hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

A brand-new quilt to warm me in our sudden wintry weather.  It is made of a big array of fabrics, many of them supplied to me by my excellent quilting colleagues in the Point Roberts Quilt Group.  The fabrics include cottons, velvet, velveteen, raw silk, necktie silk, linen, wool, voile, flannel, satin, taffeta, rayon, and corduroy.  Machine-pieced, hand-embroidered along all the seams, hand-quilted next to all the seams.  This is my idea of what 19th Century crazy quilters would have done if they'd lived in the 21st Century with the vast array of fabrics that we have access to nowadays.

Also a gift for New Years Eve, the two best movies I've seen this year: 'The Footnote' (an Israeli film about fathers and sons and the ways they compete-among many other subjects'', and "A Separation,' an Iranian film about the complexities of being Iranian in the current climate.  And the two best books I've read this year: both by British novelist, Hilary Mantel, and both winners of the Booker Prize (2011, 2012): 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring Up the Bodies."  I waited about a year to read the earlier one because I'm not usually a big fan of historical novels.  But these just have the form of historical novels: they are as contemporary as they could be.  Read them and learn what the residents of the D.C. Corridor know and we out here don't.

And may we all look forward to a good new year, although all of us are bound to be disappointed now and then.  But spring will come and be heartbreakingly beautiful and summer will come and we will be surprised once again that every day in July and August is sunny and warm.  Why does that happen every year?  How fortunate we are to live in a place that is spectacularly welcoming most of the year.  And in the cold, grey times, we can have a red quilt to keep us in brightness and warmth.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

We Bought them, But Why?

One of the many purchases announced by the new fire chief at the last meeting is a quartet of artificial external defibrillators.  My understanding from previous conversations with the chief is that there were already four such AED's on the Point, including at Lighthouse Park and the Community Center.  The purpose of the AED is to improve the survival chances of an individual suffering an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: it's essentially a portable electric shock to the heart machine in order to restore a stable rhythmn.  In such a situation, the first thing to do is call 911, then begin CPR and then after a series of CPR cyles, use the AED.  The AED won't work with all cardiac arrests: only if the cause is ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia.  But, in those instances, it can be helpful if 8 minutes haven't already passed before it is applied.

Now, the unfortunate fact is that chances of survival in an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are not very good, regardless of what is done.  That's largely because if emergency treatment is going to work, it needs to be done within 8 minutes.  Alas, 85% of all cardiac arrests occur within private homes and its easy to imagine (especially here) that those 8 minutes might pass pretty quickly before an emergency response is on the scene.

When the AED's were first put on the market there was a lot of enthusiasm for them, but over time, research has shown that their effectiveness is pretty limited.  If you put them in the hands of trained EMTs or paramedics or nurses in clinics, they're reasonably useful, pretty cost-effective.  They're not terribly expensive: about $1,000/unit, but you have to train all the individuals who are likely to be using to use them, you have to maintain them, etc.  All time, and thus money consuming items.

Over the past ten years, with a lot of experience, the technology assessment researchers have made it pretty clear where these devices should be placed in the public arena: only at public sites with large populations (where it is likely that the device will occasionally be needed).  For example, they site sports arenas and casinos as examples of such places.  They do not suggest that local libraries, or small unattended parks, or local grocery stores (where one of our newest AED's is destined to call its home) are good locales.  In fact, they specifically say they are not.

Strangely, the cumulative judgment of our past and present fire chief is that there should be such devices at the Community Center, the International Marketplace, and Lighthouse Park.  How about the Wellness Clinic?  Tiny population, but at least people who might be trained to use them.  I'd be interested in knowing what was the rate of cardiac arrest at the clinic in its ten years of existence.  The Sheriff's Deputies are to have them: are they responding to 911 cardiac arrest calls instead of the Fire Dept. EMT's now?

Where is the responsibility for good judgment in such decisions?  With the Fire Commissioners who seem only to rubber-stamp the Chief's already-made purchases by approving the warrants?  With the Chief who is doing the planning and buying?  Got me.  Maybe nobody.

If you are interested in reading the Province of Ontario's Technology Assessment of the appropriateness of AED's, it's here.  Maybe the Commissioners and the Fire Chief should be the ones reading it.  Is the effectiveness of all the technology that is available to them an issue in their decisions about how to spend public funds?  Or is the only relevant fact that such technology is around to be bought, is fun to have, and sounds good when they describe it:  "Life-Saving," for example.  Maybe not so much.  Just money spending.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Check Your Gold & Silver Supply, Folks

Unfortunately, one of the proponents of this crazy action is our very own state legislative representative Jason Overstreet.  I don't know what it is we have done to deserve such a representative but those who voted for him might want to check their mirrors.  Unless, of course, you are of the opinion that we need to be trading dollars made of gold and silver because they, of course, have real value, whereas paper backed by nothing more important than the U.S. government, the most powerful country in the world, is clearly fraudulent and worthless.

Do they have nothing better to do while drawing a paycheck provided by the people of the state of Washington?  Aux barricades!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

There Is a Cat

A cat arrived at our house two weeks ago on trial.  One of our cat consultants arranged for us to try out this cat (and, perhaps, this cat to try us out) without the kind of personal interview that we might again fail or might, perhaps worse, lie our way through.  So the cat is here.

For the first ten days, I practically never saw her. She quickly moved upstairs under our bed and after a few days discovered there was a closet she could get into and retreat equally thoroughly.  When under the bed, Ed would lie on the floor next to her.  More philosophical, I incline toward the view that should she ever want to know me, she will come out from under the bed to the downstairs where mostly I am.

And over time, she has made herself slightly more apparent.  She clearly appreciates Ed having made the effort on her behalf and looks for him when she is downstairs, although she does spot me as the one who will get her food in the early morning when I am up and he is not.

She's uninclined to be held although doesn't mind being petted as long as all four of her feet are on the floor.  She miaows with information, but I rarely know what information she is seeking.  Around 11 pm, she comes downstairs and stands in front of me and says, 'miaew.'  If i don't get up, she walks toward the stairs, looks back at me, and says, 'miaew,' again: a gentle sound.  If I do get up, she shepherds me toward and up the stairs, as if to say, "Time for us all to go to bed." And so we do.

But she repeats this behavior the following morning at 8 am, after her breakfast.  She goes back to bed but we don't.

She is four-years-old and of a tortoise shell appearance.  Mostly she looks like a dark-colored owl with an orange scarf and too many legs.  Name of Zoe.

Three guests came for Christmas and she hasn't been seen since.  Under the bed, in the closet.  In retirement.  Giving new meaning to the descriptor 'indoor cat'--deeply indoors.

I think the cat stays.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Many Christmas Parties

We've been invited to a bunch of Christmas/Solstice/Holiday parties this year and happy to be/have been in attendance.  I was talking with someone last night about how parties in one's somewhat younger days were so much centered on everyone drinking a lot and staying very late; and then there was a phase when we had dinner parties in which a lot of women knocked themselves out cooking foods that were not part of their native cuisine.  But now, we are older, and we are more sedate, and we have a few snacks and a little eggnog or something lightly alcoholic, and sit about and talk about the Fire District or about library fundraising or gun control.  Are We Getting More Fun All The Time?  I guess so.

So, maybe it's time to think up at least one fun topic per party?  At today's, I think i will insist that everyone--at their convenience-- take the necessary 4 minutes to look at the most widely viewed youtube of all time, featuring PSY doing the horse dance in 'Gangnam Style.'  That would be here.  Now at 1 billion-127-million viewers.

Or, maybe I'll offer an alternative: Henri, le Chat Noir.  Henri is an existentialist cat and famous on the internet: he regrets nothing.  If you haven't seen him (or even if you have), be sure to catch his new video, 'The Worst Noel.'  Only a hundred thousand viewers so far, but moving up.

And those are my Christmas gifts to readers, as well.  Thanks for coming by.  I hope you, too, regret nothing, or better yet, having nothing to regret.

Update: a friend writes with the following link if you want to learn to dance gangnam style by doing the horse dance.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

No Floods Yet

Happily, the predicted high tide and big winds from the south did not materialize on Monday and we escaped the flooding on Maple Beach that is likely under those circumstances.  I need to ask the Community Advisory people if the County has studied what could be done to keep the sea wall from being breached under those circumstances.  It's not a large area that floods, but it will happen time and again with high tides and winds from the south.  Surely, somebody down in Bellingham has thought about this and has a reason for why no abatement exists?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Garden Club At It Again

This photo doesn't do their work justice, though.  It's more like a quick exemplar.  What they have done is brought in a lot of soil/mulch/something very dark and good looking; planted in a gracegul grouping at least seven goodly-sized rhododendrons with maybe some small azaleas or other low bushes around them; and set them off with large boulders.  You can see examples of each in the picture.

It makes me long for spring even more just to see how lovely it will all be: the radiant color of grouped rhodos, azaleas and spring bulbs after the long grey fall, winter, and early spring.  You certainly have to notice about the garden club that they know how to GET THINGS DONE.

