mellowtigger: (Daria)
While my car has been parked at my house this year, it has been rear-ended by a drunk driver, nearly-scraped by a doped up driver (who destroyed other cars on the block and a fire hydrant which took months for the city to finally repair), and had the driver side door messed up by someone trying to break into it.

bullet holes in my car last night 2016 Nov 13Now I can add bullet holes to the list.

When the first few bullets were fired around 10:10pm, they sounded like they were practically in front of my house.  I was sitting by the front window, so I dove for the floor and started dialing 911.  Then the second round of bullets were fired, and I realized that the sofa probably wasn't much of a barrier.  I ran upstairs to sit in the bathtub to finish dialing 911.

After confirming that police were on the way, I went outside to start looking around.  It's pitch black here.  We do have street lights on our block, but they are dim and nowhere close to my house.  As police headlights brightened up the area, we discovered that 3 cars had been hit by bullets, including mine.

I gave them permission to get into my car and door to try to retrieve the bullets.  They waited for a crime unit to come out and do the work.  They finished around 1am.  I discovered today in sunlight that what was left of my badly-functioning door was now completely dismantled by police and practically unusable.  I went to my usual mechanic today to see what could be done, but it pretty much needs just replacing completely, which will cost several hundred dollars.  I only have the minimal liability insurance required to drive legally, so that's no help for the damage that other people do.

I've got it scheduled for Friday.  I considered just painting my usual hashtag #WarzoneInMinneapolis onto the door with the bullet holes left alone.  There are plenty of kids on this block, though, and I figure it's best not to add to the background noise of their impression of "normality" in the Jordan neighborhood of Minneapolis.  So I'll get at least one of them repaired.

I was woken up again around 5am this morning by more gunshots, but they were much farther away, so I just went back to sleep eventually.

I woke up after 10am and eventually went out to survey the car.  I talked to another neighbor about the incident.  He was a black guy a few years younger than me.  He mentioned that he'd been shot recently by a paint ball gun by someone driving in a car, and he still had a bruise from it.  Yuck.

When this car is no longer usable, I'm sure I'll rely solely on public transportation from now on.  I figure we're only a decade away from self-driving car services that make private ownership just a luxury.  I might as well join the trend early.  We already have several people at work who always use bicycle or public transport, so I'll be in good company.

For now, though... I'm annoyed by sudden expenses that rich people don't have thrust upon them by strangers during the night.  At least no windows were broken in the car or house.  I think we have another citizen patrol scheduled this week.  I'll be there.
mellowtigger: (mst3k)
Arrival 2016 movie posterI've mentioned time and again my desire to have a visual language without sequential time. "Arrival" demonstrated this concept beautifully. It's a new favorite movie of mine.

The movie is rated quite well at Rotten Tomatoes (currently at 94%), so hopefully other audiences will appreciate it as much as I did.  And not fall asleep and snore like an old man did in the theater today.

What if learning to communicate with aliens required more than just assembling a new dictionary?  What if it required a whole new way of experiencing yourself?  As I've written in earlier posts, what if some humans don't have a knack for serializing their thoughts, and we've relegated them to the status of mental idiots, but we really need to develop a new form of communication?

This movie briefly offers a glimpse into the possibility that serial-thinking humans could be the underdeveloped minds in galactic society, and aliens would need to offer us metaphorical crutches and remedial lessons in language so we could communicate together efficiently.  When they offer us a "weapon", what are we supposed to think?  Metaphor is a multi-edged wonder.

I like it.  Go see for yourself.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Chalk up another activity that I never expected to accomplish: gardening at midnight.

harvest pumpkins, cayenne peppers, and spaghetti squashIt is currently just barely above freezing here in Minneapolis, with frost warnings for early this morning. I wanted to get some things indoors before any freezing weather had a chance to turn them into mush as the plants unfroze. I went outdoors with a flashlight to make my way through the vine patches.  I brought in all of the pumpkins, all of the cayenne peppers (that were red and ready), and a few of the spaghetti squash. That cat doesn't know quite what to think of all the new smells that are clearly inedible (to a cat's nose).

Why wait until midnight to harvest them?

I was already at the Gaylaxicon 2016 sci-fi convention today (here in Minneapolis this year) before I realized that frost was forecast. I spent much of the day and evening enjoying the panel discussions. It was a trip down memory lane during the 9:30pm discussion about online gaming.  They had 2 panelists who worked on Everquest 1, which I played heavily when it first came online back in 1999.  I even helped create a gay guild there, which was an exciting thing to do back in those days because it seemed so rare.

I left the hotel before the next panel that was scheduled to start at 11pm. Yes, it's a busy day and night on their convention schedule. Overall, though, it's a nice, non-stressful convention.  I'll be back for more activities on Saturday and Sunday too.

