Thursday, February 28, 2013

Almost Time for the Winter Author Blog Challenge

So....on the eve of the sequester, on Pope Benedict XVI's last day in office, and the last day of the shortest month of the year, I prepare for my next blogging challenge.

This Winter Author Blog Challenge will be an interesting one.  It is only a 15 day challenge and is supposed to center on authors and social media.

Why is this interesting?

1.  Because I am not an author;
2.  Because I have written the grand total of one manuscript  - unfinished and unedited.  Certainly unpublished.  I did that during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), the 30 day period of insanity each November where aspiring writers attempt to write a 50,000 word first draft of a work of fiction- and trust me, IT IS HARD. (I did succeed.)
3.  Because I do like to cyber-hang around authors.  A published children's book author, Billie Noakes, introduced me to blog challenges.  One of these challenges, the Ultimate Blog Challenge, led to the first Author Blog Challenge last year.  I cyber-met some wonderful people in the Author Blog Challenge, and hope to reconnect with them, and new authors, in the next 15 days.

And best of all...

4.  Because the authors have welcomed me into their midst.

I enjoy using social media, especially Pinterest, which could easily become an out-of-control endeavor for me.  I am shy and introverted by nature, but the Internet, and social media, frees me.  I've even met two bloggers in "real time" and, perhaps one day, I will get to meet others.

If any or all of this sounds interesting to you, please go to the Author Blog Challenge website and sign up!  You don't have to post every day (and, due to circumstances, I won't be able to do Challenge related posts every day, or even most days of the challenge) but the more you post, AND visit the more than 20 blogs registered so far, the more you will learn.

I'm excited, and I hope to meet YOU at the Challenge.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Winter Wednesday - Italian Spring

Today is a combined Winter Wednesday and Sustainable Saturday post.

This Saturday I will be participating in the 15 Day Winter Author Blog Challenge.  If you have ever written a book, tried to write a book, have ever thought about writing a book, or just like to hang out in cyberspace with authors, I invite you to join our fun group.  The Challenge starts on Friday.  My next Sustainable Saturday post will be on Saturday, March 16.

Last Saturday, spouse and I went to the local Christmas Tree Shop, which is a place where you can find bargains, and - the unexpected.  It is the kind of store (and no, I am not being paid for this plug) where you walk in intending to buy one thing and come out wondering (in a good way) how you ever spent $40.

There was a display of seeds, and to our delight, they were Italian seeds.  Not seeds of Italian type veggies, but - Italian veggies from Italy.  Barely a word of English on the labels

Some of the veggies were familiar - carrots, cippolini onions,  fava beans. (not my favorite, but spouse likes them). Others were new to my gardening experience. I had never seen caper seed sold in a store. Spouse uses capers in his cooking, and I also enjoy them.

Dreaming of an unusual garden, spouse bought three packets: an unusual broccoli (Spigarello broccoli), an Italian lungo cucumber, and mixed leaf lettuces.

Our bill, by the way, including the seeds (each packet was under $2.00 - not bad, nowadays) and our other purchases, was $37.  I think the one item we intended to purchase was about $4.00.  Now, that's merchandising.

We've been gardening for some 40 years, but every spring is a new experience.  Wish us luck with our Italian seeds!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Guest Post - Living with Bells Palsy

Sometimes, life strikes you with one of its lightning bolts, just like that.  One of my cousin's husbands  wrote this back in February, shortly after he was diagnosed with Bells Palsy. Sometimes, you just don't know what life has in store for you - you just have to make the best of it.  I have posted this without any editing.  But, I couldn't get the color of the font adjusted, for some reason, so I apologize for the appearance.  That's what I had to do to make it visible.  I could have retyped it but I don't love him THAT much - only kidding.

I'm happy to say he's shown slight improvement over the past few days  - but still has a long road to travel.

My cousin-in-law (is that a word) loves to write.  Maybe one day I can talk him into blogging - in the meantime, it would be great if you could show him some love.

                                 LIVING WITH BELLS PALSY
     I never knew anything about Bells Palsy until I got diagnosed about 10 days ago. No one knows what causes this condition and most folks recover in about 6 months. There is no cure. I've researched it like crazy. I just developed symptoms over night after a terrible ear ache.  For those who don't know..Bells Palsy is a neurological disorder of the facial nerves,(7th cranial nerve). It is basically a paralysis of the facial muscles. I have it on my right side. I can't blink that eye.
     So here I am..Day 10..But who's counting. After extensive research, I realize I do have many of the classic symptoms so I'm adjusting best I can.  I can't eat. drink, or kiss normal. SURE I can still eat but slower and in smaller pieces so as not to drool,  I can't spit or pucker  normal. More hugs in order I guess. No more triple Whoppers stuffed in my mouth. I suppose that's a good thing anyway
     I seem to be supersensitive to some loud noises. Even showering, it sounds like Niagara Falls or Bushkill Falls in the Poconos .. As bath water pours in, it feels like I'm canoeing down the rapids with Meryl Streep.
  My "B" and "P" sounds come out like I'm poofing as does my "F" words. No more cursing I guess. I'm blowing as I say these letters. If I yelled "FIRE" I could blow it out. .My wife says I sound like Elmer Fudd or Daffy Duck at least she didn't say I talk like Goofy.
     I've seen so much on line with treatments that might help the symptoms..everything from certain vitamins,acupuncture, supplements, herbs, chiropractors, facial massages, electrical stimulation,moist heat,
 magnets..MAGNETS? Sure I want to have a positive outlook about recovery ..but magnets? Hey. I'd call an exorcist if I really thought one would help.  But I have my appetite and can still eat a Peter Lugers steak if I so desired, albeit cut in smaller pieces. Keeping my eye moist at work with drops and wash and eye ointment at night has not been fun..AND I'm wearing an old fashioned pirate patch on my affected eye before going to sleep. Yo ho Ho. Hopefully one day, maybe I can wear it if I ever act in The Pirates of Penzance.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Queen of Versailles - Binghamton Style

To every city comes its 15 minutes (or more) of fame.  We here in Binghamton, New York may be about to get ours.

Someone I know was sent a DVD by her daughter.  It was a DVD of a documentary movie called "The Queen of Versailles".  It co-starred a woman by the name of Jackie Siegel.  Married to a timeshare billionaire, David Siegel, this documentary started out with the purpose of filming the building of what was intended to be the largest house in the United States - their house - in Florida.  It was to have been modeled after the Palace at Versailles.