And I see that there is yet another big mound of that dark soil, so perhaps there is more yet to come.  We all owe them a vote of thanks for using their time and energy and vision to make all of our lives more beautiful.  Gardening is a lot of work and the members do it themselves and I think they pay for their materials with the money they make on the garden tour.  It is a great act of generosity, a great and lasting gift to Point Roberts that is and that will be.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Total Arrogance Program--But No Information

Last night, the Fire District's Terrible Twosome provided us with yet another demonstration of why no one should ever vote for them and why they should never have been elected in the first place.  And that it should arise in the context of the Pledge of Allegiance only adds to the bizarreness of their actions.

What happened was this.  Commissioner Wilmot brought to the meeting a U.S. Flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol and suggested that the District begin its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance: a practice, he said, that was followed in many fire districts in the U.S.  The Terrible Two were simply flummoxed by such a suggestion, with Meursing pointing out that he was opposed to the idea because it wasn't required and This District did what it wanted, and Riffle vamping for time with a bold declaration that "[he] appreciates [Mr. Wilmot's] approval of America, but..."  (But he, himself, doesn't share this approval? )  Then, Wilmot's suggestion was tabled while, at least in Riffle's view, someone would investigate what other fire districts do.  Who would do this investigating was not established, because 'tabling' is what the twosome do when they want things to go away and stay away.

Then, Wilmot simply stood up and began to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, while the half-dozen meeting attendees joined in, and Riffle and Meursing remained speechless (or voiceless, anyway).  What an opening act!

And then the meeting turned to serious business.  Now that the Commissioners have given the Fire Chief full access to the Fire District's more than ample budget,   the spending has begun.  Last month's invoices for office furniture, carpet cleaning, printing, more equipment upgrades, more equipment and then some more equipment, added up to almost $53,000 in shopping.  The Chief, of course, has hired 11 new firefighters and they must be dressed right and all that.  Soon, we will have a firefighting department on a par with Blaine (four times the population, twice the geographical area).  I recall the days not long ago when the Libertarians of P.R. were admiring Commissioner Meursing's commitment to saving the taxpayers' moneys.  Where are they now?  Not attending these meetings, I'm afraid.

To add to the overall ambience on general incompetence, Mr. Riffle attended only by telephone (he wasn't at the local kids' holiday performance, I assure you).  The telephone connection didn't work because Riffle could never hear very well and then the connection was interrupted by the amplified sound of dialing repeatedly from the phone (who was dialing and where was not investigated).  While all this went on, the Assistant Fire Chief (new shirt with his name and title embroidered on it--more new equipment?) was moving the phone around the room constantly in hopes of giving Riffle a chance of knowing what he was or was not voting for and against.  I would think that if there is a possibility that there will be other meetings in the future with telephonic attendance (and there will be because the twosome cannot allow a meeting in which they are not able to outvote Mr. Wilmot), there will be a serious need for some serious new equipment.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Christmas Spirit

There has been a certain pleasantness in not dwelling upon the Fire District's affairs of the past few weeks but today a notice arrived that they would be meeting again this Wednesday at 7 p.m.  Their normal meeting time is the second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., but they also have numerous 'special' meetings on other Wednesdays, and meetings at other times of the day on various Wednesdays or even other days in order to suit their own varied schedules.

Thus, it appeared that they might be open to a little modification since their meeting conflicted with the Elementary School's Christmas Program, one of the very well-attended events on the Point each year.  The kids practice for weeks, volunteers as well as teachers help with costumes and music and dramatic arts. It's a big deal.  I would be very sorry to miss it;  indeed, I have not missed it in all the years I have lived here.

So, when someone wrote the Commissioners an email inquiring whether there could be some leeway to hold the meeting at a different day or time (e.g., starting on Wednesday at 8, an hour later than the usual time and after the kids' show was over), I was pretty impressed by the Ebenezer Scrooge-style response from Commissioner Riffle:

"Your thoughts are welcome........However we are a County commission and have to schedule our regular meetings annually  by law. The primary school has the liberty of scheduling whenever. Let them change."

And let them eat cake while they're at it.

Mr. Meursing and Mr. Riffle frequently remind local residents that if we write to them, anything we say is a public record.  I'm happy to assume that anything they write back is also a public record because Mr. Meursing, too, wanted to convey his good wishes to those of us requesting a little flexibility on their parts:

"What in heavens does it take for you and your buddies to adapt some
flexibility in your lives....live and let live comes to mind
immediately....Stan is absolutely correct regarding the meeting schedule,
there is protocol to be followed and that is what this commission is
doing....life is full of choices, and it seems some of you will have to
pursue this on Wednesday....good luck....bill m"

And then, in case we hadn't understood his message, he followed up with a second one:

"Grow up children, there are other folks to be considered.....the time and date stand and will not be changed....bill m..."

God bless us, Every One!" said Tiny Tim.

And if you're around the Point and not going to the kid's Christmas program, you might drop in at the Firehall this Wednesday at 7 pm so someone will be keeping an eye on those two to let us know whether they are being naughty or nice.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Brief Word on Nexus

Wednesday past, we dropped in on Nexus on our way to Bellingham in order to see if we could get a walk-in appointment.  It didn't matter because, once you've been approved and have made an appointment (even if it is four months from now), your old card has shelf-life that lasts until the actual appointment.  But we thought it would be nice to get it over with.

So we rolled in about an hour before we actually had to be in B'ham for a doctor appointment.  A nice enough guy took all our papers and told us he had no idea how long the wait would be.  Forty minutes later we asked for our papers back and went on down to the hospital.  On our way out, another nice guy told us that 3:30 is the best time to show up for a walk-in.  This is because most appointments (scheduled for 15 minutes) take less than 15 minutes, and most appointees come in early, so they are ahead of themselves by 3:30.

Thus, around 4 pm, we returned to the Nexus office on our way back to the Point, turned over our papers again, and waited about a half hour.  Then with our passports, driver's licenses, and approval letter in hand, the agent--a talky guy--took our photos and our finger prints, gave us a stern lecture about how, if we ever violated a single rule in even the slightest manner, he and his colleagues would take our Nexus cards away forever.  And enforcement is strict and absolute.  And there is no purgatory where your sins can be worked off.  Etc.  Among the rules he particularly impressed upon us were (1) having anything that belongs to anyone else in the car when we are using the Nexus lane.  "That means, Ed, if you cross alone and Judy's jacket is in the car, YOU will LOSE your NEXUS."  Ed inquired as to what about things that belong to both of us.  "According to Nexus rules, NOTHING belongs to both of you; it either belongs to one of you or to the other."

Ed inquired about the jumper cables.  "Those belong to the car," sayeth the Agent.  I forgot to inquire about laundry; e.g, if you (or I) were on the way to the laundromat in Tsawwassen.  The laundry is my job, so I think it's MY laundry.  On the other hand, if it's my job, i can't take it in the Nexus lane because it is commercial property.  On the other hand, I don't get paid for doing the laundry, so is it really commercial?  Just as well not to discuss it, I suspect.  It only makes them look confused or wishy-washy, and particularly washy.

In addition, we were never, ever, not even occasionally, or once, let someone without a Nexus walk through the border while we with our Nexuses drove through the border.  Even if there was nothing in the car belonging to that walking person.  Never.  Will. Your. Nexus. Card. Be. Yours. Again.  There was no explanation for this rule.  Only consequences.

So we walked out with the information ringing in our ears that our new cards would arrive in 8-10 days in mail that looked like junk mail so be sure to open everything that arrives.  What could you say to that?

Also, there are two new signs in the waiting area.  The first?  DO NOT MOVE THE CHAIRS.  The second?  DO NOT TOUCH THE TV CONTROLS.  Got the message?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas Begins!

This weekend was the Point Roberts Christmas Craft Fair.  Along with the general Canadian need for packages, gas, and dairy/poultry goods, the border situation became only more awful with terrible lineups, I am told.  I wasn't going outside the country this weekend, however, because I was raising money for the library selling donated handmade goods to one and all.

The Community Center was unusually well decorated: many, many silver balls hanging from the ceiling of the hallway on long ribbons, and a general profusion of  red and green decorations, interspersed with many white features bringing out the Icelandic Christmas theme.

Lots of people buying; lots of things to buy; lots of edibles; lots of musical performers (singers, guitarists, ensembles of various sorts, including a brass one).  And all in the service of saying welcome to the holidays of December.

Think good thoughts!  Give good will!  God Bless Us, Every One.  And if you are thinking of making a year-end donation to the library, keep up the good work.  And, next, actually write that check and drop it off at the library.  Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Nexus Outdoes Itself! More or Less.

After warning us that Nexus renewals required action on our part three months in advance, the chiefs in Vermont who run Nexus have informed us, after only two weeks have passed since we filled out our renewal applications, that we have both been provisionally approved pending an interview.  We are to request an interview within 30 days of receiving news of this provisional approval.  Until we complete the interview, we can use our expiring Nexus Cards.  Excellent Work, Nexus!

Next step is to schedule an interview.  The first interview slot available at Blaine is toward the end of March, some four months from now.  Although, they tell us on the phone, we can just drop in at our convenience in advance of that time and see if they can fit us in.  It's not a viable business model and it's not a viable governing model.  It does seem to be the reigning Global War on Terror model, though...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Interviewing Cat, Part VII, a Conclusion of Sorts

About an hour after we returned home, we received a call from our cat consultant, asking if she could come by and explain or discuss a few things.  I don't exactly remember what verb she used, but it was something like one of those.  It stirred no warning signs for me, however.  She's a wonderful person and I'm always happy to see her.

