Monday, June 27, 2016

Gotta Watch the Quiet Ones

On the job, we are in the midst of a major renovation/restoration project- a sprawling, multi-year project on the property where I typically work. We've had a contractor on site for the past three weeks, and he and his crew have become a fixture on the property. They typically clear off around 5PM on weekdays, before I am scheduled to work.

Last Wednesday, while conducting my first inspection tour of the night, I was greeted by my dear feline co-worker Fred, who wasn't in the building in which he typically works as a mouser. This was atypical, but I merely let him into the building after finishing my walkabout in his company. The next day, I got the full story... Fred had fallen asleep in the contractor's van, and woke up when the contractor pulled into his yard and was greeted with a meow. He had to return Fred to the site, but couldn't get him into his assigned building.

The general consensus at work is that this never would have happened to Ginger, because she usually demands attention and would have made her presence known as soon as the contractor entered the van. It's the quiet ones you've gotta watch.

He's such a good cat, we're lucky the contractor didn't decide to keep him... I guess he figures he'll be on the job for a good, long time, so he'll enjoy the cats' company for many weeks.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hope Everybody Had a Safe, Happy Pride Day

Here's wishing all of my LGBTQ readers a happy Pride Day. In the wake of the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre, the main theme of Pride Day coverage on the news was security. The real news is that, at least in New York, politicians have been lining up to march in the parade, when not too long ago, they probably would have been reluctant to show up for such an event.

In the wake of the Pulse massacre, one thing that struck me was the love and support that the families of the victims showed for the fallen. My personal awareness of the struggle for LGBTQ rights occurred in the context of a family kicking their lesbian daughter out of the house when she came out of the closet. Three decades later, it's heartening to see the change in attitudes, even though it comes in the context of a mass-murder and act of terrorism. The majority of the victims were of Puerto Rican descent, and I have to note that Puerto Rican Pride Day in NYC was a couple of weeks ago. With the outpouring of positivity after such a horrible event, I have to commend both the LGBTQ and Puerto Rican communities... you have a lot to be proud of, people. Be strong/Sea fuerte, the country is changing for the better, even though things are far from perfect.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Painted Ladies, Lady Turtles, That Is

A couple of weeks ago, I joked that my workplace was looking like a maternity ward. Tonight, we received two more 'patients' in the ward... I was walking not too far from the location in which a large snapping turtle when I noticed a painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) laying her eggs in a nest she had dug out of a nice grassy spot:

In what is becoming a routine, I drove a stake into the ground at a short distance from the nest and laid a couple of parallel sticks flanking the nest in order to mark it so nobody runs a lawnmower over it. I then walked on a few paces and saw another painted turtle laying her eggs not far from her conspecific:

Here's a closer view of her head, note the yellow strips under her 'chin', which lend her species its common name:

Once again, I marked out the nest, then I sent a text message to the gentleman who is tomorrow's Manager on Duty. He's an animal lover, so he's as happy as I am about the beautiful mothers who happen to be raising their families on our property.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Whither Northern Ireland?

When I left work at 4AM today, I put on the local NPR affiliate, which broadcasts BBC programming in the wee hours of the morning. Needless to say, the topic was all Brexit, all the time- a pattern which held true for most of the day's news cycle. Among the main topics is the ripple effects of the UK leaving the EU on financial markets... I don't even want to look at my 403(b) right now.

On a personal note, I wonder what effect the Brexit will have on the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I'm a quarter-Irish by heritage, and I live in neighborhood in which many Irish immigrants live, so I tend to write about Irish matters quite a bit. Thankfully, the Good Friday Agreement, while not signed, has largely held, and the bloodshed stopped in 1998 with the horrific and broadly condemned Omagh bombing. With the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland both being members of the European Union, the divisions between north and south lost much of their meaning.

Now, with the population of Northern Ireland voting 56% in favor of remaining in the EU, and sharing a land border with the EU, the republican Sinn Féin party is calling for a vote on Irish reunification. This is, as Irish-American Joe Biden would put it, a Big Fucking Deal.

