Another Classic Movie….

I was looking at some of the old VHS tapes as I’m not even sure I still know how to use the player since we’ve been using DVDs for so long. “We’re No Angels” is not considered a Christmas movie although it does involve a Christmas setting. The fact it’s set in the sweltering Caribbean may have something to do with that. It was made in 1954 with a marvelous cast. Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray have escaped from a place similar to Devils Island. They take refuge in a store where Leo G. Carroll, his wife, and daughter live. A loving husband and father and terrible business man whose wealthy cousin, played by Basil Rathbone, is determined to turn him out, family or no family.

The convicts declare they shall kill the family, and steal whatever they need to make their getaway. Well, as they pretend to be out on work-release and offer to repair the roof, maybe they can help out with a few other things first. The story is wonderfully tongue-in-cheek as the daughter, who is infatuated with her second cousin, doesn’t realize how selfish and shallow he is. And since the convicts are staying for only a few days, perhaps they can help her with her love life. Humphrey Bogart’s character is an expert forger, so why not fix the store’s books while they are there? And it really wouldn’t be seemly to kill the family on Christmas Day, would it? There is also the matter of the pet poisonous snake that causes complications.

I don’t know if the movie can be found on streaming services (and no, it’s not the one of the same name starring Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn), but if so, it is a pleasant way to pass a couple of hours.

Desert Musings…..

We were watching one of the Science channel shows the other day and there was discussion of sand storms. Having lived in West Texas for three years, hard wind and dust devils were fairly common. Having grown up in the Deep South, tornadoes were common and in fact, I had a car damaged once when serious hail was dumped by a tornado that fortunately didn’t tear too much up. When we were in Desert Storm, sand storms took on a whole new meaning. Watching a towering “devil” in the distance would definitely get your attention. When a storm hit though, it tended to do so with little warning. We never had the prolonged ones so there weren’t mounds of sand to dig out from, but the wind was ferocious. There were times when large tents would be yanked out of the pegs and basically twisted or collapsed inward. And of course, you’d be brushing sand out of all kinds of places for quite some time.

Another aspect was issues driving because most of the bases set up were not on roads and despite the lack of elevation, flat didn’t mean without “bumps”. The way the sand shifted around, even if the sand was flat rather than rippled, that didn’t mean it was solid. The command had to issue an order for the HMMVs (Hummers) to be restricted to 45 miles per hour cross-country because of so many over-turns when drivers hit an unstable surface at too high a speed. The vehicles are designed to manage all sorts of terrain, but driven in a controlled fashion.

The sand also retained a fair amount of heat and that was why cots were used as opposed to the standard of just putting sleeping bags on the ground. The several inches of clearance between the sand and the bottom of the cot made a major difference in the ability to sleep. Interesting memories of all that.

 

Interesting Discussion……

I have once again been put onto a news story that became more complex than originally anticipated. Our once a week paper doesn’t have “breaking news”, although I do get short-notice calls at times to scramble to get a story when the timing is right (or generally wrong from my perspective). As I may have mentioned in a previous post, notwithstanding the fact I wanted to be a writer from around age 9 or so, I never wanted to be a reporter. (Sorry, Lois Lane) I still resist the term despite having been writing for the paper here for quite a while. And yes, I really do contribute to the community.

Anyway, a gentleman who has a service dog due to his PTSD from his Army years did an editorial about “Fake Service Dogs” that was passed along to our paper. Since it involved a former military individual, it came my way. His letter was very pointed at people who are falsely having their pets declared as emotional support animals (ESA) and causing problems for genuine service animals.

In being fair to those who function from misunderstanding as opposed to selfishness, there are actually four categories; service, emotional support, comfort, and therapy dogs. (Yes, there are other animals used, but we’ll stick to dogs here) In essence, service dogs are highly trained, specifically so to behave safely in public places. Although the remaining types have been shown to provide benefits, the same level of training is rarely the case. (https://adata.org/guide/service-animals-and-emotional-support-animals has a lot of detail).

There is plenty of data to show the health benefits of having a dog. As more people seek to have a dog declared in an ESA capacity, the focus may shift more to what benefit the human receives than to the training/temperament of the dog. In other words, while a dog may bring comfort. etc., to the human half of the pair, how does it behave in public, especially if it is crowded? To add to this, capitalism and entrepreneurship being what they are, identification of ESAs has become a marketable commodity.  On-line sites provide the identification, vest, and leash for the dog for a fee. Of the two sites I checked, my impression was the prime consideration was not about the dog. One expert with a service dog organization said there are sites that will issue the documentation based on nothing more than a photo of the dog.

Being unwilling to acknowledge the unsuitability of a dog is no different than someone who doesn’t recognize when their child is ill-behaved. Deliberately having a dog falsely declared as an ESA is no different from an able-bodied person borrowing a Handicap tag in order to get a better parking place. As I said, I discovered some interesting things during my research.

 

 

Mermaids For Real (Sort of)…..