She arrived, sat down, and started by explaining that she had called the shelter and talked to the person in charge and there were a few problems.  "First," she said, '"You probably filled out the form a little too truthfully, and raised alarms by saying you would return the cat if you were allergic to it.  And....by other things."

Apparently the biting, the vomiting were not good.  It suggested that we didn't know that cats sometimes bite, sometimes vomit and, when they happened inevitably, would be so appalled we would immediately drive the cat back into the Shelter's arms.  Further, our somewhat flippant comment that we would return the cat if we both died was not taken well.  Perhaps we might have better responded that one of our children would take the cat on.

And the reluctance to make the drive back to the shelter to pay the fee...Well, we didn't seem all that cooperative, you know?  The bottom line? Well, the nice cat was not going to be coming to live with us.

And so, for the moment, we have given up interviewing cats because there are other projects that need our attention.  I could send to the Shelter our C.V.'s, reputable people could go and plead our case, perhaps we could persuade the cat itself to speak on our behalf.  Or perhaps not.

I continue to believe that somewhere, out there, the grey cat named Charles is making his way toward us.  We await his arrival hopefully.  But, I must say, I had not expected this project to be so difficult.  I would have thought that, compared to obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new library, obtaining a cat would be a piece of cake.  You live, you learn...

(The end of Interviewing Cats, at least for now.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Interviewing Cats, Part VI

I return from grocery tasks with a blue litter box.  There were no other colors, but I hope it doesn't matter.  Not clear to me whether cats even see color.  When I get back to the pet store, Ed is already there, having managed another round with the cat, and now conducting the 'adoption' business.  He has persuaded Maya to get the Shelter (it turns out to be the same one that we went to the previous week) to fax their forms to her, have us fill them out, and then she will fax them back to the shelter.  And then we will pay the fee and take the cat home.

We are filling out the forms--an odd lot of questions, I think--when Maya returns with the information that the Shelter does not allow the pet store to take the fee that goes to the Shelter for the cat.  The Shelter says we must drive there and pay the fee in person.

What could possibly be the reason for such a demand?  Do they not trust the pet store?  (They trust it with the cat but not with the money for the cat?)  I don't get it; Ed doesn't get it.  But more to the point, the car has about 4 tablespoons of gas and I'm not buying gas in Canada for $7/gallon when I can buy it a few blocks away in the U.S. for $4/gallon.  More critically, I've got a meeting in a half-hour and by the time the meeting is over, the Shelter will be closed.

Me, I just defer to the irrational demands of the world most of the time, but Ed is more inclined to believe that humans can be persuaded by reason.  He urges Maya to call the Shelter so he can talk to them and offer them some reasonable alternatives.  They are not, however, in the business of being persuaded of anything.  And now, one of those perky young women at the desk tells him, there are others who have asked to adopt this cat.  (Ahhhh, it is to be a contest?  Is it Let's Make a Deal?  Or is it Lotto?  Why does Maya not know this?)  And somehow, this feeds, in Shelter-hive mind, into why we have to drive back there to pay the fee.  Even Ed gives up.  He will drive there the following day with the fee and he will then pick up the cat at the pet store on his way back home.

Meanwhile, we complete the forms.  Beyond the obvious questions, there is a strange series of question about returning the cat.  Under what circumstances would we return the cat, they want to know, and offer us the following choices: vomiting, scratching, biting, sleeping, allergies, etc.  (I don't have the form before me so I am doing my best to remember the specific words.)  We address these questions seriously.  'Well," I say to Ed, "if the cat is vomiting all the time, and it doesn't have some illness that can be treated, then I'd return it as having been misrepresented as a normal/healthy cat."  He circles vomiting.  "Biting," I remember.  "We don't want a biting cat, so if they don't tell me the cat bites and it takes to biting constantly, then the cat has been misrepresented to me, so I would return it."  He adds a comment to the allergies section, noting that I have had occasions of allergy with cats, but it is not my usual experience.  Nevertheless, if  I developed an asthmatic reaction to the cat, I would have to return it.

As a final question about returning the cat, we are invited to consider any other possible circumstances in which we would return the cat.  "Well," I say, "If we both die, then we'd have to return the cat."  Ed writes it down.  And the final question on the page asks for a reference, presumably someone who would recommend us as a cat owner.  We put down the name of one of our cat consultants who will be known to the Shelter people.  We assume they will know her phone number as we do not have it with us.

Maya goes away to fax this response to the Shelter, and we go home with our blue litter box, taking the time to bid the cat a fond adieu before parting, and promising Maya that we will be back tomorrow.  When we get home, we call the cat consultant whose name we had used for a reference to tell her what had transpired, and awaited the morrow.

(The end of Interviewing Cats, Part VI)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cat Interviewing, Part V

We recover from this disappointment.  The cat was greyish and looked like it would be willing to change its name to Charles.  Perhaps it will work out later.  I email my multiple consultants.  They reply with advice about how to care for a cat with such problems.  They are not too discouraging; they propose care that is not too demanding upon the owners (that is to say, us).  They say, wait and see.

Although, by contrast, one writes to advise us that there is a pretty nice cat in a local pet shop.  By local, I mean a nearby town in British Columbia, because we have very few local shops of any sort and certainly no local pet shops here in Point Roberts.  We make plans to visit the pet store the next time we go cross the border.

A few days later, we do have plans to cross the border and we drop in at the pet shop.  Ed is immediately charmed by the cat (who also has some dopey and disrespectful name).  He's a very big cat, 4 or 5 years old, grey and brown (clearly not the grey cat from the dream, but perhaps the grey cat has gone to live with someone else?).  He climbs all over you, hangs on to your shoulders, purrs, appears to be doing whatever is possible to say, "I'm yours!  Make a deal!"

The shop worker, a beautiful young woman named Maya has had considerable experience with this cat and assures us that if she didn't already have several cats, she would keep this one. (Or maybe that's what they always say about all the cats, even the biters?)  We are enthusiastic about this cat, but I have to go to the grocery store before I take on a cat.  It seems unkind to initiate a cat adoption by leaving the cat alone in a car while I go grocery shopping.  We assure Maya that we will be back in a bit to spirit the cat a way.  She says, "Great!" and we are reassured by her.  She will contact the shelter that actually is responsible for this cat and get the paperwork started.  It does not occur to us that a warning light has just gone on.  Clueless, we walk away to conduct our chores, now adding to them the obtaining of a litter box.

(The end of Cat Interviewing, Part V)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cat Interviewing, Part IV

A week has passed without any cats crossing my path.  Then, I get a call from another knowledgeable friend/consultant that we might try one of the B.C. animal shelters.  She gives us a link to its website.  It has pictures of cats, she adds.  I look at the site; I look at the pictures.  Well, there they are, each with a name more disrespectful than the next, in my view.  They are called "Pounce" and "Scratchy" and "Inkblot" and "Boots." These are names largely like tribal names (which might actually be appropriate if the tribe had bestowed them, but it is instead the humans who are bestowing them as if the cat could be reduced to its appearance or a single behavior).  Alternatively, these are the kind of names given to the seven dwarves, and not as a gesture of respect.

Since I am a human taking this fur animal into my culture, I tend to look at them, look deep into their eyes, and over time I am able to discern their essential name, and their essential name will have to be, largely in human form because that is the language I speak.  Thus, the cat will be understood, e.g., to be named Howard, which in Cat is pronounced Hoosfoos, say.  You could also just name and call the cat Hoosfoos if you wanted to advertise your bilingual skill, but most of us are unsure of how to know OR pronounce cats' real names in Cat.  So, if we are careful, we will just name the cat Howard.

I look at the site, Ed looks at the site.  He finds favorites; I am suspicious as to (a) what I can discern from a photo and (b) how much of the puff piece written to accompany the picture is true.  I am willing to wait until an interview is conducted and I can have some first-hand knowledge.

We drive to the shelter, borders and miles away.  A perky young person sends us to the cat rooms to do the interviewing.  Ed inquires about one of his pictorial favorites, but that cat has been sent out to a petstore for better showing, I guess.  Some cat rooms have loose cats, some have cats in tiered metal cages.  It feels a little more like visiting a prison (my only experience with that would be from the movies) than I expected.  We visit the cages and Ed takes a cat out of the cage even though a sign says "Do not put your hands in the cages."  He holds him, pets him.  The cat is cheerful enough but does not purr, Ed reports.  I look at and read about the other cats.  I do not put my hands in the cages.

Mostly, I don't know quite what to do with the cat information.  That it appeared without identification: should I be concerned about this?  Would it be a more reliable/friendly/ healthy cat if it had a microchip or a tattoo or a wallet with ID? (Some seem to have these ID's, but if that is so, why is the cat in the shelter?  Well, there are a million stories in the naked city, so why not in an cat shelter?)  None of the signs say things like, "This cat will bite you as soon as look at you."  One cat is identified as feral, so I strike it off my mental list.

