Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Bad Case of Magpie

          Okay, so I got an iPhone.
          I know I'm not the last person on earth to get a smartphone. There are unelectrified villages in Africa none of whose inhabitants have a smartphone.
          So it's not like I'm officially a Luddite. But I do play one on TV.
          All I really wanted was a phone that had a keyboard, so I could text people, and also it had to work globally, because K wants to be able to find me in fewer than three days when I wander off and get lost in the vast expanses of the Louvre.
          And I had all that with AT&T. Except whenever I'd call them with a cell-phone-related matter, they'd treat me like a deadbeat who was never going to pay them ever in my life after stealing all their valuable minutes from them. When I finally pointed out that I'd been an AT&T customer since I was in college, which was longer than the person I was talking to had been alive, and had a long history with them of Not Actually Being a Deadbeat, she said, "Oh, the land-line stuff is not part of us." And then continued to treat me like a deadbeat.
          Hello, Verizon. Goodbye AT&T. And since everyone I know and love has an iPhone, I caved to the peer pressure, and rashly told the nice Verizon sales rep to iPhone me.
          How do I love thee, iPhone? Let me google the ways.
          Because at last count, I whip out my iPhone and google something roughly a bazillion times a week. (Granted, at least a quarter of a bazillion of those googles are for the definition of "eschatological," which apparently I am doomed to go to my grave not being able to remember for more than a day and a half at a time.)
          I am a magpie. I cannot resist any bright shiny piece of information. The population of Brooklyn!* The length of a Martian year! Montague Summers! Hierophany! Fleurop! Auto da fe! Nou Goth Sonne Under Wod!
          They all sparkle seductively at me and so I google them like a magpie picks up bits of tinfoil and mica, so I can store them away and on dark days admire their pretty gleam.
          I had no idea I had been missing so much lovely information. I adore you, iPhone.

Magpie looking for shiny things.

*More controversial, it turns out, than you'd think.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More Whining About Technology

          Okay, show of hands—
          How many of you, as you're hanging on hold on the telephone waiting to talk to a real person about whatever your problem du jour is, and the tinny little cyborg voice tells you, "Please stay on the line. Your call is important to us—"
          How many of you say to that obnoxious cyborg, "No it's not"?

©Nancy E. Banks
          I thought so.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Guardian of the Park

          There's mystery and whimsy at my local park. People chalk really cheesy original poems on the sidewalks in springtime and proudly sign their names.* Teenagers play some kind of monopoly-slash-hopscotch, chalking arcane and sometimes snarky instructions to each other (or possibly to random passers) on the sidewalks. Someone leaves a rose on one of the benches from time to time. Someone else glued toy army figures to one of the wrought-iron fences one winter. A lone Santa decorates a small blue spruce at Christmas time. I have no idea what any of it means (except for the stencilled "Believe" with arrowhead decoration that the groundskeepers have been unable to erase from the sidewalk by the little lake—that is a fruitless exhortation to demoralized Kansas City Chiefs fans to keep the faith).
          And from time to time, someone hangs something in the branches of a large pine tree.

          This is what was hanging there yesterday. Salmo trutta cyanensis, the elusive evergreen-dwelling blue trout. I don't know what it means.
          I just like the idea that, in the branches of that tree lurks a blue trout, watching us all—the dog-walkers and the power-walkers, the joggers and the picnickers and the pick-up soccer players.
         We come to the park; we pass by; and the blue trout remains, watching.

*Although I am no fan of the poetry itself, it's always done prettily, in colored chalk, so I give the actual words a miss and just enjoy the colors.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

          I see that the charming video of Pooka that I posted the other day doesn't work.
          That sound you hear is me banging my head against the desk. Because it's going to take some time to figure out what went wrong and how to correct it.
          In the meantime, there will be a fresh post on Saturday about fish in trees that you might enjoy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dog TV

          Running through the sprinkler is one of the things my dogs do that never fails to delight me. Here, Pooka gets a rare chance to enjoy the sprinkler by himself (Casey usually hogs it).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It's a Bit of a Hike

          "It's a bit of a hike," I said.
          My niece gave me A Look.
          "What?" I said, all defensive.
          "It's just that you always say that and whenever you do we always walk for like four hours," she said.
          I dispute the claim about the four hours*, and I had no idea that I say "It's a bit of a hike," so much. The whole conversation rattled me. It was like borrowing M's eyes and looking at myself through them to discover that instead of the kind of indulgent, endearingly retro aunt with the offbeat sense of humor and the fun hair and the no-more-than-normal interest in walking that I imagine myself to be, I was some kind of grimly sadistic Outward Bound group leader aunt, bristling with sensible shoes and bwa-ha-ha-ing as she flogged her helpless relatives on yet another Bataan Death March outing, forcing them to walk until their feet are worn down to nubbins.
          I had no idea I was this sort of Horrible Aunt. I fear, for the sake of the children, that I will have to give up saying, "It's a bit of a hike." And also doing anything walking-related with my niece and nephew.
          But I love saying, "It's a bit of a hike."  I'll miss that.
          I also really like being endearingly retro, at least in my own mind.
          On the other hand, I could probably have a glamorous new career as a drill sergeant.

*Forty minutes, tops.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why I'm friends with Iceland

          Iceland wants to be your friend. The country. Really. You can befriend it by clicking here.
          Iceland is one of my friends. I've always wanted a country for a friend, and Iceland is the perfect friend. Why? Here's my list:

                                                                      Beautiful vistas.


                                                    A grocery store with a pig in its name.

                                                               Pretty blue thermal pools.

                                                                Really large waterfalls.

                                                                        The ocean.

                                                     Seals who swim up when you shout,
                                                              "Puppy puppy puppy!"

                                                 (All photographs are ©Nancy E. Banks)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fireworks Prohibited?!! Not a Problem!

         My favorite Fourth of July celebrations are smoke-choked affairs scented with the bewitching aroma of freshly-exploded gunpowder, illuminated only by sparks and flashes, and deafened by rolling explosions so earth-thumpingly, bone-poundingly glorious that you walk around on jelly legs hearing nothing but the ringing in your own ears for days afterwards.
          My father is the presiding genius of this sort of celebration, and also the author of our family's Absolute Best Fourth of July ever, which took place at the farm of my parents' friends, involved platoons of fireworks both licit and il-, and, after we'd burned through those, battlefield-worthy explosions produced by the simple expedient of packing a paper towel roll with A LOT of gunpowder*, sticking a fuse in, lighting it, and running away very fast.
          Along with the heart-stopping explosion, this produced a pall of smoke so thick and sulfurous that our friends' farm took on the appearance of an agricultural enterprise from the outskirts of hell. It was a Fourth of July for the ages.
          You could reasonably assume, then, that the interdiction against fireworks, flame, sparks, and even excessive friction that has been imposed on the greater state of Colorado (where I celebrated Our Nation's Birthday with my parents, sister, and her most excellent offspring) because of wildfire risk would have left me desolate—but only if you didn't know my mom, who, although not in any manner of speaking the Presiding Genius of Gunpowder-fueled Celebration, IS the Presiding Genius of All Else That is Too Fun for Words.
          Because Mom—sweet, gardening, cookie-baking Mom—put on her Special Ops hat and produced heavy artillery of the water-powered sort, chortling evilly as she did. And we all spent a warm afternoon running, yelling, and soaking each other. It was spectacular.
          If we'd been able to add gunpowder, it would have been perfect.

A temporary truce, blithely ignored by at least two of the combatants.
©Nancy E. Banks

*Because A LOT of gunpowder is just something that both my dad and his friend normally had lying around the place.