Year2017

Sometimes, my niece has shockingly long, in depth conversations with Alexa. Straight up, there is no better person to talk to a curious, chatty five year old than Alexa. It’s so delightful to watch. Also, it took only two visits for my niece to figure out how to talk to Alexa. The first time, she would shout, “Alexa,” but then wait an excruciating minute to say something else, by which time Alexa had moved on to other things. The next visit, she was ready for Alexa, had her requests and jokes ready. She asks Alexa to play Ariana Grande and music from Frozen, A LOT. She never runs out of questions for Alexa and Alexa never runs out of patience. Hell takes on different forms for us all.

From Uses This / Roxane Gay

I wish I had the level of patience Alexa has for small children’s endless questions.

I’ve found that many of the “pressing” news stories can be treated like soap operas. Ignore most of the breathless reporting and check in on them once a week to see if Mary is still with Todd or if Elena survived that scary operation. Many of them, of course, can be ignored entirely.

Source: Execupundit.com: News Noise

This is a perfect way to handle the news. Most of it is not important a few days later. And if it is, it’s a big enough story to have books written about it already (or there will be.) Those are the stories that change history and matter.

Everything else is noise filling 24 hours of television.

Claw Machines

I’ve noticed this with newer claw machines. I was once good at claw machines. I would walk out of an arcade with four or five stuffed animals because I knew the two most common tricks.

The first trick was to see how far forward and back the claw would actually reach. Many machines owners would group animals at the very front and back of the machine, beyond where the claw would be able to reach. The same goes for the claw machines in a row, where the inside walls are short so prizes can sometimes fall out of the claw and between the machines. These machines also grouped prized next to those middle walls where the claw could not reach them. So a well-stocked machine would actually have very little available to win.

The second trick was to pack the stuffed animals in so tightly, the claw would not be able to grab anything at all. It would descend on to a pile of stuffing and lay there uselessly grasping at air, then retract with a lot of nothing. I would walk over to a claw machine and see if anything was actually available to win. A prize that was previously almost-won and dropped on the pile was a good choice. So were slender animals with bodies the claw could easily grab. I was even lucky enough to grab a prize by its tag once.

Even though I still enjoy claw machines, I don’t play them nearly as often because I’ve seen where they simply don’t try to grab the prize. I didn’t know it was all controlled by the machine, but it does not surprise me. The claw that simply doesn’t grab is the biggest letdown because no amount of skill will lead to a win. I might as well hand two quarters to the next child I pass, my return will be just as good.

Stability Shutdown

I remember when government work was stable. My parents told me about working for the government in glowing terms. The stability. The good pay and benefits.

But I am a contractor for the government. The pay is good. The benefits are all over the place and there’s a threat of shutdown almost every year.

The last time was 2014. I got a nice unpaid vacation for 21 days. In 2015 it almost happened again. And tonight I got to enjoy the same stress. Only this time they settled it on Thursday instead of midnight Friday.

Each time they do the bare minimum. The government is funded… Until Jan 21st. The Democrats didn’t want to be seen as the cause of the shutdown which the Republicans would have tried to pin squarely on them. So the Senate voted to help the GOP out and keep working.

Not that any of them are going to work. They get to go on vacation. While I get to finish mine with a job to come back to. And hope we don’t go through this all over again next month.

Morning Walks

I am a night owl. I appreciate the cool night air and appreciate the night’s symphony of insects, sirens and trees swaying. I’ve loved the night for as long as I can remember but I have a new love. Mornings.

Not early mornings. I am not rising with the roosters and greetings the earth before the sun rises. I have a work schedule the begins at 10am so I have used the time where I’d normally be getting up and ready for work to go on walks. I’m grateful to live within a few minute drive of a wonderful park with a huge lake. I’ve started walking the trails in the morning. Sometimes armed with a camera, headphones and an audio book. Other times just the camera and the sounds of nature around me and the city in the distance.

Every morning I walk the trails I’m delighted by what I find. The small gifts nature provides if you’re aware and looking for them. I saw a huge black spider sitting on a tree near where I stopped to marvel at the web of another arachnid. It darted away into the tree trunk and the safety of its web before I was able to take its picture. But I did get some of another one sitting on its web. Waiting for a meal.

Spider web near Lake Needwood.

One morning I was greeted by a large bird and two turtles sunning themselves on a log at the water’s edge. I was able to creep down the hill and get a couple of pictures before the turtles wised up and scurried off, disappearing with twin splashes. The bird (an egret? a heron? I can never remember.) decided to give me a few more steps before taking off for an inaccessible shoreline.

Bees sitting on a thistle flower.