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Rumilluminations November 2014
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sun, November 02 2014 - 5:59 pm

November 30, 2014                                    Madison, IN

It is the last day of November, and it may be the first time in my life that I have experienced a last month of Fall that didn't feel like winter.

Today, in fact, the weather has been like Spring.

We walked across the bridge to Milton in clothing we were wearing a month ago.

People have been saying it is supposed to be a hard winter.  The squirrels have been getting fatter and fatter.  Some parts of the country have already experienced record snowfalls.

But that cannot be.  Why, just this morning it was April!

November 29, 2014                                    Madison, IN

Has Thanksgiving not caught on all over the world because too many people just don't have enough to eat?

Or do all the nations with more integrated traditional cultures have enough of their own feasting to do without adding on those of other cultures.

Hmmm... the more I think about it there are holidays from other lands and peoples I could definitely get enthusiastic about.

I actually enjoy holidays - but in a very laid back lazy way.

Truth to tell, for four days starting the day before Thanksgiving, when our dinner was prepared not by me, we ate and ate and ate!

November 28, 2014                                     Madison, IN

This morning on our cold walk along the river we saw a heron fly away from the bank and in short order an eagle.  We followed his flight across the river, down toward the ground and then immediately up and away downstream along the other bank.

It looked as if he was bee-lining toward that point from the beginning to pick up some breakfast and I think his vision must be very good indeed.  Maybe his sense of smell helped, also.

Or maybe I misread him completely.  It is certainly true that from across the river I could barely see him, let alone any possible prey.

Herring gulls from across the river, geese on our side, coming in for a landing, we saw.

What we didn't see, surprisingly enough, were black vultures, which have lately been hanging along the river in the dozens.  It is true that I have seen more vultures upstream from our apartment than downstream where we walked today.

I want to whine about the approaching winter, but really I cannot.  What a lucky November we have had!  What sometimes almost balmy weather and abundant sunlight.

Now we have feasted for three days running, with more leftovers in the refrigerator.

My thankfulness may be directionless and free-floating, but thankful I am and everyone I have ever loved, I love now - with gratitude.

November 26, 2014                                      Madison, IN

I wonder sometimes about the smelling talents of dogs.

I've heard that in this country they are used more often than pigs to find truffles.

Years ago I read that some dogs are capable of smelling cancer tumors in humans, but we have not, as far as I can tell, experienced a surge in dog-docs to provide inexpensive diagnoses.

The landlord here had a dog smelling the apartments for bed-bugs.

How about gold? I wondered.

Evidently I am by no means the first to wonder.  When I Googled the subject I got to see a film from the middle of the 1960s made by a professional or governmental organization in Finland about a sulfide-sniffing dog.  He didn't smell the gold itself, he smelled compounds that are likely to indicate the presence of gold.

Other websites indicate that sulfide-sniffing dogs have been trained and are being hired out to mining companies in this country.

Alas!  It is a long way from dog-sniff to the ring on your finger, in spite of one not-really-funny video in which a sombrero-hatted man purported to be using a dog to find nuggets in a river.

Once the potential ore has been discovered, gold still has to be mined and extracted.  Owning such a dog is obviously not a ticket to quick riches.

Of course, for me the whole proposition is idle curiosity.  I've never fancied myself an animal trainer.

Still, wouldn't it be great to have a pet poodle who could sniff out oodles of boodle?

Hell, I'd even settle for a truffle-sniffing terrier.

A beagle for bed-bugs?  Maybe not. 



November 25, 2014
                                     Madison, IN

I don't get it.  How does this country choose its heroes?  Or should I say anti-heroes?

I really never understood the appeal of anti-heroes anyway - not surprising, really since I don't seem to have a need for heroes either.

But why have so many people in America gotten so passionate about Michael Brown?

Trayvon Martin, yes.  His shooter could have left him alone and Martin would be alive today.  He was not the aggressor.

The case of the death of Michael Brown is different.  He is the one who could have behaved differently in several ways that would have left him alive.  It sure sounds to me as if he was in an aggressive mood the night of his death - and not only toward the man who shot him.

What both of these cases have in common is fear and distrust run amok in the psyches of the people involved.

The fact that these emotions are so close to the surface shows how bad the situation has been in Ferguson, Missouri.  I'll accept that.

