hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Septic Tank Inspections

Now that we have (temporarily) wound up the trash collection/recycling matter, it is time to (temporarily) wind up the septic tank inspection system matter, with the hope that we can have some release from dealing with Whatcom County for awhile.  The County, I am told, thinks we are a bunch of whiners up here, and we think they are indifferent to our concerns down there.  So perhaps we could use the interval to establish ourselves as some kind of tea party organization: YOU DON'T HEAR US, is the slogan, I believe.

Last week, the County Council approved amendments that more or less put the previous inspection system on hold.  But they have to revote on it next month because the amendments they voted on were not exactly the ones that were being proposed.  You can imagine the embarrassment experienced when the item on the agenda was a draft version rather  than the final version.  So maybe next month they'll vote on the final version instead.  But in any case, the essence of the change seems to be that they will eliminate the requirement for professional inspections.  You will have to have the inspections still (the State requires them), but the state didn't require that you pay $250-$300 to a 'professional' to have that done. 

Incidentally, to be a professional requires one to profess something.  What septic tank inspectors profess would be a mystery to me.  Additionally, professionals usually have codes of ethics, are required to act on behalf of their clients, have a large degree of self-regulation but also have extensive education requirements placed upon them.  Physicians, nurses, dentists, and psychologists are professionals.  Professional status, once lost, cannot be regained.  I suspect that professional septic tank inspectors are not professionals. 

Here's a link to the Bellingham Herald's article on this matter.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trash: The (Momentary) Finale

Today, the WUTC down in Olympia posted its decision on the  trash and recycling applications for Point Roberts.  The Commission appears to be composed of three Commissioners, two of whom supported Mr. Gellatly's application, and one of whom supported neither application.  That means that Gellatly has the contract, but the decision comes with qualification.  And that is that Freedom 2000 must have the system up and running in 45 days.

The general view of the decision, which can be seen here and runs to 53 pages, is that this is a mess and that Wilkowski's operation has been in 'flagrant' violation of a number of laws governing this work, and that Gellatly has been somewhat slack himself in regards to state laws about trucking/registrations.  However, it appeared to them that Gellatly has shown a willingness to become a law abider, whereas Wilkowski had, if anything, shown a deeper propensity  for the other direction.  The most flagrant of the Wilkowski violations appear to be his willingness to provide on-call services after he gave up his G certificate.  Such actions represented knowing and intentional disregard of the laws under which he was permitted to operate in the Washington State trash collection world, although the actions might have been of considerable benefit to some Point Roberts' residents.

I would guess that that particular offense wouldn't have weighed too heavily with many of Pt. Roberts' residents, but the WUTC must of necessity look at things in a different light, be attentive to the letter of the law.

There are three paragraphs in the main opinion that I found particularly interesting.  Paragraphs 69 and 70 both address the County's role in this general fiasco; paragraph 71 speaks to the considerable animosity that has been generated in Point Roberts itself, anger sufficient to split the social fabric.  The WUTC commissioners think that Mr. Gellatly's first job will be to heal those wounds.  Lucky Mr. Gellatly!  I will be looking forward to his State of Point Roberts Trash speech soon.

In the dissenting opinion, the third commissioner doubts any of this is going to work because of the County's failure in the first place to address Pt. Roberts' uniqueness, or its failure to get some other already-established trash collection business to take on the problem of being us. Actually, Mr. Wilkowski pretty much supported this position himself in testimony before the Commission where he apparently argued that the WUTC should approve neither his application nor Gellatly's, which action would force the County to do something.  This position was countered in the majority opinion on the grounds that the WUTC can't make the County do anything, although they acknowledged that it was doubtful that anybody could create an economically viable business plan for Pt. Roberts trash collection under the current circumstances. 

And so we go on.  Check back in about 45 days.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dark Days

I wrote the other day about the fearsome wind storm we had last week.  That is a part of Point Roberts that I don't usually think about, except when it is happening.  Somehow, human that I am, I lose track of the risks while closely tracking the benefits of one choice or another.  And then a day comes that reminds you exactly how negligent you have been about keeping track of the risks.

