Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Setting Limits

In the news this week – an abundance of tolerance.

I’m proud to be an American raised to recognize that America is a melting pot and to accept the differences in folks that brings.

I know we don’t always get it right, but the idea is out there. I say, good for us.

This week the English Heritage Foundation opened the new visitor center at Stonehenge. They built a museum. Took out a road. Made quite an effort to return the site closer to its original incarnation.

This includes, within the museum, an exhibit of Neolithic remains found at the site.

A group of British druids took exception to this exhibit, demanding a proper reburial for the Neolithic Brit.

The modern druids are led by a man called King Arthur Pendragon*, Battle Chieftain of the Council of British Druid Orders and Titular Head and Chosen Chief of the Loyal Arthurian Warband Druid order. In other words, a loon. They staged a protest and threaten to disrupt the site all next year.

What amazed me was the calm tenor of the English Heritage response. “English Heritage Commissioners considered Mr. Arthur Pendragon's request to use replicas very carefully in September 2013 but decided that the original plan should go ahead.”

Okay. It is well-known the druids did not build Stonehenge. Whether they worshipped there is unproven and improbable. They may have passed through in a fashion similar to the way a million plus tourists do today.

But label any lunacy RELIGON and it’s hands-off. Let’s not be intolerant. God forbid.

My usual religious tolerance stance is this – I don’t care what you believe as long as you don’t try to force it on me. If you want to worship little blue fishes and pray at the foot of a lodge pole pine, have at it. Just keep it to yourself.

I’m rethinking that.

Maybe there should be a limit to tolerance.

Maybe, a better response from the English Heritage Foundation to the self-named druid king would have been – Look, you lunatic. Piss up a rope.

Seriously, the guy’s crest is a griffon with an erection. I say that pretty much proves he’s a dick.

Back in America, a reality television star made news by getting removed from his show for spouting racist and homophobic rhetoric.

I’m not providing a link to this fool, but you can’t Google “water fowl” without hitting the story.

And now, there is a campaign across social media to protect this racist, bigoted idiot’s** freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech, one of the foundations of this great country of ours.

Maybe it is about time that we called bullshit on this one.

Maybe spouting hate speech isn’t protected free expression.

Maybe we should call it what it is and not support its purveyors.

Maybe we should not tolerate intolerance.

Or ignorance. Or bigotry. No matter how delivered or labeled.

*His real name’s is John.

**The reason most sited is because he’s a “good Christian.” Really, good Christians, is this who you want as a poster boy?

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Hi, how are you?

I'm fine.

How are you?

I'm fine.

Keep moving. Don't stop. 
I know we are just being polite.

Connecting in a way of non connection. 
Treading the path of least resistance, together.

Hi, how are you?

I'm fine.

How are you?

I'm fine.

I don't want to hear about 
your divorce, 
how you beat cancer, 
or your teenager with a drug problem.

And, be honest, 
don't want to hear about mine.

So, why oh why, do we ask?

Hi, how are you?

I'm fine.

How are you?

I'm fine.

When we really mean . . .

Greetings fellow traveler, 
in this lovely day the Universe has delivered, 
I'm doing the best I can with what I have, 
and I hope the same is true for you.

Hi, how are you?

I'm fine.

How are you?

I'm fine.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Picture's Worth 1,000 Words

Or maybe, just one.




Monday, October 07, 2013

Suzie Bootlegger

The hooch is coming along fine.

I actually didn't think anything was going to happen so am pleasantly surprised.

Six more months to wait.

Since I became a bootlegger, I decided to cast my net wider and what would be better than lime-infused rum for summer mojitos?

I can't think of a thing. So I giving that a try too.

Yes, I realize I'm pouring perfectly good rum into quart jars, but just wait until next summer.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013


My journey from regular person to wired geek began when I was stranded at the Schipool Airport in Amsterdam.

In 2010, a volcano in Iceland with the impossible name, Eyjafjallajökull, disrupted air travel in Europe in an ever-widening arc from April 15 intermittently until May 17th.

In a traveler’s Catch 22, approximately 3,000 souls were stranded in Schipool unable to leave the secure area without a boarding pass to return. No boarding passes available, as flight after flight was canceled.

The number of disgruntled tourists quickly overwhelmed KLM customer service and soon blonde pony-tailed airline representatives were advising the stranded to go online and rebook themselves.

