A Wet Derby Week (So Far)

Yes, next Saturday is the 140th annual Kentucky Derby, and as they do every year, the state’s radio and TV stations are building the hype for it.  So are the stores that sell Derby-related items, like flowery hats and Derby pies.

Well, I hope the track can dry out during the next three days.  We’ve been getting rain here almost constantly since Monday; more than three inches so far.  Previously this month was running an inch on the dry side, as Aprils go; now we’ve got at least a two-inch surplus on the rainfall.  Fortunately it wasn’t worse, and it easily could have been; this is part of the same storm system that dropped tornadoes on Arkansas and Mississippi, and twenty inches of rain on Pensacola, FL.

Besides storms, for the past few months our house has been under attack from telemarketers.  We have gotten as many as fourteen calls per day from those annoying scammers.  I know they’re not honest because they don’t comply with the law; they keep calling though we are on the Do Not Call list, use illegal recorded messages and mask which numbers they are really calling from.  And the calls also make my parrot scream – we want to preserve what little sanity Brin-Brin has left!

In March I tried to bring my phone service provider into the game, by blocking numbers I know are telemarketers and those that don’t show up on the caller ID.  No such luck.  They only allowed me to block twelve numbers (I have counted more than a hundred that they are calling from), and the unknown call blocker service didn’t work.  A stronger pesticide was in order, so last Sunday I ordered a call blocker device from Amazon called Sentry.  It arrived on Tuesday, so I set it up that evening; today was the first full day it was operational.  Only two calls came in to our land line today; one was me calling Leive from work, the other was an obvious telemarketer (518-417-1194), but the point is that because the latter wasn’t approved to call us, Leive didn’t hear the phone ring.

The next time you call our house, you will hear a voice with an English accent (our phone butler!) telling you to push “0” if you are a legitimate caller.  If you do, your number shows up on my caller ID, and I can add it to a whitelist or blacklist.  If I accept it, you can call me normally after that; those numbers I blacklist won’t show up anymore.  So far I think it works, but if it doesn’t you can still reach us on our cell phones.

 

Click on the picture to check it out if you’re having the same problem with unwanted calls.

Cheese Won a Naval Battle!

Oh, this is choice.  I wish I had found this story two years ago, when I was writing about Latin American history in the nineteenth century.  I can still add it to the text, though, as a new paragraph.  Here is how that section will read:

Flores was brought back by the brief Uruguayan War (August 1864-February 1865), in which both Brazil and Argentina backed the Colorados against the Blancos. Because the Blancos were clearly the underdogs, all the Colorados and their allies had to do was overrun the countryside, isolate the Blancos in Montevideo, and force them to surrender. Still, it took them six months, because the Brazilian navy could not coordinate its activities with the Brazilian army. I am mentioning this because the war included one of the strangest stories I have ever read in military history; cheese won a naval battle! What happened was that during one clash between a Brazilian and an Uruguayan (Blanco) ship, the Uruguayans ran out of cannonballs, and the quick-thinking captain ordered his men to load the guns with balls of stale edam cheese. Obviously this food item had become too hard to eat, judging from the results. The first two shots missed, but the third squarely hit the main mast of the Brazilian ship, shattering the mast and killing two men standing nearby with cheese shrapnel. When some more shots shredded the sails, the Brazilian admiral ordered the ship to withdraw. And no, I don’t know how he and the crew explained the damage to the folks back home.

 

After the First Week

Well, I completed my first week at my new job in Richmond, KY, and it’s hard to think of how it could have gone better.  I definitely like the workplace; the office is comfortable, everyone in there is friendly, and the work looks like it will be well-suited for me.  If there is a company where I can fit in like the proverbial “Purple squirrel,” this is probably it.

The only drawback I have seen to working there is that it is on the east side of Madison County, putting it 28 miles from home.  And because we work a ten-hour day (7 AM – 5:30 PM with a half-hour lunch), I have to leave home before 6:30 AM to get there on time.  I have decided not to complain, though, because it sounds like many of my new co-workers, perhaps most of them, have to drive farther than I do.  Apparently the company does not hire too many folks locally.  And because of the ten-hour shifts, we only have to work four days a week to get our forty hours, so most Fridays will be free for us.

Meanwhile at home, we’re still having quirky spring weather.  On Tuesday and Wednesday nights it got down to 40 degrees, as if we can’t put winter behind us at last.  Then this morning we started the day with a thunderstorm, so I could not mow the backyard like I was planning to do.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to cut the grass on Saturday or Sunday; I cut the front yard last Sunday, and now it’s almost long enough to cut again, already!

Spring Is Back, and A New Beginning

We had a close call last week with the cold weather.  On Tuesday morning it got down to freezing and we had some snow in the morning.  The pictures below show how white it got, with flowers in the pear trees and snow on the ground:

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Fortunately the snow quickly melted; I believe that’s why the plants did not suffer much damage.  Then on Wednesday morning the temperature was 27 degrees F. – maybe even colder – but no snow or sleet fell.  Again it did not kill the blossoms outside.  I guess when temperatures are in the low 30s or upper 20s you need both cold and ice/snow to do real damage to the plants.