The picture above, which Ed took, in the late afternoon of a very cloudy and rainy day when there could have been a wind storm (although there wasn't) makes me realize why it's so easy to forget the difficult parts of Pt. Roberts when you are not in the difficult parts.  These houses are far down on South Beach.  They would appear (at least to me) to be too close to the water, too fragile in their construction, too likely to suffer damage of one kind or another if the wind and the ocean pick up.  And yet, how beautiful they are.  Risk seems a silly concept when you see them in this light.

Well, that's how humans often think, I suspect.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Always With Us

Today was my 73rd birthday (Happy Birthday, Judy!  Thanks so much!), and we went to lunch at Caffe Cappana, my favorite place to eat out here in Point Roberts.  Now, that's not like saying that Patout's was my favorite place to eat out in Los Angeles, of course.  The scale of choice here on the Point is pretty small, and two or three of the five possibilities are probably closed for the winter.  But even if there were more choice, I'd still like Cappana a lot.  It seems to me a quintessentially Point Roberts place.  Plain, kind of homespun in its acute casualness, but with interesting and funky art pieces here and there.  Currently a life-size, carved wooden figure with a Viking headdress, I think, stands at the counter.  That's the Vikings from the olden days, not from the sports world.

The servers and cookerladies (as my daughter used to call them some 48 years ago) all look to me as if they had grown up next door or down the block and came in to work when they aren't in high school.  They definitely don't look like big city girls.  And they are terrific bakers, as well, with wonderful ranges of muffins and rolls and soups.  And all that.  Anyway, I like it a lot.  And it's got wifi and you can use the computers in the back while you're there.

They've been trying to branch out a bit over recent times.  There were some fancy dinners with many wines, and evening live-entertainment, but mostly it is a coffee place where you could easily go to play chess with whomever was around from morning till late afternoon.  I don't think they have ever played music when I was there; the background kind of music.  And that seems to me a good thing, because you go there to eat and drink something tasty and to talk to whomever is around or whomever you came with.
  Most recently, however, they are trying to lure people in on the weekend evenings with dinner and a movie, and in service of that they have installed a large monitor above the fireplace.  This is not a bad idea at all, I'd think, because now you can go and watch movies with whomever is around, as well.  Although peoples' tendencies to talk during movies would probably discourage me from enjoying this new service.  Better for me at home on my smaller monitor, but with no side conversations during the film.  So fussy.

Today was the first time I'd seen the monitor.  Unfortunately, it was playing CNN and since it was Sunday, it was talking heads CNN.  Fareed Zakariah's teeth had never before seemed so imposing.  The sound was off, so there wasn't a lot of distracting talk, but there were a lot of distracting pictures and words.  I am one of those people who are compelled to read words if they are placed before me.  I have had a birthday gift sitting in my living room for the past week which I finally had to cover with a cloth because it was wrapped in paper that said "Happy Hanukkah to You."  But the only part of the message I could see (it was a small package) said 'NUKKAHTO,' and I got so tired of reading that meaningless phrase, that I was obliged to cover it up.

So, here were these words constantly moving around on the monitor, getting bigger, then smaller, changing, then stabilizing.  And the scene required enormous multitasking even without hearing anything.  I haven't seen TV in years so I hadn't realized how complex it has become.  There's the interviewer in a box on the left, and in the middle box is the interviewee, and then there's a box with some photos of something happening, presumably what the two people are talking about, and then there's a crawl along the bottom about something that they are NOT talking about, or not yet, and there's a box that says what the next program is, and up at the top there are some other instructions.  YIKES!  This is way, way too much. 

Next time, I sit with my back to the TV, at the very least.  But better would be if they turned it off when the movie isn't on.  It felt more like being in a bar (albeit a very politically-oriented bar) than a coffee place.  It didn't feel at all like chess would be happening: who could concentrate?  And I kept losing the thread of the conversation with the people I had come with because of trying to keep up with all those words and pictures. 
I eventually figured out that most of the people there were oblivious to  the TV and what it was doing, what it was showing, what it was saying in words.  Maybe the purpose of watching TV is so that it doesn't annoy you when you run into it, because the TV, like the poor, we apparently always have with us nowadays.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Winter Winds

Here on Point Roberts, we have the ocean on three sides and, although every ocean side is within easy walking distance, I rarely have much to do with the water parts.  I live up in the middle in the middle of the trees.  I am the kind of person who has a lot of fir and cedar branches everywhere when we have a big wind, as we did this week.  If you are down very near the water, it is different.  It is not the trees but the actual ocean you have to worry about. 

