Sunday, June 22, 2014

When the student is ready at some level, the lesson appears...

I didn't sleep well last night, in part because i fell asleep late afternoon/early evening on the sofa, and awoke with a start about 2 hours later. So, when it was time for bed, i wasn't all that sleepy, and i ended up with an abcessed tooth, so that plagued me much of the night.

Rang the dental office this morning, the prerecorded message gave the usual business hours and then each dentist's cell phone number if it were an emergency. Well, i still had a pulse, so was it really an emergency? Still, involuntarily moaning and groaning because of pain and crying was not normal for me. Even Phoebe started purring and walked on me at one point, trying to make it all better.

I dialled the phone number for dentist i usually see, and she answered quickly. I told her what i could, she guessed i had an abcess and would call in a prescription for me, any drug allergies? Well, truth be told, i've had very few prescriptions in my life, one 10-day course of antibiotics in 2003 where i felt as if the life force had been sucked out of me, and the last time i had an Rx was in 2005 when i broke my leg: Tylenol 3 (acetaminaphen/paracetamol and codeine). The doc had wanted to give me Percoset but that was too strong. I took one dose and hadn't been that stoned since the 1970's.

The dentist suggested an Advil (ibuprofen) and Tylenol (acetaminophen or paracetamol, depending on which side of the Pond you reside) on their own separate schedules but overlapping so one could help the other. She's prescribe good ol' penicillin and would try to get to talk the pharmacist directly rather than leave the message on the machine, which they'd check every hour.

She assured me that the pain would gradually lessen if i followed that protocol, although it does always seem worse at night, perhaps because we don't have anything else to think about. She was out of the office Monday, but the other dentist could help, or she'd see me Tuesday.

Oh, and yes, i DID do the right thing in calling her.

I told her i felt better just talking to her, and i did.

Now, the weather here has been absolutely STELLAR, and after the long, long winter we had, i didn't want to spend such a beautiful day feeling like crap. I searched for my HSA card, which i never use, and could only find the one that expired in March. Oh, wait, they were supposed to send another, did they? and i honestly couldn't remember. Searched high and low. At least some pesky filing is now sorted as a result. I also had a few paper checks for the HSA, so i could take one of those. And my insurance card, although i couldn't remember if this was the current one. WHY don't they put a date on them?

I'm not usually this scatterbrained, but insurance stuff makes my eyes glaze over. I can wade through oodles of tax forms, banking legalese, and muncipal code, but the buck stops there. Himself is the one who's got the insurance thing down, but of course, he's not here at the moment, so there you have it.

I go with my insurance card, a paper check, and i hope the Rx is ready.

I arrive, and it is. The pharmacist looks very young, he has to get all my info since i'm a new customer. I ask questions about the Rx, with food or without? How often? And here he looks at me with a funny look. I apologize and tell him the last Rx i had was in 2005, and no offense, but i don't keep people like him very busy. He smiled and relaxed his gaze. "Not to worry, there are more than enough people taking your place," and here his smile widened a bit more.

I thanked him, he answered my questions, and then i left. There were now four people waiting, and two looked at me in disbelief. How could i not know the drill? Well, i'm medically boring, and i want to make sure i understand everything. I get to the car, look at the notes that come with Rx. It tells me among other things that penicillin is absorbed fastest in the bloodstream when i take it either an hour before or two hours after a meal. Hmm, the pharmacist said it didn't matter, some people take it with food else they get an upset stomach.

So, i got home, popped a penicillin, and started to work out my dosing schedule. Gadzooks, not the mental arithmetic i wanted to do. And i laughed at myself. Three different meds, and the Rx is for 7 days. I can suck it up for a week. I thought of some folks i know who do this every day, and not just with three meds. This one with food. That one without. This one has to be taken three hours before so as not to react with that one. I had my schedule, i did eat something about 40 minutes after the penicillin because i was hungry, and i had wanted to go sailing.

Three aspirin can put me to sleep, so i wanted to see what i felt like after taking my Advil (11:00 a.m.), penicillin (1:15 p.m.) and Tylenol (1:35 p.m.) before i took off for the boat. Other than a little relaxed, i felt all right, so i loaded up the oars, pfd (personal flotation device or life jacket), my backpack with water bottle and extra bottle of water, sunscreen, another layer if temps got cooler, cell phone in stay-dry thingie, and my portable marine radio.

