“Soaring”

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When you see a comment I post, the little Gravatar above shows up. I realized that I had never written about this image, so I chose to do so today. I have always loved hawks, whether sitting atop power poles and trees or flying overhead. Occasionally I have even been very close as a hawk devoured her prey–usually a squirrel or a pigeon. Neither of those creatures are endangered, especially not around my house!

Falconry lives in little pocket throughout New England. I learned that it also still reigns in England, as one plucky hawk keeps Wimbledon free of pigeons.

As a gift, my husband took me to Hadley, Massachusetts to the home of New England Falconry for a 45 minute talk and experience with a Harris hawk, pictured above. After donning a thick leather glove, clasping a tiny piece of fresh meat(rabbit I think) I stood stock still while the handler whistled to the hawk in a nearby tree. For a while the hawk was more interested in chasing a nearby bird, but eventually he saw the meat. In a staggeringly fast move he swooped down, landed on my glove and ate the meat. The photo captures the moment he was swallowing it down.

I was about as startled as you would expect as the bird flew straight at me, despite my being told that was what would happen. It took a moment for my heart rate to return to any semblance of normal. But as soon as it did, I was ready to try it again. There is nothing to outdo looking a bird of prey eye to eye and rejoicing that he prefers rabbit!

“What— Me Worry?”

47B480BF-06AB-42F5-B9E3-9FD559D4D4B4 Mad Magazine has published its last issue. For many of my generation the magazine provided constant amusement throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. My brother and I would buy one copy and share it back and forth each month. The humor was tame compared to what is available for adolescents today, but it was startling material then. We learned sarcasm, political critique, and product spoofs within its covers. Sometimes the cover could even be folded in such a way as to produce an alternative picture, usually more provocative than the newsstand version had displayed.

I was a child of the Cold War, constantly being warned about Russia. The most subversive feature of Mad Magazine was the wordless feature cartoon each month–Spy vs. Spy. Despite what I was learning in school, it appeared that both sides in the Cold war were equally inept.

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A wonderful editorial in today’s New York Times highlights how much Mad influenced many of today’s comedians such as John Stewart formerly of The Daily Show. For Mad lovers, I recommend reading it.

 

“I’m So-o-o-o Bored”

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I have written in the past about the very long car trips we took to go from Portland, Oregon to Buffalo, New York. When we four kids were extremely bored(most of the time) my mother couldn’t rely on her time honored “I have something you can do,” usually house chores. Instead we were left to our own devices. Except we didn’t have any electronic devices to pass the time.

My sisters and brother managed to spend a lot of time reading, but I got car sick when reading, so that was out. Poking each other seemed an ideal alternative. Sadly, this provoked my mother enough for her to stop the station wagon and rearrange our seating. The most dreaded pronouncement was “You will have to come up front and ride with me.” That would have guaranteed that the “lucky” kid would be terminally bored. We tried to walk the thin line between entertaining ourselves and being yanked up to the front seat.

One of my favorite toys was the number sliding puzzle pictured above. At the start the numbers were in a random order. I tried to rearrange the numbers in a sequence from 1 to 15 in four rows with 1 in the upper left corner and 15 in the bottom right. After doing that, I would scramble the tiles and try to get four columns of numbers with 1 to 4 in the left hand row and so forth. The task challenged me no matter how many times I did it.

Then it was back to the license plate hunt, the looking for letters of the alphabet search, and long naps.

“Moderating Comments”

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When I first started this blog I was leery of having comments go up without my moderating them. I was used to the snarky replies to other on-line formats and didn’t want to become an open forum for more of them. I first moderated all comments, but then learned that I could approve comments without reading them for readers I had come to know. Generally I get one or two comments to review at a time. WordPress does a good job for me of screening out obscene comments and obvious spam. In three years I had never received a comment that I didn’t approve apart from ones advertising things.