This past Sunday night storm was one of the noisiest and frightening we've ever been here for.  It sounded to me as if there was a jumbo jet constantly passing over us; to Ed, it sounded more like a train constantly going by, a steady sound that you heard underneath the sound of big gusts of wind through the trees.  I don't know what it would sound like down by the ocean where you don't get the amplification from the trees.  Of course, you get the crashing waves, and both the sound and sight of them in a big wind can be very fearsome.  Fortunately, the Sunday night wind stopped on the Monday morning and the high tides did not lead to significant flooding because the wind's direction did not push the water toward the shore.

Two years ago, it was much worse because the wind was pushing the water and there was lots of flooding.  And lots of damage.  Could, doubtless will, happen again.  But even despite the speed of the winds, we had very little tree branch shedding at our house.  There was one 8-foot or so branch, maybe 3-inches in diameter that came down right next to the car, but not on it; on it could have caused some damage.  The branch was big and heavy, but not too heavy for me to move it back to the downed branches pile.  And other than that, there were only small fir and cedar pieces (lots of them), very small pieces, all over the yards.  In the big winds a couple of years ago, two of our neighbors had large, severed tree branches shoot down through their roofs like javelins, a performance requiring considerable repair in the one case and a new roof in the other.  So we are glad this week, in a week when we are hearing a lot about natural disaster, not to have had one, even on a small scale. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Library Matters

The Point Interface management put up a nice reminder today about leaving only magazines at the library's magazine exchange cart.  And I didn't even request the post, although I'm grateful for it.  Two Saturdays ago, there was a real plethora (singular? plural?) of catalogs amidst the magazines, but this past Saturday when I stopped by, there was not a single catalog.  There also weren't very many magazines, so I don't know whether that means that everybody is scooping them up as quickly as they appear or that people have stopped bringing them in to exchange.

There is a note on the library door that says something to the effect of people not leaving reading donations without talking to the librarians.  BUT, it is not necessary to talk to the librarians to leave magazines on the magazine exchange cart. But, you don't want to leave books without talking to them about that.

So far, the magazine exchange seems to be working well, and that speaks well for all of us as good citizens! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Well, What Do We Think?

This is about trash collection, and is a brief update.  The WUTC asked that all the exhibits and information and witness lists with respect to the two applicants for the Point Roberts trash collection problem be turned over by January 15.  Included in that information are summaries of public comments with respect to both applicants.

With respect to Point Refuse and Recycling (Wilkowski), there were 55 comments in total, with 37 supporting this company, 16 opposing it, and 2 uncertain.  With respect to Freedom 2000 (Gellatly), there were 18 comments in total, with 9 supporting the company, 2 opposing it, and 7 undecided.

It's not clear to me how they came by these counts since any given letter did not necessarily address simply  one company or the other.  Many of the letters from the public mentioned/discussed/analyzed both companies, so I don't know whether such a letter would be included in the Wilkowski totals or the Gellatly totals, or counted in both (e.g., if the writer specifically supported Wilkowski and opposed Gellatly, or vice versa).  There is no explanation within the memorandum as to how these counts were made.

As well, there is no entry on the website indicating when the WUTC expects to meet on this.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Signs of Spring

When my grandchildren were small, I used to take them out for 'signs of spring' walks.   These walks would occur when it was yet too cold to believe in spring, but when you really needed a boost from the less aesthetic aspects of winter.  It required us all to look very sharply, very closely, because the signs were rare.  But the kids--5 and 6 year olds--were as capable of seeing the signs as I was once they got the knack, so we could make of it something of a contest.  The real point, of course, was to cue them in to how the seasons flow into one another, and how that is the world we live in which we do not make or control.

The grandchildren are now too old to go on those walks with me, although more to the point, they're not anywhere close enough around to do it.  They might still like it if they were here.  But suffice to say that we didn't do those walks in mid-January.  It would be more like the end of February.