But there are no innocent parties here.  No heroes at all.  Not even worthy anti-heroes.

And what, you might ask, do I know about what really happened?

For sure?  Nothing at all - but then, neither do you.

So why the rush to judgment?  Why all the impassioned rhetoric?

I suspect the anger is everybody's way of trying to keep the sorrow at bay; and like denial, it only makes a bad situation worse.

November 24, 2014                                     Madison, IN

Ha, ha, I have been preaching to everyone about high cholesterol (everybody already knows it but nobody pays any attention to it) and bragging about how much I have improved my cholesterol levels, and now I found out that cholesterol levels are way passe, man, and the real thing is the ratio between your HDL (so-called "good" cholesterol and your triglyceride levels, which are related to sugar intake.)

I do vaguely remember my sister talking about this months ago, but I did not have the foggiest idea what they were (except that my triglycerides were fine), so I more or less dismissed the complications of it.  I still thought that cholesterol levels meant something, for goodness sake!

She sent me a book on Kindle which is more informative, and since I just had a blood test I have called my doctor's office for the results.  I can hardly wait to see where I stand!  Since in spite of making saturated fats "bad guys" I have never turned sugars, (the baddest of the bad guys, seemingly) into good guys I'm hopeful that my levels are okay without going to more extreme dietary stringencies.

Meanwhile, just strictly for purposes of health, you understand, I'm going to increase my intake of saturated fat just a wee bit.  There is, evidently, such a thing as letting your cholesterol levels get too low!

One little tidbit from my reading - glucose goes into your blood, while fructose heads to the liver, where it wreaks havoc.  I always wondered why fructose was supposed to be so bad (after all, that is the sugar in fruit, right?)  The authors say there isn't much fructose in an apple and furthermore there is plenty of fiber that allows the sugar to be released more slowly into your system.

I'll share the name of these authors and their book another day.

Meanwhile, good luck trying to keep up with the good-for-you bad-for-you news (and above all, don't take it too seriously, I guess.)

Except damn, staying alive is a pretty serious business even in the U.S.A., where all kinds of affluent risks abound.

Here's to your health!

November 23, 2014                                     Madison, IN

Yesterday I was going to cross the river on the pedestrian bridge to mail some more cards with a special cancellation depicting the bridge, and found the walk closed "for safety reasons."

What could those possibly be?  I messaged the city of Madison, and was told that Milton, KY let them know when the bridge should be closed.

Later I was talking to a shopkeeper about the closing of the bridge and she remarked, "Well, you know, the bridge belongs to Kentucky.  Indiana just helped pay for it."

Makes sense.  The border of Kentucky lies not halfway across the Ohio River, but a hundred or so feet from Indiana (in some places, even on the northern side of the river!)

I guess I shouldn't make a big deal about hiking to Kentucky then.  All I really have to do to "be in Kentucky" is get on the bridge.

My partner and I have decided, though, that if "they" are going to close the walkway because of a little ice or snow that is just being a little too paternalistic - and a little civil disobedience might be in order!

November 22, 2014                                     Madison, IN

Standing ovations for a serial rapist?

Well, talk about going from one extreme to the other.

Is this an example of our American support for the underdog?

Is it a sign of belief that 12 women are lying and this one man, who had everything to gain by lying, is telling the truth?

Is it our almost pathological worship of the successful?

Any way you look at it, it's disgusting.

All the weight lifted from the seats of that auditorium is an additional weight added to the suffering of those ignored women.  Every clap of the hands is another slap at the faces of the victims.

November 20, 2014                                     Madison, IN

Today I shopped locally.  I will tomorrow, too - ordering a book from the neighborhood bookstore.

Sure, this morning I probably thought of some great stuff to write about:

Like how we only start listening to accusations of sexual abuse against people when they are long in tooth and getting weak and aged.  What does that say about our human nature?  It is ageism, at the very least. 

Or how I read today that people shame and blame drug addicts for their sickness, but we don't shame and blame those who get heart disease and diabetes.  Oh, really?  I guess I would be inclined to lump them all together and call them (us) all addicts or, preferably, victims of disease.

What could be better, though, than talking about shopping locally?  Now that the Christmas season is almost upon us, how can we spend our gift money better than spending it on our local shopkeepers?  That is something positive that we can actually do, instead of something negative we can only deplore.

