Watch Your Relations With Other People Carefully Are Reserved

What in the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks?

Our Chinese fortune from the fortune cookie.

I couldn’t sleep last night. Why? All I kept wondering was what our fortune meant. The little slip of paper read, “Watch your relations with other people carefully are reserved.” As no dreams came to me, and no visions of mindful illumination awakened my senses, I must turn to you, the folks of the Internet, for help. What in the h-e-double hockey sticks does this mean?

Yummy Soup. Tasty Egg Rolls. Fortune Cookie.


It began with a fine bowl of Lu’s Noodle Soup and some egg rolls. Yummy! With the meal complete there it was, the fortune cookie – staple of every meal at a Chinese restaurant. In its little, cellophane wrapper waited riches, knowledge, and of course, our fortune. Riches would come in the form of lucky numbers; Knowledge was coming in a new Chinese word for me to never learn; Most important, however, a wise saying that would lead to good fortune for me and my wife. We would have to share the fortune because the restaurant only gave us one cookie.

I let my wife do the honors, and she noisily opened the cookie, as there is no other way thanks to the wrapper. Her gentle hands proceeded to crack open the cookie, throw the cookie portion away as neither of us really care for the taste of a fortune cookie, and she carefully studied the tiny slip of paper. A look of confusion came upon her face.

Is Milo Going To Eat Us While We Sleep?

I was worried. Did it say something like, “Be careful the pet who wakes you up early as they will one day eat you in your sleep.”, or maybe “The person who loves another will never love himself.” I fearfully asked, “What did it say?” She began to read it to me, “Watch your relations with other people carefully are reserved.” I thought she was having a brain meltdown, that somehow she lost her ability to read or speak, so I snatched the paper of wonder from her hand. “Watch your relations with other people care-fully are reserved.”

“In Bed” Didn’t Help

I even tried adding “in bed” to the saying, as that always makes the fortune even more wise. “Watch your relations with other people care-fully are reserved in bed.” That didn’t help. What does this mean? Was the fact that “carefully” had a hyphen, writtne it as “care-fully” bring further insight?

Oh no! Wise fortune, I do not understand!

No Days for a Quest

I was considering taking my tiny slip of paper on a quest, maybe to the far reaches of China in search of a wise Buddhist Monk. Could he help me learn the true meaning of our fortune? Maybe I should go on one of those silent retreats to clear my mind and discover if the hyphen is the window to our soul.

Sadly, as I’m out of vacation days at work, there will be no quest so I must turn to you, oh wise Internet friends. Hopefully you can shed some light on the meaning of “Watch your relations with other people care-fully are reserved.” While I wait patiently for your interpretation I suppose I’ll just use the lucky number for the next Powerball or Mega Millions drawing. I’m thinking $50 million bucks will help me really not care.

At least, in the end, I know “Hai-zi” means children in Chinese. I will probably never use this knowledge.

Oodles of Beauty and Joy – The Gardens at Ball

A Garden in an Industrial Park?

There are surprise discoveries in one’s life that can bring even more oodles of beauty and joy to one’s perfect, summer day than just, well, a perfect, summer day. Thanks to my cousin, Ron, and his wife, Vicky, I got to experience more oodles of beauty and joy, on a perfect, summer day.

The Gardens at Ball 2017

It was also a day of “Who knew?”

Where was this surprise discovery with the blue skies and wonderful summer breezes blowing on a Sunday afternoon? It was a place called The Gardens at Ball, located at the West Chicago, Illinois headquarters of Ball Horticultural Company, which for the sake of my typing I will simply refer to as “Ball” during this little writing episode.

Ball Horticultural CompanyYou may have never heard of Ball, but I can almost guarantee you have experienced some aspect of their work as they have, through the years, bred, sold, and distributed the seeds that become many of the beautiful plants you want in your flower garden, or planted around your house. The Gardens are a showcase of the plants they breed and develop so that the folks that grow and sell them in mass can see them, in all of their glory.

The surprise part? The Gardens at Ball are meant mostly for industry professionals. My cousin is in the business, and he visited a few years ago with his wife. They let me know about the place, about how beautiful and interesting it was, and I have been intrigued ever since. As The Gardens are for industry folks they generally aren’t open to the public., however, on a Sunday in July, thanks to Ball Horticultural Company and The Garden Conservancy, the public was allowed to walk around experience the latest Ball has to offer.

“Let’s Go See Some Plants!”