I left early to come home tonight and get this harvest indoors. I especially want the pumpkins to survive in good condition to Halloween. Our local "block leader" is hoping to organize some kids on our block for a jack-o-lantern carving activity, and I intend to donate pumpkins to the cause. I just want to keep one for myself to use at my house. The rest are intended as donations for neighbors.

I used the central air/heating in my house this morning for the first time in many months.  I wanted to be sure it was ready for cold weather.  It worked fine, so I'll be turning it on again before I head to bed now.

#Gaylaxicon2016

mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
In the tradition of the old Christmas stop-motion shows from the 1960s, Tim Burton created "The Nightmare Before Christmas". Like the old shows, it's also part musical. The opening song for the film is what I hear in my thoughts as I roam the aisles of holiday decorations in the stores in October.


I bought lights this year, and I put them up tonight for a test. I figure I'll slowly add to the collection each year, growing it slowly as I learn what's easy to work with and adds consistently to the mood of the place.

Halloween 2016 lights

I even have a pumpkin patch in the front yard, although I think I'll have to pull the pumpkins for indoor storage.  One or two has already wandered off, and I want to have plenty for the pumpkin carving party on our block that's been suggested by our block leader for the local kids.  I wish I knew how many trick-or-treaters to expect, so I could plan for the candy loot bag.  All I got from the neighbors during National Night Out was "medium" traffic, whatever that means?

galli

Sep. 17th, 2016 03:09 pm
mellowtigger: (wild things)
Keeping with the animal theme, I met chickens (Gallus gallus) today.

This morning was overcast, so I took the opportunity to spend a few hours touching up the deck. I got some decent work done, but I've already spotted yet another section that I've failed to coat at all. I guess I'll be touching up again sometime. It was nearly 1pm before I finally got on the road in my car to do some nearby traveling.

welcome sign Twin Cities Chicken Coop TourI had seen the Chicken Coop Tour invitation, so I visited a few locations in Minneapolis nearest my house. The lady at the end of my block has several chickens in her back yard. She wasn't part of this tour event, but I've already talked with her. She also has several dogs that obviously get along well with the birds. I wanted to compare how other people were raising chickens in the city.

This event seems to be well organized. At least the places I visited had prominent signs in the front yard to welcome visitors and direct them to the back yard. There seems to be a lot of interest, too, because there were several visitors at each place during the short time that I was there.

One owner mentioned that Minneapolis city code says he can't build a permanent structure within 4 foot of the property line, so his chicken coop is that distance from the fence. With that 4-foot tract sitting behind it unused, he decided to just fence it in too and use it as part of the chicken run. It looked very efficient. He didn't even have electricity at the coop, but he had a solar air heater and he said that filling up their fresh water bucket each morning would keep them in water throughout the day without freezing.  During subzero days, he could just run an extension cord to the coop and drop an aquarium heater into their water bucket.

Another house had been participating in this tour for many years. They even had food and drinks and takeaway gifts for people to share. She said that for years, a pair of old women would show up promptly at 10am, and they'd all share a glass of champagne together.  It was maybe too extravagant for a chicken tour, but it certainly leaves a good impression.  I got the refrigerator magnet seen here, and I signed the guest book.

Raising chickens does increase the daily chore routine, though, which I prefer to avoid adding to the load. And chickens do require resources of food, water, shelter, and heat.  It was good to see actual costs calculated and displayed by the chicken coop.

Twin Cities Coop Tour chicken refrigerator magnetchicken coop feed costschicken coop heat lamp costs

So, I don't know if it's for me.  I think I'd like to try it sometime.  I seldom bring meat to the house unless it's prepackaged and/or precooked stuff, so eggs would be a good source of vitamin B12 for me.  Plus, I'd know that the chickens were treated well and fed healthy meals without being dosed with antibiotics.

I'll keep the idea as a definite "maybe".

canines

Sep. 16th, 2016 11:13 pm
mellowtigger: (wild things)
I've pondered today several times if I would like to have a dog at the house. I certainly would feel safer with a living burglar alarm beside me. I'm not sure I want to establish a separate "dog poop space" from garden space, though. Regardless, I'd need to get a fence first, so the dog has a place to run without supervision, especially in winter.

I had pondered getting a Shiba Inu or an old Greyhound, since they're supposed to be "cat like" in their demeanor, with low demands on the human. As I read up on them, however, I see that both breeds tend to aggressively chase smaller animals, which would be bad news for my cat when she darts down the stairs and takes a flying leap onto the floor. It's the sort of activity that might trigger a deadly chase by the dog.

