Looking at the Foundation

So We have had a little (understatement) excitement. Or should I call it catastrophe? Maybe disaster is a better descriptor. Any way you look at it, it was traumatic.

Sparky got a phone call at about 6:40 AM Wednesday. It was son#1 calling in a bit of panic. Well, maybe not exactly panic, it was more a state of shock and confusion. He had been awakened by a tremendous boom. The whole house seemed to shake and he thought (for an instant having been awakened from a sound sleep) that it was raining glass. Fortunately there was no glass. Unfortunately he had plaster chips raining on to his bed. At this point I have to make it clear we do NOT live in an area prone to earthquakes. By the time he had gathered his wits and his clothes, there was a pounding on the door and shouting that a car had just run into the house.

Yep. Some 30 year old had swerved first onto the lawn of the high school across the street from the boy’s house, and then veered across the road, up the curb, past the sidewalk, up the embankment, smacked the fence and rammed the house. He was unconsciousness and unresponsive. The first responders administered Narcan and he was transported to the hospital in serious condition. The house suffered serious damage as well. The car had to have been travelling at an excessive speed.

I had to go to work but Sparky went to the boy’s house lickity split. It was bad. Very bad. But it could have been worse.

Son#1 was sleeping on the other side of the room from where the car hit. He was shook up but uninjured. The fence, which is still half standing for now, slowed the car a touch so that it didn’t take out the whole wall. The driver is still alive. He missed the pedestrian walk signal, the light pole, the telephone pole, the fire hydrant, and ALL THE TREES. If he had hit the tree he probably would have been killed by the accident. As it is, if he dies it will be due to drug overdose…
If you want to read the news story and watch the hour long video of mostly police lights it is available on line at:
https://wsbt.com/news/local/breaking-car-crashes-into-building-on-lincolnway-east
So here are some of the photos:
 
The pictures above are of the outside of the house.
The red is the bottom of the bumper of the car as seen from the basement.

   
   
The photos above show the damage to the foundation. The entire front of the house was shifted. The pictures in the basement are the 2 opposite corners showing the displacement of the cement blocks. It is too early to tell but I think there are some major cracks in the basement walls which will result in some significant water leaking once we get a thaw!
           
These are the ceiling and wall cracks in son#1’s bedroom and the living room… not a fun thing to contemplate.

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Looking to Shake Things Up

I am not a rebel. I have a reputation for being a rule follower. And I do “color in the lines” because that is part of what makes me effective in what I do. This black/white view seems to seep into many aspects of my daily life. It even is seen in my poetry. I love poetry and my favorite types of poems are ones which have all sorts of strict parameters. I adore writing things like a Kyrielle (4 stanzas of 4 lines – 8 syllables per line with a rhyme scheme of aabB, ccbB, ddbB, eebB) or a Lira (5 lines with a syllable count of 7/11/7/7/11 and a rhyme scheme of ababb) and even a Pantoum (interlocking 4 line stanzas – lines 2 & 4 become lines 1 & 3 in the following stanza. Paired lines rhyme, closed using lines 1 & 3 of the 1st stanza and lines 2 & 4 of the last). There are lots of complicated forms. You can see I’m a little traditional in my writing. I was doing some reading and there is a controversy brewing over a new (or not so new) poetical form (or not a form depending on whose opinion you favor). And I’m going to shake things up.

I’m referring to instapoetry. It is a modern poetry form that is a type of free verse, lacking capitalization and punctuation except at the very end. There can be as few as 2 lines or as many as 12. They are not haiku, there are no syllable requirements, or meter, or rhymes. They often employ poetical devises such as simile, metaphor, and catachresis. The criticisms seem to be splitting hairs – is it art or artful personal promotion? Is it poetry or proverb? Is it modern and new or is it simply plagiarism of an older form (Shakespeare)? I’m not sure. But I’m going to give it a go and you can draw your own opinions!

splinters pierce palms
shatter to stab souls
In the end require
extraction for healing.

Looking at Designer Dogs

OK. I’m stepping up onto my soap box. I know with the national news I should be talking about the political scene or the latest natural disaster – but I’m not. I’m stepping up to the podium to have a rant on a topic that irritates and perturbs me beyond all reason. Designer Dogs. Yep the current trend to create mutt dogs and then give them goofy names and charge exorbitant amounts of money to unsuspecting consumers (and if you didn’t take the time to vote then you can’t complain about the state of our government).

