Ugh - came and went so fast, I had so little time to really enjoy it. The trip home to Pennsyltucky was awful. I left Bawlmore at 3:00 PM and it took me till nearly 5:30 PM to get just beyond Frederick, MD. I bailed onto I-81, and my trusty GPS genie, Bruce, got me home by 10:00 PM, only 2 hours later than usual.
Saturday was magnificent. The weather was amazing, and I had no greater goal in life than lying by the pool and reading all day. It was far too cold to actually venture into the pool, but I did manage to net a couple of "floaters" (i.e. dead chipmunks) over the weekend.
Instead, I kept company with the local wildlife. Meet Ricky the Raccoon:
He is a juvenile raccoon that was raiding my mother's bird feeder on a nightly basis. With a single can of fresh tuna - he was captured the first time out. Surprisingly, he was very calm as we transported him from our back yard to the golf course / creek area near our cottage later that day. We wish him well in his new location.
We also have a very active nest of Blue Jays above the door to the house. Three hungry hatchlings to be exact. Both Mom and Dad sit on the nest, but I never got a shot (with camera at hand) of the parents feeding the squawking tots. Here is Mom/Dad (you cannot easily tell which with Jays) sitting on the nest:
And last but not least, we (about 12 total) spent all afternoon and night at the family cottage on Sunday: kayaking, fishing off the dock, teaching my Dad about the wonders of iPod and Podcasts, grilling out, chilling out, and playing games. Twas pretty much wonderful. It was the first time since last Father's Day when my Dad started rebuilding the cottage on the site that has been in our family for going on 4 generations, that we have all had a chance to enjoy it. Especially my Dad. He designed it, built it, and has been working on it non stop since last June. It's mostly done now, but what a legacy we have to enjoy and treasure.....
I should have taken a shot down the creek from the deck. We have a beaver, and a pair of Canada geese with 6 goslings in residence. My sister and her friends were there the night before, and we need to keep a log of all the birds and wildlife everyone sees.
I don't need all of this - just one piper piping. A Bagpiper to be specific.
If you are, or know of, an accomplished bagpiper, please direct them my way for a social event opportunity - competetive compensation provided. I'll post something on Craig's List, but in the meantime, I truly do need a bagpiper for an event on Sunday, June 8 in the afternoon / evening.
My Desktop PC died today. Well, the hard drive did anyway. It was bound to happen. It's a Dell 4400 Tower I bought through Hopkins faculty purchasing plan back in 2002. I was planning on buying a new one this summer through a similar plan at the new job, clean up the PC and give it to my niece, but that plan was put on hold for 6 months with the unexpected outlay of $2,500+ for the vet.
It was fine when I check email around 7:30 this morning, but by the time I watched the news, made some breakfast, read the Sunday NY Times, and took a shower, at 11:00, it was showing "System Failure: Boot Halted...."
1. Tried rebooting - no go 2. Disconnected every single thing, powered down, dissipated the charge, plugged everything back in and tried to boot up - no go. 3. Checked the diagnostic lights on the back panel, and looked up the code. A, B, and C were green, D was orange. That code basically translated to: "You're screwed - call Dell". 4. Called Dell support and got a nice guy calling himself "Ronnie" somewhere in the Philipines. 5. Used the diagnostics CD that came with the computer and ran diagnostics for 20 minutes. No errors and the BIOS was clean. 6. Ran Setup and discovered that the computer is not recognizing the hard drive AT ALL, which is why I couldn't do a cold boot from the CD.
I need to re-seat the hard drive, but I think I might just take it out, put it into an external disk drive, transfer my files to this laptop, and get a new desktop computer. I might be able to get a new hard drive for the old tower and salvage it for my niece, but I don't want to put a lot of time or $$$ into this thing, when buying a new tower is probably cheaper.
Too bad - it was a nice system and ran beautifully while I had it. Intel 4 processor, 512 RAM and 40 Gigs of storage. Seems downright paltry by today's standards doesn't it?
And here it is 2:10 on Sunday afternoon and I have very little to show for it so far....
What's weird about this flick, is that it is a completely realistic representation of my "flying dreams". I often dream of this exact sensation. Over fields, down mountains, across oceans and cities. Seeing it as a real life experience, makes me wonder - what it all means?
The tragedy of China's earthquake is generally resulting in some much needed good press regarding the government's response to major disasters, in spite of their inability to save lives (not their fault).
This is in stark contrast to the same government's squelching of recent uprisings in Tibet (and Xianjiang province). It's much better publicity in fact, than the closed door approach of the Myanmar government from the cyclone two weeks ago. Let's face it, the Chinese have plenty of military resources at their TOTAL discretion to deploy to disasters and quake zones, and as devastating as this recent disaster turns out to be, China won't turn down international aide if needed, offered, or requested for disasters (ummm...not so much for the Tibetan uprising) in light of the Olympic spotlight closing in on them.
Despite this, there has been some not unexpected grief stricken speculation in the media blaming the Chinese government for skimping on school construction, or claiming that other warning signs were ignored.
Look, I'm not going to deal with conspiracy theory here, and I won't disagree with the fact that the villages I visited in China were built on mud and bricks which couldn't withstand a heavy rainstorm much less a 7.9 earthquake, OR the fact that some of the recent high rise construction in boom towns is shoddy at best.
What I wanted to point out is that by FAR, by FAR, the most irrational, hateful, finger pointing accusation I have seen thus far has come from an organization within the US. A fringe organization known as the Westboro Baptist Church.
This is a so called "religious" organization, which seems to have built its entire mission based solely on hate for others (which, by definition, is about as unholy as it gets).