Go online.

I didn’t have a computer with me. I sit in front of one so much at home, there was no way I’d lug one around on vacation. I’d left the laptop at home on purpose. Silly me.

Airport officials opened the internet café to free service. Every teenager among the 3,000 immediately sat down to update their Facebook page. When I finally got a turn, at least I was familiar with the internet. Not everyone was. I helped a woman in tears navigate a bus booking site. She had never interfaced with anything or anyone online. Welcome to the New World, Mrs. Unfortunately being net savvy didn’t help with European websites refusing to accept US credit cards. When my new friend left to board the bus, all I could do was wave, bye.

We finally abandoned the airport and flung ourselves into Amsterdam which, it turns out, is not such a bad place to find oneself stranded.

Once I got home from my extended European vacation, I looked for a handheld something or other capable of accessing the Net without weighing me down like a laptop. Did such a thing exist? That’s how naïve and unwired I was.

I didn’t want a whiz-bang phone. I don’t get that many calls. Neither do I make them. I like to be out of contact sometimes. Really, why is everyone on the phone all the time now?

I found an Apple product called the iTouch which looks like an iPhone without the phone part. It’s just a little handheld computer. Takes pictures. Stores pictures. Goes online. Keeps a calendar and address book. Fits in a pocket. I love that thing. I’ve been through three now. Last upgrade was for the better camera and slimmer build.

But it’s a slippery slope. The iTouch led to – what else – an iPad – which, I actually didn’t want and had no use for until I did and did. It was fun. It was cool. Displayed my photography portfolio like I was in a sci-fi movie. Carried that thing on vacation to back up vacation pictures. It didn’t fit anywhere and seemed always at risk, but it was lighter than a laptop.

Which led to the iPad mini. Oh baby, this little bitch is sweet. (Okay, I may have been watching too much Breaking Bad.)

The mini is a perfect size. Does the same stuff as the bigger version and you can pretend you’re on Star Trek.

The problem with the mini, as with the regular size iPad, is that it is almost a computer which causes it to almost drive me around the bend pretty regularly. Apple engineers don’t seem to have as much imagination as their customers. There are plenty of annoyed iPad users ranting about what if and why not online.

And I can access every rant, even if I’m at Schipool, Amesbury, Dublin or home.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Are you comforted or alarmed when googling a problem and find a million other souls are having the exact same problem?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tripping at Mickey D's

I had a FALLING DOWN moment at McDonalds today.

FALLING DOWN is the 1993 Michael Douglas film about a laid-off tech worker who, frustrated by his life, goes on an armed rampage across LA. Called DEFENS from his personalized license plate, he’s tracked across the city by Robert Duvall’s character to a one on one confrontation at the Santa Monica pier.

In one significant scene, DEFENS stops at the local Whammy Burger and orders breakfast. Alas, it’s three minutes past breakfast time. He must order lunch.

He doesn’t want lunch. He wants breakfast.

His pleas about the customer always being right and three minutes, c’mon, fall on deaf ears until he pulls out a stolen TEC 9 and puts a few rounds in the ceiling.


This morning after some shopping I felt the need for comfort food. I pulled into the drive through at McDonalds. It was three minutes to 11.

Ordered a Big Mac.

I’m sorry, a disembodied voice said over the speaker. I can’t take a lunch order until 11. I know it’s silly, but you can’t have lunch for three minutes. 

I’m trapped in the drive through. What am I supposed to do?

Can you back out?

There are two cars behind me and three in front of me. I’m trapped in the drive through and unarmed.

You’ll just have to pull through.

By the time I reach the window, I say, it will be 11. Can I order at the window?

Radio silence.

Or I could just sit here for three minutes. I think but don't say.

I’m going to say yes. I’m at the first window.

Well now. Not Independence Day but a little common sense coping is almost as big a surprise.

When I reached the first window, it was 11:02.

The young lady within seemed harried, taking orders through two speakers and one window. She apologized for making me wait. I told her, no problem, and that I appreciated her accommodating me.

In Dublin, we got in trouble at the Guinness brewery for not following the designated tour order, skipping one floor then wandering back to see what we missed. The young lady there was astonished at us but adamant we needed to move along. Mostly because she couldn’t drop the con that we had paid $46 for a free beer.

It was almost enough to put me off the black stuff.