As i rowed out to Retrouvé, I saw my friend who's captain of one of the schooners near my boat. She'd invited me for a lobster on her lobster cruise that evening, if i was game. I wanted to, but remembered i hadn't brought my meds, so declined her polite offer. It didn't take long to bend the jib, raise the main, and get underway; i was glad to have time for a short sail. I decided to sail through the "parking lot" part of the harbor, where i'd spent much of my first sailing season, just trying to figure things out. Winds were light and variable, and that protected cove would mean they'd be lighter still, but probably enough for me to take a spin through before working my way down the harbor. The harbor is a big one, at least to me, about two miles (3 km) long, and it's a working harbor, so that might be a nice ride for an hour or so.

I got caught in a spot where the wind died, and was waiting to catch any zephyr. I was getting closer to one of two big barges parked there, and i decided i'd start up the outboard, and motor past. I never leave the mooring without starting the outboard, and today was no exception. The wind was out of the west, and i had raised the main before casting off the mooring line. It took only several moments for me to be sailing and about a minute after to realise that although i had the engine running, it was in neutral. So, i switched it off and enjoyed sailing up the channel.

So, imagine my surprise when i pull the outboard string, and nothing happens. I was finally able to get it going, just enough to get out of the barge's way, when the engine cut out again. I recalled the steps i went through at the mooring. I had done everything i always do. So, what was different? Well, i had topped off the gas tank as it was low, and the gas can i brought was the one that's dedicated to the boat's mix of 1:100. Oh, but was it old gas in that can? Maybe. I add stabiliser in all gas i get for the mowers and boat since they all are two-stroke engines, and don't see as much use as the car or truck. ##@(*$#( ethanol in gas. But, that's a rant for another day.

I try the engine again, and it still doesn't want to turn over. Then it does, but won't stay motoring, just cuts out. I want to try again but figure i've probably flooded the engine at this point, and feel it's in my best interest to get back to the mooring. The wind has picked up a little, and i can make it back to my mooring fairly easily, if the wind keeps up. So, i make my way back, taking note of how the boats are pointing, what's the best course for me to get to my mooring, and what happens if i can't the engine to start but MUST rely on my sailing skill and caprices of the wind?

I decide i'm not going to try to start the engine again until i'm closer to the mooring. If it's going to give just a little oomph then nothing, i might need that little jolt closer to the mooring.

I think of yesterday when i sailed with a sailing friend who's a great knitter. We had a lot of fun, and motored most of the way back once inside the harbor because the wind was blowing east, or dead on our nose when we were in the channel before we turned off to the mooring. The outboard was fine, reliable, and we putted along, laughing and having a lovely time motor sailing as they say.

At least today, the wind was blowing from the northwest, so it would be fairly easy to stay in the channel, and i'd have to pick my way past a couple of boats, to port hard, head into the wind, pick up the mooring line, done.

Oh, but that second channel marker was about where i'd need to veer off and pick my way through. Looked as though the wind changed direction just a little and just past there, so go around the marker or cut before? Cutting before gave me more margin to wiggle to the mooring, so cutting before it was. And when i got there, it was at the wind shift point, and turning Retrouvé just a bit port to avoid the channel marker and make my way into the anchorage, saw me in irons. Oh, dear, and channel markers don't move for anyone. I started the motor or tried, and it spurted just a moment, enough so i could lurch forward, before it conked out. The lurch got me past the danger zone, and provided just enough oomph to catch the next zephyr. I glanced at my friend's schooner. It was full of people going on the lobster cruise that evening. I was glad for her, and from the way they stood still, i knew she was giving the safety talk she's required to give before any sail.

I turned my attention back to my mooring. Twig, my dinghy was in plain view, and Retrouvé sidled up to her. I turned port, and was a bit farther from Twig, and more importantly Twig's painter (like a lead line) that was attached to the mooring line than i thought i would be. But, close enough to reach with the boat hook. I grabbed the painter from the boat hook and walked forward to the big cleat. I wanted to see if i could figure out what was what with the motor.

I walked aft after striking the main, put my hands on my hips, and stared at the outboard. She looked as she always had. Pressed the priming bulb a few times, felt a bit more air than i usually do, and pulled the string. She started right up, purring merrily along. Tra-la-la. I shut her down after a few minutes. Maybe sediment in the line? I stowed the jib back in its bag, furled the main, tied the sail stops, covered it with the mainsail cover. Went about my usual routine of getting the boat ready to be back on her mooring.