So I went looking for suggestions. Animal Planet had a decent quiz (that I liked better than the more official AKC one). It listed some interesting results for me:

Scottish Deerhound
Scottish Deerhound
(97% match)
I'd never heard of it before. Low energy, which is good. A little big for my space, though, and they rate it low for guard duty.
Great Pyrenees
Great Pyrenees
(96% match)
Beautiful, fluffy, low energy, and good with pets. Those qualities seem great. But "barks a lot"? And other places say it may be a drooler.  Yet other places mention the loud bark, but then also say it's quiet indoors?  Then again, how much time can you keep a giant dog indoors?  So, I don't know.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
(95% match)
I'd never heard of this one either. Cute face, low energy, and some watchdog ability. Maybe this is the kind of dog I need in the house.  Except apparently it's expensive if you can find one, so no.
Collie
Collie
(95% match)
Good old-fashioned Collie. Very friendly and good protectors. They'd be easy to find here, I think. But barking is the issue again?
Finnish Spitz
Finnish Spitz
(95% match)
Another breed I'd never heard of before. Good with pets and good guard ability, but again with the loud barking.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
(95% match)
Another one I've never heard of. Exceptionally good with pets, great guard dog, low energy. Sounds terrific, what's the catch? Oh, yeah, a big animal that's destructive when bored and may slobber a lot, while being expensive and short-lived. Ok, not for me.

I could just get a tiny Chihuahua and be done with the question. Then spend hours watching it be terrorized by my cat. Some guard dog, eh?

If I ever get a dog, I'm sure I'll just roam the animal shelters for months until I find a mutt that strikes my fancy, and just hope it's not an annoying barker or digger.
mellowtigger: (we can do it)
I ordered a small chainsaw with my last paycheck, and it finally arrived at the store this weekend.  I used it today, and it's decent for a small tool.  It locked up a few times on the small-ish diameter tree that I cut down, but it accomplished the job. 

tree cut with red stainI tackled the almost-all-dead tree that had already broken off during the big storm many weeks ago.  A woodpecker had used it to house some chicks earlier this year.  I'm not sure what happened to them after the storm and their section broke off.  They were lodged horizontally for a few weeks, caught in branches of other trees until the next storm finally took that section down to the ground. 

After I cut down the main trunk, I saw the red area in the main part of the tree.  If it's just stain from the oil the saw uses, then I would expect all the cross sections to show that red coloration, but only the lower parts of the main trunk did.  Does anyone know what it means?  (edit: Thanks to Litchfield on G+, it seems this red tint is typical for box elder trees trying to fight off a fungal infection.)

tree cut and stacked for firewoodI got the bits cut up into firewood lengths, and I got them stacked in the back yard. 

I bought this house on a homesteading arrangement, and it's starting to look a bit like a homestead, I think.  Slow progress, but steady.

I'm looking forward to the street at the end of the block finally opening after the construction is finished.  It's looking much nicer than prior to construction.  Supposedly there's no new lighting coming with it yet, even though the conduit infrastructure was put in place for it.  I heard at the last Jordan Area Community Council (JACC) meeting that street lights cost about $8K each, and funds weren't included in the reconstruction for all new lighting.  Disappointing, since that street is supposed to be party of the bicycle-friendly network of Minneapolis, but it remains a high-crime area.  #WarzoneInMinneapolis

Still, though, it does look rather welcoming for bicyclists, joggers, and walkers.

26th Street reconstruction in Minneapolis

I look forward to driving to work on that road again.  And maybe taking the bus and bicycling on that route too, if the crime calms down.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
The JACC council last night voted to officially support the planned Citizen Patrols.  So I created a PDF flyer on my own initiative.  I've already printed copies for every house on my block, plus a few extra.  I've talked with my block leader from the recent National Night Out gathering, and we'll make the rounds tomorrow night to hand out flyers.

training for citizen patrols in Jordan community of Minneapolis

Local citizens donated space for the training class and donated effort to create a new custom logo for yard signs and patrol visibility.  I hope to see the results of their efforts in the coming days.  I'm sure I'll post more info after I attend the class and get ready for our first patrol.  We hope that local government and news outlets will finally take an interest in our community.  The police in attendance at our safety council meeting seemed to agree that community patrols are effective at changing crime in the neighborhood.  We are hoping for a more peaceful future.

#WarzoneInMinneapolis #TakeAStandCeaseFire
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Jordan is one of the neighborhoods of Minneapolis (maps). The crime here is bad in 2016. It was so bad August 9-15 that many of the confirmed 17 shootings of Minneapolis happened just within Jordan. Gunfire here is common, as you can tell from the Shot Spotter activations on the same map. I was woken twice this weekend by gunshots.