This morning I was startled to read a comment waiting for moderation. I have no problem with people disagreeing with my viewpoints on things. I also appreciate people sharing experiences very different from what I have written. But this comment attacked my style, my meaning and my coherence. A triple whammy! I am not sharing it, nor did I respond to it. Many people write hostile comments in hopes of getting into a sparring match. He won’t get one from me. Intriguingly, the comment came from someone who doesn’t keep a blog. Maybe he just roams around spreading bad will.

My comments will continue to be moderated.

“Outsourcing Common Sense”

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A fascinating article in yesterday’s New York Times introduced me to a new way to make money. Parents are hiring consultants to teach them how to get their children off their electronic devices. The job is lucrative; in small towns the going rate is $80 an hour, in large cities $120 an hour. I contemplated becoming a consultant!

Why on earth would a parent  need to pay another adult this kind of money to wean their child from electronics? It seems to me to be a symptom of a larger issue–outsourcing common sense. How difficult must it be to realize that children need to have alternatives to staring at screens? How much deep thought is required to become aware that eating dinner together while every family member is on her phone doesn’t count as “quality time?” Does no one realize that “monkey see, monkey do” applies to children observing their parents stare mindlessly at screens?

Maybe common sense is less common than I think. Otherwise why would the manual for my dishwasher state “If it doesn’t turn on check to see if the power cord is attached.” Why does the cup of coffee state “contents are hot?” Why does the doctor have to call multiple times to remind me of my appointment and then tell me to arrive 15 minutes early because so many people come late. I used to think it was my responsibility to write down my appointments.

I would love to hear from readers of other instances of disappearing common sense. Is this a worldwide phenomenon or just a problem here?

“Meet Marty”

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Coming around the corner in the grocery store last week I encountered this tall metal object beeping at me. Since I don’t speak robot, I was not sure what I was supposed to do. Was it wanting to go past me? Was I to wait for it to turn the corner? I stared at it for a while and it kept beeping. Deciding it had no better idea than I did about what to do, I moved around it and went on down the next aisle.

This robot is named Marty and comes equipped with googly eyes to make it seem more what? Personable? I found the encounter unsettling and asked at the checkout stand what was the purpose of this roving robot. Apparently it moves up and down the aisles looking for spilled items and then announces–in a robot voice–“clean up in aisle 4.” Previously I saw a disabled young man roving the store with a mop. Perhaps Marty replaced him.

Marty, it turns out, is equipped with a camera. “Only to record if someone kicks him,” I am told. Ha! Call me suspicious, but I doubt it. I guess this “soft” introduction of a robot into a  union employee grocery chain is to get us used to mechanical intrusions. The store has failed to convince all of us to check out ourselves, bag our own groceries, pay by credit card, and leave without any human interaction at all. Some of us Luddites still prefer to see a cashier when we buy groceries. But the writing is on the wall, I am afraid.

Maybe I can convince Marty to carry my purchases to the car!

 

 

 

“Preparing A Face”

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In his poem, “Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock,” T.S. Eliot penned the striking line “There will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” Most of us can identify with “putting on a happy face” to go out into the world on days when we feel anything but happy. When encountering strangers at the grocery store who say “how are you?” we usually say something bland such as “I’m fine, thank you.” We are usually quite aware of the social niceties and are not fooled into thinking that everyone at the store is really fine.

However, social media platforms such as Facebook present a new challenge for many people. The faces posted on Facebook are usually similarly posed to look happy. There is a friend smiling over her kids, smiling in her clean house, smiling over her perfect dinner, smiling with her friends. Day after day someone may present a picture of unending excitement, adventure and love. Somehow the accumulation of all these images can worm its way into our own thoughts. We can feel something is off in our lives since they are certainly not as glowing as the ones in Facebook. This contrast can be especially jarring for someone who doesn’t pause to think of the artifice behind the Facebook personality.

A relative, a near recluse who spends his time watching television, told us that when he went to the mall he couldn’t believe how ugly most people were. His entire perception had been warped by constant exposure to actors and actresses. Even “reality” stars are markedly different from real life people. I hope that we can avoid the same phenomenon when spending too much time on social media. Many people there have simply spent a lot of effort to “prepare a face.”