old cat has been slowing down a bit more every day, and I just dread the day that he curls up somewhere and gives it up. He is over 12 years old now and skinny beyond belief despite foods that should be putting weight on him. But he still purrs and sheds hair all over me when he rubs up under my chin and paws my arms. He has no kitten left in him, but he is as loving as he ever was.

I guess I don't have any 'kitten' in me either at this point in my life. Kitten, kid, or filly...whatever that youthful little spark is that keeps a gleam in our just isn't there at the moment. Who knows, maybe someday it might light up inside again. But right now it's still eye-wash time and more solemnity than the proverbial judge. Eventually that will have to change if possible, but it may take a real effort to find joy in the little things of life. Ah well, fall might bring some rains and that HAS to be a better portion for everyone in this part of the world.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Provocation and Protection

Yesterday I took one of those CHL classes so that it would be legal for me to carry my revolver in my purse or truck whenever I travel here in Texas. I learned a few things about the laws of Texas that I had never known before. And, come to think of it, I learned a few things about the reasons that our country came to respect the rights of its citizens to “bear arms.”

Everyone has heard the arguments about disarmament and keeping guns out of the hands of irresponsible folks. One of the first things our instructor told us about those ideas was to make a comparison of automobiles to guns—they are both tools. We can’t outlaw F150s because so many die in pickup truck accidents, and by the same token, we can’t outlaw guns because there are idiots out there using them against others. Knives, baseball bats, tire irons, or any other handy hammer would be as easily utilized up close and personal. And my guess is that one of those big Humvees would be just as deadly as anyone’s .45 revolver.

When our instructor compared our abilities to protect ourselves against much larger and stronger opponents, it made sense to the women in the room that we would not stand a chance with a baseball bat or pepper spray against a man three times our size and strength. The man could easily take the bat away from us, and the pepper spray might not have any effect unless it actually hit the person in the eyes. Then too, one man who had been an MP said that someone hopped up on certain drugs often would be unaffected by the pain element from pepper spray because of the overriding effects of the drugs.

Two incidents—go ahead and call them tragedies—were discussed yesterday. One part of the discussion covered provocation of violence in regard to the confrontation and death in Florida of a teenager. Everyone has heard about it by now because of the extreme media coverage. Again, the long and short of the situation came down to bad decisions by both parties. But beyond the ‘who did what to whom’ part of the story, too many people see the right to carry a concealed weapon as the culprit or determining factor in the mix. The fact is that if the man carrying the gun had not used it, he would not be around to be standing trial. It brings back the old saw, “Better tried by twelve than carried by six.”

The second situation is the horror of slaughter at a movie theater among innocent people who never had a chance to either defend themselves or–in the case of a three-year-old child—never had the chance to really live. I seriously doubt that anyone in that theater was armed except for the insane man who murdered those people. But, if anyone had been more alert—and had been armed—it is just possible that the number of dead and wounded would have been greatly reduced. In Texas, it is not unreasonable to assume that as many as four out of ten men would be armed in almost any setting—theater, city park, or anywhere that handguns are not prohibited by law. And lately, it is not a stretch of the imagination to think that one of every ten women in Texas is also armed. At least, I know two that will shortly have their guns tucked safely away in a holster in their purses.

One of the reasons that Japan chose not to bring the war in the Pacific to the actual shores of America was the fact that they knew our nation was armed to the teeth. Every farmer, every rancher, and many businessmen were armed with either handguns or sports rifles. And all of them knew how to use them quite effectively. That was true all over this nation at that time. And the ownership of guns has increased in most states since World War II. More folks are members of the NRA now than of AAA.

Recently a treaty or firearm regulation agreement was supposed to have been discussed at the UN, but like so many other ideas, a few folks took off with the idea that our president was trying to totally disarm Americans. The Supreme Court had this to say: District of Columbia v. Heller, 26 June 2008: (T)he enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.

The treaty that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the administration seeks is one that has “legally binding standards for the international transfer of conventional weapons." Furthermore, the language of the discussion included this: that a provision in the resolution’s preamble – included at the request of the U.S. – explicitly recognizes the right of nations to regulate gun sales and ownership within their borders, including through their constitutions:
UN General Assembly Resolution A/C.1/64/L.38/Rev.1, Oct. 28: Acknowledging also the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory… is one of the best places to dispel rumors and other stupidities that circulate about political or economic absurdities. Americans are pretty easily convinced of conspiracies and other hoaxes, unfortunately. But on the other hand, they are also one of the most stubborn and defensive in the world. Somehow one might have to really stretch the imagination to even think that America would be as easily disarmed as France or England or any of the other European nations were before World War II.
According to an article in Time magazine: “Though it may pale in comparison to America's 88.8 registered weapons per hundred people, the rate of gun ownership in Europe is higher than one might imagine. In Switzerland there are 45.7 guns per hundred people; in Finland, 45.3; France's 31.2 is a little higher than Germany's 30.3. The U.K., which banned most gun ownership after two massacres, has a rate of 6.2 registered guns per 100 people.
And in another publication: Although Norway has far and away the highest firearm ownership per capita in Western Europe, it nevertheless has the lowest murder rate. Other nations with high firearms ownership and comparably low murder rates include Denmark, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Holland has a 50 percent higher murder rate despite having the lowest rate of firearm ownership in Europe. And Luxembourg, despite its total handgun ban, has a murder rate that is nine times higher than countries such as Norway and Austria.
According to an article in GOA [Gun Owners of America] of 2008:
Nor does the "more guns means more murder" belief square with our own experience. The earliest American figures, dating from just after World War II, showed both gun ownership and murder rates holding at low levels. Today our murder rates are almost identical, despite six decades of massive gun buying whereby Americans have come to own five times more guns than they did in 1946. The intervening years saw a dramatic increase in murder followed by a dramatic decrease. These trends had no relationship to gun ownership, which steadily rose all the while (especially handgun ownership).