Quoting from the Internet Movie Database:

"Rather than going the been-there-done-that route of a rags to riches story, director Lauren Greenfield accidentally (yet exquisitely) delivers a riches to rags tale with the intimate glimpse into the wealthy lives of David and Jackie Siegel. As the president and CEO of the largest timeshare corporation in the country, David is the epitome of the American dream...While the film's initial purpose was to document the development of their 90,000 sq. ft. home (the third largest in the United States), once the financial crisis of 2008 impacted banks globally, David soon finds his entire empire in jeopardy."

In fact, things went so sour that David Siegel decided to sue the filmmaker.  Last month, he lost. 

If you want, you - yes, you!- can purchase the house.  It is on sale for a mere $65,000,000. - a steal, if you ask me.  After all, it has 13 bedrooms and 26 bathrooms. (But wait!  All full bathrooms have jacuzzis).  Let's not forget the rock grotto with the 3 spas, the indoor roller rink or the "family wing" for the Siegels' eight children.  Recently, construction started again - until recently the house was about 1/3 uncompleted, with the price tag of completion estimated at $30,000,000.

So, what does this have to do with Binghamton, a city of about 47,000. in upstate New York, once famously called by a newspaper "a burnt out industrial town". (Sadly, there is a lot of truth to that.)

Well, Jackie Siegel is a native of Binghamton.  This 47 year old woman grew up in the middle class, still has childhood friends here, and graduated from RIT (the Rochester Institute of Technology), which one of my cousins went to. 

In interviews, people who knew Jackie as a young adult remarked on her beauty.  As far as whether that beauty is only skin deep you, my readers, will have to determine for yourself.

What do I think?  I think Jackie lost track of her roots long ago.  I don't feel for her.  I do feel - a lot - for her children.  I don't think that wealth equals happiness, and I hope her children do find happiness in their adult lives.  Am I jealous of her and her wealth?  Well, I could wish I didn't live in a neighborhood impacted by major flooding in 2011, but, in truth, I would not trade places with her.  Ever.

Did a celebrity come from where you were born or live now?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Slavery is Finally Officially Banned in the U.S.

Newspapers in the United States have been reporting this news of the week:

The constitutional amendment that banned slavery in the United States was officially ratified by all applicable states as of....1865? 1870?  1875?  No, no and no.  The correct answer is:  February 7, 2013.

But first, I need to back up.

The causes and events that led to the Civil War here in the United States (1861-1865) were varied and are a lot more complex than most people realize.  The "facts" are still disputed based on whether you are sympathetic to the North or to the cause of the 11 states in the South that seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America (CSA).  In my blog, which is written by a Northerner who lived some of her life in the former Confederate states of Florida and Arkansas, I stay away from those arguments.

In each Confederate state slavery was legal.  It is important to note several things:
1. Slavery was legal in most states at the time of the founding of the United States (including my native New York State), but, by the time of the Civil War, many states had outlawed slavery and
2.  Slavery remained legal in several states that chose to remain in the Union during the Civil War: Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware and Maryland.

Therefore, Federal officials had to tiptoe carefully around the issue of slavery -although, with the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the path of freeing the slaves was more or less set. 

3. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in states in rebellion - and, of course, the people living in the CSA were not about to free their slaves just because the United States issued a document freeing their slaves!
4. Therefore, the Proclamation was mainly symbolic - an important symbol, but symbolic.  It did NOT abolish slavery.  It did NOT free slaves in the slaves states that chose to remain in the Union.
5. The Emancipation Proclamation was able to come into existence on the basis of certain war powers granted to President Lincoln  (a story worth blogging about at a later time.)

Abraham Lincoln knew this full well, and knew that there was a good chance the Emancipation Proclamation would be overturned after the war. Therefore, he and others came to feel a Constitutional Amendment was needed to abolish slavery.  That became the 13th amendment, which was adopted in December of 1865, eight months after the Civil War ended, after Georgia, a former Confederate state, ratified it.  (Ironically, Lincoln was dead by then - and the President in December of 1865, Andrew Johnson, was a native of a former Confederate state, North Carolina.  He is associated with Tennessee, another former Confederate state. Did I mention history can be complex?)

But Mississippi, another former Confederate states, didn't ratify the 13th amendment in 1865.  In fact, it did not ratify the amendment until 1995.  And even then, Mississippi didn't file the correct paperwork.  Thanks belong to an immigrant to the United States who saw the recent movie Lincoln and wondered if there was more to the story. He saw a footnote about Mississippi's ratification being "unofficial" online, because the proper official was never notified.  This was publicized,  and Mississippi finally officially ratified the 13th amendment a little more than two weeks ago.

By then, of course, the ratification was purely symbolic.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sustainable Saturday-When Is Local Not Local?

When is local not local?

Syracuse, New York, is about an hour and ten minutes north of us here in the Binghamton, New York area.  To our delight, some Syracuse local food companies are starting to expand into our area.

 But, exactly where does "local" begin?
(Incidentally, I am not getting reimbursed in any way for blogging about these products - just to get THAT out of the way.)

Today, in a local supermarket (chain headquartered in upstate New York) someone was sampling Pastabilities Spicy Hot Tomato Oil.  From a co worker who lives near Syracuse, I know that this has been around for many years, and is produced by a Syracuse restaurant.    So today, I got to try it and... it's yummy.  And spicy, but not in a bad way. isn't made in Syracuse.  Not any more. It's made in Massachusetts, which is even further away than Syracuse. Sigh.

My co-worker told me to try a different product, something called Cheeky Monkey. (This product is a tomato/garlic dipping oil-apparently, a competitor of the oil I sampled today.) Now THAT, she assured me, is locally made.  It is also sold in the year round CNY Regional Market in Syracuse, which she assures me is well worth the drive.

But, it isn't sold here.  And, I haven't tried it.  So, I'm faced once again with the Local Food Problem:
Local product, local creators, sold here but outsourced somewhere else?
Or, local product that really is locally made but isn't available here, and I would either have to make a 1 hour journey each way, or buy mail order?

While I was mulling over the dueling tomato oil dips, I ran across a NY made pasta at the local Binghamton winter farmers market.  Flour City Pasta looks to be a high quality product, and is made using heirloom grain varieties. The Winter Farmers Market promises that all goods sold have a NY connection.  But New York is a large state.   The problem?  It is made near Rochester, a good two and a half hour drive away from us.  I must admit I passed on it - it was not cheap. what point does local not become local?  I wish I had a good answer for that.