The purebred dog is one that has been bred selectively over hundreds of years to produce a specific size, color, and most importantly temperament – Every. Time. Yep. That’s the key and the litmus test of a purebred animal. You have 2 black Labrador Retrievers and you breed them. YOU WILL GET BLACK LABRADOR RETRIEVERS!!!!! You can estimate with a very tight margin of error the maximum and minimum height and weight for males and females. You will have a very good idea of the energy level and the inherited predisposition for intelligence, trainability, and social temperament for the breed. Not to mention you will know what they will look like and the type of hair coat and color. There is no guessing and no surprises.

I opened the newspaper and discovered nothing but advertisements for mixed breed designer dogs. The list included: Pomshih (Pomeranian x Shih tzu), Daniff (Great Dane x Mastiff), Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel x Poodle), Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever x Standard Poodle), Poochi (Poodle x Chihuahua), Pomchi (Pomeranian x Chihuahua), Shepsky (German Shepherd x Siberian Husky), Dorkie (Dachshund x Yorkshire Terrier), Cavachon (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel x Bichon Frise) and Puggle (Pug x Beagle). Edit: just saw a new one a Roxer (Rottweiler x Boxer) which if that isn’t a bonanza for the veterinary profession I don’t know what is! The boxer is a cancer factory with lots of problems and the rottweiler has hip dysplasia and joint problems including arthritis which does NOT improve this breed’s disposition as it ages… The price tags attached to these mutt dogs ranged from $400 to $650! This is more than many of the purebred puppies listed ($250 for Miniature Poodles and $275 for Boxers). The people selling these mixed dogs are laughing all the way to the bank! I can’t believe people are so foolish to spend lots of money on a mutt. I’m thinking the Humane Societies and the City Pounds should start labeling the dogs with designer breeds and charging a little more. They would be hot tickets and be adopted instantly.

I am well versed in genetics and I recognize the phenomenon of “hybrid vigor” by which you introduce new genes into a closed line in hopes of minimizing the expression of recessive traits. Those persons advocating designer breeds tout so many benefits – healthier animals, getting the best of 2 different breeds, creating “hypoallergenic” animals, to name a few. I am a Registered Veterinary Technician and having worked in veterinary clinics, I can tell you that this is rarely the case. Invariably the pups from this kind of cross end up with the worst of the 2 breeds. It is a rare instance when they dodge the medical issues AND the other behavioral issues. Poodles have been over bred to the point that they are real cash cows for the veterinary profession – heart problems, knee problems, collapsing trachea, bad ears and a predisposition to dental issues. The Dachshund is known for spinal disc issues, auto immune issues, and a bad temper. Yorkies, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas all have very small bladders resulting in house breaking problems. The Chihuahua is known for hydrocephaly (water on the brain), tremors, and “little dog syndrome” which is an over-sized attitude and an underdeveloped ability to know when to back down. This results in many Chihuahuas being chomped in half by big dogs. The small breeds like the Yorkie require grooming and mixing it with a breed that has shorter hair does NOT eliminate the need for grooming. They will still mat and the hair may even become more problematic! As for the claims of hypoallergenic dogs – it isn’t the hair. It is the proteins in the saliva and the dander. Breeds that are professionally groomed and bathed every 2 to 4 weeks will be easier for the allergic individual but there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog (unless it has been taxidermied and shellacked)!!

Anyway that is my rant. Instead of paying mega bucks to purchase a Designer Breed, use that excess cash you have laying around and adopt a mutt from the pound or shelter. Use the leftover $500 to donate to human and animal charities. Really, people.

As a little bit of levity*:
Q: What’s the best kind of dog for retrieving data?
A: A Labragoogle!
* this was a joke told on the webcomic “Questionable Content” by Jeph Jacques. I love that comic and read it daily…

