Seasonal Confusion, or The Other March Madness™

The poor plants. Some are blooming, some are thinking about opening their leaves, and a few are hunkered down swearing that they won’t get caught this year. Humans are trying to decide how many layers of what we need to wear. And then there’s the [unkind words here] time change last weekend. Blargh.

Daffodils began blooming three weeks ago, despite MomRed ordering them to go back to sleep. The first shoots appeared in January, eliciting groans. Everyone has been expecting the worst. It’s not Easter until the daffodils get flattened by snow. Granted, we need the snow, so that wouldn’t be the problem.

The pears started budding out two weeks ago. They are peaking right now, which isn’t great news, since it’s supposed to get into the low 20s later this week. If we get moisture, and if there’s not much wind, and if the highs are warm enough, it might not do too much damage. Maybe. The hawthorn remains un-budded and dormant. It won’t get fooled again. The April that turned most of the garden into plant-jerky almost did in that tree, and since then, it blooms later than average. The plum trees are budding right now, as well. Wisteria remains dormant and I didn’t even see buds on the two I pass on my walks. They must have talked to the hawthorn.

The roses . . . Are starting to put out shoots, those that survived. At least two are dead, mort, defunct. One of those was new, and had been doing OK until it got into the 60s back in January, then dropped to the single digits. That seems to have killed it. Most of the new leaves are on the roots, which is OK for the roses at RedQuarters. All are own-root. We gave up on grafts a decade ago. However, I suspect a lot of places will lose grafted roses. I’m torn between uncovering the new growth so it gets sun, or burying it in mulch to shield it from the forecast for the latter half of this week.

And then there’s the people. With days starting in the upper 20s and then peaking in the 60s, layers are necessary. Which jacket? Big coat and then lug it around later? Will this shirt be too warm or is the wind high enough that I need something else? Should I start digging out lighter-weight pants or wait?

Spring is SO confusing around here. But we are getting moisture. RedQuarters had .10″ on Tuesday morning. It looks as if, perhaps, the La Niña pattern is shifting to neutral or even an El Niño. Either one will bring more chances for water, which this part of the country needs.


T.N.N. – Teacher News Network

Some weeks back I wandered into the main workroom at Day Job to make a copy and see if I had any mail. Two large bags of popcorn slouched on top of the big table. By large, I mean two feet tall, and almost as round, or so it seemed. One had been opened the day before during an open house event. The other remained unsampled, as best I could tell.

I made my copy and read the tag on the unopened bag. “Kettle Corn.” Oh. Oh dear. Beside the big bag was a smaller bag with fold-your-own popcorn boxes. So I did. It was perfect kettle corn, a little sweet, a little salty, but not overwhelming.

As I was munching away, Mrs. Hankie (the middle-school counselor) came in. She gave me a curious look. I held up the box. “Kettle corn. High fiber, low fat.”

“Kettle corn?” She came over and sampled a bite. “Ooh. That’s my weakness.”

Munch, munch, munch.

When I returned almost two hours later, still before lunch, almost half the huge sack of kettle corn was gone. The Teachers’ News Network had struck again.

If Only English Were Fonetik . . .

but it’s not.

I could not figure out why spell checker kept flagging “tournaquit.” That’s because it is “tourniquet.” Around here, instead of an “i” sound in the second syllable, we say more of a “uh” sound, sort of a schwa e. Since I spell by ear, I get red flagged every time I try to write the word as pronounced.

Part of the problem is my limited available memory. By the time I load 1) the idea, 2) the words, 3) grammar, 4) how to hold the pen and write, or type, I’ve run out of active memory. Something has to go. So I never learned to apply spelling to writing. To complicate life, I learned spelling and basic grammar during the phonetics craze in the late 1970s-early 1980s, when you were supposed to learn the letters in words that went with the phonics codes, like the upside-down e for the terminal “uh” sound and so on. Some I remember, the sound codes that is. The rest? Did not help me at all. I ended up writing like someone from the latter 1500s-mid 1600s, that is to say, partly phonetically.

I have no problem spelling Spanish, German, Latin, or even Hungarian, once I learn letter combinations (like “sz” for “s” in Hungarian.) Grammar, that’s different, but spelling causes me no, keine, 0 problems. Alas that I have to function in English 95% of the time.

Spill chuck is knot my fiend. I know what words should look like, most of the time, ish. But sometimes my “it sounds like” spelling is so mangled by dialect and regional pronunciation that even on-line dictionaries run screaming. OttoCorrupt on the phone? Oh lordy. Once you get past “it’s never duck. Never, ever ‘oh duck’?” Some very odd things have been sent before I could catch the “correction.”

I have the most difficulty with words English borrowed from French. Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, Persian, Russian, or Japanese or Spanish? Far fewer difficulties. So of course English absorbed French with wreckless abandon.