Do you have any thoughts on what defines "truly local" food?

Now, I have a couple of announcements.

The next Sustainable Saturday post will be this Wednesday.  After that, since I am participating in a two week long Author's blog challenge starting March 1, my Sustainable Saturday feature (and Winter Wednesday) will go on hiatus until after March 15.  To fans of my features, I apologize, and hope you enjoy what I will be doing in March (which may include some "best of's") until I get back to my regular schedule after March 15.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Honored in Poetry

Caro Ness, this Christmas Cactus picture is for you.

I am getting a little bit of a following over in Europe, which is amazing to me, given that I have never left the North American continent.  Physically, anyway. 

The power of the Internet still amazes this 60 year old woman who lives in upstate New York.  In all of my childhood dreams of writing, I never could have imagined something like the Internet.  Or email, or Facebook, or blogging.  Or being able to correspond with people real time who are thousands of miles away.

So this morning, I woke up, checked my email, logged onto Facebook my astonishment, saw that someone in England wrote a poem about me.  And not just about me.  About my blog, too!

I didn't have much time to bask in the trans Atlantic glory.   I had to leave for work, that thing that finances my life and allows me some time for blogging at the end of the day.

Now, it's time to return the favor, even though it is after midnight and Caro is probably fast asleep.  Aseep, not knowing what is about to happen....

I was honored not just any poet, but an accomplished author by the name of Caro Ness.  She writes poems about the most unlikely of topics.  In the past few days, she's started a series of poems about some of her favorite blogs.

You have to visit her blog, and check out the blogs she is writing about.

But, what can I give Caro in return?  I certainly can't give her a poem.  Maybe a non-traditional haiku:

Christmas cactus blooms
On their way to dear England
Spring is on the way.

Visit Caro, the Blogger's Poet, and give her some love!  (And Caro, thank you!)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

When Is Someone Too Old for A Colonoscopy?

I have a dilemma.  Time for some caregiving fun....

My mother in law, who is in her mid-80's, got her annual physical last week.  Her doctor, who is a new doctor to her (her family doctor of many years retired last year), wants her to get a colonoscopy.

There is no medical problem leading to this request.

The last time she had one (7 years ago) she experienced a lot of discomfort.  But, more importantly, she has mobility issues.  She's supposed to use a walker.  Her balance is terrible.  Her bathroom is upstairs from her living area and she has a bad knee.

 I've had a colonoscopy twice and also had to do the same prep once for a different exam.  So I know "the prep drill" all too well.  So I know what an ordeal it would be for her.  I honestly do not know if she would be able to complete it.  At her age, I wouldn't be too crazy about the sedation, either.

I understand the doctor considered a virtual colonoscopy, but said Medicare wouldn't pay for it. (He's right - I checked.) I also read up on virtual colonoscopies.  According to what I read, she only misses the sedation fun, not the prep fun.  Still has to prep.  If they find anything,she needs the regular one, so has to prep again. Ugh.

I know none of my readers can give medical advice. So, I am asking: where can I get RELIABLE information to see if she really should go through this ordeal?

Or, if there is an "alternative" type of prep that could be done? (she lives near a major metropolitan area).

I've done some reading indicating an age 85 cut off for this test.

Can my readers help me research this?  There is so much unreliable medical information on the Internet.

Have you ever questioned a test a doctor wants to give?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winter Wednesday - The First Signs of Spring?

It has been a wintery last few days here in the Binghamton, New York area.  Yesterday, snow showers.  Sunday, bitter winds. Yet, spring is on its way.  How do we know?

Nature tells us.  On February 16 we saw the signs.

A dandelion blooming in a lawn on the West Side of Binghamton.

A little further along, we saw signs of spring bulbs starting to emerge from the ground, as the snow melted off.

Even before then, we heard birds singing.  This is not abnormal for the middle of February, but the birds were out in force.  Now they are singing daily, as I prepare to travel to work in the early morning.

No robins yet, but it is a matter of time.

Can spring be far behind?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What Can Happen in 14 Weeks?

My customer service problem with Weight Watchers is resolved, and it was a lesson hard learned.
For my readers who are also business owners, I want to summarize my experience - please do not make these mistakes with your customers!

1.  If you give your customers online tools that are free for a specified period, and then they are entitled to extending the free period (which I was), don't give them an email contact to use to get instructions.  Give them the instructions! Or give them a phone number to call.

2.  If you use email as support, do not take from January 21 to February 13 to answer the email.

3.  Train your customer service staff.  The person who answered the email in #2 gave me incorrect instructions.  It took me three phone calls to establish this.

4.  Do NOT answer a tweet complaining about your service with "call 1-800-XXX-XXXX" which is your main customer service number.  All I got was a long voicemail menu.  I ALREADY HAD THAT NUMBER.  IT'S ON THEIR WEBSITE.

5.  Reward your effective customer service people.  The last rep I spoke to was extremely helpful and stayed on the phone with me for over 20 minutes as we tried different solutions to my problem.  He stayed to the end and made sure my registration went through properly.  I told him how happy I was and that I would like to see him rewarded.  He told me "there's a survey that I can put you through at the end of the phone call". I gave him the highest marks for everything he did and told them I would NOT recommend the program to anyone. (that was the last question).  But it was an automated survey.  I hope my responses are tied to this wonderful rep's service.

I have 14 weeks to use the tools it took me from January 21 to today to register for and I will make the best of it.  After that, Weight Watchers is going to be do-it-myself, and I hope I can cancel (I had to give my credit card number) without going through the same nightmare.

I suppose it does not matter to Weight Watchers if they lose customers over their lack of service. (I've heard, since the start of my difficulties, that I'm far from the only dissatisfied customer).  There will be plenty more people, in the midst of the obesity epidemic here in the States, to join up.  To them I say  "I hope you have better luck if you need customer service."

So, I have 14 weeks to learn and succeed. And then, I'm on my own.

Have you ever kept using a product despite subpar customer service?

Monday, February 18, 2013

What's in a Name?

Today, in the United States, we are celebrating a holiday, no one really knows.

When I was growing up, there was a holiday, Washington's Birthday, which was celebrated on - imagine that, his birthday. February 22. We'll ignore the fact that Washington actually was NOT born on February 22.  He was born on February 11, 1732, under the old Julian calendar.  When Britain switched over to the Gregorian calendar we now use, his birth date was renumbered.