Reaching for the Sun!As my wife and I had some free time on the Sunday of the event, and the weather was beautiful, I said, “Wife, let’s go see some plants!” She found herself skeptical, but on that recommendation of my cousins we were off.

Nestled in an industrial park this is not really the place one would expect a garden, however, as you drive past the building and start to see the variety of plants, you know you are at the right location, pulling in and heading towards the gardens.

For this event there were tour guides, many from the University of Illinois Extension program for Master Gardeners, as well as Ball employees to answer questions, and upon being offered a guide we were paired with Logan who asked our interest in the gardens. We mentioned we had a clean slate of landscaping around our house to populate, were looking for inspiration, and also how not to kill Lantana, my specialty.

The Gardens at Ball

Wonderful color at The Gardens at Ball.Beginning our walk around the over 10 acres of plants, Logan did a wonderful job of explaining the various parts of The Gardens at Ball which are separated into different classes of plants. There are shady areas spotlighting plants that do a little better with less sunlight where begonias and coleus abound, areas dedicated to just PanAmerican Seed with Easy Wave petunia, millet, ornamental peppers and more. There are rose gardens, a giant, perennial area, hostas for everyone, and a long row of nearly every color geranium you can imagine, all interspersed among the paths that take you in a logical circle, eventually getting you back to the entrance.

Walking through The Gardens it occurred to me that the selection of plants I would see at my local big-box hardware store kind of sucked. The shear variety of color and variation of the standard “here are some petunias” you find at those stores pales in comparison to the beauties you will spot walking around the winding paths and trails around the grounds. I will say this, both my wife and I came up with a plethora of ideas for around our house, and I’m hoping that Canna Cannova, at least I believe that’s what it was, can be incorporated to naturally attract some hummingbirds. I just hope we can find them all to buy somewhere, but in a worst case I suppose I could make a call, “Hey, cuz, any chance you can order me some SunPatiens, the Tropical Orange variety? How about some Rex Jurassic Pink Shades Begonia?”

The Rex Jurassic Shades BegoniaThe Rex Jurassic was one of those “Who knew?” moments while walking around The Gardens, as Ball developed a begonia to similarly mirror the skin of a T-Rex. It kind of reminded me of my grandma who would take her different colored violets, say her dark blue and white ones, somehow mix them together, and get cool things like a blue violet with a white border. I believe, however, that the folks at Ball are a little more scientific than my grandma!

With our walking around the gardens finished, and I believe I heard it was the first time they did this, Ball allowed tours of their facility which brought many more “Who knew?” moments apart from the ton of “Who knew?” while just walking around the gardens.

Like a Brewery Tour, Only No Samples

Seed coating at Ball Horticultural CompanyThe tour we were given focused on a variety of aspects of their business, from seed coating (Who knew the folks who mass-planted the little suckers into those trays needed coated seeds?), to seed pellets (Have you ever seen those SimplyHerb gardens, with six or so herbs in one pot? No, they don’t plant six individual seeds, Ball combines them into one pellet, the planting people shove one in some dirt, and ‘Voila!”, six plants in one pot! Who knew?), to how they pre-germinate seeds. When you sell seeds you also prefer to count them so you know how many you are selling. Count them by hand? Nah, invent a seed counter so you can go crazy with up to 2000 pellets of seed in a second. Lastly came some quality control. Turns out that in the seed business you also need to tell your customers what kind of yield to expect, and to improve your own process to get better yield. Do you want some human to make this judgement call? Nope, we want lasers! So did Ball, and they developed a laser and photo system to analyze trays of just-germinated seeds.

Color at The Gardens at BallReally, who knew there was so much to seeds? I just remember taking a dried up marigold, trying to plant the seeds, and hoping a few of them would grow. I guess when you are selling millions you need a little bit better process.

I know this blog post has gotten long, and I apologize, but I was fascinated by the entire Gardens at Ball experience. Going there was kind of like being let into that secret room in the back of the bar that only the cool people get to get into, only instead of beautiful drinks and beautiful people you get garden heaven.

More Pictures Next Year? I Hope So!

Hopefully they will have this event again next year, and I’ll be setting a reminder to check The Garden Conservancy website next Spring. Now that the wife and I have all kinds of ideas for our yard, next year I’m hoping to be able to get even more pictures and share more oodles of beauty and joy of a summer day with you.

Beautiful gardens in the middle of an industrial area? Who knew?