Too many people have died here recently. On my walks, I've started recording the memorials that I see. I haven't visited all of Jordan yet, just those areas within a few blocks of my house. Each of these memorials represents someone who was once a family member and a resident with a role in their community.  Now they leave a hole in the lives of family, friends, schoolmates, and co-workers.

Each of these deaths was unnecessary and avoidable.

I'll leave these images for visitors to ponder.

Location and Date Of PhotoMemorial Photo
Logan and 26th
2016 08 14
memorial at Logan and 26th in Jordan of Minneapolis
Penn and Lowry
2016 08 14
memorial at Penn and Lowry in Jordan of Minneapolis
Morgan and 30th
2016 08 21
memorial at Morgan and 30th in Jordan of Minneapolis
Newton and 30th
2016 08 21
 
memorial at Newton and 30th in Jordan of Minneapolis

I'll update this page as I find new memorials, but only those within Jordan.  I pass other memorials on my commute to work, but they are outside the range of this neighborhood.  All of them leave an influence on the minds of those who live here.

The Jordan Area Community Council (JACC, also found on Facebook) will soon begin citizen patrols.  Paraphrased from one of the organizers, "No more meetings, no more discussions, no more vigils.  It has to stop now.  Take a stand; cease fire!"  We begin training next week for citizen patrols.

#WarzoneInMinneapolis #TakeAStandCeaseFire
mellowtigger: (gardening)
I have mason bees, giant (apparently) spaghetti squash, and now a fire pit.

fire pit back yard, 25 feet from back of houseI checked the Minneapolis website for rules about fire pits, then I measured 25 feet from the back of my house.  That distance pretty much put the fire pit in the middle of the back yard, which is farther away than I would have liked, but I don't want to give the city or my neighbors any reason to complain.

I wanted to put some fire damage onto that metal ring immediately after setting it up today, thinking maybe it will help reduce the temptation of anyone to simply steal it from the back of my yard.  I still very much want a fence, but getting rid of (at least some of) those trees is the priority expenditure for September.  August money went to pay off the electricians for the air conditioning that never got installed.  At least I no longer need the a/c for this year.

I plan to get a chain saw that uses the same batteries as my lawn mower and edger.  It'll require a special order at Home Depot, but I'll finally be able to get rid of these horrible box elder trees.  It seems their only purpose is to attract carpenter ants (I've seen the large black ants on at least 2 of them) and fill my house with box elder bugs.  They're back for a 2nd season this year.  At least the bugs now are not as bad as earlier this spring.

singed arm hairsI still want to do some more work on the fire pit: put some sand and rocks as a bottom layer, which will raise it up another inch or two.  That metal ring gets very hot, so I might consider putting some thin cinder pieces on top to make it suitable for sitting on the edge, away from the searing metal ring.

I also need to get a proper poker for the fire pit.  It came with a mini-version that is much too short.  I noticed some strange white fluff on my arms, and it took me a few moments to realize that I'd singed the hairs on my arm.  They were all in various stages of melting away.  Oops.

mason bee houseI moved my mason bee bamboo home from the old house.  It appears to be well used this year.  Lots of the holes have been filled up by a mother bee putting one of her larva into each tube then sealing it up.  I call it a bee "home", since mason bees are not social, so they don't form a "hive" together.  They're also quite sociable around humans and not territorial at all, since they don't have an expensive hive to protect.  Yay for helping out a few more pollinators in the city!

You can tell from the top photo that the "small vines" (not like the huge pumpkin vines taking over the front yard) are flourishing in the back yard.  I wasn't sure they'd get enough sunlight because of the huge box elder trees lining the southern edge of the property.  So far, all I can tell that's fruiting is what appears to be the spaghetti squash.  It's making squashes much larger, maybe twice as large, than the stuff I usually buy in the grocery store.  I'm not sure I want one that's so large.  Unless I've lucked out, and it's actually one of the watermelons that starts pale and will look more watermelony in a few more weeks.

I'm looking forward to much cooler weather, sitting in the back yard by the fire pit, and contemplating plans for more changes to yard layout for 2017.  It's slowly getting closer to what I want.

mellowtigger: (changed priorities)
Type the words "Hillary Clinton is" into Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Really, I'm not kidding. Do it yourself. Do it now. I'll wait.

Don't trust what I say, just because you read it on the internet.  Go to the search engines. Type the phrase into the search box yourself.

You'll get suggestions like these when I searched those words tonight.

google resuilts for "Hillary Clinton is"Yahoo results for "Hillary Clinton is"Bing results for "Hillary Clinton is"

You might think these preliminary suggestions are customized specifically for me (they're supposed to be), except that I abundantly use Google resources, so they should know my political opinions. I'm a liberal who supported Bernie Sanders, opposes Hillary Clinton's candidacy, and will not vote for her.