I smiled involuntarily. I remember telling SFB that at the helm i felt i should be thinking deep, nautical thoughts, but i couldn't think of a damn thing other than that i should be thinking deep, nautical thoughts. Today, my brain took in things, like wind direction, boats that were nearby, places i'd most likely be able to sail without too much trouble (somewhat successful as i hadn't hit anyone or hurt anything), and how to sail to my mooring, safely, and without incident. I was glad and relieved to have done all that. Not the weak-in-the-knees relief i'd felt that first season, when the motor cut out was i was picking my way through the boats to my mooring, and she wouldn't start up until the last moment. And this time, the feelings of gladness were stronger than the feelings of relief. I had paid attention when those with more sailing experience had talked, and i happened to listen when they used words i could understand, and i was ready to hear the message. I had enough point of reference so what they said made sense to me. I was grateful for the teaching.

That other day, when the motor cut out inopportunely as it had, it did for seemingly no rhyme or reason. Next time out, it started up and chugged along as if nothing had ever happened.

I'll look over the manual again, to make sure i did all that i was supposed to do. I'm nearly ready for my next round of pain med #2, and about 1.5 hours from now, before i go to bed, i'll take more penicillin and pain med #1. Not quite every 6 hours, but close enough. Upon waking, which ideally will be a tad over 6 hours, i can start the pill regimen again.

The lesson appeared, and the student was capable, even if she didn't feel entirely ready. She's glad it went as well as it did.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Of American Football and the Team Once Called the Washington Redskins

American football is one of those games that people seem to hate or love. There are very few of us who are in the middle of the spectrum. If the game is a good one, i'll watch. If it's boring or terribly lopsided, i lose interest in it pretty quickly.

Himself is an American football fanatic. He knows scads of facts about the game in general, and can tell you about a great many of the players. It's how i came to learn so much about the game.

Teams have changed names over the years, chiefly because they changed locations. Many fans were outraged when the Oakland Raiders moved to L.A. then back to Oakland, and now they just go by the name, "the Raiders," since it seemed ludicrous to have the team in L.A. still refer to itself as "Oakland." And yet, the NY Giants and Jets whose home field is now in New Jersey (i still think of it as "The Meadowlands") do NOT call themselves the Jersey Giants or Jersey Jets, and i think, each team would think it anathema to do so. They are NY teams, dammit, no matter that their home pitch has moved across state lines.

Then there were the Cleveland Browns who left town, but had to leave the name behind. This was in 1996, and also known as "The Move," when the team formerly called the Cleveland Browns, left town and moved east to Baltimore. The Baltimore Colts, who'd been there since i could remember, and as ignorant of the game as i was as a kid, knew that Johnny Unitas was synonymous with the Baltimore Colts--yes, those Baltimore Colts had skipped town and went west to Indianapolis. It just didn't have the same ring, Indianapolis Colts. Baltimore Colts effortlessly rolled off the tongue, but Indianapolis Colts felt like a real workout to say. A few sports commentators called them wrong city a couple times.

So, the now nameless team who had arrived in Baltimore became known as the Baltimore Ravens. Some sportscasters will refer to that Indianapolis team as "the Colts," much the way baseball's Brooklyn Dodger fans couldn't fathom/stomach the Dodgers having another hometown in front of their name.

I always thought it was neat that in St. Louis, both the baseball and football teams were known as the Cardinals. Then St. Louis's football team moved to Arizona, and are now called the "Arizona Cardinals."

I don't care if teams want to change their names when they move, and in some cases, such was when the Cards moved to Arizona, it's an idea that seems to make sense. When i think of Arizona, i don't think of cardinals, but of roadrunners. Shrug.

I can't remember a time when the Washington Redskins were anything but the Washington Redskins. I do remember cheering for them in 1971, wanting the "over the hill gang" to win it. I never thought about the name or felt it deregatory, but then again, i'm pretty white, even for a Caucasian. There've been murmurings for awhile how the name was racist or derogatory, and it should be changed. I thought of when Himself and i went out west for a visit, and passed by some schools that had large Native American populations, and the teams were known as the Redskins. We were there during high school football playoffs one year, and i saw a number of kids wearing school colors or holding signs saying "Redskins pride" as they looked forward to the game. Some kids were white, some Native American. All of them excited to see their school's team having a chance to win in the playoff game. Not one sad face in the bunch.

Now, this was in the dark ages of the early 1990's, before political correctness had gotten the strangling threshold it seems to have had for awhile now, and i might be showing my age just a little, but i really don't see what all the fuss with the name is about.

Still, i listened to those who said how deplorable the name was. Someone on facebook had provided a link to an article that showed the reason the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cancelled the federal trademark of the Washington Redskins based on the grounds that the team name is disparaging to Native Americans.