Shooting a Beaver

Shooting a beaver. Dam!I am a man who finds farts funny. I will admit that I find it funny when I fart, and I find it funny, most of the time, when others fart. About the only time I don’t find farts funny is when I’m stuck on an airplane and the person next to me has rotten egg gas. Usually, if I can work myself upwind, fart away, and I will laugh!

I have my favorite slang for farting, and it’s usually centered on something about a duck. Sometimes, though, the best, most funny word is just fart.

The other day, however, someone I know commented, as I accidentally let a duck get in the room, “You just shot a beaver!” I looked at them with puzzlement. “What?” They repeated, “You just shot a beaver!”

This was a phrase I’ve never heard in this context before. I quickly demanded an explanation which related to something like “We used to say that all of the time when I was younger and someone farted.”

Again I was perplexed, but things got more complicated.

It appears for this person that the process of fart acknowledgement also included a visual component as, along with “You just shot a beaver,” the person who didn’t fart was supposed to lick their thumb and stick it on their forehead in some kind of “Someone in this group farted, and it wasn’t me!” ritual. Now I recall back in college the importance of claiming your fart with a “No slugs,” and if you didn’t claim the fart it was acceptable to slug the farter in the arm, but there was no thumb licking.

Now I’ve had a long life, spanning half a century, and in my past I can remember various ways to announce one’s passing gas, tendency for crop dusting, cutting the cheese, or the inevitable trouser trumpet, but nowhere in my memory banks did anything with beavers have to do with farting.

You see, for me, shooting a beaver relates to a few things, the obvious being physically shooting a beaver, and the other relating to a woman exposing her private area, a la Sharon Stone giving the “beaver shot” in “Basic Instinct.” Mostly, though, it conjures up the movie “The Naked Gun” where Jane (Priscilla Presley) climbs a ladder and Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) looks up and says “Nice beaver,” to which Jane replies, “Thanks, I just had it stuffed” as she hands Frank a stuffed beaver.

To each their own, I suppose, when it comes to announcing one’s flatulence, firing the butt bazooka, or recognizing another’s sphincter siren, it’s just that the beaver saying took me by surprise. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because, as I was doing research for this post I found that you can also say, “Beaver leaver” or “Shoot bunnies” when it comes to farting. There is one thing that is for certain, though, when it comes to breaking wind, and that is whoever smelt it, dealt it.

So please, whatever it takes, don’t deal it on a plane, and ladies, be careful not to shoot a beaver. Crossing your legs should help.

Starbucks and the Case of the Missing Cookie Butter Bar

Andy Note: It appears as of January 2018, the Cookie Butter Bar is back, but under a new moniker, The Cookie Crumble Bar. I’m not sure if it is exactly the same, but it sure tastes like it. Maybe they got rid of the “butter” part so it doesn’t sound so unhealthy? We’ll see if it goes away again come March.

On the coffee front, or should I say the “latte” front, I’ll admit I’m a Starbucks man. My drink of choice is the venti, iced, non-fat latte, even in the winter. I’ll also admit that I am wont to sometimes peruse the food case looking for maybe a brownie or chocolate chip cookie. I understand it’s not the best of food choices, but every now and then a sweet treat is in order, and one of those usually fits the bill.

It was my wife who told me about this bar of wonder. Me, I’m a creature of habit, and even though I pride myself on being observant when things are different, for whatever reason there are times, say if there were a lion sitting in the corner of the Starbucks, I wouldn’t notice it as my focus would be “Do they have any cookies or brownies? Yes!”, followed by order time. My wife, on the other hand, will look for new things. One day she told me she found the most glorious of treats, and that she was lucky enough to get one because the barista told her they sell out quickly.

Three Words. Cookie Butter Bar.

Three Words - Cookie Butter BarAs my wife and I share similar tastes I knew I had to try one so on my next trip I actually looked around the food case, and there it was, speaking to me as if “You have no idea the glorious tastes that will be crossing your palette in a few minutes!” I ordered my latte, asked for a Cookie Butter Bar in place of the brownie, and the barista looked at me with that look in her eye of “Your life will never be the same.”

I sat down, took a sip of my latte, and let the wonders of cookie butter, icing and “gingerbread-like Speculoos cookie,” whatever that is, cross my lips into a moment of sweet bliss, saying to the bar, “Where have you been all my life?”

No more brownie for me, nope, I have one love, and one love only in the bakery area of the food case at Starbucks, the Cookie Butter Bar.