The repercussions, economic and social (hell even border control will be an issue), of the Brexit pose real challenges for the Republic of Ireland in the near future. Before the pipe-dream of a United Ireland even becomes an agenda item, these problems will have to be ironed out... one might even say Norn Ironed out. It's a bit premature to sing this:

I'm working tonight, so I don't have an opportunity to broach the subject in one of the local pubs, though such conversations can be contentious. It's been a long, long time since I've heard a publican intone, "If you're gonna keep asking questions, we're gonna ask you to leave." I call that challenge the barxit.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Talk About Failing Upwards

Now here's a revolving door for you... the big political story of the week's beginning was the firing of Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's troglodyte trumplodyte campaign manager. Now, three days later, the creep was hired by CNN as a political commentator- talk about failing upwards! Reading about Lewandowski's hiring, I immediately thought, "Wow, I guess cable news figures that racist, misogynistic white guys with anger issues are underrepresented."

Last week, I had a door-to-door sales rep from Cablevision ring the doorbell. I had just gotten up and decided to answer the door in case it was UPS delivering something- my upstairs neighbors and I look out for each other when it comes to deliveries (and other things, too, it must be said). I explained to the guy that I was uninterested in paying for cable television. He then asked me if I wanted an account for the internet:

"What about internet services? We can give you high-speed internet for $49.95 per month."
"I have high-speed internet at work."
"What about surfing the net at home?"
"I have a smartphone, there's no need."

Poor guy, he was trying his best to close a deal. I finally told him that I worked nights and that I had just woken up. To avoid appearing rude, I asked him for a business card, then explained that I worked nights and had just woken up before slamming the door. Reading about CNN's hiring of Lewandowski, I have to ask myself, "Why would I pay fifty bucks a month to have sewage piped into my apartment?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Above Your Mundane Concerns

If I had to define intelligence, I would define it as the ability to observe the world and to connect the various observed details in a manner which is conducive to successfully navigating one's surroundings. I'm not the sort of guy who likes to toot his own horn, but I have a couple of pieces of parchment which certify me as a clever boy. I chalk any cleverness up to my observational skills. A couple of days ago, I stopped at a supermarket to buy a half-gallon of milk to bring to work (I admit to being a big coffee drinker, and I tend to put a little milk in my java to take the edge off the stuff, though I will certainly drink it black if there's no other option). While walking across the parking lot, I saw a grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) suddenly veer off in its flight, an act which tipped me off to some unusual condition in the vicinity. Sure enough, I looked up to ascertain what the disturbance could be, and saw this beauty:

This red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) had taken up a position atop one of the parking lot lampposts, and was calmly surveying the environs as shoppers hustled in and out of the supermarket. It was a bit of wildness injected into a most suburban setting... and most of the people running errands didn't even notice it on its perch. I made sure to point it out to one of the shopping-cart wranglers, a gregarious teenage boy with a good sense of humor- his mind was pretty blown by the sight of the hawk that had visited his normally uninspiring workplace. I reminded him that everybody needs to look up every once in a while, even in a suburban parking lot. There are things above our mundane concerns, and they can be transcendent and transforming.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tripping, By Which I Mean Road-Tripping

Last month, I headed up to my own particular Prestigious Bastion of Prestige for a reunion. A friend of mine who grew up not far from the PBoP jokingly asked me if I could take him as a date, so he could check out this place which is practically in his backyard. After assuring him that I loved him, albeit platonically, I let him know that it would cost a few hundred dollars, and he'd be confronted by a bunch of nostalgic drunks who'd be sharing decades-old jokes. For example, all the the Bronson from Wisconsin (whose birthday is today, high five Base!) has to say to reduce me to gales of laughter is "COOT!" Of course, the proper response is, "GREBE!"

We decided that a summer road-trip would be the best way for me to introduce him to the arcana of the place... and there's a lot of weird stuff to point out. For myself, reunion was a time to hang out with friends, lectures and tourism took a back seat to joking about waterfowl and old reminiscences, I really didn't do any 'touristy' stuff, besides visiting the museum, where I worked as an assistant to the head of anthropological collections. I'll be road-tripping as Virgil leading a local Dante through the circles of, certainly not hell, but a place that probably looms larger in his imagination than mine, because I know it as an insider. What was a nearby mystery for him was home for me for four really amazing years, pretty good for the 'First Circle'.

It'll be interesting returning as a combination tourist/tour guide, playing Virgil in a setting in which I read Virgil.