Looking at Treats

I’m a fan of the yogurt. Of courses some call it yoghurt, skyr, or matzoon. Anyway it used to be a food that was a staple for dieters. It came in 2 flavors – vanilla and plain. It was not sweet. Now it is trendy and popular and it comes in every flavor imaginable. It is also full of calories! I generally have a yogurt for lunch with some fresh fruit. I really like the Greek style yogurt which is thicker. The skyr yogurt is even better since it usually doesn’t have as much sugar. If you have been to the grocery store you have seen the vast selection of brands. And of course the popularity has driven the cost up and the size of a serving down. I used to be able to get 8 oz containers but then they shrank to 6 oz and now the standard size is 5.3 oz! Most of the yogurt ranges from $1.99 for the high end Noosa to $1.09 run of the mill Chobani. My favorites are Siggi’s and Oui but I rarely purchase them since the store brand is only $0.89. Imagine my glee when I found yogurt in the discount spot! Now I know some people would sneer at discount yogurt but the expiration date was Jan. 31, 2019 and I fully intended to eat it well before then. I got Wallaby vanilla ($1.77) for 37 cents, Noosa ($1.99) for 49 cents, Icelandic Provisions ($1.49) for 32 cents and Chobani fruit on the bottom ($1.09) for 25 cents!! I couldn’t believe my luck.
So here’s my review of the brands I sampled:
1. Wallaby was smooth but a little “sticky” and it didn’t have a very distinct vanilla flavor. I still like the generic Greek better.
2. The Noosa was very high in calories and so sweet that it made me crave water to wash it down! Still it was a very tasty treat. The texture was silky. If I ever get it again I won’t use the “mix in” of praline bits, salted pretzels, and chocolate chips. It was too much with the caramel already in the yogurt.
3. Icelandic Provisions was fabulous! It had a firm yet smooth texture. The flavor was bright and a little tart but not sour. I think it might be as good as Siggi’s except the only flavor they had was Peach with Cloudberry.
4. Chobani fruit on the bottom was OK. I like fruit on the bottom but this was syrupy. They could have used half as much and still had good flavor. For the cost it was excellent but I’d never pay full price for it.
5. I didn’t try the Noosa pineapple coconut duo since I got that for Sparky and I detest coconut… He reported that the coconut was tasty with real shredded coconut in abundance. I took that as a thumbs up review.

So there you have it – my rundown of the sale yogurt. I still like Siggi’s best and the Oui for a sweeter treat but the next time I see the Icelandic Provisions on super sale or discount I won’t hesitate to make that purchase! What is your favorite yogurt brand/flavor? Or are you anti-yogurt??

Looking Beachy

The sunrise and sunset over the ocean is completely astonishing. It is both wonderful and terrifying. We visited the beach on several occasions for sunrise/sunset photos.

   

Even on cloudy mornings the sun colors the clouds in a most spectacular way!

   

   

On this morning there was a rainbow. It was worth it to be on the beach while it was raining and I didn’t get that wet…

I went looking for shells on a couple days and even found a sand dollar. We saw a ghost crab that skittered across the sand sideways and finally buried himself. My sister gifted us with clear plastic Christmas ornaments that are designed to be filled with small shells. It was much easier to find really pretty tiny shells than to search for large undamaged shells.

But the highlight was the bio-luminescence on the beach 2 nights in a row. The locals call it sea sparkles. They are microscopic free-living, marine-dwelling species of dinoflagellate that exhibits bioluminescence when disturbed. The scientific name is Noctiluca scintillans. When they wash up onto the beach and are deposited in the sand, they will glow or sparkle when they are disturbed by walking on the sand or by scuffing the sand with your foot or hand. The released light is blue-white and it will flash for only a moment. Depending on the number, the sand and water can look like they are on fire. We went to the beach (with Xangan Crystalinne) and stomped, hopped, and dragged our feet around to see the sparkles. I wish my camera was good enough to capture the glow. The pictures below are from the internet …

Looking for Trouble

I’m back from my “too short” vacation. I had a really good time visiting with my sisters and my mother and assorted nieces and nephews despite the weather. You see, from the time we arrived until the day before we left, it rained. Some times it was a hard rain and other times it was a light mist. This required alternative activities instead of spending time at the beach. One thing that Sparky and I did (which no one else wanted to do with us) was visit the Naval Air Museum. We were a little worried that the museum would be closed due to the government shut-down but it was open. It followed the history of military use of balloons and the development of airplanes and air craft carriers from the beginning to current times. We spent the better part of the afternoon at the free museum. Sparky was enthralled by the section on space travel.
   

   

Above are the flight suits that the Navy developed for pilots that were flying at high altitudes. They were also the basis for the first space suits developed for orbiting the earth.