My World is Crushed

The Cookie Butter Bar is DiscontinuedYes, the Cookie Butter Bar was incredibly popular, and on my next trip to Starbucks they were nowhere to be found. Okay, absence makes the heart grow fonder I figured. On the weekend morning my wife and I were in luck as we could share the “Wow, these are awesome!” together. A challenge to find, but worth the quest.

Then the work week started. My wife visited her Starbucks and texted me that she heard something disturbing from her barista, “they were being discontinued.” I told her they must have just been messing with her. Why would they get rid of the best thing they have ever sold? I felt secure that, at “my” Starbucks, I would have no difficulty in securing tasty goodness.

“We don’t carry them any longer.”

I Wanted to Cry

I inquired more, “Why?”

The girl barista simply explained that like a cranberry bar they used to have, the Cookie Butter Bar was destined to be a seasonal, Spring item, and once gone they were gone. The dude barista went on this explanation of there were only so many people in the world, each eating so many meals a day, and that there just wasn’t room for people to eat the Cookie Butter Bar because it took away from their brownie and normal cookie sales. I believe I was going along with the girl barista, but kudos to him for the most convoluted explanation of my sadness, ever.

The Cookie Butter Bar is Nowhere in SightStill with my doubts I pulled out my Starbucks app. “One of these stores has to still have them. I’ll stock up!” Everywhere it was they were sold out, or mostly “Not sold at this store.”

How? How could Starbucks only make like five of these scrumptious bakery items per store, I mean, it must be like five because no one has them?

I tried store after store on my travels. Explanations abounded like “They haven’t been shipping them to us.”, “They were a seasonal item.”, “We don’t carry them anymore.”, “I don’t know why we aren’t getting them.” “I thought they would make more.”

The Spring of Discontent

My dreams are now haunted with the memory of the Cookie Butter Bar. I mean, really, Starbucks, you have a “Spring” bakery item that doesn’t even last a month? What kind of Spring is that? Who planned this? This is the “Spring of Discontent!” Heck, they still have the other Spring items, which people obviously don’t like as much, but were brownie sales that important that you had to get rid of the Cookie Butter Bar?

It is said that it is better to have loved and lost then never have loved at all, or some crap like that, and maybe I should take some solace knowing I was one of the lucky ones, I was able to have not one, but two of the most delicious bakery items Starbucks has ever sold, but dammit, in this case, never having loved the Cookie Butter Bar at all might be better.

I’m the Grumpy Old Man Yelling at the TV

I'm a Grumpy Old ManI’m not exactly sure when it happened, but the shift is coming to my becoming the grumpy old man who yells at the TV. In the past it usually seemed to happen with the election cycle, but then the yelling would wane after the dust settled. This time, though, I can’t stop. When I brought it up my wife just shook her head and agreed that I have been doing it for a while, way before the last election.

The thing is that I only seem to be doing it when she is around, and rarely does she listen to me!

I wish I could blame politics, Donald Trump, bad sports teams, or general grumpiness with the world, but in general I’m a happy guy, a guy who can see the best in things, but just about anything on the TV lately can get a rise out of me, from the news to a sitcom.

Examples include:

  • “Why are we hearing about a story about a hospital in Sweden that is closing?”
  • “What, now a comedian can’t even perform with out being protested?”
  • “Why didn’t she just make her own speech instead of quoting someone else?”
  • “Who would steal his jersey?”
  • “How in the hell can Agent Ressler not die? And how in the hell did they get there so fast?” (You have to suspend a lot of disbelief while watching “The Blacklist,” I’ve decided.)
  • The proverbial “Don’t these people work?”
  • “You can’t complain that’s all they pay. That’s all they pay you.”
  • “I’ll bet it was a shiv.” Wife, “What’s a shiv?” (She was listening this time) Me, “You know, a prison knife.”
  • “What a horse’s ass. He gets pulled over because the police are doing their job, and gets all ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ on them,” and my wife goes “Talking to the TV again?”

The list goes on and on.

It’s funny, though, because I talk as if the people are actually listening to me, and sometimes I think they might reply. I’m also giving them tons of advice, little nuggets of wisdom, and yet they still don’t listen. I mean, what’s wrong with these people on TV? Don’t they realize how foolish they look?

I know it drives my wife crazy, especially as we are watching one of her shows, but what is a man to do? Sure, I could head to my office, but what fun would that be? At least with her around, even though I’m seemingly talking to myself most of the time, at I don’t think I’m the crazy one.