Back in America, Guinness is $4 and a person can be surprised by kindness and creative thinking in unexpected places.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Susie Homemaker

The kiddo came home from a hike with a hat-full of chokecherries and I was hit with a nostalgic homemaking wave.

I always thought they were named chokecherries because if you ate one, you'd choke. But, bears love them. Why should the bears have all the fun?

I decided to make syrup.

I ended up with four cups of juice and as many recipes.

I didn't know magenta appeared in nature.

And now I have chokecherry syrup. Three jars fresh - into the refrigerator. Four jars canned.

It tastes like black cherry with a slight tart finish. Very nice.

I'm also making an alcohol beverage I'm calling HOOCH because it sounds more native and less yuppified than fruit-infused liquor.

Two jars processing in the back of the fridge.

We'll have to check back in six months to see how that project turns out.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


We have out-of-town company so we took in one of the tourist sites -- what we call the Montana Boat Ride.

A tourist from Alabama struck up a conversation after eavesdropping on us telling our company about the houses across the river (American Bar) the forest fire remains (Meriwether.)

Alabama asked us did we live around here?

Yes. Across the way, down a long road.

Alabama sidled up to Dearest and said, "Do you folks have electricity at your house?"


By a power line that comes to the house?

Yes.   No, by magic -- was what I thought but didn't say.

Alabama wanted to know because his cell phone didn't work here.

Then Mrs. Alabama made her husband return to his seat and "stop bothering those folks."

Since Dearest and I hold the world record for the most frequently lost, bumfuzzled and pathetic tourists in multiple countries, we are always kind to tourists visiting our area.

No matter how tempting the comic possibilities.

Return With Me Now

A few years ago, I produced a grant-funded photography exhibition called After the Burn: The Meriwether Fire. Available here as a slide show. The Devil's Backyard.

This weekend we had occasion to revisit part of the route I took when I was making the photographs.

Here's the area seven years after the fire.

Still looks more like a parking lot than a healthy forest.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Scene of the Crime

We went back to the one of the sights of the arson from earlier this fire season.

Standing in the burn, looking at the surrounding wooded mountains brought it home how much was at risk that day.

One nice thing we saw, that first line we put in, held.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Greenhouse 2013

In spite of a late start, the Three Bears Greenhouse is perking right along.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Culture Shock

At home nearly every commercial transaction ends with the clerk wishing the customer, "Have a nice day."

I admit, I've occasionally walked away from that admonishion grumbling --leave me alone-- under my breath. I've learned, however, I much prefer that to the --give me your money and get out of my face -- attitude of the Irish.

We met a woman from County Kildare who taught in Alaska her whole career, so I asked her, she being used to Americans, why the Irish seemed so rude.

She told me, in polite teacherly tones, it was a cultural difference I wasn't recognizing -- they're just blunt, or the rude person was an emigrant, not really Irish.

Now, the man who yelled at us this morning when we asked what time the shop opened, looked like he emigrated the last time the Vikings raided the coast, so I decided it was about time someone forced some common manners on the feckin' Irish.

I decided to greet everyone we met on the walk back from breakfast. "GOOD MORNING!" I said.

I startled the crap out of quite a few. Caused one man to tip his hat. 

When the bartender growled, "What'll ya have?" this afternoon, I said, "Hi, how you doing?"

"Fine, yourself?" He says.

"I'm good. Lovely weather you're having." I say.

"It won't last." Says he.

It will be an up hill battle, I can tell. Fortunately for international relations, I'm departing the island tomorrow.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Long Time Ago, In A Place Far, Far Away

I suppose anyone doing genealogical research will discover, if they search far enough into the dark annals of history, that they are related to a religious fanatic who slaughtered hundreds of his neighbors.


Oh, it sounded romantic at first. 8th Chief of the Clan -- who if you piss us off we will smite you down to your last living soul -- And, of course, it was a long, long time ago when community relations weren't as civilized as they are now.

 And, of course, there are more than one version of how this all occurred, so perhaps I shouldn't be to quick to harshly judge my fanatic murdering forebears.

As I read the account of how old Alasdair prayed for seven days for a sign from God before he smothered over 300 people I felt a deep internal wince. At least he won't be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner.

On the other hand, apparently I am genetically predisposed to be cranky with my neighbors.

I'm okay with that.