This afternoon, however, I did a little solitary walk around the yard and found signs abundant and very easy to see.  But awfully puzzling.  The tulips are up about 3 inches: Do I remove the leaves so the slugs don't eat their tips?  If I do, will the deer then come and eat them up because of their being so visible?  Daffs and tulips up everywhere, but no sign of the normally February-blooming crocus.  Is there any reason that the lupine are already putting up new leaves and that the slugs are already eating them?  Why are there quite large Queen Anne's lace plants growing everywhere?  Does foxglove normally come up so fully this early?  And what about all those leafing-out hydrangeas?

We had a very cold spell for about a week in December that may well have done in several bushes, but the temperatures since then have been much warmer than usual for January.  I'm confused.  I'm not at all sure whether I'm seeing signs of spring or signs of global warming or signs of La Nina or what.  Whatever it is, I am definitely not in control.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Community Gardens, Community Gardening

Update Below:
 Even though it's only January, it's hard not to start thinking about gardening. The weather's been fairly warm; lots of plants are starting to leaf out or push up out of the ground. The foxglove and the hydrangea seem particularly eager.

As I've mentioned before, I've gardened pretty much forever, beginning during WW II when my family had a Victory Garden. The local government set out a big area of land, plowed it and divided it into sections and anyone who wanted to take care of a section could do so. You planted what you wanted and you harvested it as you wanted. And you were happy to do it because it provided food cheaply and it provided food that was hard to get otherwise what with the war taking up a lot of the food commodities.

I think lots more people knew about how to grow things in those days. We were closer to the land, at least in places where there was land, I imagine, and that made it more natural. But that knowledge seems to me to have been lost in the in between decades to a substantial degree. Oh, there are still younger people (i.e., in their 20's and 30's) who are devoted gardeners, but it just doesn't seem as common now as it was when I was in my 20's and 30's. We've become more urbanized, of course, more estranged from the land.

I wonder whether in that Victory Garden of my childhood there were a lot of rules about how to conduct your garden? If so, I was probably not privy to them because the main rulegiver I knew was my father. The rules of the garden were his rules, as far as I knew. How to sow, how to weed, how to reap.

Increasingly, people are taking to Community Gardens,   I have recently discovered.  When we were out driving in the Richmond area the other day, we saw a lovely little community garden in a place called Terra Nova.  It had none of the look of my Victory Garden, but a lot of the look of the community gardens that I used to see in Venice, California, which involved quite small plots, but very exotically planted: some only with flowers, some only with tomatoes and a chair and an umbrella.  Whatever suited the gardener's individual feelings about the kind of garden he or she wanted to have.

Recently, there has been some movement here in Point Roberts to institute a community garden.  Such a venture is always a fragile one if it doesn't have some kind of institutional base behind it.  It's a lot easier to have it happen if the community is interested AND the local government or some NGO is prepared to provide some continuity for its initial organization.  Unfortunately, we are pretty fresh out of local government AND NGOs here in Point Roberts, so at present it is a few people looking to make some starting steps and hoping that a few other people will join them in the actual work (that would be the actual work that involves getting out onto the land) that is needed to make it happen.

So far, they've got a commitment of about five acres of land for community use, land that is reported to have excellent soil  (that could be said, I believe, about none of the one acre of soil that we have).  Water, and some south-side sun, too, are available, with actual sun presence being out of the control of the initiators of this project.

There are a lot of reasons that it would be a good project for the Point.  It would give people who have lost their place in the handed-down gardening knowledge network a place to get practical knowledge about practical gardening from those with more experience; it would allow people to obtain the quality of vegetables (primarily) that they would like to have for their family; it might be an important resource if the times ahead become as unfortunate as some fear.  It doesn't involve a lot of building or an enormous amount of funding.  It would fit with the kind of place that Point Roberts is, at least for its permanent residents.

There are a lot of reasons, as those who've tried to start things in Point Roberts previously can attest to, why it might not work.  But it surely won't work if no one ever tries it.  And the fact that Washington State actually has a state-wide web site for community gardens might be "an early clue to the new direction."  If you're interested, talk to George Wright, down at the Maple Tree Studio/Gallery on Gulf Road and see how your interests might help this project come to life.  Quickly, spring is on the way!

Update:   Meeting on Community Garden Development will be held
Wednesday, January 20th, 7 pm
1480 Gulf Rd, Suite 103, Point Roberts WA 98281
(‘round the back of the Blue Building on Gulf Road)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Report Card

Yesterday, the septic tank inspectors came to inspect the septic tank.  We're a little behind the curve on this, but not too much.  And now it's done.