I used to make fun of my mom when she would be TV talking while any Cleveland sports team was playing, usually combining her analysis of the action with a “That’s it!”, meaning the game might as well be over now because Cleveland screwed up again. Now I wonder who might be making fun of me. Oh yea, it’s my wife!

Maybe it’s just something that we do as we get older and want to share our infinite knowledge of the world with others, especially when no one listens to us, but it’s getting bad for me, especially when I catch myself doing it, or now, find I’m also starting to talk to the radio. I suppose it’s okay until the day the TV or radio actually answers back, then I know I’m really in trouble.

While On a Conference Call

The Conference Call Doodle
Someone I know likes to doodle while on conference calls.

One of the many things I’m grateful for in most of my work is that I am rarely on a conference call. It’s also one of those things that while I understand their necessity at times, in hearing most people talk about them, they generally seem to be some of the least productive uses of people’s time, ever.

I recall one conference call I was a part of. It was five other people when I was doing some contracted, iPhone development. The client was very nice, and we set up a conference call to get things started and filter ideas between the other people in the company who needed to be involved. I wasn’t the one leading the call, which was my first mistake, and there wasn’t a set agenda, which was another mistake. The call quickly shifted from some thoughts about the design of the app, to other company business that I didn’t really need to be on the call for, back to some iPhone stuff, back to company stuff, and about an hour later I realized that conference calls are generally a waste of time.

I say this not only with my own experience on, well, that one conference call, but in listening to stories of, and being in an office of various people on, the conference call. Generally there is the “I have a conference call at 2PM,” followed by joining the conference call, followed by waiting for everyone to join the conference call, followed by deciding if the conference call can proceed without one of the people, I’ll call him Mike, who was also supposed to be on the conference call but didn’t seem to call in.

As the conference call continues, the leader of the call will talk about what is supposed to be discussed, and in general everyone on the call will now put their phone on speakerphone and mute so they can go about trying to do other things while listening if something they are involved in finally comes up. Out of the corner of their not paying attention they will hear something they are supposed to chime in on, take said phone off mute, ask “I didn’t catch what you just said. Can you repeat the question?”, the question gets repeated, said person answers their question with another question for a different person, that person chimes in “I didn’t catch what you just said. Can you repeat the question?”, to which that person is now doubly-perplexed because they weren’t paying attention to any of the conversation prior to the question directed at them because they were elbow deep in reviews of material, thickness, and the sweat absorption of warm socks they are thinking of buying on Amazon, liking a dog video on Facebook, helping Mario rescue Princess Toadstool, or simply doodling, as one person near and dear to me is known to do.

An answer is finally given, only now there is a signal “Mike has joined the call.”

“Hi Mike!”, “Hello Mike.”, “Glad you could make it, Mike!”, and Mike’s “Sorry I’m late. Can someone fill me in on what I missed?” The sound of muteness occurs as a synopsis is given to Mike which is somehow actually longer than the call has been so far, Mike asks a question, and a “Can you repeat the question?” reverberates on everyone’s speakerphones.

This cycle repeats until a conversation that should probably have taken ten minutes has now surpassed an hour and a half, but at least socks were purchased, Princess Toadstool is saved, and some awesome doodles were created.

We’re not done, though, as the follow-up conference call is set for one week to give updates no one will have because they weren’t really paying attention to what they were supposed to do on this conference call.

At least there will be more doodles, thankfully not by me.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!

I Need an “I’m Weak” Emoji

When is the worst time to completely lose your desire to eat healthy and exercise? Yup, right before the holiday season, and for me that’s exactly what happened. Earlier in the year, when faced with food temptations, I was strong. I stuck to my slow carb diet, had my cheat day, and I would even text my wife how strong I was by texting her the food choice in front of me, and using the “I’m strong” emoji ????, and profess my awesomeness for not eating it. Slowly “I’m strong” fell apart, and what I really needed was an emoji to say “I’m weak” that I could text to her as I was stuffing my face with a brownie.I'm Weak Emoji

I think my initial loss of desire started with our trip to Costa Rica in early May, but thankfully the summer activity helped my weight overcome some of the bad food choices as cheat day started to turn into cheat weekend. A vacation in the fall didn’t help, and by the time Thanksgiving came I was in full-blown “I’ll eat anything, and if it involves chocolate or beer, even better!” I was weak. So weak. And I wanted to express it. My iPhone didn’t have it. 🙁

I’m Weak

I know some of the face emojis are supposed to signify weakness, or something like that, but usually I look at most of them and they either say “I’m happy ????,” “I’m sad ????,” “I’m mad ????,” “I’m sneaky ????,” or some variation ????. None of them expressed my weakness the way I imagined it, but thankfully my nephew understood what I was thinking, and drew up  the “I’m weak” emoji, complete with cookie. Does anyone have the phone number of the emoji people so I can petition them to adopt it? I mean, hell, they added bacon and a clown face lately, why not the wiggly arm of weakness?

