What the Blue Jay Says

IMG_4905

WHAT THE BLUE JAY SAYS

 

All morning snow—like

nothing but snow—

falling on snow.

 

The Blue Jay does not compare itself

to the Cardinal.

It sees red.

It sees blue.

 

It fears nothing—

not silence, not darkness, not even

nothing.

 

Feathers fallen on new snow

are buried in new snow. Snow

on the Blue Jay, alert

in the sleeping lilac.

 

Silence, like the water snow becomes,

evaporates into clouds.

In spring it falls between raindrops.

This is the sound of flowers.

 

The Blue Jay has always known this.

It keeps trying to tell you—

all day shouting and shouting.

Listen, it says. Listen.

Trypod

IMG_4828

I listen to a podcasts quite a bit, typically when I am driving. I hook up the Bluetooth to the car audio system and read with my ears. I learn a lot. I laugh sometimes. I say things aloud like “No way!” or “Seriously?” This March is the month to share podcasts we love. You can join in by posting the ones you like with the hashtag #trypod.

I never listen to the radio. Well, I rarely listen to the radio. If I do, it is to catch the news on National Public Radio, on my local station. But in general I like to listen to what I want when I choose. Podcasts let me do that. I found the native podcast app on my phone to be a bit clumsy so I even researched other options to download. I settled on iCatcher and listen to my podcasts through that.

Here are some of my favorites:

Planet Money

This NPR program offers this: “Imagine you could call up a friend and say, ‘Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.’ Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening.” That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money.” And they nail it. They take sometimes obscure and sometimes everyday financial topics and make them interesting. One recent episode featured a professor who tried to make filing taxes easier, and came up with a system that everyone loved, but got stymied by politicians who valued businesses over people who actually file their taxes. Another featured the creation of a Blackberry manufacturing plant in Argentina.

Work in Progress

This is put out there by a for-profit company, Slack, which makes communication tools for businesses. I was slightly skeptical at first because of this but that skepticism vanished quickly. It is one of my favorites. They say it is about “the meaning and identity we find in work.” They tell stories about all kinds of work, from a professional cuddler to a prison warden who has to perform executions to a professional Santa Claus. It is always interesting with well-told stories.

Radio Diaries

This is one of the best audio story podcasts I have found. There is little narration. Radio Diaries takes audio content and lets the people who are part of the story tell the story.  Interviews and personal recordings are woven together to create an always riveting tale. I try to listen to this one only when I can hear the episode in its entirety; if I have a short drive I save it for later. Two recent episodes include the story of a man who lived in the United States since he was a small child but got permanently deported to Guatemala; and the recording of a Vietnam War soldier.

Gastropod

Gastropod takes a “look at the hidden history and surprising science behind a different food and/or farming-related topic.” It is funny and almost always offers a wow insight. Recent topics include honey, seltzer, chocolate and oysters. I can’t wait for each new episode and bi-weekly seems too infrequent. Plus the name is clever.

Brave Little State

This is a local podcast from Vermont Public Radio. They take suggestions from listeners, who also get to vote, on what topics to cover. The theme is “Vermont, our region or its people.” The latest episode was “Why is Vermont so Overwhelmingly White?” It offers a perspective on Vermont that is not just from postcards.

Do you listen to podcasts? I have more than I can handle, but still, I always am on the hunt for interesting stories.

Women’s March Montpelier

img_4593

Like thousands of other people across the country and across the globe, I attended a march today.  I have never seen more people in Vermont’s capital than I did today. The Burlington Free Press estimated 15,000 people attended the rally. Some estimates were as high as 20,000.

We left early to get there in time to find parking and to get to Montpelier High School, where the march was scheduled to start. Still a good way from the interstate exit we were in the slow lane to turn off. Traffic was backed up before noon. The march was scheduled to start at 1:00. Good thing we left early.

img_4753

We later learned that the Montpelier exits on Interstate 89, both northbound and southbound exit 8, were closed. Then exits 7 and 9 were closed in both directions. There were a lot of people trying to express themselves in the capital city today.

img_4562

And express themselves they did. There were many signs, some clever, some hardhitting, all honest. I have put a few of them here.