The genealogy app (which I hate*) tells me, this particular miscreant is related through the father-in-law of the 10th great grandfather.

I guess that's not so bad. Everyone thinks their in-laws are psycho.

~ ~ ~

*Every piece of genealogy software I've tried has been a big glitchy mess.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hot Time in the Old Town

Last Wednesday, an arsonist set nine fires in the woods around my community.

Local News Story, 2nd Day

Due to swift recognition of the perpetrator by firefighers and fast-action by local law enforcement, the suspected arsonist was arrested early the same day.

Suspect in Custody

Our fire department's Chief and I were first on scene and I ended up on the working end of a shovel for a while while the Chief managed the county-wide first response over the radio.

I don't think I'll ever forget the odd sense of bewilderment I felt as I looked over my shoulder from throwing dirt on flames to see a string of smoke columns erupt behind my back. 

I thought, how is the fire over there? I heard our Assistant Chief yell through the smoke -- someone's driving down [the road] setting fires!

Spent the rest of the day and half the night in the staging area as on scene medic (my usual job) where I watched the guys for heat stress, handed out snacks and cold water. I heard it over and over from firefighters -- we're used to people making dumb mistakes and accidently setting the woods on fire -- no one could comprehend someone setting intentional fires.

I had one scary moment. I was dragging a hose, laying down a wet line. the Chief was at the truck running the pump, talking on the radio. I'm connected to him via the hose and I have a radio. I hear gunfire. I have flames at my feet and smoke in my face and I can't even see the fire truck behind me. I yell, "Someone's shooting at us!" I crouch down behind a burning tree. Nothing else happens. (Except, of course, the big freaking forest fire.) I stand back up and start the wet line again. More gunfire. Okay, a foot-wide burning pine tree is not enough of a hiding place for my fat self. I duck down again and decide I'm not moving until the Chief takes care of whoever is shooting at me. I hear him yell that it's lost ammunition

The area is a local favorite target shooting spot. People leave behind live rounds by accident. Fire sets them off. Okay, I think and start the hose again. About five feet later it ocurrs to me, hold on, that still means bullets are flying around out here, but I decide to be Scarlet O'Hara and think about it tomorrow.

I can't wait for my vacation.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pencil Test

California Republic Stationers recently added a new version of the Blackwing pencil to their line. Called PEARL, it is a pencil in the style of the famous and, alas, long gone, Eberhard Faber BLACKWING 602.

This new pencil joins the Palomino Blackwing and the Palomino Blackwing 602. Their advertising says the PEARL falls between the previous two in degree of hardness (or softness, take your pick.)

Being a reasonably obsessed pencil fan, I ordered a box as soon as they were available. Wish I hadn’t.

Not that the PEARL isn’t a nice pencil. It’s an okay pencil and as aficionados of the original BLACKWING 602 are inclined, okay it not enough.

I did the requisite tests comparing the PEARL to the other two Palominos as well as the Palomino HB (which is a lovely forgotten option in the race to clone the BLACKWING,) a BLACK VELVET and two versions of the original BLACKWING 602 (2 and 5.)

Tossing aside the notion of exactly how many times should this particular hair be split, we are definitely in the Goldilocks realm now.

1st came the Palomino BLACKWING which Net reviews said was TOO SOFT. My opinion, this one lays down a beautiful dark line. Carry a sharpener, soft’s not a problem. Although I noted at the time SOFT is not a quality of SMOOTH, so though nice, this pencil did not compare to the original.

Next came the Palomino BLACKWING 602. Reviews were mixed, but to my hand this is as close as one can get to the original. And that, my friends, is saying something. This pencil is not TOO SOFT. It is not TOO HARD and remarkably it is very smooth. Almost as smooth as an original EF BLACKWING 602. So close I would say, don’t pay $40+ on eBay for an original. Get 12 of these for about $20 and be happy.

And now we have the PEARL falling somewhere between the two, neither TOO SOFT or whatever. I noticed a little crumbling but the biggest difference was, this pencil is not as smooth. 

I was surprised. I changed to a better paper – from a nasty old yellow legal pad to some nice Rhodia and got a little better result, but so what.

 Do we need a middling middle grade?

Yes, it’s pretty. The white lacquer stands out. The BLACKWING style looks cool. As a reasonably obsessed pencil person, I'd say, this is one too many, close but no cigar.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Long Time Gone

Oh my goodness, I've been married a while.