Dictionaries require at least getting close to the proper spelling. Oops.

Awkward Moments in Music

No, not the caesura (aka the Moment of Unplanned Solo/Duet). No, I’m thinking of those times when the choir and conductor go in different directions and both are correct. Or when the Fickle Finger of Forgetfulness goes “flick!”

So, there we were getting ready to sing an arrangement of a popular holiday song. The orchestra started, we came in, and the first verse went well. We rested, as marked, and waited for the cue. Meistro D started to frown, stopped the orchestra, and said, “Chorus, we’ll start two [measures] before you come in, cue number three.” We blinked, because our score didn’t have the orchestra cue numbers. But two before entrance we could do. Hand waving began once more, orchestra noises ensued, and we came in. Ish. Meistro D scowls harder. “No, you come in on beat three.”

One of the front row baritones said, “Meistro, our music has a different entrance.”

A comparison of scores ensued. We had the Wilburg arrangement. The orchestra had the Wilcox. Someone at Ye Music Rental Shoppe had grabbed scores from two adjacent boxes. Oops. We didn’t do that piece.

Another time, we were doing something with orchestra, and there were two other short compositions on the roster for the evening. One was a well known choral gem. Just over a month before the concert, the choral conductor cleared her throat and said, “How many of you noticed that [choral gem] is on the program?” Hands waved.

“Ah, Meistro F and the music boss just realized that they didn’t get us the music. No one knows why it wasn’t ordered. We’ll need to learn it ASAP.” She sounded pained.

The Bossoprano (not to be confused with the Soprano Wrangler) called out, “How many of us have sung [choral gem] before?” All but ten hands shot into the air. “We got this, ma’am.”

And we did. It was just . . . mildly sporting.

Abbreviation Confusion

A&P, or A&P, or AP? One is a federal certification, one is a grocery store chain, and one is a type of college credit test. That’s one difficulty with only 26 letters – they tend to get reused in ways that can lead to a certain lack of communication.

“Down with the BLM!” Which had nothing at all to do with a relatively new political movement and everything to do with complaints of overreach by the Bureau of Land Management.

The Society for Pediatric Radiology shares initials with Stop Prison Rape, which led to some quick web address re-working.

Then you get abbreviations that would be fine in English but that are not used because of associations in another language. For example, when historians write about the early German Socialist Party, Sozialistische Partai Deutschland, instead of a quick flip from English to SD, we use the same abbreviation as for the modern party, the SPD. Why? Because in German, SD is used for the East German security police, better known as the Stazi. And for a while, OttoCorrupt was trying to change SPD to STD. Oops. That got changed rather quickly!

I still blink when I see PMU, the French horse-racing wagering group. To me that’s pregnant mare urine. The signs didn’t help, at first.

Original source:

I’d say that we need more letters, but that would probably just make it worse. Because English would steal the strangest characters, or most esoteric. We’d probably end up with “Association for Computerized Learning and Teaching” or something being a deadly insult and accidentally causing WWIII when translated into Finnish, or something.

Well, Yes, I Should Think it Would

I’m taking a short course on “how to stop/slow leaks in humans until EMS arrives.” Sort of “penetration wounds 101” with some other traumas also covered. I shook my head at the warning on the class. “Due to the nature of the topic, graphic images may be used.”

How are you supposed to show what sucking chest wounds, knife stabs, vehicular punctures, and other things look like if you don’t use graphic images? Say, “Here’s a human chest. Pretend there’s blood and a hole here?” Anyone who signs up for the class should already bloody well know what they’ll see, pun intended! Especially since training in CPR and basic First Aid are strongly encouraged (but not mandatory).

Good grief. [kitty eyeroll here]

Apropos of nothing save that I’ve been there, and it’s true:


I need to get a tee-shirt that says, “Caution: Fluent in Footnote.”

Who Was Meeting Where?!?

So, some years ago, (like, twenty-five*) I was in Cologne, Germany. The small, family-owned hotel, sat three blocks from the train station and cathedral. It was nice, relatively quiet (backed up to the switching yard, so no wild parties back there) and was convenient. As is my usual habit, I got up very early and went strolling. I got a bite to eat at a stehcafe, a bakery-cafe with shelves for eating off of, but no tables. The name is “standing cafe,” and it was for commuters and working men. I didn’t quite blend in, but everyone ignored me, which was fine. The tea was hot and black and the pastries were fresh.

As I wandered back toward my hotel, I saw a couple guys in leather jackets and pants. Now, the hour being early and Cologne being Cologne, I shrugged. Far me it from me to say anything about people who close the club, then go to a diner until dawn. A few minutes later, some construction guys went by, grumbling about thus and such.