Since then it has felt more like spring, with highs getting up around 80 both today and yesterday.  Today another aspect of spring began for us; I mowed the front yard for the first time this year.

Speaking of beginnings, this is the final day of the two-year unemployment I called “The Long Night” in a recent message.  In eight hours I will be on my way to the first day of my new job.  Wish me well.  According to the company website, this is “The Best Work of Your Life.”  After this dry spell, and with me not getting any younger, I sincerely hope they’re right.  I’ll have to go to bed soon, so see you later.

Is Winter Back Already?

First, I’d like to wish Happy Passover/Chag Sameach for those who observe that holiday, inasmuch as it begins tonight:

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I would also like to remind readers that the first of the four so-called “blood moons” in 2014-2015 will begin a few hours from now (see my message from last January 6).  Unfortunately, we won’t be able to watch it from this part of Kentucky.  The sky is covered with clouds right now, from the cold front passing through.

Speaking of cold fronts, the strange weather we’ve been having this year isn’t over yet.  During the past week it warmed up nicely, reaching a high of 79 degrees on Saturday and 83 on Sunday.  It’s definitely more like what Leive and I are used to, after all the years we spent in Florida.  Indoors, the warming trend was felt the most upstairs and the least downstairs, causing a remarkable split in temperatures:  in the 80s on the top floor, 70s on the main floor, and 60s in the basement.  If it had gotten just one degree warmer yesterday, the air conditioning would have come on upstairs.

Today, however, I began to see a change.  While the high temperature of 73 meant I still didn’t need a jacket when I went outside, it was overcast instead of sunny, and we got a bit of rain.  Now the cold front is threatening to bring it down to 35 tonight, and maybe below freezing tomorrow night!  With the neighborhood in full bloom, that could cause a flower massacre.

The most impressive participants in the flower show right now are the ornamental pear trees.  I think Saturday was the peak day for them, because on Sunday I started seeing a few of their blossoms on the ground, and because the flower buds open before the leaf buds, on Sunday I also started seeing green leaves with the white blossoms.  On Sunday I took a few pictures of the pear trees on my street, just in case the flowers don’t survive this week’s freeze.  I will finish by sharing them:

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Enjoy spring while it lasts!

Full-Blooming Transition

Yes, I’ve been too busy in the real world to write anything here since Monday.  And the city I’m in hasn’t been too happy since the UConn Huskies beat our UK Wildcats in the NCAA championship game.  While there’s still a chance UK will win a 9th championship someday, it won’t be this year.  And then the ladies’ basketball team for UConn won their championship, so this week Connecticut has two things to crow about.

I did see one funny bit about this today.  A FOX News anchor (I don’t know what city she was in), mistakenly called UConn “the NAACP champions.”  Please go easy on the comments about her, though.  I think I was thirty years old before I knew what NCAA stood for, and I didn’t know how the college basketball playoffs worked until five years ago, after I had moved to Kentucky.  College basketball isn’t a big deal in Florida, where it has to compete with professional sports leagues and college football for fans.

The “full-blooming” part of the title refers to the flowering trees in the neighborhood, especially the ornamental pears.  Because it was so cold last winter, the trees are finally getting their act together, two weeks later than they normally do.  If you come down my street this week, the trees will be white all over, and this time it’s not because of snow.

Of course with April 15 just around the corner, one of my activities is getting my taxes done.  My goal is to put it all in the mail tomorrow, since I won’t be getting refund this year.  Besides that and my history projects (I started composing Chapter 6 of my Latin American history last week), I am also getting ready for my new job.  The background check is apparently done, but there’s additional paperwork that needs to be filled out before my first day.  Yesterday I got the e-mail with my official start date:  I start on Monday, April 21.  That marks two years and one day since my last job ended, so the whole family is definitely seeing this month as a new beginning.

Even the Sun is a Basketball Fan In Kentucky

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The NCAA championship game is less than an hour away as I write this, and however it works out between the UK Wildcats and the Uconn Huskies, this will be a big day for Kentucky.  You could call this the biggest cat-dog fight of all.

If you have been following the tournament, you know what happened with Saturday’s game.  Just a few seconds before time ran out, Aaron Harrison scored the shot that put UK over the top, defeating Wisconsin by 74-73.  Harrison also made the last shot to win the previous game against Michigan, so this was a bit of a re-run for us.  When all is said and done, he’d better be named Most Valuable Player, at least.  And I bet two, maybe even three Uconn players, will be guarding him closely tonight.

This time around, all four of the Final Four teams represented states my family has an interest in.  My sister lives in Wisconsin, my brother lives in Florida, I live in Kentucky, and we all used to live in Connecticut!  While there were several things I enjoyed during my 2011-2012 job assignment in Connecticut, and I found out over there that I still talk with a Connecticut accent, 45 years after my first sojourn in the state, there are four reasons why I’m glad I don’t live there now:

1.  Connecticut winters are notoriously cold.  My wife will tell you that Kentucky is cold enough!

2.  Prices and taxes are much higher in New England.

3.  Most of the people over there are political liberals.

4.  Kentuckians are friendlier and politer.

Therefore I will be rooting for the home team, of course.  But enough with the rambling.  GO CATS!!!

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And for this week, the nearest major league baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, is wearing blue just for us.  How about that!

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