Two guys came.  They opened the two lids, poked around with measuring sticks, measuring the top and the bottom.  Then they turned the hose on into the opening for awhile and checked to see whether there was any water coming up to the surface of the drain field (which they said was in a place that we would not have expected it to be, indeed, did not think it was: level with the tank, rather than downhill from it).  There was no surface water.  Everything was as it should be, given that it is a septic tank here rather than a sewer connection.

And then they measured some here and there, presumably for the County's records.  At the end of about a half hour, they went away with their check for $225, the going rate here on the Point, $35 of which, as I recall, goes directly to the County for its good services, whatever they may be in this case: perhaps for keeping the records.

It seemed quite a lot of money for such a brief amount of work.  But, opening the tank does expose one to a noticeably unpleasant smell.  Maybe that's why they get the big bucks.

Also, as a side benefit, now we know not to build on where the drain field is, as opposed to our previous belief that we should not build on where the drain field isn't..

Monday, January 11, 2010

Gifts and OtherTransactions

Last month, maybe ten days before Christmas, we had a big power outage here in Point Roberts.  Big, well, in the sense that it was cold and the power was off for hours...about 6-8, depending upon where you were.  No power is always an inconvenience, if not worse, but this one was a particular problem because it was the very height of the Christmas mailing traffic, and the local post office has no independent generator.

It was daylight, so the post office people could see what they were doing, but none of the electronics worked: the scales that calculated weight and postage simultaneously and also printed out postage mailing stamps were not happening; nor were the credit card machines: it was a cash only business.  Now this last wouldn't be the worst thing in most post offices, but up here on the border, it's a very different matter.  Easily half or more of the people who are mailing packages are Canadian and they are not regular carrier of quantities of U.S. cash.  Nor, since they were coming down from the neighboring Canadian town where the power was flowing freely, did they appear at the post office knowing about the outage.

By contrast, this was a good time for an American with U.S. cash to show up to do some Christmas mailing because the line was seriously shortened.  I arrived with my packages and my cash shortly after 1 p.m. and was immediately No. 2 in line.  Phenomenal!  The man ahead of me me was describing to the postal person his struggle to get his packet mailed.  He had been there an hour previously and discovered that his credit card was not going to be useful.  He had then roamed around somewhere and found some kind of ATM or business that had sold him US$20 for a $3 surcharge.  But now, as I waited for him to complete his mailing business--which was a small package heading for Europe--he discovered that the postage cost was $21.86.  We all of us winced for him as we heard this news. 

He checked his pockets, his wallet, looking for loose change, and turned up something like 20 cents.  My wallet was already opened, so I took out $1.86, exactly, and laid it on the counter in front of him.  He refused; I insisted; he refused; he offered to consider it as a loan; I insisted upon it as a gift, pointing out to him that it was Christmas and that it was a very small amount of money, in any case, so it wasn't a big sacrifice on my part, that I was happy to give it to him, that I was almost willing to leave it on the counter in front of him and drive away.  He offered to mail it to me; I refused on the grounds that he would then have to pay 44 cents to mail $1.86 to me, and that was just silly.  He offered to return it the next day to the post office and leave it at the counter for me.  I would have none of it and insisted he just take the money, and finally he did.

I have never had so much trouble doing a good deed, and especially such a small one.

Then, yesterday, when I went to the post office to pick up the mail, there in the box was a plain, white envelope with 'Judy. . . Thank You. $2' written on it in ink and, in a different handwriting, 'This from the man you lent to."  Inside the envelope, two dollar bills.  So I made 7% on a month's 'loan,' which would be, I guess, a 125% annual interest rate.  It left me feeling like one of the usurious credit card companies.  It also left me saddened all over again as to how difficult it can be in this culture to accept a gift from a stranger, apparently because to be a recipient of an undeserved gift establishes some moral hierarchy in which the recipient is shamed.

It is also, remarkably so, a Point Roberts kind of thing.  The man I offered the money to wasn't from here, but from cross the border.  If he had been a local, I think he could have accepted it, knowing that he would, sooner or later and probably sooner, be offering help to some other local with one thing or another.  Because we have such limited options in a lot of areas, we learn regularly to help one another: to give and to receive.  You know that you are as likely to be a recipient of a gift as you are to be a provider of a gift.  There's no hierarchy and no shame and not any particular credit, either.