(Can you imagine the chaos today, in our computer-driven world, if they renumbered the calendar?  More proof that our ancestors were more adaptable to change in some ways than we moderns are.)

February 22 became a Federal holiday in 1885. Washington's Birthday, honoring George Washington, our first President.  The beloved "Father of our Country." 

Well, that meant that sometimes the holiday could not be celebrated as a three day weekend.  We couldn't have that, could we?  In the early 1970's it was decided that Washington's birthday, and several other holidays that were celebrated on specific days, would be moved so we could have three day weekends.

So, this holiday was moved to the third Monday of February.  Ironically that also means it can never be celebrated on February 22.

After all these years, most people here no longer call the holiday "Washington's Birthday", although that is still its official name.  It is called either "Presidents' Day" or "President's Day". (Sometimes, Presidents Day with no comma.) And herein lies the power of a comma.

Presidents' Day:  honors all Presidents. President's Day: honors one President.  George Washington. Or maybe not always.

Adding to the confusion, states have passed their own laws specifying what the holiday is called, and the honoree(s) thereof.  Some states honor Washington.  Some states honor Washington and Lincoln (Lincoln was the Federal president during our Civil War 1861-1865). At least one Southern state honors Washington and another President, Thomas Jefferson, as most of the states that seceded during the Civil War still choose not to honor Lincoln in any way, 152 years after the fact.

So, if you are in the United States, happy....uh, whatever your state calls it.

And if you are not from the United States - does your country have something as confusing?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Civil War Sunday - The Ballfield and The General

What do a ball field in Michigan and many Civil War battlefields have in common?

They are endangered.

So, why should people interested in the Civil War care about a ball field in Michigan?  No Civil War battle was fought there.

No, instead, it was the beloved ball field of a man who co-directed and cowrote a movie based on a true Civil War event.  The ball field is still in use.  Who would miss it if it was bulldozed and turned into a residential development?

Well - the man in question is considered one of the best, if not the best writer/director in the history of movies.  This despite the fact that he died nearly 50 years ago.

The movie, The General, is  considered one of the greatest films ever made.  It has certainly stood the test of time.  It was co-written and directed by one of the most acclaimed physical film comedian of all time, Buster Keaton.

Not bad for a silent movie made in 1926.

"The General" is a locomotive.  The 101st anniversary of the Civil War incident it is famous is coming up in April and I may (no promises) blog about it.

Friends of my blog, please watch this clip.  It will take less than four minutes of your time. When you do, consider this:  There are no stunt doubles.  No green screens.  No computer generated special effects.  In fact, no special effects at all.  This is all LIVE before the camera.  This is all REAL.

So, why save this ball field?  It meant a lot to Buster Keaton.  That ballfield was a refuge.  Playing baseball was one of his true loves.  It helped shape his work ethic.  It helped make him what he became.  That should be sufficient.

There are organizations dedicated to the preservation of endangered Civil War battlefields. 

But, my friends, history is so much more than battlefields.   History does not spring from nowhere.  It is the story of the human race.  Stories can not be fully understood unless we experience the surroundings, the "realness", if you will, of the event or the person.  That's why we preserve Civil War battlefields.  We preserve dead generals' birthplaces and homes.  We even preserved the locomotive called "The General"

If you agree this ball field should be saved there is an online petition (which may or may not help), and a website with more information and a way to give money to the cause, if you are so inclined. (Note, the online petition site will solicit you but they clearly state the money goes to them - not this cause.)  Finally, there is a Facebook page called Polyester Cowboy Productions which is attempting to mobilize people.

Is there an endangered historical site near you?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Dashcam Fever

The Mayans didn't get the last laugh.  The Russians did.

Yesterday, I went online to see if the asteroid I had blogged about on February 5 had, indeed, missed the Earth - and saw the Internet was full of news about a meteorite hit in Russia.  It took a few minutes to establish that it wasn't the asteroid that was supposed to travel within 17,000. miles of our planet, but a small (as they go) meteor.  Just imagine if it had been bigger....

It wasn't too funny to the Russians, but it taught Americans a bit about Russian culture.  Not your normal Sustainable Saturday post but I am really fascinated by this entire story.  Maybe there is a lesson here about living in Nature.

The lesson is:  we are not in control. Not by a long shot.  And, it is the small and unexpected that will get us, if we don't prepare. If we don't watch and learn.  If we aren't on guard - or if we are distracted. For example, there are now reports of a meteor spotted overnight, in the San Francisco area. What else is happening that we don't know about?

For that lesson, we can thank the universal Russian dash-cams.
Americans now know that almost every Russian who drives has a webcam in their vehicle.   Good thing, too, as we now have thousands of videos featuring the descent of the meteor, its sonic boom, and its power in breaking out thousands of acres of glass.

Yesterday, I sat at my computer wondering:  really?  How did we get thousands of videos?

My son is visiting right now, and he told me, "Yes, Mom, didn't you know that all Russians have dash-cams in their cars?"  Apparently, for young men his age, watching videos of Russian vehicle crashes is a favorite spare-time activity.  You Tube has the tamer ones.  There are Russian sites that have uncensored ones, featuring blood, gore, and even fatal duels between crashed drivers.

In my youth, there would have been no humor.  Would these Russians have thought they were under attack by the U.S.? I think we here in the States may have thought the opposite.

So now, Russia is on the mind of most Americans, at least for the next few days.

I got to wondering if the Russians have a sustainability movement.  The good news is, they do.

And, yes, farmers markets.

(A long way from the Communist Soviet Union that existed in my youth, and for a lot of my life.  I realized I know little about the modern Russia.  So do many Americans.)

One of my in law cousins is going to visit Russia later this year for a river cruise.   I hope she brings back some exciting stories.

But hopefully, not as exciting as what happened yesterday.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - Feb 2013 Flowerball

The Ides of February.  A day when a meteorite hit Russia in a fireball.  A day when a wonderful friend of 50 years told me that her husband has cancer, weeks after she was declared in remission from her cancer. A day when the birds sang in downtown Binghamton, New York, and the temperature reached 47 degrees F (8.3degrees C).  That last, by the way, is not typical for us in upstate New York.  In some years, we've had three or more feet of snow on the ground.

So began the 7th year of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted, as usual, by May Dreams Gardens.  Please enjoy what I have in bloom and then, please visit May Dream's website and click the links of fantastic garden bloggers from all over the world.

