Archive for April, 2010

The other day, I happened to be sweeping out my garage, when my eye was caught by a sight that made my jaw drop.  Under my balcony, there were not one, not two, but SIX bird nests!   I could only get four in the picture, but, trust me, there are six.  When the heck did that happen?

These guys apparently have it all figured out and have turned my balcony bottom into little bird condos.  Here are two nests which illustrate how they each have their own little wall separating them, the better to give birth in privacy I reckon!

I walked out into the driveway to get a view from the other side.  Apparently one of my mothers-to-be is into decorating, judging from the stuff dangling down.  What will it be next – “Baby Bird on Board” signs?

If you knew me at all, you’d know that naturally I absolutely HAD to get a closer look.  I mean, if I’m going to be the matron of this maternity ward, I need to know exactly what I’m dealing with.  I set up my six-foot ladder and precariously balanced with my camera.  Here’s a close up of one of the nests.

This last shot was taken by sticking my camera into the hole and it captures the view that mama bird will have during her pregnancy.  As you can see, she will be able to see the trees in the woods.   All in all, I think these birds have a pretty sweet set-up.  They’ll have a roof over their heads and me watching over them.   What?  I think I’ll be a GREAT bird doctor!  I can do anything I set my mind to!

So, what’s next?  Do I throw a shower, or what?  Should they register at “Birds R Us?”  I think it’s a little early to start boiling water or anything, since I haven’t spied any eggs yet.  But, anyway, keep your fingers crossed that all goes well.  And don’t worry, Dr. Star is on the job!


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In this world, where I’m beginning to believe that big business is out to steal your last dollar, GREED has raised its ugly head again.  This time in my precious little “Kindleworld.”

At Christmastime, when I was on the edge of buying a Kindle, one of Amazon’s main selling points was that “all New York Times bestsellers would sell for just $9.99.”  With hardbacks going for over $20, this was an attractive proposition.  I was sold and soon became enamored of my cool-looking, lightweight little Kindle which enabled me to download books from the Kindle store anytime and anywhere, from my bed to the dentist’s office.

My first purchase was Rough Country by John Sandford, one of my favorite authors, for $9.99.  But I soon found that there were many bargains to be had in the Kindle store.  An older book of Stephen King’s that I had missed, Rose Madder, was $6.39.  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a great book, by the way,  and an international bestseller a few years back, was $5.50.  And there were many, many free books as well. Life was good and I downloaded books like a crazy woman!

Then in January, I heard that Macmillan Publishers wanted to ask more for their e-books.  At first Amazon refused and removed their books from the site for two days, an action I applauded.  But they soon capitulated, saying that customers, “should decide for themselves whether they believe its reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book,” referring to the price Macmillan intended to set.  Immediately, there was an uproar in the e-reader community.  Some readers have organized boycotts and have started leaving bad reviews and one-star ratings for books by the greedy publishers.  One author, Douglas Preston, whose publisher delayed the e-book version of his latest novel, Impact, for four months to protect hardback sales, said, “The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astounding.”  Well, Douglas, your book was actually on my “to read” list.  I say “was” because I wouldn’t read it now, even if you gave it away.  Don’t forget, we readers can make you and we can break you.

Honestly, fair is fair.  I don’t mind a book being delayed a bit.  But for a publisher to charge $14.99 for an e-book when they don’t have to pay to print, store or distribute it, is highway robbery.  I went to the Kindle Store just the other night to stock up on a couple of more books.  Several that I had been wanting to read have been hiked up to the $14.99 price point.  But several others hadn’t.  Care to guess which ones I bought?  I hope that enough e-readers ban together to make sure the laws of supply and demand work in this case.  If Macmillan sees their sales diminish drastically, maybe they’ll get the message.  And, if their competitors hold the line at $9.99, they’ll end up being the winners in the long run.  Oh, and that John Sandford book, Rough Country, that I bought for $9.99?  I checked and it’s $12.99 now.

Some analysts in the publishing industry predict that if the higher prices prevail, people might just resort to e-book piracy.  I think that’s a definite possibility.  I’ve read comments by many people who say that $5.00 more per book is a deal breaker.   After all, public libraries are still free.  And when Amazon starts noticing that they’re selling fewer Kindles, they won’t have to ask why.  They’ll know.

It’s not nice to lie to your consumers.

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I was out on my balcony the other day, shaking some throw rugs, when I made the mistake of looking up at the sky.  Wow!  There were all sorts of things going on up there with the clouds!  Consequently, I grabbed my camera and now bring you Episode 13 of  “On Cloud Patrol.”

Number one I call “The Floating Witch.”  Her right hand is in the bottom left of the picture.  From the hand, let your eye go up her arm to her face, which you see from the side.  She has a long pointed nose and a witch hat.  Her body is floating sideways and her left hand is beckoning someone to follow.

Number two is a Pac Man cloud.  He’s zooming in from the right, mouth open, ready to gobble up a cloud on the left.  See him?

This third one is easy.  It’s a giant camel head.  The blue circle in the middle is his eye and his nose and mouth are to the right.  Good one, huh?