It's a particularly Point Roberts kind of thing in another way, too.  What other place have I ever lived where a guy could come into the post office a month after I/someone had given him some postage money, and the post office people would know who/what he was talking about and would deliver the envelope unto that patron? Amazing!

Nevertheless, there may be some other kind of lesson lurking here.  I read today that Goldman, Sachs is going to require its executives to give most of their bonuses to charity. But what if no one will accept it?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Welcome, New Residents!

Today around noon we went down to the Point Roberts marina to cheer on the arrival of three brand new residents.  All ladies, all well-mannered, all reasonably happy to take their first look at their new home.  They are not new to the Pacific Northwest, since they all began their lives in the Blaine area, but they had never been here before and they had never before crossed over Boundary Bay in a small boat.  A very exciting day for three  pygmy-cross-angora and mohair goats.

The reason they'd never been here before (a sufficient reason, anyway) is because of their border crossing status.  Goats, it turns out, can't freely cross the border between the U.S. and Canada.  This is surely the result of some kind of Dept. of Agriculture rule, not the dealings of the Dept. of Homeland Security.  But, in its own way, it, too, is related to homeland security, just not the terrorist kind.  Beef, lamb, goat (and, presumably, parrot), none of that is going to come to be among us without some very involved border dealings.

My friends who brought them over today had tried all the standard options: talking to the border people, talking to the people who ship things through the double border with bonds (i.e., such business people are bonded in order to announce to the world their trustworthiness with respect to not letting their cargo out anywhere in Canada or picking up additional cargo in Canada that is not covered by the bond).  'No!' said they each, one and all.

We got involved when the idea was to bring them over in the helicopter.  But we didn't turn out to be much more useful than the border or bonding people.  It's a pretty small helicopter and it was clear that all three goats could not go at once; indeed, it seemed to involve three separate trips from Semiahmoo.  Which gets to be a little pricey in the helicopter rental world.

So, our friends ended up bringing them over in their boat, which is normally in Salt Spring.  That meant a boat trip from Salt Spring to Blaine; a simultaneous car trip from P.R. to Blaine to pick up the goats; then an overnight on the (small but covered) boat with the three goats keeping the two people nice and warm; followed by a car trip back to P.R. along with a boat trip from Blaine across Boundary Bay to the Marina.  On a couple of cloudy and rainy days with anything but a clear wind and a following sea.  A very large effort went into bringing these ladies over to be among us.

Although the goats had never had the opportunity for ocean travel before, they weathered it well, I am told, except for the rough parts on the boat which brought out some concern among them.  Baaaaaaa!   (They were traveling in large dog crates, offered up on loan, ever so kindly, by readers of Point Interface, where a request had been published a day or so ago.)  The boat driver took a longer, slower tack in order to reduce the goats' distress, and just as we arrived at the marina, there they were getting off, immigrants to a new life, apparently as happy as goats could possibly get.

Really cute ladies: all under a year; all as soft as down; all smelling a little goaty, but then what can you expect from a goat?  Friendly, lively, soft and kind of cuddly if you don't think too much about their hooves.    They'll be living down on the west side of the Point on the beach, so they can look out and remember their big adventure.

And the next step, the new owners report, is to find a llama to guard them from coyotes  So, if you know a responsible llama with a passport who's interested in travel and an adventurous life, get in touch.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Not Fit for Duty

Turns out to be a damaged tendon, not a break, but it still means that I have an invasive splint  in everything I try to do.  Grr!

Yesterday, we had scheduled a day off quite independent of the finger adventure, so in the morning we set off brightly for Steveston up in Greater Vancouver where they keep a series of large, linked buildings to keep us endlessly entertained.  This entertainment manifests itself primarily in about 18 movie theatres, including an Imax Theatre.  We had presented us there in the morning so that we could spend $28 in order to add to the coffers of James Cameron’s production company, or whoever is collecting those stunning profits—first movie ever to gross $1 billion on its first weekend out. That would be Avatar.