We walked from the high school to the capital lawn. There were poets, politicians, speakers and musicians on hand to offer some guidance and inspiration. It was difficult to hear it all but that didn’t matter to me. Most people didn’t seem to mind. The atmosphere was a mix of celebration and pissed-offedness and determination to not stand for all the negativity of our new president. People are not happy about this change and they wanted to do something, to at least show up and demonstrate how much they do not support discrimination and oppression and fear.

img_4553

The message, on signs and in conversation and from speakers, was about supporting women, for sure; but it was also about fairness and equality for all in general. There were plenty of people who are just angry about our nation electing such a hateful man to represent us all and to lead us. “Not my president” was a common theme.

img_4575

img_4578

img_4567

Pussy hats and other pink hats, and just pink in general, was prolific. I wore a pink hat myself, borrowed from my spouse. My daughter, plus her friend and her mother, were in my party. There were plenty of my friends and colleagues and neighbors there, although I saw few of them. There were just so many damn people.

img_4579

I was inspired today. I felt more hopeful. It was a hell of a better day than yesterday. I am baffled that every day can bring more head-slapping, eye-rolling, are-you-f-ing-kidding-me news. It wasn’t just that I was around so many similar-minded people, although that was helpful. I was proud to be a Vermonter. I was proud to be around people who believe that kindness matters. I was proud of my country.

img_4560

img_4559

img_4570

Let me clear here. I am not upset with anyone who believes that government has a different role than I believe. I am not against anyone because of their political party affiliation. I can disagree with others on how things might be changed, or our national priorities, or how to make things better, or even what the problems are to begin with. But I cannot support this president. He is a nasty man. He is a liar. He is dangerous. I am frightened for our nation. I am not upset because “I lost” and I am not going to “get over it.”

img_4587

I know that many other people stand with me now. Change is hard. Apparently we have some work ahead of us. I am not sure what I will be able to do, but I guess I will need to be doing something. For now I am just angry and confused. In terms of what I am feeling, this guy with the green sign nailed it:

img_4577

Read more details about the Women’s March in Montpelier here.

Word Challenge

image

For Christmas a couple of years ago I got a set of Scrabble tiles with magnets on the back (thanks Bro!). At the time we did not have a refrigerator with a magnetic face. Ours was the one that came with our house when we bought it–it had wood face to match the cabinets. When we had to replace the refrigerator we had magnet capability. So up went the letters.

We keep shifting them around, spelling new words, or sometimes arranging them in ways that make “words” if you know what I mean (Thwand?). Lately I have been trying my hand at my own challenge.

First, know that there is only one tile for each letter–26 tiles for 26 letters. The challenge is to use all the letters in words with none left over. It can be any number of words and the words have to be common usage words. It is not a difficult challenge to understand, mind you, but accomplishing it has proved a struggle.

The photo above is a pretty good attempt; only two letters are left over. That Q, with its typical U pairing, isn’t making it easy. I was pretty proud of Blintz as it uses three consonants in a row. That is a win.

If you can do this better, let me know. I want to know if it is possible. And if so, what words. I’ll keep trying, of course. Those letters aren’t going anywhere for a while.

Pretending to be Responsible

Ok, I pretend to be responsible all the time. I sometimes feel that, although I am supposed to be an adult, I, like many others who are supposed to be adults, am just winging it. I guess I manage to pay my bills and buy life insurance and take the kids to the birthday party, but I don’t really know what I’m doing. I get the responsible thing done, in the end, but don’t tell anyone that the seat of my pants is really what flies the plane around here.