We visit the loose cats (2 of them) in a room with many cat toys.  Ed plays with them, using a fishing rod with feathers attached.  They carry on with the feathers as if they were birds.  I have played with toy-like stuff with kittens (stuff hanging from strings, paper bags), but I never did with grown up cats.  I would have thought adults cats were beyond that sort of thing.  That they could spot the difference between a bunch of feathers on a string and a bird.

But this is now.  My guess is that cats nowadays, like children, have much higher expectations about their needs and their equipment.  That they tend not to go outside to catch real birds and thus do not, indeed, know the difference.  I begin to make a mental list of what we will need for a cat: special beds, toys, blankets, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, clothing, etc.  Something beyond food and water dishes and a litter box.  I make a mental note to ask one of my consultants about cat needs in the 21st Century.

The interview ends after we have both sat with, held, petted, and talked to the cats.  We settle on the older of the loose cats; he is big and grey.  I am a little hesitant because he seems to prefer me to Ed, which is clearly a sign of bad judgment on the cat's part.  I appreciate cats, but I will largely express that appreciation by providing necessary food and care and by talking to them.  Ed will hold them, pet them, roll around with them if they like that sort of thing.  He is enormously more fun than I am.  This cat does not seem instantly to notice this difference between us.  But this cat is perhaps somewhat institutionalized and will be clearer when back in the real world.  At least that is what I think.

We go to the perky girl at the entrance and announce we will be happy to adopt this cat.  She gives us a somewhat disappointed look.  "Oh, I'm sorry, but that cat just came back from vet's and she has a bladder problem and will need special food and treatment and if she recovers well then she could be adopted.  But if she doesn't recover from that, she will need a $2,000 surgery and it doesn't seem fair to stick you with that."  No, it doesn't.  She's definitely right about that.

"Call back in a week or two and we'll know more," she advises us.  We leave and make the half hour drive including border crossings back to Point Roberts to our cat-less home.  Which is OK, at least for now.

(The end of Interviewing Cats, Part IV)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Interviewing Cats, Part III

We got to a street that I've never been on in Point Roberts.  It puzzles me that I could have lived in such a tiny place for almost 20 years and still find myself on streets that I've never seen.  'Don't get around much, anymore,' must be my theme song.

We knock, a nice lady opens the door, explains the situation with the cat to us.  She has taken the black cat in as a fostering situation to get him past his medical procedure.  It has now healed and she now has to leave for some considerable time so the cat needs to move on.  She has named the cat Smidge.  I guess it was she, since the cat did not come with a name.  And the reason is that the cat is a feral cat.  There are a lot of those around here.  I know several people who have indoor cats AND 4 or 5 feral cats as well that they feed.  They are truly wild.  This house has a bunch of them outside and they are lively and absolutely uninterested in having a random human get too close to them.  They bounce about behind a bunch of wood, outside, and seem to be exploding with astonishment at the thought of us coming nearer.

The Black Cat, however, is not outside.  She is living inside a small kennel box with wire windows, inside a lovely glass shower which, in turn, is inside a bathroom where she can be alone (and definitely not in communication with the house cats that are elsewhere inside the house).  Ed takes a first turn sitting with her.  Smidge stays in her box; indeed in the back of her box.  She tolerates his petting her (which is to say she didn't do anything to object to it).  Then I sat inside the shower stall for awhile with her in her box.  I didn't try to pet her; just sat there.  She didn't come out or even move closer to her box's exit door.  She was clearly aware of me, however.  'What,' I thought, is it to me if she wants to live in a box?'  She turned her head and I glimpsed her eyes briefly: gold-ish.  I spoke to her; she did not speak back nor move toward me.

An hour or so of this cat interviewing and we were ready to move on back to our other tasks.  We were advised that we would need to come and sit with her like this for several more days while she (perhaps) got used to us.  We made an appointment to return the next day.

When I got home, I wrote an email to my daughter-consultant who quickly replied (after consulting with her consultant--no one does anything anymore without a consultant, I guess) that this did not seem like a good idea for a cat for me to live with, although it might be OK for Ed who, as she put it, likes taming wild birds.  He, she thought, might want to rise to this challenge, but I, she was pretty sure, had enough other challenges already that were claiming my attention.  Taming a wild cat probably did not need to be added to that list of challenges.  Her shelter manager consultant concurred: a feral cat is best trapped, neutered, and released.  That is, released to continue being a feral cat.

Ed and I talked, considered, cancelled our appointment for the next day, and wrote to our knowledgeable local friend to confess our inability to rise to this challenge.  She replied that she understood completely and that there were other cats to be had.  Just be patient, I said to myself.

(The end of Cat Interviewing, Part III)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Interviewing Cats, Part II

A few weeks passed and no cat appeared; not that we did anything to make it happen.  If you have lived for 20 years without a cat, another day of living without a cat doesn't seem too difficult, or even particularly noticeable.  When a cat is being obtained because of a child, the child is happy to remind you every twenty minutes.  "I thought we were going to get a cat today, Mom..."  And you get around to finding a cat so you don't have to be the constant source of disappointment.  But I am not disappointed; just mildly anticipatory of the possible grey cat I may soon see.

I mention the future cat to our knowledgeable friend and she assures me she has not forgotten, offers us the possibility in a few weeks of a kitten that is being raised for a bit by others and who needs to get past a cold before it can be transferred to a new home.  Kittens are charmers, of course, just as are puppies and babies of any kind.  Actually, probably better to stay away from natural charmers, I think.  I write my older daughter again.  What about a kitten? I ask her.  She writes back promptly and, as she herself is currently fosterparenting four kittens, she is absolutely on top of the relevant issues.  She writes me back: "Mom, not a kitten, I think.  Not for you.  They are into everything; they are trying to drown themselves in the toilet.  They knock everything off of everything.  They will be into your yarn in ways you will not be happy with.  A nice older cat would be better.  Especially one that will be hard to adopt because of its age.  You'll be doing it and the shelter a favor."

I tell our knowledgeable friend what my daughter says I want because my daughter is doubtless right.  I am trusting that this older cat will be named Charles or willing to be renamed Charles.

A few days go by and the friend emails us with the news that there is an older cat that needs a home on the Point.  It is black, rather than grey, however.  The more serious downside is that the cat has had a bad experience with a raccoon, probably, and has lost its tale tail to the encounter.  It has had surgical intervention and is now healed but is rather traumatized by the experience.  It is in a foster home and we are invited to go visit it.  We gear ourselves up for a morning cat visit and begin our first attempt at cat interviewing.

(The end of Part II)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Interviewing Cats, Part I

Our lives very recently have been somewhat consumed by the issue of cats, so this long story will cover a number of intermittent posts.  I don't know how many because the story has not yet come to a conclusion, but this is how it starts, anyway.

 Awhile back, we made a somewhat vague decision that we'd like to have a cat come and live with us.  Both Ed and I have had animals around for most of our lives--cats, dogs, rabbits, turtles, fish, rats, birds, what have you.  For the past 20 years, however, we have been pet-less, largely because we were moving around between B.C. and P.R. so regularly.  Hard enough for us to make that adjustment constantly without imposing it on a fur person.

In the days when we did have pets, the pets mostly just came to us.  The kid comes home from school bringing a cat that 'followed them."  Or at least that was the story.  Or a friend moved and couldn't take her dog with her and we took her in.  Or a dog just walked up to the door saying, "Hi, I'm yours."  Like those things.  It's possible that we sometime actually went to an animal shelter to select a cat or dog, but I don't have any memory of that.

Here on the Point, I wasn't quite sure how to proceed, so I conveyed our interest in a cat to a knowledgeable friend who emailed me back: "What kind of cat do you want?"  Oh. Uhh.  Gosh.  I considered.  "One that understands English?  One that doesn't want to go outside?"  Not a good enough answer, perhaps.  I then wrote my older daughter who is highly knowledgeable about animal pets and asked her what kind of cat did I want.  She replies, "well, you don't want one that bites, for example."  To myself I say, "Does anyone want a cat that bites?"

She also suggested I consider age, and kinds of cats I might be more likely to be allergic to.  I continue a little unclear about what to answer and I'm a little fixated on the idea of someone wanting a 'cat that bites.'  Kittens are nice, I thought.  The only cat I've ever been severely allergic to was one that belonged to my younger daughter, but I'm not sure what characterized that cat other than the fact that it triggered a considerable asthmatic reaction and I normally don't have asthma.

I wrote back to my friend, telling her that I had had a dream the night after I wrote to her about wanting a cat and that in the dream there was a grey cat named Charles.  "Perhaps," I confided, "that is the kind of cat that I want."

And I sat back, child of the 60's that I am, and awaited the arrival of a grey cat named Charles.  Weeks passed.  (End of Part I: Interviewing Cats)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Too Much at Once

Last night, here in Point Roberts, you could go to Family Game Night at the Library, a concert by Mama and the Oom-Pa-Pa's (a tuba quartet) at the Trinity Lutheran Church, or a Library Benefit 'Tiny Art Auction' at Auntie Pam's Country Store.  All beginning at 7 p.m.  I saw that a few people left one event early and shot over to a second event at half-time, but it really is too hard to have to CHOOSE between events here in the near winter when there are so few events, generally, to choose among.