And shop soon so you aren't tempted to shop on Thanksgiving or black Friday.

This week you will have more to choose from!


November 19, 2014
                                      Madison, IN

Scroodle-doo dumpchitty.  Lackadoodle scrumdiddly boodle.
Wait a minute.  "Boodle" passes spell-check?  How is that?  What does it mean?

Just looked it up.  It seems to be a word meaning 1) money, especially ill-gotten money and 2) a big amount of something, especially money.

Personally, I think oodles preceded any such boodle when it comes to definition number 2, but who am I to say?  English is like Walt Whitman - it contains multitudes.

Speaking of which, what is this new slant I hear on the word "envy" - that it involves not only wanting what someone else has, but wanting that other person not to have it?

I don't remember that element being part of envy - that sounds more like covetousness.

Envy is one of the Deadly Sins, though, I think because it is such an unhealthy indulgence.  I can't imagine positive thinking going on in a mind occupied by envy.  Like hatred, it consumes its host.

And somehow, my intended nonsensical whimsy has been eaten up by rational verbal considerations.

Boodle, my eye!  I know real, good, old maybe slightly archaic words that do not get the nod from Spell Check.

Shame on you, Spell Check!  Make new words, sure, but keep the old!  Boodles and oodles of words!

The Internet, after all, is infinitely expandable.

Isn't it?

November 18, 2014                                      Madison, IN

Do you believe that given the same set of facts, there is only one possible interpretation?

Do you believe that if someone doesn't agree with you, they know nothing about the subject?

More than ever, upon being presented with a set of facts, I find myself not drawing conclusions, but thinking of more questions.

Information, I beg.  Please, we need much more information!

The more questions, the freer the thinking.

November 17, 2014                                      Madison, IN

First snowfall.

I was going to go on a walk, and got sidetracked by the underfoot stuff.  I went back in to get a broom and cleaned off the stairs and walkways between here and our car.

As I was doing that, an elderly neighbor asked me if I could clean her windshield off.  Well, of course, with at least three inches of snow out there, cleaning the windshield off does no good if you don't clean off the roof.  As soon as you brake, anything on the roof falls forward - onto the windshield.  One thing led to another, so her car got cleaned pretty well.

I figured I might as well clean our car, too.  Came up and got a mop and cleaned off our car.  I got some pretty good aerobic exercise.

It kept snowing.  Just now I came down, recleaned the neighbor's windshield and cleaned our car again.  Armed with a car key, I went down to turn the car around so that the windshield would get even better facing south.

The door was frozen.

***Winter tip***:   If your car door is frozen do not run for hot water or a hair dryer until you have tried one simple solution.  Hit the door near its edge where it meets the car when it is closed (or what the hell - hit the seam) about a foot or eighteen inches above the lock.  (Actually today I hit it all along the side and top that opens.)  This will probably loosen up the door and it will open like magic.

Someone just taught me this trick last winter and it has worked for me every time since.

Will I take a recreational walk today?  Eh, ... maybe.  The snow is still sticking to the trees and looks just lovely.

 November 16, 2014                                     Madison, IN

Ten days ago we decided to go for under-bed storage, and did it in a big way by ordering a full-sized captain's bed with 6 drawers on each side.

Day before yesterday the bed was delivered and we (mostly my partner) set it up.  I could have not done it alone but he probably could have, and I hope I did not hinder him too much.  With time off for an hour-long walk, it was still finished by two o'clock.

Why, oh why did we wait so long?  Our room now looks like a real bedroom, and the higher bed makes us feel like standing taller.

It is the first real bed I have slept on since I was in my mid-twenties.  My husband built a nomadic bed that was four feet high;  the mattress was attainable by a little ladder.  After our divorce I slept in a futon on the floor.  Finally, sore-hipped from sleeping on a by-now old futon, I decided that I deserved better sleeping accommodations and bought a good mattress and box-springs but still did not spring for a frame to hold my mattress.  I was in seventh heaven just being warm and comfy.

Now, finally in my (still) mid-sixties, I'm finally sleeping in an actual bed with a headboard and everything!

Sure, it cost a significant amount.  Considering, however, that we spent less than the price of two months' rent for it, it came cheap.  And we still have the same good mattress, which is more comfortable on the new bed than on the old box-springs.

So why, am I wondering, why oh why did we wait so long?