And, as always, I saved my favorite for last.  I call this one “Giant Mad Genius Head.”  He’s looking to the right and you see his eye, nose and mouth, which is open.  His giant brain is bulging up and to the right.  He has dramatic back lighting because mad geniuses always do!

I love this guy!  He looks so mean…and mad!

Which is your favorite?  Use the comments!  That’s what they’re there for!  Meanwhile, as I always say “keep your eyes on the skies!”

Later, guys!

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I never thought I’d turn into one of those people who say things like “What’s wrong with kids today?” or “When I was a kid, things were so different,”  but, honestly, I find those kind of phrases coming to me more frequently every day.  Here’s a case in point.

About a week ago, some 700 teenagers converged on one of our high dollar shopping areas and caused all kinds of chaos.  There was a report of a young girl in a prom dress being pushed into a fountain.  Another of kids pushing shoppers off the sidewalk to get them out of their way.  And another report of a gang confronting a married couple, beating the husband to a pulp and pushing the wife to the ground and stealing her purse.

This all was big news in my city.  The area in which it happened is very upscale and beautiful and the idea of that many juveniles running wild is quite intimidating not only to the shoppers and residents, but also to the merchants, many of whom were vandalized.  So the city had a big meeting consisting of the public, the police, shop owners and young people who were present at the incident.

Everyone wanted to know WHY something like this happened.  And you know what the kids answered?  They were bored and wanted somewhere free to go hang out.  (Now, if I had ever said something like that as a teenager, I know what my dad would have said, “You wanna see bored?  There’s a lawn to be moved, weeds to be dug up and windows to be washed, etc., etc., etc.”  But then my dad was a cop, and he took parenting seriously.)  But, back to the meeting.

The teenagers whined and complained and the city officials took the blame!  These bleeding heart liberals figure that it’s the city’s responsibility to keep these young people entertained and occupied!  EXCUSE ME?  Since when did the state turn into a babysitter?  I grew up in this very same city and never once had a problem finding places to “hang out!”  There are all kinds of attractions – fountains, parks, libraries, movie theatres, statues, plays in the park, you name it.  And on those rare occasions when my friends and I thought we were bored, we never thought it necessary to go beat up people and destroy property!

I’m getting sick and tired of this “nanny attitude” where everyone expects the government to think for them and take care of them.  What ever happened to personal responsibility?  What ever happened to parents being responsible for their kids?

Anyway, the meeting ended with the city promising to see about lengthening the hours for the community centers and establishing some kind of “fight club” where these mobs could let off steam.  Personally, I think that last one is a good idea!  Let them beat each other’s brains out instead of preying on innocent people. Maybe, once they’re all inside, we could just lock the doors and not let them out again until they turn twenty-one.

Or we could be like Temple, Texas which has brought back paddling to the city’s fourteen schools at the demand of the parents who longed for the orderly schools of yesteryear, when kids knew there were consequences for bad behavior.  Since it was brought back in May, behavior in the city’s one high school has improved dramatically, even though only one student in the whole school system has been paddled.  I heard some critic say “Paddling teaches children that violence is okay.”  BALONEY!  I was spanked as a child and it never taught me that violence was okay.  It taught me that when my father said don’t do something, I’d better not do it!  It taught me to listen to my parents and to obey the rules.  And I turned out just fine.  And no government intervention was involved whatsoever, which is as it should be!   What’s happening to America?  When did we become such sniveling wimps?  When did political correctness outpace good old common sense?   I don’t know, but I don’t like it.

Okay, I feel better now.

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I love solar lights.  I love how they come on automatically at night and give a warm welcoming glow.  That’s why I have two of them on each side of the sidewalk leading to my front porch.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was a couple of birthdays ago when my close friend, Francie, gave me three little “mushroom lights” to add to my little rock elfin village, which is nestled among my shrubs.  It was such a thoughtful gift and I loved them.

Every morning when I go out to get my morning newspaper, I glance back at the house and see, not only my solar lights, but also the little mushroom lights and it gives me a happy glow.

Until Wednesday morning…  After I picked up the paper and turned back to the house, I immediately noticed that there were no little “glows” in the shrubbery.  I thought that maybe some animal had somehow dislodged the battery in the solar collector panel, which is a part of the string of lights.  As I bent down to check, I found only a hole where it had been staked!  A sick feeling swept through me as I walked around the landscape bed, only to discover that all three mushroom lights were gone, as well! The whole set of lights and the solar panel had been stolen…

Back at the dining room table, I took a sip of coffee and thought about it.  Someone had come in the middle of the night, right up to my front door, and slowly and methodically removed every one of the lights.  This was under my open second-story bedroom windows.  This was on the main street into my neighborhood.  They left the big solar lights by the sidewalk and took the smaller, novelty lights.  A man?  A woman?  A kid?  Who?  And why?  I haven’t done anything to antagonize anyone.  It gave me the creeps.

Putting on my detective hat, it occurred to me that maybe it was someone who lived nearby.  After all, the sight of someone with an armful of glowing mushrooms walking down the street would be bound to attract attention.  I live in sight of hundreds of windows.  But, if they lived close, say two doors down, then all they’d have to do is grab the lights and run in their front door.