What we don't have is a Community Calendar on the Net so that people planning events can see what others are planning.  At a monthly level, the All Point Bulletin does a fine job, but if you are planning something three or four months ahead of time (which is typical for bigger public events), you have nothing to look at, nothing to refer to.  And it is just too difficult to call around to every single group that might be planning something to find out whether they're using the date you have in mind.

What we need is a Community Calendar.  Why don't we have one?

I hear the game night was fun, the concert was terrific and danceable and entertaining, and the tiny auction (where I was) was chock-a-block people talking to each other among the food and art.  All good events.  But too much to have to choose from among...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The point of much of life is accountability, in public matters and in private matters.  You do things, those things have consequences, you accept responsibility for the consequences when the consequences are things you could have been expected reasonably to know would occur.  It's a simple concept, but not one of which we any longer seem to have intimate knowledge.

Going to the Fire District Meetings provides a ready reminder of how people seek to avoid accountability in the instant.  For example, last night the Commissioners approved their 2013 budget for the Fire District.  For a change (and to their great credit), they had copies of the budget available to those of us in attendance.  This was scarcely a speculative move insofar as there are about a dozen people who nowadays attend every meeting and mostly bringing a critical eye, but this is the first time they've supplied us with any information.

What of course the Commissioners did not provide was a copy of last year's budget so those of us attending and on the watch for the taxpayers could see where there were differences.  Thus, we were significantly limited in how we could respond (when Ringmaster Meursing allowed us to speak) to budget items.

In addition, we were significantly limited in other ways.  When I arrived at the meeting, I sat at one of the 8 or so tables that face the Commissioners' chairs.  On that table was a piece of paper that had a few names on it.  I glanced at it and thought it was asking for a list of attendees (which are sometimes posted in the minutes).  I signed it.  A friend sitting nearby who had not signed it corrected my thinking: it was to say whether you wanted to speak during the meeting.  She wasn't signing it because she didn't know whether she wanted to speak: would have to wait to see what they said or did.

As it turned out, Meursing's view was that if you didn't sign the paper, you're not allowed to say a word.  Later in the meeting, Arthur Reber, e.g., a member of the Board of the Taxpayers' Association and the Chair of the Community Advisory Committee was told by Meursing that Reber's failure to sign the paper was too bad for him.  And though Reber pursued a brief comment, Meursing cut him down.  The 'Little People' were not to speak when Meursing says, "NO!"

As it turned out, only four of the 12-14 attendees signed the paper, and two of them had come to congratulate the Commissioners on the sterling manner in which they had bravely--even heroically- led the Fire District during the Times of Trouble.  The other two were Mr. Gott (who is very critical of the Commissioners usually) and me (I'm not acutely critical at the meetings: more like faintly disbelieving of what they are saying).  And we both spoke.  Mr. Gott wished for some clarification on a couple of line items as to what they meant.

I, alas, wanted something more.  Meursing gave me four minutes  Although I have access to last year's budget, I did not bring a copy of it with me to the meeting.  So, depending on my memory, I noted that this year's budget involved a 135% increase in legal fees and inquired about it.

Me: Why, e.g., is there such an increase in legal fees?  Do you expect lots more legal need?
Meursing: I don't know whether it's going to rain next week.
Me:  Well, yes, I understand that these are estimates, but what do you base them on.
Meursing: This is a budget, Mrs. Ross.  You put numbers in.
Me: Yes, I understand what a budget is.  What do you base the numbers on? Presumably you don't just draw them out of a hat.
Meursing: It's an educated guess.
Me: Yes, I understand that.  What I am asking is what educated you with respect to this $7,000 number, this 135% increase.
Meursing: I've never been an educator.

This is what it's like talking to Bill about anything specific.  I can never tell whether he doesn't want to let you know anything or whether he, himself, actually doesn't know anything.  In this case, the Financial Manager of the District intervened in Meursing's failure to know anything, and explained that she and the Fire Chief had come up with the figure.  It was based on the fact that they had overshot last year's budgeted $3,000 legal costs by several thousand because of the "difficulties" of this past summer and to be on the safe side added a bit more to 2012's actual costs in case more was needed next year.  Good response.

Unfortunately, that was about the only specific number I could remember from last year's budget.  However, now that I am home and can compare the two budgets, I am able to see that the 2012 total budget for the Fire District was $375,000 (rounded) and the projected 2013 budget is $445,000, a $70,000 (19%) increase. The state allows the districts, according to Meursing, to increase their levy each year by 1% to cover increasing costs (to keep up with inflation, essentially).  But the District's increased costs are closer to 19% than 1%.

What to do?  The Commissioners boldly moved to reject the 1% levy increase and to accommodate their 19% spending increase from the mighty capital and reserve funds generated by their 2010 excessive levy increase.  These two funds (money that the district is holding in reserve for a rainy day, as we say) currently total over $358,000.  (By the end of next year, it will be over $450,000.)  So to make up for their increased $70,000 of spending, they'll have to cut back a little on their contributions to the capital/reserve funds next year from $169,000/year to $95,000/year.

Not clear at all what is being gained from that extra spending that will improve the services we receive.  But it doesn't matter what we understand because as Mr. Meursing will doubtless say if anyone complains, 'You had the opportunity to speak on this issue at the meeting but you failed to say anything persuasive or you failed to take that opportunity."  So, it's the public's fault that they do these things...That's the Chairman's idea of accountability.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Poor Little Fire District

Special Meeting (again, $104 extra for each Commissioner) to discuss whether they need more money.  They got an enormous (and even unexpectedly large) increase in the tax levy a couple of years ago.  Because of that, they are socking away $15,000 every month for their rainy day funds.  And now they are thinking they need some more.  We should all have such reserves.  Oh, wait, we would have such reserves if we weren't paying the Fire District all our extra money.

If you'd like to see how the Fire District works in its policy mode (frankly, not a pretty sight), this might be a very good meeting to attend.  7 pm, Monday, November 12th, at the firehall.  See ya'  The agenda does not include "Public Comment.'  So presumably Mr. Meursing will be frequently telling us to shut up or threatening us with expulsion from His Meeting.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Nexus, the Sequel

I have completed my on-line application to renew my nexus card, as has Ed.  I can only say that there is no logical reason in the world for WHY this fairly routine act generates so much anxiety.  But it does and now I would have a stiff drink, if only I drank.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Be Aware, Nexus Edition

In December of 2008, Ed and I went down to Peace Arch and got our Nexus cards renewed.  We went at that time because they sent us information that it was time to get the cards renewed.  We filled out the forms they sent us and they eventually gave us an appointment date.  We paid our $50 each for a 5-year renewal.  That would be December of 2008, not yet four years ago.

This past weekend, while going somewhere, I noticed the expiration date on my Nexus card.  January 24, 2013.  My birthday and exactly four years and six weeks since I obtained my most recent Nexus card.  Not five years.  Four years and six weeks.  I checked Ed's card, obtained that same day in December 2008 as mine was.  His expires November 30, 2012: exactly three years and eleven months after the December 2008 "five -year" renewal.

So now it is barely two weeks before his expires and barely 2 months before mine expires.  We have had no warning from Nexus.  We have had no mail informing us that it is time to renew.  We regularly go through both the Point Roberts and the Peace Arch border and there has been no comment by border people as to the cards being close to their expiration date,

You can pursue renewal on-line.  They advise you to begin the renewal process three months in advance.  I can't even begin to describe how angry I am.  But at least I can advise you to check your expiration dates.  They're in very small print on the back of the card.

(Correction: the expiration date is on the front of the card; the issue date is on the back.)

Lily Point Trail Is Beautiful

(The last sunflowers of the summer-fall)

I finally made it over to Lily Point this past week to see the new trail (and, at 4:30 in the afternoon, the raft of visitors and their dogs that were also on site).  The hand-hold-rail at the top is wonderful, the step height at the top is surprisingly high, the switchbacks are impressive.  The whole thing looks to be a fine piece of design that makes it both easier and safer to get down to the beach.

I say 'looks like' because, due to a knee injury, I didn't make it all the way down.  But, on a lower pain threshhold day and with a neoprene brace, I could have done it and I will do it.  But I could watch my companions on their way down and see how it worked.

The parking lot and restrooms all (still) seem a bit too much for the space, but we will all get used to that over time.  It is so quiet there (even the dogs were all very quiet and even when meeting one another) and you are in the midst of a beautiful maple forest and the ocean is endless.  A fine place to be, a place where you are reminded that the earth abides.

A fine place to have as the crown jewel of our tiny home.  Thanks to the State, to the County, to the Nature Conservancy, to the Whatcom Land Trust, and to the individual donors who worked to give this to us.  Remember to mention Lily Point when Thanksgiving time comes.  Or even right this minute.

Monday, November 5, 2012

We Are the Clear Winner in This Race

Gasoline prices in California have sunk to under $4.00 over the past three weeks, so California no longer is in the competition for highest gasoline prices in the U.S..  That honor continues to go to Point Roberts, Washington, where gasoline stations continue to proudly offer their wares to us for over $4.00 gallon.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

More About Voting

It's Time to Do It here in the Excited States of America.  So this is just a reminder in case you can do it by mail and haven't done it already.  Or in case you've forgotten about doing it at all.  Which could be because you recently moved into a tree and then built a large silo around it so you wouldn't be disturbed?