You can imagine the fun I had with the article about the new Oceans Sirens Mermaid Academy found at http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/news/ariel-and-aquaman-you-ve-got-company/article_8096b1dc-17ca-11ea-abad-8b4cfba390e4.html

Aside from the fact I did use free diving to stage a murder (sort of) in my first scuba-themed mystery (Shades of Murder), I’ve never been inclined to go through training for free diving (also known as breath hold). Also setting aside the people who train for making/breaking records, 4 to 5 minutes underwater is more the standard for  a trained free diver. While that may not seem like a long time, it does give you a nice interaction on a reef or the ability to spear a fish if that’s your thing. Part of taking a scuba course does also involve (or used to) one quick lesson in free diving. It isn’t much in the way of training; more to give you the sensation. There is a little bit of crossover in both types of diving in the sense that how long you can stay underwater on scuba is a function of depth and air consumption.  (Those who know this can skip or bear with me). The deeper you dive on scuba, the shorter the amount of time you can stay at depth because of the risk of decompression sickness (DCS or “the bends”). You will also need to save enough air for a 3-5 minute safety stop during your ascent from anything lower than 50 feet as another precaution against DCS. But if you are diving shallow around thirty feet, how rapidly you use air is the main factor in how long you can remain underwater. In general, the more you can relax underwater, the slower you breath and therefore extend your time. The most important difference in free diving and scuba is you absolutely should not hold your breath while on scuba due to potential pressure on your lungs.

Anyway, even though I choose the “techno mermaid” option of scuba as opposed to free diving, I am thrilled with the idea of having a mermaid school close by.

Losing Someone During the Holidays…..

Strong emotional content alert. Yes, I know – what a sad topic. The fact is death doesn’t respect the holidays and there has been a recent flurry on social media about how losing a loved one during the holidays is particularly cruel. For many years, I didn’t understand why my first husband’s mother made such a big deal out of Christmas. There were gifts all over, to include those from the family pets. She would take obvious pleasure in picking out gifts for every person and just as obviously go to a great deal of trouble in making the selections. (I still use the wonderful leather attache she gave me years ago for my travel computer.) I don’t recall exactly when I learned this; I knew she’d had only one sibling, a younger brother who’d died as a child. As it turns out, he’d contracted scarlet fever (or something like that) and died not long before Christmas. Part of her father’s reaction to the tragedy was to declare there would never be another Christmas celebration in the household and apparently he refused to yield from that position. All she could do was wait and make her adult Christmases as enjoyable as possible.

The closer a loved one’s death is to a holiday, the more difficult it is to separate the loss from what is a time of celebration. If the individual is quite aged and the death not unexpected, it can be a bit easier and the regular holiday can become instead a type of memorial. When it is sudden with little or no warning, the emotional blow is intensified; at times to the point of devastation. For those who have been through this, there is almost always an equal measure of anger, of raging against the unfairness. At the time, the inability/unwillingness for any kind of traditional celebration is a common response. How future holidays are handled is another matter; one which can bring people together or have a lasting and perhaps unintended impact.

 

What Can One Person Do?……

As I have explained previously in this blog, one of the aspects of writing for our weekly community paper is I am out and about meeting quite a few of the local non-profits. People contact the paper or me directly at times to pass on information. One of the things I always explain is there are so many different organizations that people cannot support them all. However, each time I highlight a new group, that particular cause may be the very one an individual feels strongly about. That might be the case with Project Moises. Here’s the link to the full article: http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/eedition/page-a/page_6a61b9e6-43e9-525e-9644-ed109e8a019e.html  (Story in bottom half of front page and continued on A5).

Vicky Saldivar’s first grandchild was diagnosed with Lukemia when Moises was in kindergarten. In many, many visits to the cancer ward during what was lengthy, but thankfully successful treatment for him, she was often moved to tears at the sight of so many children in the hospital. She wanted to do something, but as she said, she wasn’t wealthy. What she was soon inspired to though is amazing. She crochets and is very creative. In substitute teaching for third-graders who were reading, “Charlotte’s Web”, she came up with the idea of making “character hats”. After all, hospitals are almost always chilly and hair loss as a side effect of treatment is almost inevitable. Practical as well as whimsical, a hat was likely to bring a smile for at least a moment. She did one even better with the idea to pair a hat with a book, the hat matched to a character in that particular book. She has now created hundreds of hats and in addition to delivering locally, she has

Project Moises Hats and Books

sent them as far away as Los Angeles. The photo is of her and two grandsons with a sample of the hats. Her Facebook page is The Project Moises https://www.facebook.com/groups/1753859501559205/

 

Ah, The First Nutcracker….

While I don’t do much “grandma” stuff on the blog, our granddaughter will be in her first Nutcracker performance this year – part of the Mouse Army, as is common. She actually was in the Spring performance in June as a “chick” and apparently the kinder ballet instructor is having to explain to the budding ballerinas that these are different movements.