Hate against gays with their well publicized protests at US veteran funerals, hate against Swedes, Irish, Mexican or any other country that supports gay rights, and now they are turning their hate against a natural disaster and blaming the people of China!
But wait - it gets worse. This is a list from their website of their current press releases I will not even honor these issues with a link - they are obscene:
Thank God for the Great Killer Earthquake that He sent to kill thousands of stiffhearted Chinese rebels against God
Thank God for killer whirlwinds in Picher & Oklahoma
Thank God for the Great Cyclone
Thank God for throwing the new Wisconsin Medical Helicopter out of the air, dashing it to pieces, and killing a surgeon, nurse, and pilot
Thank God for killer whirlwinds in Missouri, sent by God in wrath & vengeance & retaliation
The Westboro Baptist Church makes the Klu Klux Klan seem enlightened. Why does the Baptist Church of America allow them to exist and make an entire faith look bad? Why does America let it exist?
Oh, right, First Amendment rights - silly me.
Just as there is outrage and protest regarding the KKK or any other racist or hate based organization, so should we all protest any pickets by the WBC and banish them, as they wish to banish anyone who does not believe as they do.
They may have the legal right to promote this hatred and bigotry, but we don't have to give them the moral right. Especially since they deny that to everyone else.
I think it's sad that a religion based on love and the acceptance of others (Christianity) could be so twisted into intolerance and hate. I don't believe in Jesus as a deity, but I do believe in him as an historical figure who preached love, acceptance and forgiveness. You can never go wrong with those ethics.
In this case, and in many others, the WBC seems to have lost their way.
I also believe in the laws of physics and nature, and that in the case of the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in China, that bad things happen to good and innocent people simply because, in these cases, geology and weather respect the laws of physics, not the will of God.
I got to celebrate a week early last weekend by taking my Mom and her sisters out to brunch on a beautiful spring morning in the sculpture garden of the BMA, so I got by with a phone call this weekend.
So, other than a nice brunch and a card, what do you get for the woman who has everything? Well, how about a bright orange kayak? Yep, my soon to be 70 year old mum got herself a bright orange kayak this Mothers Day to use at our cottage, and my brother promised to improve the access and stability of the dock as his gift to Mom to help make all of our floatable toys easier to use. We already have a rowboat and an old wood frame kayak that my father built when I was a little kid - remember Folbots? The new kayak will be a great addition to gliding up the creek and sneaking up on the beavers and herons.
Speaking of toys, I now have two kitchen gadgets that I bought on a complete whim through Amazon.com's "Gold Box" offers. The first was a $12 George Foreman grill which I use all the time for paninis, and grilling chicken breasts or fish, but mostly for paninis. I used it a lot when I was unemployed over the winter enjoying a lot of yummy soup and sandwich combos.
Another daily treat I liked when I was "retired" for 4 months was a homemade "Egg McMuffin" every day before I went to the gym, consisting of a split English Muffin, an egg, and a piece of low fat Canadian Bacon. I don't own a toaster. I toasted the bread in my convection toaster oven, which was fine, but I need to watch it closely to make sure it doesn't burn, and it only toasts one side at a time.
Amazon.com Gold Box offered me this for $20:
This thing works brilliantly.... I get a perfectly poached egg, hot Canadian bacon and perfectly toasted muffin. And the best part? I don't have to babysit it. Lock and load. I can fire it up and go dry my hair in the morning, and 4 minutes later = breakfast.
2. Thursday was the Baltimore Blogger Happy Hour at my local watering hole - Doughtery's Pub The turnout was great, and as usual, there just didn't seem to be enough time to talk to everyone and catch up with everybody.
3. Friday, my parents arrived with my mother's two sisters in tow for the weekend. We grilled soft shell crab sandwiches and my cousin and his wife joined us. Nice evening to break in the new patio and garden.
4. Saturday, I took my folks on a tour of my new hospital/job, and then we met up with my aunts and cousins at the Ladew Topiary Gardens which were simply fabulous with the azaleas and spring plantings. Please go if you've never been there. It's one of Baltimore's best kept secrets I think. Afterwards, we headed to nearby Manor Tavern for a really nice dinner.
5. Sunday, I had made reservations for eight of us to have brunch at Gertrude's - in the Sculpture Garden of the BMA. Since my mother and both of her sisters are accomplished artists - AND since it was a glorious spring day - this was just about perfect. Mother's Day a week early.
6. The parents and aunties departed about 1:30, and that left me 2.5 hours to get ready for our annual Home Owner's Association meeting at 4:00. Long meeting, long evening, great neighbors.
7. Monday saw the crisis of our budget process at the hospital. Our Sr. Exec. team met for 5 hours Monday afternoon, and I came home to keep working on spreadsheets and had conference calls in my living room over my laptop well past 10:30 at night.
8. Tuesday - lather, rinse, repeat with the budget issues all day. From 5:00 - 7:00, I had a Board of Directors presentation to give to all my bosses, and their bosses. At 8:00 - I ran back home just in time to get reappointed to a seat on my neighborhood Board of Directors at our Annual Meeting.
9. Tonight: grocery shopping, fielding a phone call from an old friend and mentor who was stranded in an airport - down on her luck and short of options, another friend who needed lastr minute jazz CD recommendations for a gift, paying bills, and catching up on email and blogging.
I'm not a conspiracy theorist by any means, but this just strikes me as a little too "neat and tidy" end to a potentially volatile situation.
Granted, 55 years in prison is pretty awful, and even if she served a fraction of it, it would have been bad, but it just seems a little too convenient given the damage she could had, and might have done behind bars with a tell all.