I did happen to read a few of the comments made below the article. One woman was saying that for those of us who didn't find it offensive, maybe we'd find it all right if we called an all-black team the [city name] Niggers or a mostly Asian team the [city name] Chinks. I refrained from replying to her comment, but thought that her logic was skewed. I don't think there are any Native Americans currently on Washington's roster, and what happens if the racial or ethnic balance changes? Change the name based on that? Oh, and in case she hadn't gotten the memo, the "n word" as it's now known, is disparaging only when it comes out of a white person's mouth. Darker skinned people have a free pass to use this word as much as they like, in its entirety, with no backlash, although most darker skinned people i know who are my age, near it, or older are as infuriated about that stupidity as i am. It's like saying the word "fuck" is only a bad word when green-eyed people say it, otherwise it's perfectly acceptable. I had that logic when i was four years old, only i said the word "shit" when i couldn't pull off my boots. My mother asked, "What did you say?" and i told her. She told me that was a bad word to say. I told her, "But i didn't say it TO anyone, Mommy, i said it because i couldn't get my boots off." She explained that the word was a bad word, no matter when it was used.

Um, okay, let's move on from the comments and digression to the article itself. Show me the proof how this is disparaging. And i don't say that in a taunting voice, but really and truly, i am open to increasing my awareness. And they showed footage from the 1960's through the 1990's. Use of the what was then known as the Indian headdress in the marching band. Same headdress worn by the cheerleaders. Nothing from the 21st century, i noticed. And quite frankly, if you watched footage from the 1960's in general, you'd see that it was a very white world then on tv. White makes right and all that. Since that time, the cheerleaders don't wear headresses, and i can't remember the last time i saw a marching band at a professional football game. So, yes, it may look disparaging to those of us who live in this decade of the 21st century, but--and here again i may be just too damn white--i haven't seen anything in recent memory that would be considered disparaging.

What i find far more appalling is the undue hype these players receive, their outlandish salaries, and quite frankly, in ANY job i ever held, had i been found guilty of killing someone, i'd have lost my job. Then there's the blind eye turned to domestic violence, although that has been mentioned once or twice in the last decade. I suppose it's simply what the market will bear; if the money flow suddenly stopped because people were outaged by team names or the actions of some of its players, then i think we'd see changes occurring PDQ.

For now, the name stays, but i do see a time in the near future where this will be the all-consuming news story so we can hyperfocus on this instead of real problems. The old create a diversion to keep them from seeing and wanting to address the real stuff once again. Instead of simply changing the name, how about making *real* reparations? Yeah, i thought the silence would be deafening, and, alas, i am correct.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Allegheny Flight 485

Jim Z. and my dad both worked at the sub base, and they drove to work together, taking turns behind the wheel. I know Mr. Z. breathed a sigh of relief when my dad finally sold the little red MG because, as it seemed with English cars at that time, this one could be tempermental. There was the time they were on the turnpike going 60 or 70 mph, and the steering wheel disengaged and fell onto my father's lap. "Here, Jim," Dad had said, "Take the wheel."

Mr. Z. blanched while Dad stuck his finger in the drive shaft, or whatever the housing is called to which the wheel was attached. He could manuever the inward bits enough so to get the car over to the shoulder and reattach the wheel.

Another time, when they were approaching the toll booth before they crossed the bridge, the brakes went out. Completely gone, and they were driving turnpike speed, so it was not going to bode well, as all other cars were stopping to pay the toll. This was years before EZ-Pass, and all cars had to stop, and give money to the collector. Dad pumped the brakes and kept pumping. Enough air got into the line, i guess, because he was able to stop and pay the toll. Tra-la-la.

When Dad wasn't driving them in the MG, Mr. Z. would drive them in the Simca. It was white with white interior. When Dad sold the MG, he had removed the seatbelts and given them to Mr. Z. to put in the Simca. The red seat belts contrasted sharply with the white interior, but you certainly couldn't overlook them. As the advert at the time said, "Seat belts are lumpy only if you sit on them."

Dad was several years younger than Mr. Z. I don't know how many, but Mr. Z. served in WWII; whereas Dad was almost 15 when the war ended, and he ended up serving in the Korean War. Both had been in the Navy, and although both were now civilians, they worked for the Navy at the Sub Base. They didn't talk much about what they did, because they worked on classified things, and sometimes they had to travel to other places to do whatever it was they did.

I always thought that sounded exotic, and Dad would come back with goodies for us kids. Once he had to travel over my birthday and sent me flowers from the florist since he couldn't be there on the day itself. Mom and i had gone to town to run errands, and when we came home, a huge bouquet of flowers were waiting for us on the front porch. They were beautiful, and i was stunned when Mom read the card and saw they were for me. Even though i was old enough to read, i could scarcely believe it.