   

Here is Sparky looking very pleased that he was able to get this close to a real space capsule. He is a total space geek and was having a geek-out moment. It was a good thing the interior was sealed with a plexiglas or he would have climbed inside! We watched a video shot inside the International Space station that provided answers to the most burning questions about living in space (with demonstrations). Included was a tour of the space station – even getting to see the Russian’s quarters. We finally pulled ourselves away from the space section and got to see the movie about WWII planes that have been salvaged from (of all places) Lake Michigan!! There were even a couple of them restored and on display! The part that kept me entertained was all the art work on the planes. It ranged from the highly artistic to the very basic. Although it wasn’t considered an official mark, many planes had the logo of the units using the planes. Some are fairly offensive in today’s climate but this was wartime and demonizing the enemy was a common tactic. It is so effective that it is still used today!
          

So some of these mad me laugh as these pilots and air crews obviously had a sense of humor (#8) and others were reminiscent of the life they left behind (#10). All in all there were some interesting exhibits and I got to see many interesting things. I especially liked the cut away aircraft. There was one bi-wing and one WWII cargo plane. For a free museum it was an excellent value!

Looking Over My Glasses

I’m sure you’ve seen the look. The one where someone looks over their glasses at you and raises one eyebrow, the look that states “you have to be kidding”. I try not to give anyone that look. I really attempt to give everyone my full and undivided attention. I practice Active Listening skills. Then there are times when I. just. can’t.

All the really bizarre things seem to happen after 5:00 PM, when everyone has left the building except for me and all the graduate students/lab slaves. I feel like I’m the mom. They come knocking on my office door. Some are scared, some are in tears, some are embarrassed, and others are in full blown panic mode. My job is to remain calm and act as the voice of reason while trying to fix what has gone wrong. So far I’ve dealt with several problems.

1. The “You’re going to shoot out your eye” issue.
2. The “Saw” episode.
3. The Piñata problem.
4. The “I’m afraid of snakes” instance.
5. The “Skinny Dipping” difficulty.
6. The “Don’t make me make the mom noise” challenge.
7. The “Tickle me Elmo” hurdle.
8. The “They all rolled over and one fell out” complication.

Due to my strong sense of fairness (and a signed form preventing me from divulging certain info on social media), I can’t discuss the details of the above listed interludes. However if we ever meet in person and you want me to give details I will. Just so you know, I was able to maintain a professional demeanor. I kept a straight face and not once did I burst into laughter (maniacal or mirthful). I provided reassurance, Kleenex for the hysterical, and kindness. But I have to admit I might have slipped and looked over my glasses once or twice!

Looking at DNA

My mother is a genealogist. She has taken several DNA tests looking to confirm or deny what her research has uncovered. She has convinced my sister to do the same – even bought her a kit as a gift… I suppose if I were a little more curious about what percentage from my father and from my mother I inherited I would follow suit. As it is these DNA kits have limitations. I work with PCR for genotyping. It is only as good as the probes you use. And there are specific probes for each gene. I’m a little suspicious and skeptical that they are using specific probes. I wonder if they are looking at very generic markers that are common to a wide geographical area…

Speaking of DNA, there are more and more people opting for genetic screening prior to committing to marriage – to make sure they are genetically compatible. This is so strange to me. If you are in love what would it matter? But the logical side of my mind sees the possible advantages in avoiding dooming your children to major genetic disease or deformity. Still is smacks of eugenics and selective breeding. I cringe and wonder that these same individuals are willing to jump off mountains wearing “flying squirrel” suits yet aren’t willing to take the risk of falling in love or procreating. What better thrill ride than marriage and parenthood? Which brings me to the question a recent study examined, is risky behavior genetically encoded in some individuals? We used to chalk it up to lack of common sense, poor judgement, bad parenting, falling in with the wrong crowd, peer pressure, etc. The list goes on. But now there are murmurings that this is “not their fault” because that is just how they are wired. Having genetic predispositions is nothing new and is a valid condition. However there seems to be a push to absolve individuals of any personal responsibility. And that is wrong.

Looking at the Past Year

So this is my obligatory retrospective of the past year. I considered doing a resolution post but I generally try to avoid making resolutions (though I do sometimes post goals). Instead I am doing a post-Christmas letter. Here goes:

This last year was filled with ups and downs. Sparky went full time at Lowe’s and was raking in the pennies. He decided in the last months of the year to look for a different job. He succeeded in finding 2 jobs. He is currently still employed at Lowe’s (part-time now) as well as working for the County library as a resource person for the computer lab, 3-D printing lab, and as a reference assistant (sort of the reference librarian without the title or pay) also part-time. He managed to score a job working at Indiana University – South Bend as a lecturer for the business computing classes. He will be working as an adjunct teaching the same classes he taught before. He is one busy guy in his retirement!