Like the May Dreams blogger, our winter has been like a roller coaster ride. 

What do I have in bloom outside?  Nada.  Nor are any of my bulbs peeking out to see if it's safe to grow.

What is in bloom inside my house?  Well....a bit of a flowerball.

First is my pride and joy, my orchid, which just opened its third flower.  I didn't kill it! It rebloomed for me!  High five!

My impatien, rooted from a cutting from my summer garden, is also happy. She's on a north facing windowsill.
One of my African Violets.
Another African Violet.
And finally, my Christmas Cactus doesn't know it's February 15.  It's about ready to open its second set of blooms in three months.
I may not be able to post on time next month, but I'm curious to see how much things will change in the next 28 days.  Just think: it will almost be spring!

What's blooming in your garden/house?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Worst Customer Service in the World

Who would you nominate for company providing the Worst Customer Service in the World?

Business owners, your customers want to talk to you.  But, are you listening?  Do you care?  Is customer service just a word to you?  Do you treat your customer service reps with respect, or do you pay them hunger wages and make impossible demands of them?  Do you provide training?

Do you think customers are fooled by lousy customer service?  Do you think your product is so great that nonexistent service will not matter?  You won't serve your customer, but They Still Will Come?

I hate to do this because - this company has a wonderful product.  However, soon,  I will no longer be their customer.

My problem is with Weight Watchers, yes, the same Weight Watchers I've mentioned favorably several times on my blog.  I'm close to my 10% weight loss mark.  They've taught me a lot. BUT I don't think I have EVER run across a company that is as unresponsive as they are.

I don't say this lightly.  But, in my group, I'm not the only person having problems.  And, NO ONE is getting results following with people in the organization.

I first contacted Weight Watchers on January 21, following their directions on a voucher for 14 free weeks of online tools.(E Tools, which normally has a monthly charge, but because of my particular program, I am supposed to get 14 weeks free.)  I had to to email a certain address for this particular program because I already had an account.  There was no phone number.  (In my book, strike one.  What has happened to speaking to real human beings?)

On January 28 I received an AUTOMATED ACKNOWLEDGEMENT (1 week for that)

I did not get an email from an actual rep until February 13. At that point the rep gave me directions - easy directions, so why didn't they put this on the voucher instead of telling me to email a certain address for directions and wait three weeks?

The directions yielded me - an error page. The voucher number doesn't work.

As of right now, no one has responded to my followup.

My program coordinator is having the same problem with her account, and is also being ignored by customer service. I've told the person who runs our meetings, three weeks in a row, of my difficulty.

In another week, if this situation isn't resolved, my credit card will be billed for something that should be free to me because of me being in this certain program.

I tweeted to their Twitter account.  No one home, apparently.  No response.  There are companies who use their Twitter account to resolve customer sevice programs.  Not Weight Watchers, apparently.

Why haven't I called and "given them h**l??" Well, because I have a number of other things going on in my life.  Should I need to badger a customer service department over a stupid voucher for free services I'm entitled to because I paid for a certain program and this is part of the program?

I am leaving Weight Watchers at the end of my paid session.  If this is their idea of support, I'm gone. Their entire mission is support - support in losing weight.  But when it is time to give service, nada. Again, it isn't just me, others in my program are having problems.

And - will I get someone to honor my request to cancel the eTools?  That's what I'm really worried about.  They made me give them a credit card number.  I'll know better next time.

At this point in time - if you asked me if you should join Weight Watchers - guess what my answer would be?

Is anyone paying attention?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Winter Wednesday - Weeping and Twisting

On a recent visit to Binghamton, New York's Cutler Botanical Gardens, I marveled at the various ways Nature (with some help from selective breeding) can display its beauty even at the height of winter.  There are no flowers able to brave our cold.  Any berries are long gone.  Foliage awaits spring warmth, and bare trees aren't quite yet ready to glow with sap starting to rise.

So what is a plant to do?

In the case of this Weeping Larch:  well, weep.  Yes, this is a tree.

This Weeping Redbud isn't upright like its regular cousins but come spring, it will still display the lovely purple flowers its kind are famous for.
Then there are the plants that twist their way to winter interest, such as this "Walking Stick" tree.

And finally, there are those hardy plants who defy the snow, such as these Ornamental Kales Glamour Red.

Now, if only my Lenten Rose would bloom.

Do you grow winter interest plants? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Lose a Sale without Even Trying

The website had done everything right.

I was looking for a pair of water shoes my 80-something mother in law needed for a water walking class she's just started. She has serious balance issues and needs the support the shoes give.  She is unable to tie shoes and the geriatric care manager we hired on her behalf recommended a slip on style.  So here I was, three hours car journey from my mother in law, doing an online search at home.

The site, which specializes in everything related to swimming and water exercise, had good information, well organized.  There was a selection of water shoes, easily found and well laid out, and one style looked promising.  It was slip on, the comments were positive, and there was information telling me how to figure out the size to order.

I wanted to ask some questions, and I noticed they had a chat feature.  I clicked on it, was told there would be a wait of 11 seconds, and before I knew it, "Alexandra" was asking how she could help me.  I had several questions. "Alexandra" answered quickly and efficiently.  I thanked her, and praised the chat.

I emailed a link to the geriatric care manager, she thought they would be suitable, and so I went back online to order the shoes.

That's when the site lost the sale.

What did they do wrong?

They would not let me order without setting up an account.  I would have had to choose a user name and password.  I looked around a little, and there was no way around it.

I don't know if it is "just me".  But I am so overwhelmed with passwords (yes, I know there is software for this), for work, for home, for a couple of online retailers I use frequently.  I'm tired of it.  I was mentally tired, in addition. I had done a lot of long distance caregiving stuff that day, and I just wanted to get online, put in the order, and relax.  I didn't want to have to think up a new password and write it down.

I took the easy way out.  I didn't want to waste any time.  I wanted a painless ordering experience.

I went to, saw the same shoes there, and ordered them.   The price was slightly more, but Amazon also offered free return.

I have a Prime account with Amazon and this was eligible for Prime shipping.  I even have my mother in law listed as an alternate shipping address, and - Amazon kept their promise; I ordered the shoes Saturday night and my mother in law got the shoes today. (And yes, they fit.)

So I'd like to ask my readers, some of whom are online businesspeople:  why would a merchant website require a new customer set up an account? I note many merchants give the option, but let you order as "guest".