I would like to say that with the new year things are different, that I am back to being ????, but although I may have tried to walk a little bit more than I did in December, January has still had instances of weakness. Take yesterday, for example. There I am, at Starbucks, ordering my venti, iced, nonfat latte, and I spot a brownie in the display. I didn’t text my wife, but if I did it would have been I'm Weak Emoji.

Yes, I had the brownie.

I’m weak. At least right now.

I’m Sorry, Cleveland, I’m a Chicago Cubs Fan

Dreaming of SummerI tried. I honestly did. I’m sorry, Cleveland, I’m a Chicago Cubs fan.

For years and years, even since I moved to Chicago, I questioned my allegiance, wondered who I would root for, in the end, if the “End of the World” scenario would happen, a Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians World Series. The world is still spinning yet here we are, five games into the World Series, with Cleveland up 3 – 2, and I finally know where I stand. It occurred firmly during game five when I announced on Facebook I had cheered on the Cubs for the first four games, but I was all in for the Tribe in game five.

Because, like many a sports fan, I assumed my actions actually influence a team in some way, I blamed the Cubs being in their losing situation as my fault because I was on their side. I also didn’t want to be on the side of the loser so I announced on Facebook that I was all in for the Tribe, and in doing so I was either helping out the Cubs because my flipping sides would cause them to win, or I would at least be on the side of the winner and could revel in a glorious World Series victory. That “flipping” lasted about 1/2 pitch.

Firmly implanted in the couch, with beer on my left side, the Indians came to the plate, and I quickly began to drive my wife crazy as something good would go the Cubs way, I would express my glee, but then quickly say “No, wait, I mean ‘Bad, bad, bad!'” For that first inning, with every action, my wife had no idea who was doing better, and try as I might to switch my happiness or disappointment to an action by Cleveland, I kept finding myself happy or disappointed in the actions by the Cubs, and when Cleveland scored in the second inning, and I was pissed at the sign of impending Cubs doom, I realized right then that it had finally happened, I was a Chicagoan. I was a Cubs fan.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as I’ve lived in Chicago for about 31 of my 49 years now, not including my short stint in middle Illinois, and as the years have gone by, and never being able to actually watch a Cleveland sports team, I’ve gotten sucked in by the generally suckiness of Chicago teams, with a few glimmers of hope in the White Sox World Series, and if I were a bigger hockey fan I’ve always got the Blackhawks.

Don’t get me wrong, I still root for the Cleveland teams, just not when they are playing the Chicago teams.

So here I am, the morning of game six of the World Series, and it’s time to accept it, I’m a Chicago fan. I will accept my fate in this World Series, either being happy for my Cleveland fans who for years, up until the Cavs, wallowed in suckiness, but from the first pitch tonight I’ll be all in, oh way, I can’t be “all in,” that’s a Cleveland thing, so I guess I’ll just be cheering on the lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, and pray they won’t be losers any longer.

As my mom would say, “Go Cubbies!” She would have loved this series, though it might have killed her, but as much as she like the Cubs I have no doubt she would be cheering on the Tribe because she never left #Believeland.

Bad Winter Rising

A squirrel at the ready for a bad winter.There is a bad winter rising this year here in Chicagoland. That is my prediction, and I’m sticking to it. Mind you I have no scientific evidence, no empirical data, and no analysis of current weather patterns and how they relate to past weather patterns that would predict a harsh winter. My prediction this year is based solely on the squirrels.

The Wooly Bear

I understand some people may use other methods, maybe the prevailing winds at the time of the autumnal equinox, or the timing of the leaves falling from the trees, or the Farmers Almanac, or, in the case of my childhood, the famed weatherman from Cleveland, Dick Goddard, utilizing the wooly bear caterpillar, but I wasn’t paying attention to the wind, and haven’t seen a wooly bear since my youth in Ohio. What I have been paying attention to, lately, are squirrels.