Now go read this long story from the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today. You'll wish you were wearing a tin foil hat.
The article starts slowly with some background storytelling to set the mood, but the very important bits are farther down into the text. They tried manipulating the opinions of their test subjects, and they were quite effective.

What we actually found was astonishing. The proportion of people favouring the search engine’s top-ranked candidate increased by 48.4 per cent, and all five of our measures shifted toward that candidate. What’s more, 75 per cent of the people in the bias groups seemed to have been completely unaware that they were viewing biased search rankings. ...

Over the next year or so, we replicated our findings three more times, and the third time was with a sample of more than 2,000 people from all 50 US states. In that experiment, the shift in voting preferences was 37.1 per cent and even higher in some demographic groups – as high as 80 per cent, in fact. ...

It means that when people – including you and me – are looking at biased search rankings, they look just fine. So if right now you Google ‘US presidential candidates’, the search results you see will probably look fairly random, even if they happen to favour one candidate. ...

Writing in the New Republic in 2014, Jonathan Zittrain, professor of international law at Harvard University, pointed out that, given the massive amount of information it has collected about its users, Facebook could easily send such messages only to people who support one particular party or candidate, and that doing so could easily flip a close election – with no one knowing that this has occurred. And because advertisements, like search rankings, are ephemeral, manipulating an election in this way would leave no paper trail. ...

Perhaps even more disturbing is that the handful of people who do show awareness that they are viewing biased search rankings shift even further in the predicted direction; simply knowing that a list is biased doesn’t necessarily protect you from SEME’s power. ...

The formation of The Groundwork prompted Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, to dub Google Clinton’s ‘secret weapon’ in her quest for the US presidency.

I'm so glad that I called attention recently to Google's failure to include Green Party candidate Jill Stein (and Transhumanist candidate Zoltan Istvan) in their search ranking results. Their favoritism was too obvious, I guess.

It's bad enough that I have to distrust all electronic voting machines. We use paper ballots here in Minnesota, so we have a trustworthy validation mechanism. Your area may differ. It's even worse that I have to distrust all media because it has consolidated to the point that only a few individuals can shape the message across vast swaths of broadcast, print, and online sources of news. Now, sadly, I have reason to distrust the primary interface to the internet: search engines.

I think the only real solution will be for all of us to have personal artificial intelligence assistants on our machines that we can direct to search data for us and present us with opinions that haven't been manipulated by any influence but our own fallible selves. Maybe we can start with open source web crawlers and search engines. I installed a useful one a few years ago on Windows before I made the switch to Linux Mint, but now I can't remember which package it was. Sorry, I don't have any recommendations tonight. Let me know if you have one that you like.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
I spent some time in the garden today and yesterday. I got eaten by mosquitoes both times. I'm one of those people that mosquitoes favor, which can make life annoying here in Minnesota, "The Land of 10,000 Lakes" (and 10 billion mosquitoes).

A month ago (pictured left), I had a few pumpkin plants in the top right corner of my front yard. Now (pictured right), those same pumpkin vines have taken over nearly the whole front yard. I already see 2 pumpkins, although they're still green and not ready to harvest yet.  The dwarf sunflowers are also nicely lining the walk to the front door.
front yard 2016 June 28front yard 2016 July 27

The flowers by the front patio are also finally blooming.  It seems a little late for these plants, but I got them into the ground late too.  Next year, I'll move them elsewhere, so the rose bush has more room to grow unimpeded by taller plants throwing shade.
flower by front patio 2016 July 31 Sunday

I have cucumbers. I've been eating them in salads, and they're tasty. I have golden zucchini; it tastes good, but somehow because it looks like gold squash, I expect it to be something other than zucchini. I think I'll grow regular squash (or regular zucchini) next year. I have celery, but it's a little bit "woody". I may try a different variety next year.  I took some of all 3 to Marie today, an old retired black woman across the street and a few houses north of me.

I still have no air conditioning.  I'll call the installer one more time on Monday before giving up.  At least July has now passed, which is traditionally the hottest month for Minnesota.  I've slept in my bedroom during the last few nights, instead of the basement where I had spent the last 2 weeks or so.

I still have no battery chainsaw (to cut down trees) or fire pit (to burn the cut down trees).  Maybe in August.  For now, I'm just glad that the weather is cooling off a bit.  I walked for a few blocks around my house today, and many people were enjoying the relative cool while sitting on their porches.