Am I the only person who would not give a merchant a sale because of this?  Or do others feel the same way as I do?  Not having to set up an account is important to me.  Maybe it is to others.

Are YOU losing sales because of this?

Monday, February 11, 2013

One Left?

We can rest easy.  The world will not be destroyed by the asteroid that will pass within 17,000. miles of our planet on February 15.

How do I know?

Because the Pope resigned today, effective February 28, 2013 at 19:00 Greenwich Mean Time.

And, prophecies dating back from the 12th century tell us that we will have one more Pope after this one who is resigning.  Maybe.  No asteroid is mentioned.

Already the Internet is buzzing with discussion of the prophecies of the Irishman St. Malachy, who died in 1148 CE.  As the story goes, the saint saw a vision of all the popes who would ever reign, while visiting Rome.  He wrote details down, in Latin.  Like all seers, he had to disguise his visions lest he get into some kind of serious trouble.

The vision, to summarize, named 122 popes. Pope Benedict XVI is #121.

They weren't named by name, but rather by birthplace, or some characteristic.  Pope #121 was described as the "glory of the olive".  Only the last pope, the one to come (maybe), is described in detail.

The manuscript was supposedly found in archives in 1590, and published in 1595.  "Supposedly", because there is some doubt regarding whether St. Malachy wrote it, or someone from the 1590's.

These prophecies are not Roman Catholic Church doctrine.

Skeptics state the details of popes prior to the 16th century tend to be accurate, while the details after....well, those are more open to interpretation. (What, for example, is "the glory of the olive"?)

Visions of the future are not restricted to the Catholic faith.  This is part of what makes us human - we want to know the future, and perhaps there are those of us who can see into the future.  But, even so, it raises the question of if the future is fixed or if it can be changed. A future that changes can be the reason if some of these visions are authentic, and yet don't come to pass.  Personally, I do not rule out the possibility of some people with special talents can see into the future.

Those people, though, (assuming their vision is authentic), see the future through the lens of their own experience, which can cause a bit of a disconnect.  How, for example, would a person of the past describe an atomic explosion, or a spaceship?

But, getting back to St. Malachy and the glory of the olive - as of March 1, we may be down to our last Pope.  And, what do we know of the last Pope, according to this vision?

St. Malachy calls him Peter the Roman (or Peter of Rome).  "Peter" will reign during a time of great tribulation, and his reign will end with the destruction of the "city of seven hills" (Rome) and a terrible judgement thereafter.

I have to admit something strange happened to me today.  I went online after hearing of the Pope's resignation.  I saw a link to an article that asked the question "Is it possible our next Pope could be a non-European?"  There were several men listed that might be under consideration.

The first was a man in his 60's, from Ghana.

His first name is Peter.

Do you think the prophecy of "one last Pope" gives us anything to worry about?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Is the Mystery of the H.L. Hunley Solved?

The night of February 17, 1864.  It is cold.  Rumors of a secret Confederate weapon circulate among crew members of an enemy ship in Charleston Harbor, in South Carolina. The ship is the Union warship USS Housatonic.  It is one of a number of ships blockading Charleston Harbor to choke off supplies to the Confederacy.

A lookout on deck scans the dark water.  Perhaps he sees porpoises and notes their movement. (The Friends of the Hunley website notes there may have been porpoises in the water that night.)  No problems there.

Suddenly he sees movement that just doesn't look right.

 Meanwhile, below the surface of Charleston Harbor, a crew of eight labors at a hand crank that powers one of the first submarines ever built.  The state of the art craft will be a total surprise to the Yankees!

Candles barely light the dim, crowded space. (I've been in a reproduction which was 10% larger than the actual ship and - it was unbelievably tiny.)  It must have stank of sweat and anticipation, maybe even a little fear.

Look at the faces of the crew and note them well.

The submarine was the  H. L. Hunley, the "secret weapon". And what a weapon it was.

The eight brave men on the ship directed the Hunley into the Housatanic, planting a 135 pound torpedo in the Federal ship. (Note at that time the word "torpedo" did not have the modern day meaning of an explosive shot from a submarine but meant, rather, a tethered mine.)  The Hunley, we are told, then backed up.

There was an explosion.

The Housatonic sank.

Meanwhile, the story continues, the Hunley crew flashed a blue magnesium signal that told their fellow rebels that they had completed their mission.  The Confederates on land lit fires to guide the Hunley home.

They never returned.

They were lost for over 130 years.  What had happened?

The Hunley was found buried in the silt of Charleston Harbor in 1995, the eight crew members still at their stations.  There was no evidence that they had tried to escape. Their deaths apparently were peaceful.  What had happened in those last few minutes or hours before they embarked on their Eternal Patrol?

The ship was raised in 2000 and is being restored in a hanger in North Charleston, South Carolina.  When I took the public tour in 2012 (highly recommended, by the way) of the facility, the cause of crew member death was still not known, and we were told the best theory probably was that they had to flee to the bottom of the harbor for some unknown reason. The sub was designed to do just that, and could be submerged for some two hours.  But, perhaps, the candles had eaten up the oxygen and the crew fell asleep, never to wake.

Now, though, we may have an answer.  Just a few weeks ago this news was released:  
The latest evidence is that the Hunley was less than 20 feet away from the Housatonic when the torpedo exploded.  If you look at an artist's rendition of the Hunley on the Friends of the Hunley website, you see a spar sticking out from the vessel.  What if the torpedo had exploded at the end of that spar, as the forensic evidence now seems to indicate?   The concussion may have knocked out the crew, never to awaken.  (But then, what about the blue flare?)

The last minutes of the historic Confederate submarine continue to fascinate, and one day perhaps we may know the truth.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Shoveling Nemo

(Thank you, everyone who commented on my post yesterday.  So far, my mother in law is OK and with power.)

Here on the East Coast of the United States, a winter storm quickly formed and dumped varying amounts of snow, sometimes in near-blizzard conditions, between yesterday and early this morning.  The Weather Channel named it "Nemo". Portland, Maine got over 29 inches.  We, at our house near Johnson City, New York, got about 5.5 inches.  In the lower Hudson Valley where my mother in law lives, totals varied from about 15 to 21 inches.

When I got home from work last night, the snow was already coating sidewalks and plants.  The look of snow on plants was unusual, almost like foam- this photo does not do it justice.
By 10pm, the neighborhood looked like a winter fairyland, as the snow (the streaks in the photo below) continued to fall.  (This picture, by the way, was taken without flash.)