It's hard to know whether it makes a difference or not, but if it does, then you'll be sorry if you didn't.  I think.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Moose and Election

Perhaps our visiting moose has come to the Point to vote, not realizing that it is all done by mail nowadays.

Somehow in the past week, we lost track of one of our ballots and feared that it had accidentally been sent to the recycle container and from thence on to recycle heaven (or hell, depending upon your theology).  We looked and looked.  I grew weary of looking through wastebaskets and paper stacks and magazine stacks.  And fell into subsidiary questions of whether there is any point in keeping hold of New Yorkers that are over a year old on the off chance that the one of us who hasn't read it will get around to reading it?  And whether I really need to keep every credit card monthly statement that I have ever received given that I have never had occasion to need it and that it is all on the web anyway.

It makes one feel that life may have come to the point where what is needed is a minder of some sort.

Nevertheless, we did not find the ballot and began to pursue alternatives.  Ed was under the impression (like the moose) that he could just go down to the Community Center and vote there if it was absolutely necessary.  And I had to tell him the unhappy news that the only alternative was a drive to Bellingham's City Hall.  Consternation, disorder, and early sorrow.  But, enough motivation that the ballot finally turned up.

So, we sat down yesterday morning and voted in order to avoid any opportunity of losing it again or losing both of them to the maw of disorder in which we apparently live.  AND I HAVE TO SAY, that voting has become ever more difficult, given that we are people with postgraduate educations and thus presumably capable of reading and understanding a ballot.  These crazed Tim Eyeman-mandated votes in which we have to vote 'maintain' or 'get rid of'  some law that the legislature has already passed.  Thanks, Tim Eyeman for making everything a little worse each year.  There's a man with a mission that he has definitely managed to keep on course throughout his adult life.  I'd like to send him an adult moose.

And the many initiatives; my theory is vote no on them on principle.  The public does not need to be passing legislation.  But yes, we need to legalize marijuana and free up the prisons so there's room for financial fraudsters.

Yikes!  The election is driving me mad and I don't even have a TV.  Bring me a moose!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Living Remote

Here is one of the problems in living somewhere like Point Roberts.  Well, there is no 'somewhere like P.R.'; there is just Point Roberts.  But there are other somewheres that are isolated, rural, where things are not easily available because you can't just drive down to the store or the mall or the wherever.

This comes up for me especially with sewing machines.  I have several of them because I use them a lot for various kinds of specialty sewing, but when I need one of them I need it right now.  But they are machines and they don't always work right and, although my brother knew how to fix a car, I don't know now, and never did know, how to fix a sewing machine.  Unlike a car's parts, its parts are enclosed, hidden: the makers do not want you messing with them for the most part. They are girls' machines and noone really expects girls to do anything like that.   Like Imacs, they virtually come with a note saying that there is nothing you can do to fix this so don't try taking them apart.  Take them to a Professional.

But Point Roberts has no Professional of this sort.  Nor does the neighboring Canadian town Tsawassen.  Nor the next Canadian town Ladner, nor the next over the two borders U.S. town of Blaine.  I can transport my machine to a store in Ladner, 20 miles away round trip, which will let a man 30 miles away know that at his convenience he can drop by and take it away to fix it and then at his convenience return it those 30 miles to that store weeks later, and if I am lucky someone will let me know it has returned.  And there I am, with my machine repaired and only three or four weeks passed, except that 6 weeks later, it happens again, and we do another three weeks of no machine.  And now eight weeks later, it has again malfunctioned in the same way and I cannot go through another repair

And I say to myself, it is dead, or as good as, and it is time to replace it because I can't deal with these long periods of absence for repair that doesn't last.  But there is nowhere near me where I can go and buy such a machine.  In large part, this is because there are, of course, no local sewing machine stores at all.  But worse, there are no stores anywhere that any longer sell good electrical sewing machines.  There are cheap and shabby ones or there are good computerized sewing machines.  That is not what I want or need.

So I go to E-Bay and I find an exact clone of this machine I love but that will not have its wornoutness because it has been "little used", as advertised.  Assuming that is true.  And I bid on it and next day I have been declared the winner.  I have paid a good deal of money for a machine I have never laid eyes on that is coming to me from a person in Indiana to whom I have never spoken.  And I wonder, "Good lord, what have I done?"

Today, the machine arrived in a box that formerly housed bananas, packed with a little bubble wrap, and marked in big letters on the outside, 'FRAGILE.'  I hope not too fragile.  It does not look like a Professional wrapping job.  I open it, take the machine out and collect its accessories which have spilled around inside the bubble wrap.  I set it up, plug it in, get it threaded and coax it to work.  It is slow but it is cold.  I coax it along some more.  It begins to function better.  I set a button that I have forgotten needs setting and an essential function begins to actually function.  I am beginning to feel released from the fear of having made an ill-omened purchase.  And a few hours later, I am pretty confident that it is, as advertised, "little used," and is also fully functional.

Whew!  If I still lived in L.A., I would not be having this experience.  And, living rural and isolated, I do hope I do not have to be having it too frequently.  And yet, and yet, that is a big feature of living in a place like Point Roberts; one does have it frequently, in one form or another.  Living without easy access to things is not the worst challenge in the world, but the abundant availability of things is such a basic feature of living in cities that one forgets in coming here that one has given it up.

And when you need something, you may have to take a kind of risk that you have entirely forgotten about.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Embarrassment for All

Last night's Fire Commission meeting seemed to have hit a new low.  It's main features included:

1.  A Commissioner attempted to amend the last meeting's minutes to show that, despite the Commissioners approving the placement of Public Comments at the end of the Agenda, the Public refused to obey and continued to ask questions/make comments throughout the meeting.  When it was noted that as Chairperson of that meeting, Commissioner Riffle had a responsibility to control the meeting, he whined, "So now it's all my fault?"  In addition, he complained that Mr. Wilmot had made the motion to adjourn the meeting, whereas he should have been the one to make that motion because he was the Chair.  And that complaint was also to be put into the minutes.  Although, eventually, he withdrew his motion, I think, and the minutes were just approved.

2.  There was discussion of a motion to increase the number of Commissioners to 5 in order to alleviate the problems of any two commissioners not being able to talk to one another because if they do it constitutes a Public Meeting according to Washington State Regulations.  The motion failed, but not before Mr. Meursing placed his position on record:  "The fewer Commissioners the better," he said.  One, he seemed to be implying, would be best of all, and he would be that one.

3.  The attempt to hold an Executive Session on Personnel Matters was dropped when (a) the personnel were revealed to be the Commissioners and the topics their own difficulties in working with one another; and (b) Mr. Grubb of the APB persuaded Mr. Meursing that Washington State Regulations do not permit Executive Sessions (not open to the public) for such purposes because 'personnel' refers to employees, not to the Commissioners.  Mr. Meursing viewed this as a mere technicality, at which point Mr. Grubb pointed out that it was not a technicality but a state law.  The attempt to hold an Executive Session was finally dropped, but not before one Commissioner plaintively called out, "Well, how are we to discuss these matters without embarrassing ourselves in public?"  Indeed, public embarrassment seemed to be the chief feature of the meeting.

4.  A considerable amount of time was devoted to articulating a letter that was written to the Fire District from a P.R. resident (who was named during the meeting).  The  Chief regarded the letter as endangering the safety of his volunteer firefighters and he went to the Sheriff, who investigated and apparently felt that the matter was adequately resolved; there were no charges of any sort laid.  The discussion at the meeting centered largely on why this letter and its author were being identified in a public meeting.  That is, the matter had been clarified by the Deputy Sheriff, so what could be the purpose of this public exposure of the matter other than to harass the individual?  The Commissioners asserted that the letter was a public record; the public said, "Okay, but why do WE need to discuss it at this meeting?"  The Chief claimed that his first duty was to protect his volunteers.  Except that I thought his first duty was to protect the citizens of Point Roberts.  If his first duty is to protect his volunteer firefighters, he should simply advise them to go into another line of work where the risk is lower.  And then get back to protecting us.  In his job, these duties will occasionally come into conflict.  He needs to figure out which is his primary duty.  And the Commissioners need to discuss the laws of privacy with their lawyer.

5.  There was, again, discussion of a new procurement policy, written by the fire district's lawyer, who will, doubtless, be sending another handsome bill next month.  Despite the Commissioners having agreed at the last meeting to provide the 'audience' with copies of complex documents that are under discussion, no copies of the new procurement policy were available.  Thus, though the policy was passed, I don't know much about what was in it as the Chief read quickly through three pages of text in a room with poor acoustics.  I did attempt to obtain some idea of how the Commissioners viewed the difference between their responsibilities and the Chief's responsibilities.  Mr. Meursing said that they must bow to the Chief's technical knowledge on procurement policy because he is a professional.  Mr. Wilmot read from the State Regs which state that the Commissioners themselves are responsible for policy decisions.  Because the Commissioners are passing off responsibility to the Chief, and because the Chief can cite state law regarding the Commissioners' responsibility, we can proceed with the assumption that no one, really is responsible, and that no one will be accountable for making responsible procurement decisions.  Trust the Chief (and then one is supposed to Verify).  Maybe the Verification policy will be on the agenda next month.

6.  Finally, there were repeated responses from Mr. Meursing that 'That's not the way we do things here."  Which claim I take to mean, "That's not how I say we do things here."