Pokemon Go has been in the news a lot in recent days.  I have it, but I can't say that I'm a regular player or a good one.  I caught Krabby as soon as I walked out to the sidewalk today, which surprised me, since Pokemon Go creatures and sites seem quite rare in this poor neighborhood of the city.  Still, this game seems a good excuse to go take a walk... which is a good thing.
mellowtigger: (flameproof)
It was hot yesterday, it's hot today, and it'll be hot tomorrow.  Weather Underground currently shows a heat index here of 41C/106F.

heat index 41C/106F


I still don't have air conditioning, so it's even hotter upstairs in my bedroom.  I spent last night on a cot in the basement, where the temperature is actually comfortable.  I bought a fan to use on the ground floor, but even its usefulness is limited in this kind of heat.

On Friday of last week, the electricians did their work to prepare for the air conditioning unit that was prepaid by the prior owners of the house.  They had to have an actual, physical unit here, because Minnesota had recently changed its laws about "truth in advertising".  The house was listed with central A/C, so they could not give me a cash equivalent in an escrow account that I could use later to install air conditioning.  They had to buy the unit and prepay the installation, even though we agreed to delay the installation until after the snow banks had melted.

The electricians said this unit is actually very good.  They were concerned, however, that the coils that should go in the basement are too big to fit the central air unit.  If the A/C guy knows it, then maybe that's why he has not returned my calls recently.  So, in spite of having a unit here, I might not have air conditioning until I can replace the entire central air... which means not in a very long while. 

I paid on my own to have the electricians come out, because the A/C guy said they had to do their work first.  The electricians, on the other hand, said it was usually the opposite, so they simply finish hooking up wires to a unit already in place.  Regardless, I am now electrically ready for installation, if it ever happens.  I'll certainly be registering my discontent at online ratings sites if this prepaid guy doesn't actually get my A/C working.

There are good portable units that I could use just for the bedroom or living room.  I'd be happy to use that solution, if I knew for certain that the technician will not actually be installing the main A/C after all.  For now, though, it's just a waiting game... during a period of high temperatures.

Life in the basement is okay.  The cot isn't great for the arthritis in my back, and the mold spores are making my sinuses riot.  The temperature, though, is very survivable.  I've turned on a very old allergen filter to sit alongside the dehumidifier.  So now I sit in the dark cave and type my blog posts.
mellowtigger: (Pride)
I came out at work this morning to the whole tri-state chapter where I work.  It was no small feat, since it was even my normal day off.

They were having their monthly staff meeting, but it was pre-empted this time by a planned discussion of recent emotional news.  Since our last staff meeting, there was the mass shooting in Florida, we had another black man die by police last week in our Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, then there was the sniper in Texas shooting at police, the Bahamas issued a travel advisory to their citizens that warns about travel to the USA and police ruthlessness there.  And finally... 4 blocks north of me on Friday morning, 2 children were shot and 1 killed in just another daily shooting here in the #WarzoneInMinneapolis where I live.

So... we were sharing our thoughts at work on these emotional events.

I came to work on my day off because I was expecting to help give a presentation on our move to Skype For Business as a communication tool.  Instead... I shared the story that I was one of those people for whom the police are not always and automatically "the good guys".  I explained that I am gay, and I am just old enough to remember when the police would come into a small-town Texas gay bar for no good reason.  The music would shut off, the house lights would come up, and silence would permeate the air.  Then several cops would walk into the bar, walk around the entire place, with not a sound uttered by anyone... until they walked back out and life would resume in the bar.

I never really hide it, but I am now officially "out".

I mentioned that the police on campus at Texas A&M University once successfully changed how they are perceived.  They simply separated the car ticketing staff (gave them different uniforms too) from the other police staff, and suddenly detectives on campus were able to get cooperation as they sought public help in solving thefts and other crimes.  There was so much built up hostility to police prior (because of rampant parking fines) that the community wouldn't cooperate for any issue.  The police learned a better way to manage themselves, then the community cooperated.

I also mentioned that I live in one of the dangerous parts of the USA, and I've been woken up at night by gun shots, including death threats issued at the neighbors outside my bedroom window.

I'm still not sure what to do about the violence here and elsewhere throughout the USA, but I feel reassured that other people are committed to the idea of de-escalation rather than the spiral of threats and violence.

For once, I don't worry about any retaliation at work because of coming out.

Know that change is possible.  I've seen it happen before.  We can make it happen again.

fireworks

Jul. 4th, 2016 09:57 am
mellowtigger: (flameproof)
This is how we feel about fireworks.

fireworks with Hope hiding under sofa 20160704 0955

Fireworks at 7pm.
Fireworks at 10pm
Fireworks at midnight.
Fireworks at 1:30am.
Fireworks at 3:30am
Fireworks at 8am.
Fireworks at 10am.

We're not fans.  Especially not of the variety that seems popular this year, with an enormous earth-shattering kaboom but no colors in the sky.  One night, I saw the flash of it reflect off a car on the next street behind my house.  It's just intended to be loud; that's all it does.  The gunfire is bad enough, but for days now we've had cannon fire in the #WarzoneInMinneapolis.