In the broad daylight of Saturday morning, everything was coated with heavy snow.  Not an ideal snow for someone with a bad back (me) to shovel.
My spouse was exhausted from two hard days of work, and wasn't up to shoveling yet. So, after a walk around the neighborhood, I took a soft broom and started to clean off our car. (Fortunately, we don't have a public sidewalk, but we do have two walks that cross our front yard.)  And, needless to say, the plow had thrown snow up, blocking our driveway.  We weren't going to go anywhere until I got the job done.  Fortunately, neither one of us had to work today.

A couple of minutes into the job, with my back to our street, I heard a man's voice.

"Excuse me, ma'm", a middle aged man said.  "I clean off sidewalks and driveways.  Would you like me to clean your sidewalks and driveway?  I'll even finish cleaning off your car."

He quoted me a price of $20.  We don't have a large front yard, but, that shoveling would have not had a positive impact on my bad back.  We don't own a snow blower, a common machine around here.  Never have.  My spouse didn't want to spend the money at first, but after a couple of evil glares from me, gave in.

We had the money and gave him the job.  I was glad to see that he used a shovel rather than a snow blower - and he was good at it.  The job was soon done and it was done well.  It would have taken me a long time.

A snow blower may not be "sustainable" but it can be worth it for a couple of 60 year old people.  But better yet was giving employment to a middle-aged man.  I don't know if he was rich or poor.  Maybe he was out of work and earning money this way.  Or perhaps he is a contractor in the summer.  I didn't ask, and he didn't tell.

We used to get a lot (80 inches or more) of snow here each winter.  Last winter, we got (at the airport, which gets more than we do) about 27 inches.  We lived here in the record snowfall year, 134 inches, 1995-96. 

Hopefully the "snow drought" continues, and we don't have to think about getting a snow blower in our late middle age.

Were you impacted by Nemo?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winter Storm Heartburn

So....we are under a winter storm warning here in upstate New York.  So, I am posting early just in case our power goes out.  I think it is just going to be snow where we live (amount unknown) but where my aging mother in law lives, it is going to be a blizzard.  And people who could normally take her in are in the same situation.

This is when long distance caregiving gets interesting, because my elderly relative is so resistant to leaving her home for any reason.  We were able to get her to safety for Sandy (a combination of a relative and a family friend took her in) but this time the caregivers may be in a worse situation than she will be.

We are working on it.  Oh, what fun....please, let me remember this so I don't put my son through this type of thing when my time comes.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Nuclear War - What's In It For You?

A post about - nuclear war?

No, not exactly.  But, the title was so catchy, I couldn't resist.  Just ask any headline writer or any author.  The title of a book, a blog post, or a newspaper article, plays a major role in hooking the reader.  So, my reader, you have been hooked.

Of course, the writer or author then has to reel its reader in.

I follow a blog called "Awful Library Books".  It is written by two public librarians in Michigan.  They consult with other libraries on various topics, including weeding their collections of books that are outdated - a process also called "library deselection".

During that process, they blog about books they find that are just plain awful.  When you look at a "topical" book from the 50's (yes, 50's books still in library collections!), the 60's, 70's, or even 80's through the lens of the 2nd decade of the 21st century, you find some books just haven't aged well.  Sometimes the outdatedness is hilarious.  Sometimes, scary.

Sometimes, sobering.

Today, the Awful Librar Books bloggers wrote about a book called "Nuclear War - What's In It for You?" by the "Ground Zero Project"  It dates from 1982.  Besides having a catchy title for a blog post, it asks you: "Why Do You Feel Scared with 10,000. Nuclear Weapons Protecting You?"

Good question. 

I grew up in the "duck and cover" days and we in the United States had lots of nuclear weapons pointed at the then-Soviet Union.  Trouble was, the Soviets had as many pointed back at us.  Yes - many of us put this into one corner of our minds and went about our daily lives.  What else could we do? But, to this day, when I hear a siren go off or see a flash of sunlight out of the corner of my life - for one instant, I know my time is up.

I found this book on Amazon (it seems to be out of print, though) and two people reviewed it - both people gave it a positive review.

The book talks about a nuclear attack on a major U.S. City - Detroit, to be exact.  (no comment). It describes the first nuclear war (yes, World War II, where the United States used 100% of its nuclear weapons).  It talks about the U.S.-Soviet Arms race I grew up during.  It even talks about "Star Wars" (not the movie, but something my generation will recognize.) 

But, although outdated, this book teaches a lesson it probably never intended to teach.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

We are still scared.  Only the names have changed.

Once again, nostalgia ain't what it is cracked up to be.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Winter Wednesday - Winter at the Botanical Garden

Perennial and tree gardening does not end with the first frost.

Even during winter, certain plants can shine (some almost literally) - obviously, not through their foliage or their flowers. But plants are more than their foliage and their flowers.  Their very limbs - visible with the leaves gone - can be fascinating.

Consider these dogwoods (all pictures taken February 2 at Cutler Botanical Gardens, Binghamton, New York)
This Red Dogwood does glow.  This picture doesn't give it justice.

Red and Yellow together. 

Cutler actually had two varieties of red dogwoods. Aren't they lovely?

Other trees provide winter interest, too.

Next week - more Winter Interest plants.

Do you grow plants specifically for winter interest while they sleep?  Or, do you live for the growing season?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Will the Mayans Have the Last Laugh?

Is it going to be the end of the world as we know it?  Were the Mayans right after all, give or take a couple of months with calendar changes, Daylight Savings Time, or whatever?  (No, please don't panic - at least not yet.)

Do you believe that the asteroid 2012 DA14 is going to miss the Earth on February 15?

After all, it is going to get closer to Earth than the moon, and even closer than a number of satellites.  (Even the International Space Station!) Back in the 1960's I would have said "Far out, man!"

It is going to zip by so quickly that observers in Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia will have to know exactly when and where it will be in their sky.  (They will need a telescope or binoculars.) We in North America?  It will be too dim for us.

Now, though, just imagine if the scientists and their calculations are wrong.  Don't misunderstand me.  I - should I say I am a firm believer in science?  Or, that I have faith in science?  I need a little English Language jump-start here.

I do know, however, that scientists can be wrong.  Just because computers say something is fact doesn't mean it is fact. Scientists have been known to make math errors.