November 14, 2014                                      Madison, IN

Young people:  do you think older folks are slow, bumbling, easily distracted - and therefore stupid and inconsiderable?

I would offer this alternative interpretation to that kind of conclusion:

The aged are slower in traffic because their history, experience, and objective knowledge instructs them to be more cautious.

Old people are slower to come up with societal solutions because they are considering a larger picture with more elements. 

Old people are slower to come up with mechanical and psychological solutions because they know more alternative courses of action to take.

The older a person gets beyond, say, 65, the more he is distracted and involved by the stresses of health issues and increased number of injuries - many of them, incidentally, caused and exacerbated by the young.

Another distraction - the ever greater specter of Death, which induces caution, timidity with regards to physical injury, and more details to think about with relation to those who will most probably remain behind, i.e. the younger folks.

Instead of being impatient, maybe the young should spend more time thinking.

November 13, 2014                                      Madison, IN

November cold has finally come with a vengeance.  Today I actually saw a flake or two of snow.

We have been counting ourselves lucky to escape it for so long.  The weather has been more like October and actually enjoyable.

Now, reflecting that only three months remain until Valentines Day - the middle of February! - how bad can the winter be?  In three months it will be almost March.

And still I am not ready.

I am plotting one plan of action, though.  I mean to arm myself with a snow shovel or at least a good sturdy broom, and if the city does not clear a path along the riverwalk, I will.

Not the whole walk, of course, which must be close to a mile long.  Just the parts I can do here and there where necessary.

People don't realize how much the sun will dry a walk even in subfreezing weather if it just has a chance to reach it.

And who knows.  Maybe my efforts will inspire others to help.

We can make a party of it! 

November 12, 2014                                       Madison, IN

I have to bite my tongue to keep from grinding my teeth.

November 11, 2014                                       Madison, IN

Well, brag I must.  Today I found out that I succeeded in lowering my cholesterol from 253 to 211 in three months.

What's more, 40 points of that 43 point decrease was in the lowering of my "bad" cholesterol.  I'm going to keep up the discipline (as much as possible over the holidays) and try to lower it down to below 200, which was what I was first told was "high" by a physician decades ago.

So if you have high cholesterol, take heart!  It can be reduced.

I have to say that in spite of exercising admirable restraint since early August I didn't really expect much progress.  A neighbor who watched her diet and walked four miles a day didn't succeed in lowering her cholesterol and I cannot pretend I walk that much.

I do, however, get a lot of exercise patting myself on the back!

November 10, 2014                                       Madison, IN

The sad thing about the American diet is that the demand for high sugar, fat, and/or salt content in every food is that now many people don't get much variety in their eating experience at all.

A co-worker of my partner's was telling him about helping someone who was on food stamps at the grocery store.  This woman wanted to buy Banquet TV dinners.  "This is how we eat."

Evidently she had not been taught even the rudiments of cooking.
Expecting her to even evaluate unprocessed food might be too much.

If we demand a "bliss point" of one of the three unhealthy-in-excess ingredients we lose out on real flavor.

The tastelessness of much supermarket produce is legendary, but many Americans could not tell whether they were eating a good carrot or not.  Americans want their food doctored.

Try an experiment.  The next time you are at a supermarket, buy a bag of organically-grown carrots.  Not every carrot in the bag will taste the same, but some of those carrots ought to be blissfully sweet - naturally.

And good health, which your three thrill flavors will undermine over time, is reason for ecstasy in itself.

November 8, 2014                                        Madison, IN

Walked the Milton/Madison Bridge again today.  From home, across the bridge and back home, it takes about an hour.

I saw a tow pushing 11 barges today.  I hung around the center of the bridge for a few minutes so I could watch it go beneath me.  The asymmetry of the load took a surprise balance:  the missing barge of the three across four deep load was right in front of the boat, behind some other barges.

Another surprise was that the boats look predominantly white from the side but from the top it was almost all gray.  People evidently walk on that part, though, so it makes sense.  Is that whole area called deck?

I listened for the engine when it started under the bridge and heard nothing.  I meant to listen behind the boat, but forgot.  The noise didn't find me.  Maybe the traffic on the bridge obscured it.  Tows really are loud, but this one was going downstream which takes much less engine power.