39 years today and counting.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Way We Live

We were shopping in the bookstore of MSU-Bozeman when an announcement came over a loud speaker:

"There's been an emergency reported in the building. Leave the building immediately."

Not what we usually do, but we set our purchases down and followed the lemming-like stream of students and others out of the building.

Saw the Chief check for smoke. I didn't smell any. And then it hit me.

The building being evacuated contained the bookstore, a branch bank and the student union. It was lunch time. I realized as the calm, quiet crowd poured through the double doors into the courtyard between buildings, a smart bad guy would get everyone out of the building and kill us all while we waited in the quad.

Where's the safest place to stand in a crowd?

I watched the Boston Marathon attack from fairly early on having been alerted via social media.

It wasn't the same, but still eerily similar to 911, when I tuned in in time to watch the second plane hit the Towers.

So, I watched CNN all day with their endless, pointless speculation and neverending reroll of the bomb footage.

And like everyone, I suspect, worried about what's next for our country.

Saw a post from a person glad to see a SWAT officer guarding a street corner with an automatic weapon. Is it too early to suggest accepting armed security as our new normal imperils us in another way?

Where's the safest place to stand in a crowd?

Twelve years later, I still feel moment of discomfort when I see a low-flying airliner. I've decided that will probably never go away.

How long will it take, I wonder, before I'm comfortable again with people en masse?

Where's the safest place to stand in a crowd?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

End of an Era

I feel like a trilobite crawling out of paleozoic slime.

You're Old School if you recognize these.

Yesterday, I took my darkroom down.

Can you see in the dark?
 Yes, I am completely digital. I have moved on.

But I did enjoy the trip down memory lane.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Creative Differences

Rocky doesn't like the laptop any more than the iPad.

In fact, he likes it less because when bumped, the human yells at HE WHO SHOULD ONLY BE ADORED.

The situation is dire. Limits of stubborn have yet to be breached.

To deny the lap to a little wiener dog? How can she be so cruel?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Just Say No

Episode 9 in which we learn something from Facebook.

So, ignore what I said before.

You know who you are.

When I first signed on Facebook, it used to annoy me with the ads it chose to shower me with in the ever present sidebar.

Diets. Hearing Aids. Hair loss.

Then it got to know me better in whatever sneaky logarithm fb, Google and other Net spammers use, and started offering ads closer to the mark.

Oh my dear, sweet fb, if it were only that easy.

Then, I discovered I had an opinion and clicked through some of the ads. Voila, fb knew me better than my own mother.

The Zombie Apocalypse and Dr Who joined the touts marching up the sidebar.

Oh no, all is revealed. I am exposed. Now my pool of fb friends know what they might have suspected. I want to shoot at the undead and go on trips with a floppy-haired, cutie-pie Time Lord. Or Daryl.

I feel so naked.

Last summer I had a horse experience that stuck with me and once I was loosed from the throes of I may buy a horse, I still clicked fb pages that displayed beautiful horse pictures.

And the sidebar changed to this.

And more of the same.

No longer was I a deaf fat bald woman in need of a career. Or a fan boy.

I was a horse person. A horsemanship fellow in need of saddles, boots, blankets and beautiful, beautiful horses. A cowboy.

Aha, she said.

So, I clicked and clicked and clicked and the sidebar filled up with equine temptations of every sort.

Which made me smirk and revealed an obsession of another kind.

Oh, they still throw a diet ad in once in a while in case I'm getting too big for my boots. But one new selection on CLICK IF YOU LOVE DARYL DIXON, eliminates that.

And here, at last, is my point. This is what those in journalism call BURYING THE LEAD.

As I read the news online, the stories I'm offered range from interesting to scary to WTF. I've decided to try my anti-fb-get-to-know-me trick out in the real world. The real world in this case being the online ether of the Internet.

Which is not the real world, I grant you, but it is one step closer to the real world than Facebook.

I will not click through to a story, any story, to read about that family who have made having no class pay big bucks.

I will not view any picture of any part of anybody's baby bump.

Maybe my Huffington Post sidebar will fill with stories about economics, women's rights, environmental improvements or Norman Reedus biographies.

If we stop supporting the horse's asses by tacit approval, maybe we'll get to see more of the horse.

That's my theory anyway.

Have a nice day.