Sometimes Mr. Z. would have to travel, sometimes Dad would. They didn't usually travel together, usually one stayed behind to hold the fort down at the Sub Base while the other one went and did whatever.

The Z's lived kitty-corner from us, and Mr. and Mrs. Z. had three daughters. The oldest was about five years older than i, the middle one two years older and in my brother's class, the youngest, Cindy, about a year and half younger and two grades behind me. All of us kids in the neighbourhood played together, although the oldest daughter was enough older that we didn't play together much. That five years made for a very big gap. Still, we had neighbourhood ball games, those of us younger would play hide and seek (or as we said, hide and go seek), and we rode our bicycles everywhere.

When it was time to come home, our parents would yell for us. If we were at another house playing baseball, hearing one parent call usually signalled to all of us that our parents would be calling next, so we'd end our game and go home. Mr. Z. always called for his girls, and when we heard his voice, my brother and i knew it was time to go, as we ate supper pretty much the same time the Z's did.

My parents would throw a neighbourhood party every so often. Sometimes these were planned events, and sometimes spontaneous. For instance, one day, my dad saw Mr. L. who lived next door to Mr. Z. painting his house. Dad invited Mr. L. over for a drink when he was done. Mr. L. thanked my dad and when they were sipping libations, they thought it might be nice to have a cookout. So, Mr. L. went home to tell the family, my dad got the charcoal fire started, and looked to see what we had on hand to grill. Mr. L. brought stuff over, and Mr. Z. saw Mr. L., asked what was happening, and when he found out, he got some food together and told the family they were going to a cookout at our house.

The spontaneous parties were always the best because everyone brought something, and no one really stressed about it. There was always plenty of food to go around, the kids would help a little, sometimes by making the salad, others by watching the younger kids, or sometimes, we'd just play.

At one of these spontaneous parties, we reminisced about the MG, and Mr. Z. said how relieved he was to carpool with Dad's more reliable Chevy. Next, we laughed about the time that i had a balloon that popped on his whiskers. It startled all of us, and none of us had heard of that ever happening to anyone else.

It was late spring, and you could feel summer in the air. The party broke up a bit early because Mr. Z. was flying out to someplace for work. Originally, Dad was going to go, but then a problem cropped up at the Sub Base, and both Mr. Z. and Dad felt that Dad was better able to handle the problem at the Sub Base, and either of them could handle what needed doing for the business trip. So, they switched places. As Mr. Z. left, he and my dad were joking about something, and they kissed each other good-bye. We were all laughing as they feigned broken hearts at parting. All of us enjoyed the silliness.

Monday was a brillantly sunny day in early June, and i could taste summer in the air. I was almost done fifth grade, and would be 11 in a few months. I rode the bus home as i usually did, and when i stepped off the bus at my usual bus stop, a stillness filled the air. I could almost touch it, and it disquieted me.

My brother had gotten home earlier because he was in jr. high, and they got out of school a half hour earlier than we did in grade school. So, he was already home when i got there, just as always.

"Where's Mom?" i said as i came in the house. Even though my mother worked at a neighbouring school's library, she usually was home when i got home from school. Her car was in the driveway, but she wasn't in the house.

"She's at the Z's," he answered with a frown on his face.

"What?" i asked with some impatience. My brother had grown moody since being in jr. high, and there were times i irritated him just by asking a simple question, which irritated me a great deal. Just because i two grades behind him, didn't mean i was stupid.

"Nothing. Mom will tell you."

See, i knew it was something, and to be told, "Nothing," when i damn well knew it was "something," irked me all the more.

"Why can't you tell me?"



He saw i wasn't going to let this go and was in no mood to talk. I tried to feign indifference but didn't succeed. I wanted to know what was happening. If Mom wasn't here, but her car was, then why couldn't he tell me anything else. Mom wouldn't normally be a the Z's this time of day. She'd be starting supper, looking to see how much homework i had, and if i should get started with some it before supper or wait and do it all after.

Mom came home, and she didn't look right. Her face was very drawn. She looked at me, and then at my brother. "Did you tell her?" Mom asked as if i weren't there.

"No, you told me not to, but she kept asking. I still didn't say anything."

Now i knew something was clearly up. Was it about me? Had i done something wrong? I scanned my brain, recapping the last week's events. Nope, couldn't think of anything. "He's right, Mom, i did ask, more than once, but he wouldn't say anything. What is it?"