After official breakfast, I heard a mild commotion outside the hotel, and eased my window open and leaned out. In addition to the leather-clad guys, who now numbered well over a score, and construction workers, there were guys in full American Indian regalia, some in US enlisted sailor suits, a few US highway cops, and cowboys. What on earth?

Then the first chords of very familiar music started, and realization dawned. “Young man, there’s no need to feel down, I said/ Young man, pick yourself off the ground . . .”

And of course, everyone danced along with the chorus.

It was a convention of the German Village People Fan Club. The guys were having a grand old time dancing in the street, the rest of us were having fun watching and cheering, and the locals shrugged. Cologne has always been more mellow than other parts of Germany.

I had no idea that there was an international association for Village People fans. There was, might still be, and the members there finished their opening and headed off to the indoor venue. I went back to museum-prowling, art viewing, and history basking.

I’d forgotten about that until the other night, when I was chaperoning a school dance. One of the songs the kids played was a re-mixed version of “Y.M.C.A.” Another teacher and I grinned, and I called, “Backwards skate!” That brought even more memories, because the song was a staple at skating rinks when I was a kid.

*I do not want to believe that it’s been that long, but it has. SIGH. I miss that Germany.

I Don’t Want to Know . . .

how cat fur ended up there.

why you thought that was a good idea.

what the dish is. I need to know what the meat was and how long you cooked it.

who failed to add paper to the copier. Just please don’t do it again.

who left hunter-safety-orange in the paper. Please don’t do it again!

who started it. It needs to end right now, right here. Or Else!

how many shots of what were in the cup. Just go get wet paper towels.

how the columbine seeds ended up all the way over here. Or the catnip for that matter. I can guess.

Goth Possum, an Abandoned Pie, and a Snowman Pat

Monday was odd. Or at least, on Monday morning I observed three odd things. Makes me wonder what would have happened if I’d gotten up earlier and gone wren hunting* . . . I might not want to know.

I finished a story, then went to the gym. On the way, I saw something lying in the road. Dark, furry, a dead animal lay in the road. As I slowed and detoured around it, it proved to be a melenistic possum. The late critter had a black coat shading to dark brown at the bottom of the flanks. The head looked normal grey possum color, but the tail seemed darker than standard. How odd. I’ve never seen one like that before, but it explains why it got hit in the wee hours of the morning.

The parking lot at the gym was full. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who wanted to get in a little exercise. I ended up parking in the unofficial overflow lot across the way. Technically, the lot belongs to a church, but they don’t mind us taking up some space, since we are well away from the office and the school door. Something round sat in a parking space beside a smaller car. I shrugged and parked, then hurried over and did my thing. The weight section was crowded with young men, all college age or so. A few older men and women worked out as well, but the average age had dropped by easily 20 years. I found an empty bench and lifted. I cut my workout short because of all the people coming and going. Many were not paying much attention to their surroundings, and I’ve almost gotten hurt before when a careless person distracted me during a big lift.**

I did cardio after my weights, then went back to the truck. The round thing proved to be an intact pumpkin pie. Someone had left a perfectly good pumpkin pie in the parking space. It looked store bought. That, or the baker is much better with crimping crusts than I am. Had it been dropped and abandoned? Had it been a spare that someone set down after a church function, got distracted, and left? No idea. Something would eat it, so I didn’t try moving it to one of the distant dumpsters.

Back home, I hopped out of the truck and noticed a disk of ice, like a cowpat, beside the truck in the garden. It sat right above one of the soaker heads for the irrigation system. Oh no. Had Dad and I forgotten to turn off both parts of the system? Oh dear. Not good. I looked for others, but didn’t find evidence of hose activation or other frozen material. What could have done it? As I turned toward the house, I saw that the bowl of water for the outdoor critters had been emptied of ice. Mystery solved!

Some Mondays are just strange.

*In Ireland and parts of England, it is traditional to hunt the wren on St. Stephen’s Day. According to legend, the wren betrayed Jesus. The wren is sometimes also associated with the darker side of magic and winter.

**As in almost brushed me as I lifted the weights over my head in a shoulder press. Please don’t be that person.

(I set new personal best weights in all categories this year – 85 lb bench, 50 lb shoulder press, 60 lb deadlift. Given my chronological maturity and mileage, this is a Good Thing. Also keep in mind I don’t have a spotter or trainer, so I progress very slowly and carefully.)

In Praise of Pockets

A rerun, but still oh, so true. All my skirts have pockets. I’m spoiled. Then I put on some slacks/trousers and grrrrrr. You call that a pocket? 1/4 inch deep if that much?!? No.

Many, many years ago, a lady physician wrote into the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA with the following observation. “Freud was wrong. Women have pocket envy.” Mom read the letter aloud, I giggled, and had to agree. I had already reached the age where pocketage helped determine if I wanted the garment or not. And had experienced the frustration of women’s fashion and pockets. Continue reading