We're not fans.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
Last night wasn't peaceful, but this morning certainly is. I walked out to my side deck and listened to the church bells and the birds singing for a few minutes.


spaghetti squash (flowering, lower left)The gardens are doing well. I picked my first yellow squash (it was huge), then I stir fried some of it with a jalapeno from the store then added an egg. It wasn't a bad breakfast, but I think next time I'll aim for migas by adding some stale corn chips at the end. Squash grows with huge leaves that would be nice as a landscape item, if only they were perennial plants.

In the back yard
, I'll have plenty of spaghetti squash this year, which is good. You can see it flowering at the bottom of the picture here. It keeps for many months with no effort, so I'll be eating it this winter. I use it in place of anything that normally calls for pasta.

Since the vines are doing well, I also expect at some point to have some Minnesota Midget canteloupe, Blacktail Mountain watermelon, and luffa for dish scrubbing in the kitchen. Slugs nearly destroyed all of my red popcorn by eating long strips from most of their leaves, but some of them recovered and are finally growing again.

In the side yard, the Painted Lady runner beans and the black cumin are very pretty. Those beans could be grown purely as an ornamental vine and do nicely in any yard. I have my first Collier cucumber, and the Shortcake raspberry is starting to fruit after transplanting them from their old garden. They are a dwarf variety that is also thornless, so I'm glad to see them doing well.

runner beans (Painted Lady)black cumincucumber (Collier)raspberry (Shortcake variety, dwarf and thornless)

In the front yard, the dwarf sunflowers are blooming, so they make a nice border to the walkway to my front door. The rose also is showing its first bloom after it nearly died. It had black fungus when I brought it from the store. I dusted it with sulfur, every last leaf dropped off, and I thought I had killed it. It put on a lot of new growth, though, and it's all free from black spots. So I think I'll have a fragrant and pretty front patio in a few more years. It was blooming when I first bought it, a very nice purplish color which the label identified as a "deep lilac" hybrid tea rose named only 'Heirloom'.

dwarf sunflowerrose


I need to repurpose some of my pots soon. I want to get a thriving specimen of both lime basil and peppermint that I can bring indoors to use during winter. I use them in some yummy recipes, and I don't want to give them up throughout the winter. I've also placed the peppermint near the front porch and side deck. I'm hoping they will eventually grow underneath and discourage mammals (and maybe some box elder bugs) from sheltering there.

I always feel better when I'm out gardening, and I'm doing a lot of it this year. I already have enough changes in mind to keep me busy next year too, but I was originally intending to focus on house repairs next year instead. We'll see how it turns out.
mellowtigger: (Green Lantern)
front yard after wateringI walked onto my front porch this evening, and I immediately noticed how pungent it was. I've kept the windows there open for ventilation since I will remain without air conditioning for a few more weeks.  They really let in the smoke from whatever the neighbor teens were smoking. I don't mind that, and I support total legalization. This is the house with the death threats that woke me up a week or two ago, though, and I just hope the drama isn't related. That, I don't support at all.

I started weeding the strawberry and flower beds, then the guys left their house to go walking. I watered the front yard while the sun slowly dropped farther below the horizon.

Meanwhile, a few houses south, I could hear a guy trying to discreetly (not shouting, thank you) chew out someone, regarding what I think was the drama a few nights ago where someone drove their car very slowly and backwards down the whole length of the street, scraping many cars along the way and knocking over a fire hydrant.  Yes, I called 911 for that one too.  Strangely, they missed my car this time, but the officer came to my door and gave me a case number just in case I noticed something later.

Anyway... back to this evening.  The older guy (almost my age? from the house I mentioned above) walked over and talked with me for a few minutes while I was watering plants. They're getting rid of stuff for an upcoming property inspection. Indeed, they are, as I noticed on my patio.  I let him know that I planted the strawberries along the sidewalk because I intended for people to pick them and enjoy them.

I'm hoping that a foraged snack might add a non-zero amount of peace to someone's day, making the drama and the self-medication a little less necessary.  I wonder if I could surround the plants with green bricks and call them a "Greenstone Grocery", then get other neighbors to do the same, slowly turning the area into an appealing place for a neighborhood walk.  Imagine a stroll while eating a strawberry here, a blueberry there, a mulberry across the street.  Or, all this stuff just makes me an appealing soft target. I binge watched 4 seasons of "Orange Is The New Black" during the last few days, so I'm feeling pessimistic again about the harm that people do to other people for no good reason.