And in a quiet, faraway voice, she told me that Mr. Z.'s plane had crashed. They were coming into land, the pilot misjudged where the landing strip was because of the fog, and they crashed. Mr. Z. and nearly everyone else on board had been killed.

I blinked hard a few times. My brother said, "See, that's why i couldn't tell you." A huge lump was growing in my throat. Mr. Z. had kissed Dad good-bye! He was the last of the Z family to leave our house that day of the party, and i had turned around to look at the clock. 3:33. And i felt a chill as i looked at it. Had it really only been two days before?

My mother had been speaking and i came back to the conversation to hear her say, "Cindy will be getting home from school soon. When she gets off the bus, we're going to tell her that her mom had to go into town, and when Mrs. Z. is ready, she'll call us, and then we'll send Cindy home. You're not to tell her what happened, Megan, do you understand? Her mother will tell her, she just needs a little time to collect herself."

I nodded, and my eyes started to fill. Oh, this would never do, i couldn't cry right now. That would give the game away. I blinked hard, and my mom suggested that i get a game that Cindy liked to play. I nodded, and got a game ready. Because Cindy was two grades behind me, she was in the primary school and got home on a later bus. The bus came, Cindy got off just like always, and i heard my mom call to her, asking her to come over to our house. Cindy did, and my mother explained that her mom had to go into town for something and would call when she got back.

I don't know how long Cindy was at our house, maybe a half hour. We played a game that she liked, and i couldn't believe i could talk to her normally when there was such a huge lump in my throat. How such a beautiful day could feel so sad. Couldn't Cindy feel the stillness in the air, too, as i had? Couldn't she sense something wasn't quite right?

I was relieved to hear the phone ring. My mother answered, and said shortly after that, "Oh, it's no problem, yes, we'll tell Cindy you're home."

And here, my mom told Cindy her mom was home now, and i couldn't believe how my mom delivered the line. Just as if there was nothing wrong.

I closed the front door after Cindy left, got the game, and went to my room to put it away, when i heard Cindy scream. I could hear it through closed windows. It shattered the stillness in the neighbourhood, and the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. I closed my bedroom door, lay on my bed, and in huge, gulping sobs, processed what my mother had told me.

It turned out that the co-pilot and stewardess survived, although the co-pilot lost both his legs. I think one passenger survived, too. Mr. Z. had been in submarines during WWII, and i had wanted to work on a sub. Girls weren't allowed then, of course, and i was born a generation too early to get my chance. Dad said that Mr. Z.'s fear during the war was that he'd burn to death in a sub. He didn't, but he did burn to death on the plane. They had to identify him by his dental work.

There was an investigation as to what happened with Allegheny Flight 485. Part of the problem was the airport, as the landing strip was at the edge of a swamp, so it made landings tough with the fog. Some people wanted to extend the landing strip, but environmental groups, which were new then, didn't want the swamp flora and fauna disturbed by that any more than they already were.

They blamed the pilot for the crash, and there was talk of suing. I remember wondering what good suing would do. It wouldn't bring any of those people back. The pilot lost his life, and the co-pilot lost his legs plus had to live with that the rest of his life.

The Z.'s families were in Chicago, and there was to be a service there. Mrs. Z. was adamant: they would fly to Chicago for the service. She ignored the protests of her daughters, telling them that they were living in the 20th century, and flying in an airplane was a part of that. Like it as not, they were flying. There and back. I remember thinking how brave she was to be so adamant about it, and how i cried happy tears when they made it back safely.

Since he was a veteran, Mr. Z. would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This was before it was so full, and my dad told my mom that even though he could be buried there, too, since he fought in Korea, he'd rather be buried beside her. She wanted that, too.

My father never spoke of how he would have been on that plane, but for a problem at the Sub Base he was better able to handle. I sometimes wondered if he felt guilty about it. How many times do we do something so small as to be considered inconsequential, when rather it leaves a huge ripple in the pond?

Today's weather was very much like that June 7th in 1971. That early taste of summer, the delicious feeling of warmth, brilliant skies, and sunshine. I welcomed it after the long, cold, winter we had. In the late afternoon, i felt a bit of melancholy, as i recalled that earlier June 7th, hearing the news and Cindy's harrowing scream. I can still hear Mr. Z.'s voice calling the girls home for supper. Hear him laugh with my dad. And i smile through the melancholy. If i have to have a last memory of someone, there's something comforting about it being a happy one.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Merci beaucoup

The longest day, 6 June 1944. My kind, up-the-street neighbour, Bob, was on Omaha Beach 70 years ago today.