We're three months into this crisis of confidence in Fire District #5, and things are not improving.  At some point, the State via the State Auditor's office, will become involved, I'd think.  That's who is responsible for oversight of Commissions and Commissioners.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Looking at Point Roberts

I was at the market yesterday, standing by the door to introduce the Grocery Receipts Library Fundraiser to folks coming to the market, when one Canadian woman I was talking to said, "Tell me about Point Roberts.  How long have you lived here?  Whenever I come down here, I think this is just about the most unusual place I've ever been.  How did you get here to live?"

Not an unusual question in the sense that most of us who live here full-time probably ask ourselves that question regularly.  And ask it as well (at least internally) about people we have met casually who are our fellow-residents.  I am never really able to settle on an answer although I doubt if there is just one answer.  There are many Point Robertses here in these almost-five-square-miles just as there are many microclimates here.

This question was part of my original attraction to the abandoned houses here.  How is it that there were so many houses in such a tiny place that just fall into decades of disuse.  How is it that there is no one who cares enough to care or to convey it to someone who does or will.  How does one lose such vital contact with what has been a home?  I have never understood it, even as I have watched these houses collapse under their own weight and the external weather, and watched, as well, other houses start into that downward process.  (Photo on left is an abandoned mail box at work, I think.)

A young man from Emily Carr is currently doing a photography thesis project on Point Roberts. We met with him recently to talk about his project and it brought up in me, again, many of those thoughts and the statement that the lady at the market had made about this being an extremely unusual place did as well.

Is it unusual because it's so small?  Because it is divided between part-time and full-time residents?  Because the border influences our lives so strongly, especially since 9/11?  Because it has so many different divisions: part-timers/full-timers, tourists/residentes, Canadian/American, boaters/nonboaters, old people/younger people, east side/west side, housing developers/conservationists, economic developers/artists and the like, old families/the rest of us, longtime residents/new residents, cottagers/big housers, the voters' association/the taxpayers' association, the people who go to town meetings/the people who don't.  That's just a quick gathering of kinds of divisions that come to mind.  The divisions are not deadly; are often wonderfully entertaining.  But they do contain a certain kind of trapped community energy that might usefully be released to better purposes.

Ah, well, it's Sunday morning in the fall and we are about our unusual lives in our unusual home spots, thinking our usual thoughts.  Unusually, the sun is shining and the sky is blue, but it's time for coffee.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Great Loss

The news that long-time Pt. Roberts' resident Davea Fisher had suffered a massive stroke and was not expected to recover was followed by the news that life-support measures would be terminated this weekend by which time her children would all be able to reach the hospital.

Davea was an amazing force for good here in Point Roberts and will surely be missed.  I don't know how many people have said to me since I started helping to raise funds for the new library, "Have you talked to Davea?  She's raised more money over the years here than anybody."  And indeed she probably has.

She was probably best known for her work with "Dollars for Scholars," an engaging program that starts with the premise that the Community of Point Roberts ought to make a statement to its kids when they graduated from high school and made the decision to go on to college.  And the statement Davea was helping all of us to make through this fundraising was "We support you in this decision and we are happy to be able to give you some money to start you out on that journey."  A program like that?  Well, that's what it means to live in a community, as opposed to living in a zip code.

But Davea did not limit herself to that program.  When we were getting the library fundraising beginning, she was there to propose that she organize her annual 'Joke-Telling Contest' for the benefit of the new library.  And she had other ideas.  Only two weeks ago, I was writing her about her proposal to do a "Tall-Tales Night" for the library fund in January.  And barely 3 or 4 days ago, she was proposing to us a project called "Taking the Toonies out for a Walk" which would somehow produce a line of toonies between the current library and the Julius Firehall.  She commented that this was something she liked because kids could participate at that level.

We wrote back to her with enthusiasm, asking questions about how exactly it would work.  Unfortunately, her reply never came.  But I think we will figure out what it was she had in mind, and one day soon, there will be a "Taking the Toonies for a Walk" event, not only to benefit the library but to say a heartfelt 'thank you' to Davea for all she did, and for the example she set for all of us as we, in our turn, try to make sure that we live in a community that cares about its members and not just in a zip code named Point Roberts.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different

As many of you know, I am working with others to raise funds to renovate the building next door to the P.R. Community Center for a New and Improved library here on the Point.  The old library (in the Community Center) has been there for over 60 years.  And not much has changed with that physical structure over that time.

But much HAS changed in the way of what libraries do and what they need in the way of physical space to do it.  Alas, the 1,000 square feet of our charming, almost Dickensian library isn't enough to do those things.  The library is no longer just a place where you check books in and out.  It's doing much more educating of kids, it's providing broad-band access to people who don't otherwise have it, it's providing computers for those who don't have them, and it needs rooms and tables and chairs and open spaces for all that to happen.  And, at least for a starter, that's why we need to have a new library that will provide 2,500 square feet of space.

There's a donation button on this blog, as well as on the fund-raising blog at foprl.blogspot.com, for the library campaign.  The donations go to the Whatcom County Library Foundation, which is a 501(c)3 group, solely for the purpose of a new library in P.R.  That means you will receive a receipt that provides eligibility for a U.S. charitable donation deduction.  We do not have any way of providing comparable Canadian charitable donation deductions, unfortunately.  But we are continuing to look for a way.

In our first 6 months of serious fundraising efforts, we have raised over $60,000 dollars.  We have a long way to go but we are trying everything we can think of.  And here is a thought not only for the Canadians who would like to support this project but can't get a Canadian charitable tax deduction but also for Americans who aren't able to use a charitable tax deduction for their U.S. tax returns for technical reasons.

In December (specifically Dec. 1 and 2), the Fundraising arm of the Friends of the Point Roberts Library will have a table at the Christmas Craft Fair filled with delights donated by Point Roberts artists and crafters, everything handmade.  There will be quilts, clothing, jewelry, fiber art, accessories, photographs, Christmas ornaments, paintings, and on.

If you come, look, and buy an object that pleases you, all the proceeds go to the library building fund.  Thus, although you won't get a charitable tax exemption receipt, you will get an object you like, perhaps love, and have personally chosen: probably worth far more than the tax exemption would be, and your money will go to the library and it will be doubled because we have a $5,000 matching gift for the month of December.

We've asked you for your loose change, for your grocery receipts, and now for some of your Christmas shopping experience.  You'd think I'd be appalled always to be asking.  But, I'm not, because I'm asking you to help your community, a place you live or visit, for a library that makes us a better place.  We're lucky that we have to finance only a building space and that the County Library will pay for all the staff and people that turn a building into a functioning library.  It's our job to create the building because having a library benefits us as individuals, as families, and as a community.  There are lots of ways for you to participate in this and we hope you find one that works for you.

You can reach the Friends of the P.R. Library fundraising group at foprl1@gmail.com if you have questions.

If you want more information about the actual renovation plans, you can see the architect's feasibility study here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Confusion Reigning?

Yesterday, Point-Interface (don't shoot the messenger: they publish what they get) published four different messages from the Fire Commissioners informing us of their upcoming meeting(s)/meeting.  There was one special meeting; then there was another special meeting; then the agenda for the first special meeting was changed somewhat; then one of the special meetings was cancelled and the agenda of one added to the agenda of the other.  So I wouldn't rush to schedule next week's evening entertainment until they get themselves sorted out.  But it makes one feel that there is some internal disagreement here.  Mr. Meursing missed the last meeting so perhaps he is making up for that.

I am making some headway on understanding local commissions/Special Districts.  There appear to be five of them here (Water (3 commissioners), Hospital (3 commissioners), Cemetery (3), Park and Recreation (5), and Fire (3).  All but the Park Commissioners receive payment for meetings; the Park folk have traditionally turned it down.  The state regs permit anyone holding a Commission position to turn it down, it would appear.

It also appears from the regs that the Commissioners can increase their numbers by proposing to do so, or the public can do it by petition, but in either case, the increased numbers must be put to the public for a vote.  It also appears, with respect to Commissioner payments, that if a person sits on two District Boards at the same time, he/she may receive payment only from one of them.  (RCW 52.14.00  [   A person holding office as commissioner for two or more special purpose districts shall receive only that per diem compensation authorized for one of his or her commissioner positions as compensation for attending an official meeting or conducting official services or duties while representing more than one of his or her districts. However, such commissioner may receive additional per diem compensation if approved by resolution of all boards of the affected commissions.]  )  Mr. Meursing is both a Fire Commissioner and a Water Commissioner.

Sunday morning straightening out done.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Encouragement, of a Sort, I Guess

The Fire Commissioners' meeting last night: It was mostly comedy last night, so perhaps tragedy tonight.  These meetings really are the closest we get to a legitimate theater company, I think.