Finally, if common sense makes any difference in life at all, we should all know better than to purposely provoke someone. But we should also be aware that we need to be able to protect ourselves and our families from the insanity that seems to run rampant in today’s society. In a few years I will be too old to handle a gun effectively. At least, I cannot imagine being able to hold a steady aim. By then maybe I will get an old-fashioned scatter gun to keep by the bedside table and a big dog to growl at anyone silly enough to bother me. Until then, I will carry a gun with me for those situations that just may arise, and I will continue to appreciate the men and women who have taken this class in order to protect themselves and others around them.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

By the Dawn's Early Light

Unlike what we have had today, the bombs are now bursting in air around here. Today only firecrackers were banging and cracking, but tonight the rockets are really glaring on the water of the lake and sizzling through the neighborhood. Because any blade of grass that is still standing is as dry as tinder, it will be a miracle if the houses make it through the night without being burned to ashes! Wichita Falls is under strict water rationing because of this extended drought. The city has even decreased the water pressure to conserve water since our lakes are at less than 50% capacity. And Lake Wichita where our house is located has golden algae so that the fish are dying without the oxygen they need to survive in this heat. But folks can still buy and blow up anything they can light a match to at this point. Yes, it is the Fourth of July, but for the critters and for a few folks like me who don't trust others with dynamite, we look forward to seeing the dawn's early light!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Following Hope

When things are looking mighty bleak or just plain sad, it helps to look ahead or otherwise find new horizons.   A friend of mine is dealing with some rather large changes in her life and one of our children finds himself wanting to look ahead to a less constricted and limited lifestyle. In my way of thinking, a type of hope can be found in travel or in looking for other places to live--whether in imagination or in reality. So, I have invited my  friend to visit Texas and look over some of the scenery. Now I can't give the child a different outlook as easily other than to tell him that the place he is dreaming about DOES exist, even if we don't own a piece of it. We at least know some folks who live there and maybe they will invite him out to visit.

One of the things I have learned about lately is the reason for bus loads of old folks--widows, widowers, and older couples who don't do much driving--to be found on the highways and byways. It is the simple need to get away from the same four walls for a bit for a change of perspective, attitude adjustment, or just plain fun and companionship. We get pretty dadgummed stale sitting here day after day on our tails. If you don't believe me, just ask any activity director in any nursing home or senior retirement center. Folks need a change of pace from time to time. The same can be said of folks who work day after day at any job. Vacations simply are not enough time to really help a working man take a breather--even if he has two weeks and plenty of cash to spend. Old folks don't take vacations. One day is about like another in their lives. Whoopty big doo...Pretty hard to look forward to the weekend when it looks the same as Monday or Wednesday except for lack of mail.

Back when my parents were going through this period of life, they told me about all the farms they "owned" at different places in Texas and about all the chickens and cows that they were raising. I understood that they  were dreaming about being in different circumstances without the work and other hardships that go along with living in the country. Then many days during the hot summer or the coldest frozen winters, Dad would say how happy he was that he did not have to take care of any animals or cut ice on the tanks for them to have water. Reality is not nearly as much fun as our day dreams. But day dreams are an essential part of our lives, in my opinion. The dream of visiting Normandy and Whithorn in Scotland are two of my latest dreams. And then, if it is possible, I want our daughter to get to go with me to see the Louvre in France. Two women turned loose in France to see the sights! We should have a ball!

One of these days the world may fall down and gasp to have peace and prosperity for all its inhabitants. That will probably be the day that Christ Himself will walk this earth again. Until then, we can only follow the hope that we can imagine for ourselves. Anything as big as peace just seems more than unrealistic!

The Day Will Come

The Day Will Come

I knew—I knew the day would come
That you would leave me here alone
I knew—but I didn’t think
About the pain, the deep hurt
I would feel every day
At every turn

You left me with memories—good ones
And I realized at the time we lived
Together we made good loving
Good memories, good for us
Good for the grands
Even good for those who knew us

The waitresses come and hug my neck
The woman at McDs smiles twice—she knows
Even Mother remembers and talks of you
And Dad asks if all the machinery works well
Not that he could fix it—but he asks in your place
For you—he misses you, too

The house is quiet, too quiet—no squeaks
No footsteps down the hall
I only sit in your chair once in a while
But the cat and the dog still need
To be touched, reassured
They still need to be loved—like me

The day will come—I know it
My tears won’t happen as often
Or as unexpectedly—but the memories
I don’t want them to stop—ever
I still love you—always will