When it comes to businesses who advertise and sell things and affect lots of people, I feel like a different attitude should hold sway, however. I mean, you can’t just say or even infer that your product or your company is one thing when really you are pretending. Exaggeration shouldn’t be allowed when lots of dollars or lots of people are involved. I saw an example of such hyperbole today, on a paper towel dispenser in a restroom at a conference I attended.

IMG_2108It is this last line with which I have an issue. “Closed loop” to me means a cycle. In this case I am led to believe that paper gets used, recycled, turned into paper, recycled, and so on. The “loop” gets “closed.” A loop keeps going. It doesn’t stop. Otherwise it is not a loop. In this case, however, there are three things, but they are not in a loop.

To sum up the “Power of Three” here: the paper company collects paper, uses it to create further paper, then sells it, possibly to some of the same people who provided the paper they collected. This is a good thing. It means that at least some paper gets made from recycled paper, rather than from trees. But this isn’t a loop.

The original paper comes from trees. The recycled paper gets turned into lower grade paper–it is downcycled. Eventually it cannot be turned into paper any more, as it is too degraded. There may be some back and forth here but it is definitely not a closed loop.

What wrapped up the whole thing into a tidy little ironic package was the waste basket below the paper dispenser. The paper in that dispenser may have come from paper, but the paper being dispensed ended up in a plastic bag in a landfill.  The top of that plastic trash bin makes a closed loop, but I am guessing that is not the one to which the paper company was referring.

Before I left that little room I realized I had a closed loop of my own. I had picked up my water bottle, I had processed the water, and then I provided a product to be taken away. That product would get recycled and perhaps one day return to me when I filled my water bottle again. Sounds like I might know what I am doing after all but let’s be honest, I’m still just winging it.

IMG_2107

 

Um, Seriously?

Earlier this month we made a trip to Barnes and Noble for some books for my daughter. She can’t have enough books–reads them fast and twice. Accompanying the receipt was a separate receipt-like mini-document. It listed what “You May Also Like,” the “you” being me, I suppose. Thanks, I guess, but I just left. Not planning to go back in to get those.

It also offered this:

LIMITED-TIME OFFER!

Visit us dressed as your
favorite character during our
GET POP-CULTURED
Preview Event on 7/19/14
to receive a coupon for a
special cafe offer.

Offer is only valid if dressed in
costume on 7/19/14

Um, seriously? If I dress up in a costume and head in to your cafe on that day you will give me a coupon? Oh wait, the coupon is for a special offer. Oh that sounds great. I would totally be willing to put on a costume and show up for 20% off coffee and cookies at a future visit. If I make the effort to create and to publicly sport a costume, for someone else, I have this idealistic notion that they might offer more than a coupon for that effort.

Seems like Barnes and Noble needs to work on their incentives. Then again, I wasn’t there on the 19th. Maybe a bunch of Harry Potters and Catwomans and Lord Businesses showed up. Hope that coupon was a good one.

Compromise on the Prank Opportunity

Wrong Address Text MessageThere are times when I hope that I get a text message from someone I don’t know–a wrong number as it were. I imagine when it happens that I will then pretend to the be person for whom the message was intended, make up some snide response, and run with what happens. I got such a message yesterday.

My initial thought was to respond with one of the following:

1. Totally not. I went last year and it was just a bunch of stupid old men trying to sell you crap you don’t need.

2. Can’t. I’m having a bit of a moment with a lady friend, if you know what I’m saying.

3. Wait. Are you that fat dude with the bad hair?

4. Sorry. Got a Candy Crush marathon going right now. I am so kicking ass.

5. Do they have porn there?

But I didn’t. I use my cell phone for work and personal communication, so once I had this flurry of response ideas I paused. The sender might be less than appreciative of the humor I found in such shenanigans. I might get barraged with messages in the future. Tom might share my number with others and tell them all to harass me. Who knows what this Tom might be like? He might be a fruit loop. So I compromised with the message above.

It was not as funny as it might have been, but I did at least chuckle. That is something at least. And Tom found it funny. Good old Tom.