I’ve never seen a Cameron movie that I thought much of, so my being there was a dubious venture, but both the New York Times and The New Yorker produced pretty positive reviews; even more than positive.  Ed was persuaded, and I’m capable of being a good sport in such adventures, and I’ve always kind of liked Imax pics.

So there we were, at 11:30 in the morning, in a theatre with a screen about 100 feet high in an auditorium that seats 260 people in about 12 very wide rows with very little knee space, very steeply arranged.  Only seats available are singles up in the middle of the back row.  We slog over half the people in the row, settle in, and the movie starts quickly.

Big beginning.  As usual in Imax, lots of swooping around.  Normally, this swooping makes me a little woozy, but then I quickly accommodate to it. Unfortunately, with the added 3-D effect, no settling happened, and I was getting dizzy, nauseous, scared.  Here I was packed into the theatre, by myself, unable—as a practical matter--to get out in the dark through the narrow passageway available to me, and feeling sicker by the second.

The only response seemed to be to stop looking.  So, I simply closed my eyes.  Every ten minutes or so, I’d try opening my eyes, but the wooziness came right back.  After a couple of these efforts, I gave up and kept them shut, resigning myself to just sitting with my eyes closed in a dark, crowded, and astonishingly noisy space for a couple of hours.  Only later did I discover that it was a 2 ¾ hour movie.

 I could follow a lot of what was going on, of course, just by listening, and sometime during the second hour I began to be able to tell from the music whether there was going to be a lot of movement if I opened my eyes.  In that latter part of the movie, there were quite a few quiet parts, so I got to see some of the advertised techno-marvels, along with lots of profoundly sappy dialog.  But the moment big moves started again, my stomach again rose up in protest.

Eventually it was over, and I could get out, though none too steady on my feet.  And now, I have to come to grips with the fact that I am no longer able to participate in the next glorious advance in movies.  That’s what reviewers are saying about Avatar.  I spent lots of years in Los Angeles, the home of the serious moviegoer.  And now it’s gone right by me.  It’s not enough that I’m old; it’s not enough that I live in a strangely isolated place; it’s not enough that we don’t have cell phone reception.  Now I can’t even watch a movie.

One good outcome, though.  Granted, my assessment of this movie would have to come with some serious disclaimers, but I do think that, by comparison, Cameron's Titanic looks like Shakespeare at its best.  My granddaughter reviews it more concisely: “A Remake of Pocahontas.”  Although with much bigger weapons, I'd say.  And, at the end, the U.S, troops go sadly home in defeat, as in Vietnam.  And also, though said to have an antiwar message, the big fun of the movie is clearly all the shooting of stuff¸ including the ‘indians,’ as opposed to the love story between what appears to be a couple of those 60’s Walter Keene big-eyed kids, now grown up and turned blue, with subtle striping.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


i seem to have broken my finger just a bit ago, so there won't be much writing until i get it stabilized...

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Coyotes very active today up here in the center parts of Point Roberts.  I don’t hear them all that often, and usually it is in the summertime.  But today, there have been repeated periods of call and response.  Omens of some kind, doubtless, but we’ve lost the ability to know what they’re trying to tell us.

And reasonably warm today, too.  Maybe that’s what they’re howling about.  The bushes are showing alarming signs of swelling buds.  ‘Wait,’ I want to tell them, ‘You’ve got all of January still to get through.’  But maybe they, like the coyotes, know something we don’t.  We did see, coming through Vancouver a few days ago a row of four trees in bloom--pink flowers--in front of the condos down on English Bay, right near the entrance to the Burrard St. Bridge.  And there are daffodils showing their leaf tips over at the Community Center, here in Point Roberts.  Well, we’ll see.

Other things we are seeing about:

1. According to the business news, the FDIC (the part of the federal government that is in charge of bank closings, among other things) is said to be getting serious with Sterling Financial Corp., the parent company of Sterling Savings Bank.  Sterling is said to have less than two months to get a plan together to get its business, as it were, back on track.  So we’ll be hearing more about that as February comes to a close.  In the meantime, two or three more legal firms have announced that they’re trolling for participants in a class action suit against the company.  The FDIC has been on a vacation as far as closing banks is concerned, but they’ll be back in that business next week.  It is also reported that they’re hiring a lot of new, but temporary, workers to help them in that sad activity.