But I have strawberries.  The dwarf sunflowers are starting to bloom, and the pumpkin vines are poised to sprawl across the front yard. So let's just agree that life is good for the duration of a sunset today.  And hope that I don't get woken by nearby sirens again after midnight tonight like I did last night.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Wow, it's hot and humid here, especially when you don't have any air conditioning.

heat index 39C/103FYesterday was especially bad, with the humidity pushing the heat index to 39C/103F according to WeatherUnderground.  I think the air temperature yesterday made it to 34C/94F, and it didn't cool off very fast last night.  

I spent several hours this morning tearing down my computer system and desk then moving it all into the basement which remains cool. It wasn't my first choice for placement, because the basement is unfinished, dark, short enough that I have to duck occasionally, humid, and always a collection point for radon... but at least the space is pleasantly cool.  It's still jungle weather outside today, but here in the basement is comfortable.

The other issue this week is the gunshots.

Even during winter, an old lady neighbor stopped her car to say hello to me one Sunday morning.  She asked if I heard the "rumble in the jungle" the previous evening.  Yes, I did.  Even during subzero (fahrenheit) temperatures, there are gunshots here.  It just gets worse in the hot weather.  About a month ago, I started using the hashtag #WarzoneInMinneapolis when I post about it on G+.  I had no idea before moving here that any part of Minneapolis endured nearly daily gunfire.

Finally, the front page story in the local Star Tribune newspaper this week used a similar headline, calling it a battle zone.

"Eighty percent of those — 105 victims — were shot in the Fourth Precinct on the North Side",  and "that week, ShotSpotter was activated in the precinct 118 times.
- http://www.startribune.com/mom-of-wounded-10-year-old-describes-life-in-the-battle-zone/382179041/#1

Yes, that's 118 gunfire incidents during a single week and only within a small part of Minneapolis.  And that headline hit the newspaper the morning after I was up after midnight because of a gunshot incident (3 different bursts of gunfire) about 2 houses away behind my house. Also making recent headlines was the battle which resulted in police finding 48 shell casings.  And I was driving to pick up some plants one weekend morning last month, and right in front of me a pedestrian was assaulted by a guy with brass knuckles who then jumped into the getaway car beside me to drive away.

It's a little nuts here, obviously.  It doesn't seem to be a priority with Minneapolis City Council because, well, it's not all of Minneapolis that's affected, just a few neighborhoods in the poorer parts of town.

So I'll continue using the hashtag #WarzoneInMinneapolis until the bad publicity convinces them to make it their priority.  I pay taxes too, and I want this neighborhood to improve to the safe and pleasant community that I know many of us here want it to be.
mellowtigger: (gardening)
Locals know that I've been spending a lot of time digging in the yard this year.  It's slow progress, but you can notice the difference now.

front yardback yard

The front yard has strawberries, pumpkin, and flowers; the side yard has the vegetable garden, raspberries, and blueberries; and the back yard has an apricot tree, apple tree, some large vined foods (spaghetti squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.), and bayberry.

Coworkers gave me some native plants, and they're in various stages of recovery or outright thriving.  Also thriving this year is some bergamot that another coworker gave me 2 years ago.  It's nice working with other nature afficionados.
native plantsbergamot and mason bee home

It's very slow progress.  Digging in the ground here means more than just lifting up the sod.  It means sifting through all of the dirt and sod to shake out the "dangerous bits": broken glass, rusted nails, sawed off bolts, and lots of other stuff.  My bucket of "stuff that shouldn't be in a yard" is full, and I still have a lot of sifting to do.  I've been throwing a lot of sod into a makeshift cinder block compost heap, where I'll take it out next year to use for filling up a raised garden bed that I plan for next year.  All of that material still needs to be sifted for dangerous bits.

This weekend, I dug up some bones that weren't obviously leftover dog food.  My collection now includes these 5 samples (plus smaller bones or things that seem like bird bones).
bones

I emailed this photo to the Minneapolis 311 service to ask for help in identifying this stuff, and to ask if my property was ever once a dumping ground.  I'm finding all of this stuff (bones, glass, rusted metal) in any area of the yard and at any depth.  When I water the new apricot tree, the standing water develops a faint blue oil sheen on it.  I want to know if this property was once a dumping ground 100+ years ago, before the house was built.

And I need the giant box elder trees in the back yard to come down.  I noticed carpenter ants this weekend.  They have to go.  Whether all these trees are on my property or the neighbor's though... is an arguable point.
mellowtigger: (Default)
I had a dream last night that involved an ex. Something was wrong with the car, so we resorted to driving backwards at highway speeds. Not my favorite mode of travel. Sure, there was a bit more to the story, but mostly I'm just recording it so my "dreams" tag stays accurate with my dream history. I guess the dream was noteworthy because I wasn't bent out of shape when I woke up. "Out of sight, out of mind" is mostly how I work, so exceptions when my past and present intermix probably deserves a mention.

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