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Friday, July 27, 2012

Spouses Diet—Results Vary    

          A stringent diet is just what the doctor ordered—a protein sparing fast for my husband and me with most of the “food” available at our clinic. Shakes, cereal, main dishes, soups and eggs come in foil envelopes to be mixed with water and consumed. One diet frozen dinner allowed a day. Good thing the product line includes bars and chips now, or the past two months might have been a whole lot more boring. Truth told this diet works: Art has lost nearly 50 pounds, and I’ve lost 25. Some days though, it’s tough not to grab something not on the list.

          One evening as I sat down to the computer, I smelled something familiar wafting along in the air. PEANUT BUTTER! Someone was eating peanut butter! My eyes shifted to my husband, spoon in mouth, and an odd expression on his face. Ever seen a grown man try to look innocent when he wasn’t? That’s the look.

          “Cheater!” I shrilled.

          “MMMMGPH!” he replied. A man who eats peanut butter by the spoonful should not try to communicate with his mouth stuck together. I went to the kitchen, got a spoon, and dug in the jar. Just one small spoonful, I thought.  Later I felt guilt, but it was too late. I had swallowed. His weight loss for the week was six pounds, mine was barely two pounds. Who says cheaters don’t prosper?

          Our trip to the grocery store last week began as any other. We each had our list and began to shop. As I rounded the corner to look for my mate, I spied him leaving the Deli. He didn’t see me. He sat down and took a big bite of a fried chicken leg! I zoomed toward the dining area, beeping the horn on the electric cart. Again the guilty look crept over Art’s face as I screeched to a halt. He tried to hide behind a store circular to finish, but he was laughing so hard he could barely chew or swallow. Somehow he managed to finish the chicken leg as I stared. How much weight did he loose that week? Another six pounds! I lost one-and-a-half pounds, even forgoing the fried chicken. Where is the justice in that?

          After the weigh in, we stopped at a roadside stand to buy a huge watermelon.  It disappeared in four days. Watermelon in quantity isn’t on the diet. Watermelon isn’t protein, so it’s not allowed. I ate melon with gusto, but I couldn’t match Art’s dedication to that juicy fruit. I couldn’t wait for the next week’s weigh-in. What would my results be?

         Stepping onto the digital scale, I took a double-take! I lost three pounds!  Himself lost his customary six pounds. Perhaps there’s something to Art’s “Have a Treat” philosophy, or maybe watermelon just doesn’t hang around in the system long. Should I try a fried chicken leg next? I’m thinking not—fried chicken is probably the first step on the road to… cheesecake.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Scorched Earth Policy Courtesy of the Electric Company

            The past two years have been a running battle with our electric provider. The front line is the right-of-way running through our farm. On a small section of this access there are/were dewberry canes, two pear trees and an ornamental plum tree.  The old man who owned the property previously planted them there around 1995. We purchased the farm in 2000.  2012 rolled along, and the plum and the dewberries are still there, but are dead, dead, dead. The pears survive, but require vigilance. Why did these plants suddenly become offensive starting in 2010?

            The first visit of or provider’s work crew occurred when we were off  property. We came home to crew-cut pear and plum trees. Shock and outrage followed, but not surprise, as the crew manning the saw on the extensible pole truck finished trimming along the wires fronting the road the day before. Why take a third of our trees’ top growth, “cutting” the fruit production severely? Regulations require branches trimmed back six feet from the wires, not ten feet! Damage done is done when pruning, and there’s little recourse on issues on the right-of-way. Not even when the tent caterpillars the crew brought from another location hatched out and festooned the plum tree and one pear tree with their tell-tale tent-like webs. The only cure is to cut off the branches infected and burn them.  More loss.

            Last year the butchers returned, stealthily creeping up the right-of-way from the neighbors¸ toting pruners and loppers. To my delight, our dog saw them and barked thunderously.  Hah! You thought you could sneak by us this time? I thought. From the foot of the porch I yelled, “STOP!” as the first pearbbranch fell. Startled, the culprit turned to face me. “Wait for my husband!” I shouted.

            Robe flying and slippers slapping (it was very early), hubby rounded the corner of the house, and cut loose with his own barking. Phone clutched tightly in his fist, he called their supervisor. They quit eying our trees, and ambled down the right-of-way to their next victims. We should have known they retreated too easily.

           Next morning the hairy intruder alarm sounded again. Scrambling for shoes and glasses, I stumbled to the living room and shoved the curtain aside. Villains! Villains carrying a sprayer, fanning it along the row of dewberry bushes! What were they thinking? Dewberries never get within six feet of the wires; three or four foot long canes are the most they can do!  Another irate phone call resulted in a personal visit from the supervisor and a promise to quit spraying. Notice nothing was said about sawing, pruning, clipping or any other cutting words in relation to our trees.
            Somehow the pear trees survived the chemical attack. The spray eventually killed the ornamental plum tree, its roots entwined with those of the dewberries mercilessly covered with toxic chemicals. I’ll miss her frilly pink spring dress, and the succulent dewberries that surrounded her. Someone needs to remove the skeletons.

 Don’t worry, guys, I’ll be waiting. You may have “rights”, but I have my “ways.” We’ll talk next time you visit.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Back Once Again

It has been awhile, I'll agree. Things are back on track, so here we go!

Automated Phone Systems – Machine War (text to be published in  the Marlin Democrat)

          When I sat down to write this article, my computer came up with the dreaded blue screen: no C-drive detected. I felt like I’d been dropped into one of the “Terminator” movies. The machines were out to get me. I had to deal directly with the dreaded auto-system in order to speak with a human minion of the machines.

            I dialed the toll free number, and began the auto-sorting.

My problem? “None of these,” I said.
My express service number? “On the back of the computer,” it prompted, “Say the number or enter.”  I repeated the ten digits.

“Please hold for a representative,” the machine ordered. The phone rang once followed by the empty sound of a lost connection. I thought some words, but I didn’t say them.  I hung up and dialed again to repeat the process, hoping for a better result.

The second call netted me a young man in India, the rumbling sound of other calls from folk at the mercy of their machines in the background. After 20 minutes I had a C-drive again. I think the machines want to build a false sense of security in me, so I’ll abandon this article. I am not fooled.

Want to get information on an account, or pay a bill by phone? Yes, I know I can do this by computer. I’ve tangled with the machines before to my sorrow. Machines have suckered businesses into the battle against humanity using these phone and computerized systems to increase efficiency and save money. I yearn for the voice of a live person, even if they owe allegiance to the machines. I hope for human sympathy, and punch “O” over and over and over. Sometimes a machine error allows contact with a biological entity.

I call the doctor’s office at our large clinic. The first thing I get is a machine. It wants information, and if it doesn’t get it, I won’t get the appointment I want, either! It requires a phone number and address, the better to keep track of you. I’m not paranoid, really! Don’t forget the patient’s birth date and insurance.

I wanted to talk to the nurse. Of course the machine won’t let you speak with her; you must leave a message. The machine dictates the data needed, some of which I’ve already given. Do it! The machine insists on it all, or the nurse will not call. Last name, first name, birth date of patient, insurance, doctor, reason for calling, call-back number … all given in a staccato manner, barely a pause…Aiee! What was that last one? What number do you press for a repeat? I punch “O” hoping the system will let me speak to something breathing. Sadly, I must go through the system again.

 I’m about to e-mail this column if the machines permit. If you don’t hear from me in a few days, please send help. The machines want to keep their secrets, and hold all of us at their mercy. I’ll keep typing as long as I can….