2. The WUTC held its public hearing on Pt. Roberts' trash issues on the 29th, although earlier in the day than originally scheduled.  I suppose it occurred to them that it wasn’t difficult enough for people from Point Roberts to get down to Olympia for this hearing to find out what they think, so they re-scheduled it to 9:300 a.m.  A veritable red-eye trip.

In any case, they had the hearing, and attendance appeared minimal, at least as far as the ‘Sign-In Sheet’ revealed.  At the end of whatever happened, the Commission requested the staff to get some information for them (not a moment too soon, I’d say) as to Whatcom County’s actual trash/recycling plan, the Commission’s staff’s analysis of that plan, the State of Washington’s views on the status of Freedom 2000, and the (I assume) federal Dept. of Transportation’s view on the status of Freedom 2000 with respect to licensure  (12/31, 'notice of bench requests' at the link).

And within less than 48 hours, the state responded ('response' 12/31, at the link; now there’s a bureaucracy that’s performing at top speed; kudos to them) by announcing that they had dissolved the company (i.e., Freedom 2000) on December 1, 2009, because of the company’s failure to complete various paperwork required of such companies in order to be recognized by the state.  That would be 28 days BEFORE the public hearing on whether Freedom 2000, the company, should be awarded the opportunity to collect our trash and recycling. 

A friend asks, ‘So, where does that leave us now?’  Good question.  Freedom 2000 is no longer a company, apparently, and Points Recycling and Refuse, the Wilkowsky contestant, is offering to do less than the County says is to be done.  I would think that figuring this out would take, oh, maybe another 30 days?  Stay in touch.  Or maybe just howl.

Update:  On January 4, Freedom 2000 filed reinstatement papers, including fees, etc.  So, presumably it's back in business.  Link here.

Friday, January 1, 2010

And in with the New

Yes, the fabulous New Year's Day has come upon us, to be celebrated this evening with a bottle of champagne that we forgot to open, and a dinner featuring half of a turkey-breast that I slow-cooked in our very small slow cooker.  Perhaps I should have added the champagne to the turkey, though it did not lack for good taste and an abundance of moistness, which rates five stars in my book.

  It was very quiet here last night at midnight, but it often is very quiet here, so I don't take it to mean that we are not looking forward to a new year, and particularly looking forward to a new decade that might have more cheer in it than the last one did.  Of course, the last had lots of cheer: think of all the babies born, the college graduations, the first drivers licenses, weddings, terrific vacations, and all that personal stuff, but of course I was thinking more of the public setting and the trials therein (and for some people--john Yoo, we're thinking of you--the lack of trials therein).

On that front, I suppose we could all sit down and resolve to have a better public life this next year, but I don't exactly know how we would achieve that.  "I resolve that more people will not only think about the things that I think about, but will think about them in the same way and come to the same conclusions that I come to."  Nice, maybe even Utopian, or maybe just plain silly.  We live, we disagree, and nothing I can resolve, no regimen I can pursue, is going to change that.

Making successful new year resolutions perhaps requires that they be exquisitely and exclusively personal.  Then, if you don't do your own part (the only part there is), it is clear where there has been something lacking. 
My own commitment in this respect has been with exercise.  In the spring and summer, gardening can pass for exercise--often actually really truly is exercise, and I end some hours exhausted--and there are enough pleasant days that walking is regularly and easily available to me still if I want a little more feeling of doing something south of my neck.  In the winter, even in the late fall, not so much.  The garden doesn't need me, and the rain discourages me, and the gray days make me think it's already evening and too late for walking.  Not to mention the fact that it's so dark in the morning that 10 a.m. seems an extremely early start.

However, for the new year, I took it in my mind to return to an earlier enthusiasm for riding a stationary bicycle.  I'm not entirely sure that I could successfully, which is to say safely, ride any other kind of bike any longer.  Once in my mind, though, I took to actually doing it.  I started cautiously at ten minutes.  Boring but successful.  Then, each day (with the help of the CBC) the past ten days (with Christmas Day off for good behavior), I added a minute, and by yesterday, I was up to 20 minutes.

At this rate, and if the gardening chores in spring don't take me off my glide path, by next Christmas, I will be able to ride my stationary bicycle for almost six hours every day.  Well, it's something to think about, although perhaps not to aspire to.