I remember The Mars Metric Mistake of 1999. Oopsies! (Goodbye, Mars Climate Orbiter).  OK, this was an English/metric conversion error but it happened, and it has happened more than once.

In other words, miscalculations are always possible.  No, it isn't time to panic or quickly build a fall out shelter.  And I'm not about to engage in conspiracy theories based on "the government" knowing something and not telling us.

So - not speaking as a scientist but as a layperson - my understanding is that this asteroid will be over the Indian Ocean when it comes closest to the Earth.  And let's say those calculations are wrong....

There are some seismically active areas (remember Krakatoa?) in this area where the Indian Ocean and the Pacific meet on the borders of Indonesia.

Now think of an asteroid turned meteor the size of (as it's been described online) a "Safeway" plowing into the Indian Ocean, possibly triggering an earthquake.  The Indian Ocean is prone to tsunamis. (Remember December 26, 2004?)  If it ends up in the Pacific, well, there is the Ring of Fire.

 And, what about all the water vapor that would be created in the instant of impact?

This asteroid will not destroy the Earth if it impacts us.  But it would cause some serious damage to some place on our planet, and could indirectly lead to thousands of deaths.

But, take comfort.

There are a couple of people well versed in science who read this blog.  I am sure they will set me straight.

But, unlike the "Mayan Apocalyse", which I never dreaded for a minute, I am going to be just a little on edge - until February 16.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Wit and Wisdom of Google

Google's search autocomplete function sometimes brings some hilarious results.  Or fascinating results.  Sometimes, a combination of the two.

Today, at work, I did a search starting with the word "Are". (Yes, I do legitimately have reasons to do research at work.)  The choices Google Autocomplete gave me to complete my "Are" query were, with my answers:

1. Are mermaids real?

Would you believe that a U.S. Government agency, NOAA, has answered that question?  Sorry, fans of Ariel, the short answer is "no evidence has been found".

But then, the NOAA website goes on to state that many seafaring peoples have legends of "aquatic humanoids". 

Has anyone studied this?  

2. Are we there yet?

No. And why do you want to know?

3.  Are shingles contagious?

According to my internet research, yes, if you do not have immunity to chicken pox.

4. Are vampires real?

Surprisingly (to me, anyway) - sort of.

Have you had interesting experiences with search engine autocomplete?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Fighting Joe Hooker and What Isn't In a Name

As my regular readers know I enjoy American Civil War trivia, especially when it takes an unexpected turn.

On January 26, 1863, General "Fighting Joe" Hooker was given command of the Union Army, the latest of a series of failed generals at leading that army.  Lincoln was looking for a general who would be an aggressive fighter, and it seemed that Hooker would ft into that role.

He didn't succeed as head of the Union army, and his failures led to the Battle of Gettysburg, but we are getting way ahead of ourselves.

Because of his reputation for hard drinking, hard partying, and a "wild" lifestyle with the ladies despite being married, there is one thing General Hooker is generally given credit for - which turns out not to be true, after all.

Many people who do not study the Civil War know one piece of common trivia, which is that women who engage in the world's oldest profession have many names, among them "Hookers".  Guess where that name came from?

As the story goes,  General Hooker, eager to engage in his favorite lifestyle, turned his headquarters into - well, a red light district of sorts. The women so attracted to Hooker and the soldiers under his command who took advantage of the situation were, therefore, called - Hookers.

And still are today.

Nice story.  Except it isn't true, according to my research.

It would seem that the name may date from around 1835, referring to an area of New York City, shaped like a hook, that was used as a red light district for sailors.  And, it is possible the word's origins are even earlier, into the 1600's.  Not a bad 400 year run for a word that supposedly originated during the Civil War.

Apparently, advice columnist Ann Landers, of all people, helped to set us straight.

There still is more than enough Civil War trivia to keep us all entertained. Sorry, General.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Groundhog Day

I majored in cultural anthropology in college (about 40 zillion years ago) in a college in my native New York City.  One of the first things I learned was to study my own culture with the detachment a cultural anthropologist would use when out in the field.

That is why Groundhog Day gives me such enjoyment.  Americans love to read about the "strange customs" of other people. I wonder how many of them give the same thought to themselves. 

Once a year, they gather together in a small town in Pennsylvania, with much ceremony, to see if some poor groundhog by the name of Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow or not.  TV networks in the States broadcast this live every February 2.

To my readers in Europe and Down Under, I am not making this up.  (there are several other regional groundhog weather forecasters, including Staten Island Chuck in New York City. But P. Phil is the most famous.)

This is what our local groundhog would have seen today, in my neighborhood in upstate New York.

This is NOT Punxutawney Phil.

No, instead, this is Punxutawney Phil.

This year he (and Chuck) did not see his shadow, meaning we will have an early spring.  Or will we? Last year, the groundhogs saw their shadows, meaning six more weeks of winter.  Of course, then, we had the warmest spring on record.

I must admit, I do not have many warm and fuzzy feelings when it comes to groundhogs.  They have eaten too much of my gardens over the years for me to ever do anything nice for them. 

It's true the sustainable lifestyle means paying close attention to the clues Nature gives us, but I think dragging one out so it can see its shadow on live TV is a bit much.

Do you believe groundhogs can predict when spring will come?

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Little Attention to Detail

There is a wonderful site called  They sell a poster about mistakes.  It shows a sinking ship that looks like the Titanic sinking, with this caption:

It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.
The same can apply to disasters.  In too many disasters, some attention to detail could have prevented the disaster, or made it less deadly.

Sometimes we don't learn from disaster.  Sometimes we do.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the breaking apart and destruction of the space shuttle Columbia, during its reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.  A wing was damaged during liftoff.  A chunk of foam insulation broke off and hit a wing panel.

They didn't think it was fatally seriously.  They were wrong.  Seven astronauts never returned to Earth alive.

Now, the recovered debris sits silently as part of a special program at the Kennedy Space Center - its continuing mission, to educate.  

It educates those who are able to attend.  They find out why the accident happened, what we learned, and what changes were made.

The Columbia's original mission was an educational mission, so in a way, its destruction earned it a kind of immortality - and it continues to educate, 10 years later.  But its mission has changed - it now teaches the lessons of its own destruction:

-Don't assume something that looks minor is minor

-Always pay attention to detail

-Good can come from bad

The space program (more or less) has ended.  But the educational mission of the Kennedy Space Center, and the shuttle Columbia, continues.