My kind, up-the-street neighbour, Bob, and i were in the shed addition of the barn, where he had stored his two ride-on lawn mowers. He had asked me if he could store them there for winter, and i readily agreed.

He owns both, and when he got the second one, which belonged to his brother-in-law who moved and didn't need it any longer, he gave the first one to his son to use. At the end of mowing season, after he had prepped both for the winter, he asked if he could store them in the barn.

And so, earlier this spring, he asked if he could get them out of the barn. Most of the snow had melted making access to them easier. He had removed the batteries in each in the autumn, and had brought both along with him to put them back in. I wanted to help if i could, and we repositioned one of the mowers so it would be easier for Bob to back it up and out beyond the sliding door. He asked me if i knew a foreign language, because i was explaining something and used my hands a lot. I laughed, told him i knew French, and when i had lived in France, found out just how much French i didn't know, and how speaking with my hands seemed to help. Guess i kept up the habit after i returned.

Bob then related he could remember merci beaucoup in French, but not much else. In his plain yet eloquent way, he explained,

"I wanted to go to college after the war, and I could use the GI bill. In order to be accepted into any college, I had to have a foreign language and I hadn't graduated high school, so when I went for my GED, I had a French teacher teach me all that summer so I could know enough to pass and get into college. It didn't stick with me, though," and here he pointed to his head, "other than merci beaucoup."

Merci beaucoup. It means, "thank you very much."

I was dumbstruck as i realised this nearly 90-year-old man had quit high school to join up, and once the war was over, got on with his life. I couldn't think of anyone in my generation who would have been willing to do that, nor could i think of anyone in younger generations who would be willing to do that. I couldn't say a word as he shouted over the lawnmower's din that he'd be back for the second one later, and waved as he rode the mower up the street. I waved back with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Merci beaucoup, Bob. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Digits crossed

I drive a Honda Insight, which is a hybrid. I bought it used in 2003, and she's still going strong. The Honda Insight, unlike the Prius, has an electric boost that helps the combustion engine when it needs it, and after the car is warmed up, any time another car would idle, the Insight goes silent and is all on batteries (such as at a stop light). The Prius, on the other hand is all electric until about 20 or 25 mph (32 or 40 km/hr) when the combustion engine then goes on and takes over. When i bought my car in 2003, i was told then that the replacement batteries for the hybrid part of things cost about $7000. That was just for the batteries, not labour.

At the time, the warranty was for 8 years or 80,000 miles, whichever occurred first.

I moved in 2009, and my batteries were starting to fade. Just before that, Honda extended the warranty to 10 years or 100,000 miles, whichever came first, no matter in which US state you lived or in which state you bought the car. My car was a 2001 model, so i was on the 10-year bubble. They honoured the new, improved warranty limits, and the hybrid batteries were replaced for free. They did say they were not providing a warranty for the replacement batteries. I was okay with that, and understood why they wouldn't want to. Even though battery prices had fallen since my 2003 conversation because now there were more hybrids on the road, it was still an expense i didn't have to shoulder, and one that i'm sure Honda didn't wish to repeat.

In February of this year, my IMA and engine light went on. That usually means the hybrid battery pack is failing. Took it to the dealer, and they confirmed that that was true, using their diagnostic computer testing. I had looked online just before i took the car for the test to see that one person had changed his little starter battery to have the hybrid battery system work again, although his success was short-lived. In several weeks, the IMA and engine lights came back on.

I related this to the guys at the dealership. They shook their heads sadly, nope the starter battery looked just fine, the cells must be going in the hybrid battery pack. I wasn't surprised that my free replacements wouldn't go as long as nearly 10 years, but i expected they'd last at least 5 instead of not quite 4.

The dealership mechanic said that i could choose to drive my car without replacing the hybrid battery pack. It would work like any other regular combustion engine. Period. To replace the hybrid battery for parts and labor was $5600. They understood that i'd want some time to think about it.

Now i know cars are just machines, but i've grown attached to this one, and it really is my dream car, so emotionally, i wasn't at all happy to hear this news. SFB had agreed to pick me up at the dealership if i needed to leave my car there (they don't have courtesy cars, and the dealership is close to 40 miles/64 km away). I called to let him know he wouldn't need to pick me up and related my sad news. He said that fifty-six hundred bucks would buy a lot of gas/petrol, so try a few tankfuls and see how it went.