Let me explain a little more.

Out of the Palm of My Hand

In my attempt to try not to balloon to 300 pounds my general version of exercise is going for a walk. For the past few years my favorite walking areas are a park near my day job, and a park near home where we walk our dog, Milo. Both parks have a stable amount of trees, nothing crazy, it’s not like I’m walking in a forest, but with the trees comes the occasional squirrel.

I’m a fan of squirrels, find them kind of cute, and remember being that young lad in Ohio when we would leave peanuts for the squirrels on our patio to the point the squirrels became comfortable enough to take the peanuts out of my hand. Maybe it is that fondness that causes me to notice them while I walk, and smile, but lately I have noticed something.

Scared Squirrels

I do recall the past few years seeing squirrels foraging as Fall arrived, but there weren’t that many, and the past couple of winters haven’t been that bad, all things considered. This year, though, I have been noticing a lot of squirrels, to the point at one time I saw about five of them all in this area of the park. They seem to be scrambling, they seem to be on a mission, and they seem to be scared.

Yes, in their eyes I see worry, and there aren’t many things a squirrel worries about. I know, I’ve asked them. They mention the snakes and raccoons are a pain, most dogs they can get away from by scurrying up a tree, but the hawks generally worry them the most. This year, though, their squirrel-sense is tingling, and the tingling is because they sense snow and cold, which leaves to no food, which for a squirrel is worse than a hawk, or so they say.

Snow Blower

I used to enjoy winter, but lately, as I get older, that enjoyment tends to go away after the first, beautiful carpet of white turns into a dirty mess. Maybe I should return to my youth this year and go back to building snow forts and making snowmen, but first, I suppose, I should get the snow blower out of storage soon, I have a feeling I’m going to need it a lot this year. The squirrels are telling me so.


When Siri Fails

As I get older I rely on Siri, on my iPhone, to remind me of things. Okay, fine, it’s not because I’m getting older, it’s mostly just because she is there. I remember the old days just trying to plant in my memory banks the reminder of something to do. It usually worked pretty well, but then technology came along. One of the things I got in the habit of doing was calling myself and leaving a voicemail. It didn’t go off at a certain time, but there would be the small memory trigger of “Self, there was something I wanted to remember, do you remember what it was?” “No, Self, I don’t, but I remember leaving myself a voicemail, so let’s check that.” “Okay, Self, let’s do that….” (check voicemail) “Oh, yea, Self, take the chicken out of the freezer.”

Then came Siri.

Than came “Remind me at 8PM take the chicken out of the freezer.” Sure enough, at 8PM, my iPhone or Apple Watch would signal I was supposed to do something, and Siri was there with “Take chicken out of the freezer.” “Remind me when I get home water the plants.” I would get home and there it was, Siri’s gentle reminder so that plants wouldn’t die.

Siri fails me. I don't know what I need another of.Usually Siri never lets me down, but there it is, in my reminders, amongst the items to keep our dog, Milo, healthy, mixed with the quarterly reminder to change the air filter, and some other things I either have coming up or, yea, I keep neglecting, a completely obscure “See if I can get another.”

Siri failed.

I vaguely remember taking my phone, holding down the Home button, hearing the little chirp, and saying “Remind me see if can get another…”, and then something I don’t remember because, well, I wanted Siri to remember for me. There had to be the Siri’s reassuring reply of “I’ll remind you.” because the reminder is in my list, sort of, but I’m sure I didn’t look at my iPhone to see if she got the reminder correct because, well, I trust Siri. The problem is that I wanted another something, and Siri was only half-listening. Maybe she was looking at her emails, or checking her friend’s Facebook update. I trusted Siri to remind me to get another of something, and Siri failed.

Bad Siri.

As I troll through the recesses of my brain to try to remember what I wanted another of, alas, it isn’t there. I really hope it wasn’t important because it will be kind of odd saying, “It’s Siri’s fault.”

There are times I think I should just go back to pen and paper, jot down the things I want to do, maybe something I need another of, and review the list at the end of the night. I suppose I could “Hey Siri, remind me at 8AM tomorrow put paper and pen in my pocket,” but now I’m a little worried Siri might not really be listening – She might be putting a selfie with fireworks in the background on Snapchat, and at 8AM I’ll get a reminder to “Put” and be left in my head with “What?”

Maybe I should just buy a wall calendar.

That’s it for this one! L8R!!