I settled down in my role as a Team Lead. I’m not going to lie and say it is a fun job. Being a Team Lead is exhausting and frustrating. I have managed to endure 3 inspections with minimal findings. Most safety and regulatory inspectors want to find something – anything! So far one inspection found a ladder missing an inspection date (fixed instantly). Another found an expired fire extinguisher (which turned out wasn’t expired at all). And the last one was a patch of chipped paint. We knew about the paint but the wall had been sealed with clear silicone caulk pending a repainting in the summer… I’ve been hugged and praised by graduate students, a post-doc told me she loved me. I saved another’s bacon (no details will be given), comforted another in tears, assisted still another on the verge of an emotional breakdown. But for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction… I’m seriously toying with the idea of retiring too! That however won’t entail working 3 jobs. I was considering going to work for the devil (Wal-mart hires in at $12/hr). It just might be a cushy job or at least one that would allow my OCD a little exercise.

Our sons are doing well. Son#1 is climbing (slowly) into a management position. He celebrated a 7 year work anniversary this last August. He had to buy a new-to-him car after a collision that totaled his car (my car on semi-permanent loan to him). He bought a new refrigerator. He had a little panic when his water softener died and he was thinking he’d need a new one AND his dryer went on the fritz. We came to the rescue – as soon as we turned off the water softener and unplugged it the breaker stayed on and the dryer worked!! He was very happy.

Son#2 graduated from IUSB with a degree in music – viola performance just last week. He is still working in the meat department part-time (10 year anniversary) and is taking after his father. Besides the job in the grocery, he is giving violin and viola lessons at a local music store. This summer he auditioned for the Elkhart Symphony and is now playing with them. He seems to really enjoy it. He won’t be able to give up any of his other jobs but he is having fun! When he has a free moment he is also still playing with the Silver Strings Quartet. They’ve done the Bridal Expo and had lots of weddings this last spring and summer.

The bigger picture is that we are thankful (in the words of Sparky just before Christmas) that we “have running water that we can turn on and off and have it hot or cold nearly instantly.” We are surrounded by friends that are like family and family that we’d choose as friends. Although we have experienced some medical issues (mostly in those we love) that have been resolved with wonderful outcomes, we still feel fortunate to have good health. Sixty is the new thirty right? I am looking forward to the new year and new experiences and perhaps some travels and adventures. What do you see in your future??

Looking at Legs

My species has two
Other animals have more
But mine look better

So we are at the beach and I’m wearing leggings. It is a little cold since the wind is coming off the water (it is December after all). Sparky has an arm over my shoulders supposedly to help keep me warm as we stroll just out of reach of the surf. He leans in and says, “I really like your cute chubby legs.”
*Sound of a phonograph needle scraping across the record*
What??!!?!?! I can’t believe he just committed suicide. I’m not sure if it was my exclamation or my stiffened posture that clued him. He immediately started backpedaling. He was joking, just kidding, it was a compliment, he loves my legs. I considered giving him the gypsy curse. Then I considered forgiveness. I finally settled on reparations.

He has no appreciation of LuLaRoe fashion. In fact he can’t differentiate one clothing brand from another unless it has the brand name emblazoned across the chest, shoulders, or back side. I generally do not have any strong brand loyalties. There are however certain designers who seem to have my number. Alfred Dunner puts out clothes in my color palate. Vera Wang has some dresses that speak to my heart. But LuLaRoe, well, this is a siren call to my Bohemian soul. I like ruanas, ponchos, pashminas, shawls and scarves. The longer tops with the flared hems scream my name. I like pattern and color. But it is the texture of certain fabrics that have an allure hard to resist. So I buy LuLaRoe at Goodwill because I am too frugal to shell out $40 – 70 for a piece of casual clothing. I buy all my leggings second hand (softer than butter) because leggings shouldn’t cost more than the rest of the outfit.

I’m pretty sure you can tell where this is headed. I’m thinking I’ll need to ask saintvi to help me get hooked up with the Brays (hey, hey!) so I can get a new dress and matching thingy – they have names for all these things and I just can’t remember them – a Carly with a Shirley… I think.