I don't really know what to say: In some ways, it was like watching some kindergardeners on their first day trying to figure out how to do what the rest of us figured out a hundred years ago.  Specifically, to conduct a meeting.  We got an agenda, which was a good start, but we were missing Meursing (a phrase I thought I would probably never write, but it is meant only in the sense that he was not in attendance).  And it was Mr. Wilcott's first meeting as a Commissioner and, although it was clear that he knew how meetings were supposed to work, it was not clear he had yet figured out how to make this particular kind of meeting work.  I wish him good luck with this.  And Mr. Riffle, in charge for the first time, seemed fairly flummoxed at various times.  At one point, when he voted against his own motion, I couldn't tell whether he had changed his mind or didn't know what was being voted upon.  Periodically, when something worked, all the way through introduction, motions, discussion, and calls for the vote which were then followed by an actual vote, I wanted to run up and say, cheerfully, in my best teacher voice, "Good Job!!!"

There were of course no documents that were available for the dozen or so attendees to look at while the topics were being discussed and largely tabled (same result but in a different spirit at the Community Advisory Committee).  Perhaps next time we get documents, maybe even on the web in advance.  People had written letters it was announced and if you wanted to see them, you had to make an official records request, but we did not know why we would want to see them, or why we wouldn't as far as that goes.)  Someone had written a letter demanding back pay and that went to the lawyer (why?) but not to Mr. Wilcott.  Do we want to see it?  Could we see it if we wanted to?  Who knows?

There was a financial report in which the month's expenditures were about $15,000, almost $5,000 of which went to the lawyer; last month he only got $2,000, so his situation is improving.   There is an announcement that they are not going to repave the parking lot but just coat and stripe it.  Etc.

Two resolutions were introduced: one to increase the number of Commissioners to five, and a second to have the Commissioners stop getting paid for attendance at the meetings, not least because they have had so many special meetings that they are way over  budget for these payments.  [I spent about an hour today with Google trying to locate the practices of the other Pt. Roberts Commissions but you would be lucky to be able to find the names of the Commissioners on the other Districts.  So that research will require more personal attention.  At the moment, the only thing I know for sure is that the Parks Dept. Commissioners DON'T accept any payment. And I think i know there is a Health District, a Cemetery District, a Water District, and a Parks District, in addition to the Fire District, but I know the names of only a few Commissioners of any of them.)

Now, those resolutions would have been worth discussing, but they were put off until there was 'A Committee of the Whole,' which would be when Meursing too was in attendance.  Which leads one to believe that the two present Commissioners were split on their votes on this matter, although Mr. Riffle did not ever say anything in opposition.  So, who knows?  This did not cause me to want to say, "Good Job!"

Finally, the entire meeting almost collapsed on a proposal to increase the Chief's authority to buy things for the Fire Department.  It didn't increase his total budget, just the amount he could spend on various items in a single month without getting Commissioner approval.

Now, I would expect that such a request would note the fact that the current policy is to allow such purchases up to the amount of $2,500/month, and the Chief was asking for an increase to $10,000/per month.  Further, it would explain exactly why this four-fold increase was necessary.  For example, experience in the previous 6 months where $2,500 was clearly inadequate and when it was difficult to locate the Commissioners for approval and approvals needed to given quickly.  Or, perhaps, a survey of other Whatcom Fire Departments showing that Fire Chiefs routinely had such discretion at the $10,000 level.  But there was nothing at all of that sort.  Chief Carleton said he needed it and he didn't know how previous fire chiefs had done it because he hadn't been the fire chief here previously.  (Although, Meursing said emphatically, several months ago, that Carleton's experience as the substitute fire chief when Kiniski was off being paramedic trained was a big reason for making him the new fire chief.)

In any case, there was no case made by anybody for this increase.  The Lawyer had been consulted as to whether it was an out of line figure, but the lawyer is a lawyer, not a public policy expert, so I am confused about why you would want to be paying for that kind of advice.

There was a lot of excited discussion about this issue among the Commissioners, and among and with the attendees, even though there wasn't a comment period at this part of the agenda.  At one point there was a motion to do what Carleton wanted; at another point the motion was amended, and then the amendment was withdrawn; later on, the Chair said the motion was dead, although I actually did not spot the moment of death.  Eventually there was an attempt to make a deal with Carleton, asking him whether he would settle for $7,500.  (NOT a Good Job! moment, definitely.)

At the end, the whole thing, the motion or the topic at least appeared to have survived its near death experience and was to be brought back next month when Meursing returns to provide a second vote, I guess.   And the meeting was adjourned because there had already been enough public comment according to the Commissioners.  Probably enough for me, too.

It's a learning process to run an open meeting, to run a meeting where discussions are open to public view.  It's messy--nobody ever said transparency of public policy decisions was efficient or that the process was easy to understand or to conduct.   However, I am hoping that what I was seeing was the beginning of that learning process.  For a first step, Good Job!, I guess.  Though I do see a very long road ahead.  Another regular meeting in November, on Monday the 12th.  Do come; there are seats available in all the first four rows!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Meetings from Hell...

Is somebody putting something in the coffee?  Is it terminal loopiness after a summer of excessive sun and insufficient rain?  It's just one crazy meeting after another.  Maybe it's just the universe's way of suggesting that meetings, democracy-style, just aren't the way to get anything done.  It's certainly not a good sign of our ability to live together in any kind of cooperative manner.

Back in the spring, I think, folks from the County Council came up and advised us that we need to learn to work together.  Fortunately, they were not at the meeting of the Community Advisory Committee last night to see how well that advice worked.

The meeting started off well with a quorum of 3 members present, an 'audience' of about a dozen, and a sizable agenda.  Only then did it go wrong.  

The first item was public parking at Maple Beach.  Here we have a public beach with no public parking.  Roosevelt, which would be a sensible place for parking is controlled by the Border Commission, including Canada and the U.S., and for all practical purposes by Homeland Security.  They, you will not be surprised to hear, want nothing on that land including no cars.  The County doesn't want any parking on Bayview (the main, waterfront street), and the local homeowners aren't crazy about your parking on their lawns which grow right up to the fairly narrow streets.  So not crazy about it that many put stuff--driftwood, big rocks, signs-- in that area to keep you from parking on their lawns, leaving outlanders feeling like they're probably not supposed to be parking there, anyway.

But here's the kicker and the Chinese puzzle aspect: it is perfectly legal to park on their lawns because the County has an easement for parking.  Which means that those rocks and signs and driftwood piles are illegal.  But the County chooses not to enforce that illegality, leaving the place looking like it would be the parkers that are engaged in illegality.  Although, the Sheriff's deputies will not ticket you if you DO park on those lawn edges because there is an easement for parking.  Got it?  

So, the 'solution' (which is not much of a solution) is to counsel people in cars to park wherever,however you might do that.  Which does not necessarily please the people in Maple Beach who are of the opinion that there is no need of a solution because there is no problem.

I don't think this is likely to be a place where minds can come together on some compromise or anything.  It's either a problem without a solution or a solution without a problem.  Where's the common ground there?  Nonetheless, voices were somewhat heated.

I was at this meeting because I wanted to offer to the Committee the possibility of its using some of its gas tax moneys/monies for a pocket park in front of the new library.  The gas tax money, which increases every month and in the near future will hit a million dollars, can be used for only very limited purposes having to do with road improvements, roadway beautification, roadway signage, like that.  There had been for some time consideration of a small park at the end of Gulf Rd, but that was proving difficult because of the specific property owners's concerns.  It had occurred to me that if they moved that little imagined park up to the new library frontage, it would be a perfect place to have a pocket park with some overhead protection and seating and 24 hour a day wifi availability, which the library provides.

So I was on the agenda to present this idea, which had occurred to me only three days ago.  Nevertheless, before I got to present my idea, the Committee's representative from the Voters' Association, got up and read a manifesto from the Board of Directors of the Voters' Association.  This manifesto had been determined at a closed meeting of the Board held, apparently, hours earlier as it was dated October 9.  The manifesto opposed my proposal, along with a bunch of other things they felt a sincere need to oppose.  With regard to the pocket park which was the subject of my  proposal, they stated that their opposition was based upon their belief that "until there is an actual need that would truly benefit the community we should not fund this project."

Needless to say, it's hard to imagine what "actual need" would satisfy them.  I'm impressed, I guess, with their efficiency in opposing things that haven't even been officially proposed.  It suggests an amazing commitment to opposing things, at least.  Which would, of course, be in line with much of what voting is about in some segments of the population nowadays.

But, when there was some questioning of the relevance of opposing things that hadn't yet been proposed, as well as some other technical problems involving terms of office for the Committee, the aforementioned Representative from the voters stormed out and, with his back at the door, announced that he had not come there to have the Chairperson argue with him.  I think his future in politics is limited.  But what do I know?

Anyway, if you belong to the Voters' Association and you think a pocket park at the library might be a nice thing, you might mention it to the Board of Directors members.  Unfortunately, I can't give you a link to their website because they don't seem to have one; and I can't give you an email address because their material in the most recent APB doesn't include any email contact, at least not that I could find.  So you may have to wait until you run into them, whoever they may be other than Elizabeth Lanz (she signed the manifesto of opposition) and Dwayne Hunt (he presented it).  I imagine there are more than two of them, but who knows?

Not clear that anybody left on the floor at the Community Advisory Committee Meeting had any ideas about anything by the end of it all.

Nevertheless!  The Community Advisory Committee will meet again next month on November 13th at 7 p.m.  It might be the best entertainment on the Point that week.  On the other hand, we have the Fire Commissioners performing again tonight, 7 pm, at the Firehall on Benson.  It's a horse race, as they say about politics.