At any rate, I remember when my sister and I guess it was another mom took young sons to their first Nutcracker in Houston. It was a gala affair with getting dressed up and enjoying either dinner before or perhaps it was ice cream treats after in addition to the wonder of the experience. (That has been quite a while ago.) For reasons that I don’t exactly recall; probably because we had back-to-back overseas assignments, our son didn’t attend his first Nutcracker until he was in middle school in Hawaii. He enjoyed it and somewhat ironically, he didn’t seem enamored of it. I don’t think the later “spark” was initiated that evening, but who knows if there was a lingering impact. I’ve lost count of the number of times he has now been in Nutcrackers and doing the Russian Dance for Delta Festival Ballet in New Orleans was his first professional appearance as in someone paid him. He generally dances at least two and sometimes three each season, although this year it’s only one, plus “A Christmas Carol” for a studio that often calls on him. There is a scheduling conflict with New Orleans, so he won’t be able to join them this year. On the other hand, that means he isn’t flying back on Christmas Eve for a change. That will make the week of Christmas a bit less hectic for them.

Granddaughter dressed up for the first ballet she attended.

New Hummingbird and Bee….

Just had company in for a few days, plus had an unexpected deadline today, so got off-track a bit. I can’t post a photo because certain creatures are really fast. The first morning our friend was visiting, she was admiring the way the backyard had been refreshed. She made a comment about the hummingbird. No, we don’t have a hummingbird – must have been one of the big butterflies. But, she was correct as the little thing zipped rapidly past and flew off. He (or she) seems to only come around in the morning, so we may be on some kind of “yard circuit”. Hubby is trying to figure out how he’ll manage to get a photo at some point.

In checking some of the other plants, though we had also seen a very strange looking flying insect. I got close enough the other day to try a photo with no success. I gave up and posted the description on Facebook. One of my gardening/nature loving friends came back with this: “Could be a mason bee. They are solitary bees, no hives, and are iridescent green. They are native and do not sting. They hover and don’t seem to be afraid of people.”

That matched the description perfectly and so barring any more input, we’re sticking with that. In fact, we seem to have more bees this year than ever before. We also have mostly small butterflies with the larger ones mixed in. What we don’t have yet are buntings, at least not that we know of. Oh well, those may also appear before too long. The one hibiscus we had in back didn’t survive the movement from one spot to the other after all. Hubby is thinking about whether to plant a new one or go with something else. We do have the three our front so maybe a change.

Timing Meals During NASCAR Weekend…..

For those not familiar with our geographic situation, we live about two miles from the Homestead-Miami Speedway. There are only two accesses into our gated community; one from a primary street leading to the Speedway and the other is around to the side. During the three days of NASCAR racing, traffic is terrible. Due to a circumstance of timing, this year is even worse because of construction on two major streets. Those of us who live here are coping as best we can with the daily inconvenience and the correct answer from yesterday until around noon on Monday is be off the streets by 11:00 a.m. Due to extra commitments Thurs and Fri, there was no way to get to the grocery store until this morning. I managed to get there and back before 10:30. With Hubby shooting for the paper – something he absolutely loves as I have previously explained – he is at the Speedway for around ten hours each day with literally miles of walking in going from spot-to-spot. As a member of the press, he has access to the media center where they have food and beverage. However, it’s more of a grab something in between events and the chance to have a real meal is limited. By that same measure, it’s difficult to know exactly when he will get back home. Once the race ends, there is the post-race ceremony, then traffic. Friday night is of course pizza night and that’s easy enough to heat up when he finally makes it in.

Tonight is somewhat complicated because we will have company and the scheduled time to eat around 7:30 is probably doable. The menu though is such that everything can “hold” if needs be for a later start. At the moment, a pot of a sort of stew is cooking to be cooled and put into the other refrigerator. That will be for tomorrow night as it re-heats pretty quickly. The other rule is all comfort food. What Hubby doesn’t know is it will include apple pie as a special treat.

Always Enjoyed Walking, But….

I have posted before about my constant struggle with weight. While I might not be the poster child for yo-yo-dieting, I could be in the running. During my Army days, it wasn’t as intense as I was younger and of course, we had strict weight limits as well as constant physical fitness training with required runs three days per week. In my waning days, there was the time I was cajoled into running a half-marathon, but that was most assuredly a one-time event.

Anyway, I hated to jog and after retiring, I swapped to walking instead which I did enjoy. I managed to not put on too much weight, then circumstances with available time changed and I allowed myself to basically get out of control. My aging didn’t help, nor was it the single defining cause. Despite having put on extra weight, I’ve always kept up a program of walking at least four times a week, using time walking as opposed to distance. What I hadn’t realized was my efforts had become less effective. I had previously posted about us getting a stationary recumbent bicycle after I injured my knee. At that time, I was using a combination of walking some days and on the bike others. A few years ago during my travels, I was on a treadmill in a hotel gym. I did the usual amount of time and comfortable pace/elevation. Then I looked at the number of calories burned and saw it was less than when I used the bike. There was also the one age-related factor of being out for a walk and needing to go to the bathroom. I admittedly cut the walk short by a few minutes on more than one occasion to make sure I arrived back at the house in time.

Despite the delays due to an improperly installed part, Hubby did keep working with the manufacturers of the new recumbent bike and it is fully functional. Indeed, there are functions I have no idea how to use and that’s okay. It gives me the kind of exercise I need. Well, the kind I’m willing to do. No doubt a trainer would tell me I could do more.