Saturday, April 28, 2012

Neither snow nor rain nor heat ...

.. nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.  This is the inscription on the James Farley Post Office building in New York City.  It is the main office for New York, built in 1912.  The zip code at the James Farley Post Office is 10001. 

The United States Postal Service is in the news these days.  It is fashionable to sneer at "snail mail".  Yet every day except Sunday, a postal carrier delivers to every address in the country - every one, every day.  The carrier and the community he or she serves are neighbors, connected by name, recognized by sight.  Perhaps the hey day of mail is passed, but the unifying mission still serves a purpose.  No address, however remote, is too far to go.

This week my husband travelled to Ketchikan, Alaska to do some work on the boat that we keep there.  He forgot his cell phone - the symbol of 21st century personal electronics.  At 4:30 in the afternoon I handed it to a postal clerk in an Express Mail envelope.  At 2:00 the next day he picked it up at the Ketchikan Post Office - a reminder that the Service still serves. 

After the events of September 11, 2001, the Postal Service used the vast interior spaces of the Farley Office to set up a temporary mail pick up for addresses obliterated in the twin towers.  On September  14,  the carriers who had served these buildings stood to deliver mail to those struggling to pick up the threads of lives snuffed out by the attacks.  A few days later, this commercial ran.  Carley Simon worked with the Service to record her song in support of  "USPS Pride".

Thursday, April 26, 2012

And on this Farm He Had an Aardvark...

Last week I went to visit my grandchildren.  Not the ones in Anchorage.  The ones in Placerville, California.  One day we went to the zoo in Sacramento.  It is a very fine zoo.  I know for some that is an oxymoron.  They are those who think it is cruel to cage animals and that no benefit could outweigh the injustice.  I am not sure.  I say it is a fine zoo because the animals appear healthy.  Their living quarters are spacious and well appointed with places to climb, swim, hide and play.  The campus is clean and pleasant, cool and breezy even on a very hot day (90 degrees).  The placards at each den, cage or aquarium are informative.  The education program is innovative.  We arrived early, and saw a troop of girl scouts breaking camp.  They had spent the night at the zoo in tents pitched on a lawn between the big Cat House and the Parrot cages.  But mostly I think it is a fine zoo because it encourages visitors, young and old, to think about the bigger world.  Most of the children running from savanna to rain forest and back to the Reptile House knew the names of the animals  and the sound they make.  I believe that this knowledge and understanding is essential to developing any concept of accountability for the well being of creatures who live beyond our back yards.  I am going to suggest to my son and his wife that we sign up for one of the overnight campouts with his three children.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Capitale de la Musique

You don't need to know French to understand the city slogan for Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Kinshasa Congo Travel Information and City Guide tells you "Kinshasa is a huge, sprawling city.  It is hectic, confusing and colourful, a sort of New York of Central Africa."  10 million people live there.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the most unstable governments.  Keep this in mind, and follow this link to a 60 Minutes (CBS) story about the symphony orchestra and chorus in Kinshasa.  Beethoven would be proud. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Action in the Maternity Ward

I saved a life today.  Actually, probably three lives.  The pregnant ewes on my friend's sheep farm have started lambing.  There are 55 of them.  My friend tries to visit their large pasture every two hours.  Often I take a shift.  Around 1:30 I looked out over the field and saw a ewe in distress.  She was cast.  A cast ewe is down and unable to get up.  In a very pregnant ewe this is usually a fatal fall.  Her large belly makes it impossible for her to right herself, her large uterus makes it hard to breathe, and the fermentation vat - aka her rumen - continues to process food and produce gas which backs up quickly.  The end for the creature comes quickly, and can be accompanied by an explosive eruption of gas.  If you read some of the farm blogs you will learn that my ewe's situation is very typical.  Late pregnancy, early to mid day, cool and  clearning from morning rain, early grass season with fresh new growth.  Here is the "Sheep Production" message board that you might enjoy.

I found my friend and we righted the ewe.  She will live to bear her babies.  Most of the flock are having twins. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

And All This Before Lunch

We went to the opera this morning. Yes, this morning thanks to the Metropolitan Opera's live simulcast which is shown in movie theaters all over the country.  We are on the Pacific Coast, so the matinee which opens at 1 PM in New York starts at 10 AM at our theater in Olympia.  Today was Verdi's La Traviata, the story of a courtesan who finds true love.  You can read the story summary here.  La Traviata is a tear jerker.  I wept openly through the last act. The theater was full as I expect it was in hundreds of other communities.  The Metropolitan Opera has an 80 year history of live radio broadcasts.  This is the sixth season of The Met: Live in HD.  Today's performance was stunning.  Perhaps some day I will go to the Met in New York.  For now, I'm happy to drive across town in my jeans and enter the mall long before shopping gets underway.  Give opera a try.  Check the schedule  for the 2012 - 2013 season.  English subtitles.  Popcorn during the intermission.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Free Enterprise in the Heartland

Last weekend my dog and I participated in a sheepdog trial.  As is usually the case, we drove out into the country to reach the venue.  Such trials require a large field - preferably 30 or more acres.  The field must be enclosed in sturdy field fencing, or there must be a secure enclosure nearby in which the sheep can be kept safe overnight.  There must be room for holding and sorting pens for the sheep, and electricity for the registration and scorekeeping crew.  There must be fairly flat ground for participant parking - room for fifty or more vehicles.  Many are RV's, campers, or trucks towing large trailers.  Understandably, most suitable locations are out in the wide open spaces.  Most trials also offer food for sale since there are generally no retail opportunities up or down the road.

The weekend trial had everything - great hill top location with spectacular views.  Lovely 30 acre grassy field - fenced.  Barn with electricity, and several enclosed corrals.  But right up until the day before the trial, no concessionaire had agreed to come.  There is also a house on this farm.  It is rented to a family of six, mom and dad and four children.  They were approached.  Would they be interested in making some coffee, putting out some muffins, grilling some burgers?  This family morphed overnight into concessionaire extraordinaire.  There were breakfast burritos, egg and ham sandwiches on English muffins, warm banana bread with butter and hard boiled eggs.  For lunch they offered teriyaki chicken with rice and broccoli. hot dogs and baked beans, potato salad, burgers with choice of cheeses and home made cookies.  They built a fire in an outdoor pit, and offered the fixings for S'Mores. Dad manned the grill. Mom cooked to order. Juniors took orders, delivered food and operated the antique cash register which they found in the barn. It was a dandy - push down keys, a cash drawer with wood dividers, and a "No Sale" sign when the drawer closed. On Sunday, Grandmother and Grandfather came out after church and chatted up the customers. They all reminded me of one of my favorite songs, "Daddy Sang Bass". Enjoy this clip from Johnny Cash.

I have not revealed any details. I don't want to say where we were. If the county health department found out about it they would shut the kitchen down. No license, no inspection. We ate like kings.