I know I’m making it sound as if I have a suspect…and maybe I do.  Trashy Girl’s live-in boyfriend, let’s call him “Clunk,” because it fits, said something this past winter that I haven’t been able to shake.  It was when someone abandoned a truck, blocking our driveway completely from the street.  Eventually, UPS’s son, my neighbor Marcia, Clunk and I were all standing around the truck bemoaning the ignorance of some people.  And Clunk piped up and said, “Yeah, like that girl who parked on the driveway when it was so icy.  That really pissed me off because I almost slid into her twice.  So, you know what I did?”  We all looked at him and he replied, “One night I took an egg out and broke it on her windshield.  After that froze,  she never parked there again!”  And he let out a big hee-haw laugh.  The rest of us just stood there in shocked silence.  Shocked at what he had done, and more shocked that he was bragging about it.

I don’t know why he would do something like this to me, but then, does someone like that need a reason?  This is the same guy who blows his nose by closing one nostril and blowing out the other into the wind. The other day he came to my door asking if I had seen their cat which had run away.  I told him no.  But maybe he thinks I catnaped it or something.  I don’t know.

Then again, maybe it was just some stranger who wanted those lights and it wasn’t personal at all.

But it sure feels personal.

And they took more than my lights.  They also took away my feeling of security.

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Save That Trash!

You know how it goes.  You’re cleaning out closets or drawers and you come upon some perfectly good screws/plastic containers/knick-knacks..whatever.  And you try to think whether or not you’ll ever use them again.  You go back and forth and then decide they’re too good to just throw away.  But then, the next time you’re cleaning out the very same closet or drawer, you come upon them again and say “I’m getting rid of this junk!’  And you do.  And, as life would have it, the very next week you need that screw/plastic container/ knick-knack or whatever and it’s gone!

On a very cool website I just discovered , Chill Out Point, I came upon some wonderful examples of how people have put “junk stuff” to good use.

The first examples are from artist Joe Pogan, who uses various junk metal objects to create sculptures of animals and birds.

Can you see the pliers in the eagle?  How about the combination lock in the owl?  This guy would have a field day with my junk drawer!

Then there’s artist Nathan Sawaya who creates giant sculptures from Lego’s.

I love how the blue guy on the right is waiting for the artist to create his other arm!  One of my favorites of his is this guy with his heart on display…

I’ve felt like doing this sometimes after having eaten Mexican food!

And finally, there are those who create art from cans, calling it, very appropriately, “canstruction.”

The iPod is cool, but the cobra snake is outstanding!

So, the next time people put you down for being a packrat, you tell them that your “stuff” is just a masterpiece waiting to happen!


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The Mole Wars

THAT DAMNED MOLE is getting on my last nerve!!!!!!!!!!  If you’ve read this blog at all, you don’t have to ask what mole.  It’s the mole on which I have declared WAR! And no, I don’t think it’s several moles, in fact, I know it isn’t.  It’s that one DAMNED MOLE which followed me from my last house and is now determined to drive me crazy!  When he started in on my neighbor’s yard last summer, I thought that maybe it was a coincidence.  Just because I had a mole in my last house didn’t mean this was the same mole.  After all, he had hit her yard, not mine.  But now I know the truth!  IT’S HIM! Hitting my neighbor’s yard last summer was just his diabolical way of “easing in.”  He knew I would let my guard down.  He was just biding his time…

Then a month ago he made his first strike.  He burrowed around one of my stepping-stones, leaving a huge mound of broken up dirt.  Well, he’s messing with the wrong woman!  I made sure my retaliation was swift and cruel.  I immediately went out with my trusty rubber mallet and I pounded down every last bit of dirt!  And I didn’t just pound it!  I obliterated that mound and made the earth as smooth as a baby’s behind!  And then I waited…

Days passed and then weeks and I started thinking that maybe it was safe to do my victory dance.  I figured I had broken his spirit.  Or, at the very least, maybe all of that hostile pounding I did gave him a horrible migraine headache which could possibly be fatal to moles.  And then I went out and saw this.  IN MY LANDSCAPING,  FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!

And we’re not talking just a few grains of dirt here.  Here’s a close-up look.

How DARE that miserable little rodent mess up my pea gravel like that!  I saw red!  Literally!  I was so angry that I couldn’t go get my rubber mallet fast enough!  And, wow, you should have seen me pounding that down!  I pretended it was his head and just went to town!  I kept going long after the earth was smooth again, sort of like on TV when you see a doctor frantically giving CPR until someone taps him on the shoulder and says, “Doc, Doc, the patient’s gone!”

After I got things smooth again, I even put some fresh pea gravel in to hide all evidence of invasion.  So the ball’s in his court again.

I’d like to think that this is the end of it, but I fear that this is going to be my own personal Vietnam.  Attack, counterattack, attack, until one of us, bloodstained and weary, finally waves the white flag of surrender.

And let me tell you, boys and girls…

It ain’t gonna be me!

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