From where I was on the bridge I was directly behind the tow.  Strangely enough, it looked as if going in a straight line it would hit the shore before the bend in the river.  Obviously it did not go in a straight line.  By the time I crossed the bridge in the other direction, it had safely navigated the bend.

I only encountered three people on the bridge itself.  I'm beginning to think that pedestrian walkway might be the ideal place for that five minute run we are supposed to get every day.

For anyone wanting to walk just the bridge, it took me about 15 minutes in each direction.

November 7, 2014                                        Madison, IN

Maybe my idea of the other day is not so far-fetched.  One young woman with a mild form of autism was comforted when she put herself in a contraption designed to restrain and calm down calves.  This sounds to me like a simulation of the restraint a baby might feel in the womb - a womb whose owner didn't move around too much.

For other autistic children who make progress when exposed to water, it might give them the moving, buoyant yet enclosed sensation that they did not get enough of before birth.

Motor skill development is connected to brain development:  witness the link between insufficient crawling and dyslexia, and the improvement in cognitive function among older people who learn a new manual skill.

Blue Mind is really interesting reading - and the title might mislead you about the ideas of the author.  He's definitely not talking about depression!

November 5, 2014                                        Madison, IN

I've been reading a book called Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols which talks about (among other subjects) how good water activities are for children with autism.

As far as I know, the causes of autism are still unknown.  There has been some speculation that environmental pollution and chemicals could be responsible.

Well, here's an idea for you.  Many pregnant women these days, between working and driving, are probably much more sedentary than they used to be.  Maybe some babies don't get enough motion floating and sloshing around in the womb to develop their minds the way they should.

Farfetched?  Well, maybe they also don't get enough motion after they are born.  Could be both.

I'd sure like to see a study done, though.  That is the kind of thing that could be done via Internet surveys and self-reporting.

November 4, 2014                                       Madison, IN

Yesterday I shared a piece on Facebook that said some approximation of, "I gave you life, now you give me your Reese's."

I thought it was funny and shared it as a joke.

Now I see on the news that stealing your child's candy is a common practice.

No, it is not funny.  Stealing your kids' candy is inexcusable.

I can see you shaking your head and saying, "How petty!"

Well, ask that crying protesting child if he is being petty.

Do you really want your child to grow up feeling that powerless?

Mom, get your own damn Reese's!

November 3, 2014                                       Madison, IN

Tonight I went to a free-thinkers meeting.  I loved it.  There are so many things you can talk about when you are not limited by religious subjects!

Honestly, tonight I thought we should be called the science club - which was great.  I read a little bit here and there but I was shown tonight that what skittish reading I have done and popularized concepts I have exposed myself to are already wildly out of date.

Out with my ideas of different human races being varieties!  In have come theories of subspecies!

Out goes string theory!  In comes - what?  An idea that space itself expands and that we humans and other objects including, I guess, our solar system are the aberrations and excretions of tears in the "fabric" of space.

Ha, ha!  I'm sure I am not being at all accurate, but oh, how glad I am that there is somewhere new I can go to be exposed to all kinds of different and new ideas.  It kind of freaks me out, though, to think that our basic ideas of reality are changing as fast as our technology - and that our technology depends on all kinds of new scientific knowledge that I don't have a clue about.

The only comfort is that, now more than ever, nobody knows it all.

November 2, 2014                                       Madison, IN

We are home from a wonderful two days at the Lake Cumberland Resort Park in Kentucky.  My partner had prepared a variety of delicatessen-style foods mostly involving fruits and vegetables, and we did nothing all weekend but drive, hike and eat.  Since the weather was cold, we stayed in the hotel, and admittedly, we watched TV.

This lake, which was man-made in 1951, has a seemingly infinite number of inlets.  We only hiked around the ones near the hotel.  I don't know how accessible spots on the various inlets and ridges are - no clue!  Maybe people who have explored the place in boats do know.  All the peninsulas, looking like layered rocks with vegetation growing on them, are incredibly picturesque.  The park, though past the height of Fall, still has a lot of great color.

Driving home into Madison across the bridge, we were surprised and delighted to see how many people were on the pedestrian walkway this sunny day!  The neighbors have heard that on Thursday there were a hundred people enjoying the walkway.  (We went dawn-early Thursday morning and ran into two or three people then - evidently later there were many more!)

I associate the onset of winter symptoms with the 3rd of November.  Today winter seemed weeks away!

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