That sounded like good advice, so i did. My winter mileage is usually lower than summer mileage, and in-town driving, which is what i do 99% of the time these days, is lower than highway mileage. So, my usual winter mileage, which had been about 52 mpg (21 km/litre) fell to 43-44 mpg (17 km/L). The car is paid for, and i'd be hard pressed to find another car at no cost to me that would give me that kind of mileage. The warmer weather is arriving, and my mileage has increased to just under 49 mpg (19 km/L).

Not having the electric assist means my car drives like my old VW Beetle, where if i have to go uphill, i need to zoom up a bit so i can keep a somewhat respectable speed on the incline. Having to merge from the on-ramp to a traffic lane on the turnpike is a little scary, because i just don't have a lot of oomph when there's only the 3-cylinder engine. Again, i zoom as much as i can to build up speed and merge.

Over the weekend, i loaded my kayak into the car to go down to the boat. I tie down the hatch, so the open door light stays on, and it's a 10 or 12 minute ride to the shipyard. On the way there, my battery light came on, which was worrying, and the brake light came on, too. Nope, i was NOT driving with the parking brake on. I checked and double checked.

Once i got to the shipyard and turned off the motor, the car would not restart. I decided to kayak out to the boat, do the few things i had planned on and rather than go sailing after those few things, i'd come back and see if i could restart the car. If not, i had my AAA card* at the ready.

After a couple hours doing stuff on the boat, i returned to my car. She started right up. A gift, and i knew i'd need my mechanic to take a look. It was most likely the starter battery, but it might also be the alternator.

He looked, saw it was just the battery, and replaced it. I picked up the car yesterday, and on my way home, for the first time since that sad day in late February, the hybrid battery pack started recharging. I knew because i've got a battery gauge that shows when it's charging (green lines) and how fully it's charged (orange lines). When i got to a stop sign, the engine cut out. Just as it always had when the hybrid part was working. Traffic was clear, so i put the car in first, the engine started right up, and away i went. Going up an incline, i felt the electric boost help me up the hill.

So, i'm cautiously optimistic. Being mechanically retarded as i am, and not having the diagnostic machines like the dealership, i didn't argue about changing out the starter battery. But i can also hope that the starter battery was perhaps starting to go in February, enough so that the hybrid battery pack was shut down, and that the new battery can handle whatever extra work it needs to do to "talk" to the hybrid battery pack and see that it's topped up. It could be a situation like that one i read about on-line where this will only last a few weeks. Or--and here's where my mechancial ineptness allows me to hope--this could mean i've got a few more years left to the hybrid battery pack.

Time will tell. Either way, spending $138 for a new starter battery so my car won't leave me stranded and perhaps has reawakened the hybrid part of things is a far cry from spending $5600.

*AAA-American Automobile Association, a group drivers can join in the US for an annual fee. Before the Internet and global positioning systems (GPS) widely available for cars, AAA was a wonderful resource for all sorts of maps, and they'd help with route planning. They also offer roadside assistance. A jump, a tow, if you are stranded someplace.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Delicious mistake

SFB was working on a boat, doing electricals and stayed overnight chez moi for the two-day job. I told him to come for supper if he liked. I was planning on salmon pinwheels and had to get them at the store. Yes there are oodles of recipes on da interwebz so i could make my own, but these are quite tasty and readymade at the store. Just pop them in the oven for 18 minutes or so, and Bob's your uncle.

He offered to pick them up, so i thanked him. He called me from the store to say that he had gotten a pound or so (~450 g) of a nice fillet, did i need for him to pick up the cream cheese? No, i told him, i had cream cheese here. Which i do, but i wasn't thinking of having to fuss with making them, i was thinking of something that was easy to pop in the oven without any prep from me.

I went online to see if i could find a good salmon recipe with a mustard glaze. My own attempts at making a mustard glaze were okay, but something was missing.

I stumbled onto a Martha Stewart recipe that looked easy. I'd make that instead of the pinwheels, served with brown basmati rice and a green veggie, maybe broccoli.

Once SFB arrived, i realised i needed lemon, so i ended up at the store after all and got one.

We had a lovely boat conversation and cocktail as i put the rice on to cook. I rarely have any sort of cocktail hour, so it made for a nice change, especially on a work day. The glaze was simple enough, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp mustard, salt and pepper (i omitted the salt), mix together, spread over fish, bake for 8 to
12 minutes.

It was so yummy, i could scarcely believe i made it. There was only a very small portion left, perfect for a light lunch.

And to think that had he gotten the pinwheels, i'd have never found this easy, yummy recipe.

I tried it again over the weekend as i enjoyed it so much when SFB was here, but i got a little heavy-handed with the lemon juice, and it's not as good. This dish will be gracing my menu for some time to come.