Sunday, June 26, 2011

Haiku Monday: Short


Southern style short ribs
pan seared in bacon drippin's
braised in  home brew'd ale 

 Easy Rider:

Riding the short bus
to Sesame Street at Main
is simple exclaimed .


Contestants enter
hoping to make the short list
for organ transplants

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Virtual trumps Real

During lunch, my friend Gee suggested I get in  touch with Daniel Website Developer. We had been discussing the particulars of what works and does not work well on websites from the view point of both users and hosts. 

Gee is a contractor with a franchise business primarily focused on outdoor living spaces. Decks, porches, sunrooms, pergolas, trellises, gazebos are his forte`. The parent company is the source of the engineering and architectural documents  by which permits are pulled and projects constructed. 
It works well.

Daniel Web Designer is this regions associate for a Virginia based company which specializes in websites for construction  and construction related businesses. Gee shared a story of one franchisee who was failing.  Daniel and company did a website for this franchisee to supplement the national website. A local focus of SEO ans SEM.

 In a month the franchisee had to call Daniel and ask him to dial it back a bit as he had way more contact than desired. A bit of fine tuning and now  the former failing franchisee is a top dog. 

I reviewed many websites designed by DWD before filling in the online contact information. In a day or two Daniel responded with a one line query, 
" What is your budget?"
Hmmmmm. I responded with this question,
" Would it be possible to set an appointment to review your services and the concurrent costs?"
" You mean like a face to face?"
" Yes "
" We could. But why? All the data you need is on our website with a sign up page"
" I like to meet the people I hope to trust with my business".
" Is this necessary?"
" No. Thank you for your time".
" Did you just blow me off ?"
" Declined your offer? Yes."
" What's that about?"
" Communications."

A week went by then I received an e-mail from Daniel,
" Hey Fishy! I think I am going to be in town this week, you want to meet somewhere?"
" Okay" 
" How about Tuesday at 9am, my office?"
" Okay"
Later that same day I received this e-mail,
" Fishy, if your only day to meet is Tuesday it will have to be at 1pm @ WebNerds"
Wow, did he want a business meeting or a free lunch?

  I went. He was late and called to tell me his order and would I have it on the table for him when he arrived?  Really?

He came in his cool little eco car barely larger than his   computer bag. He was friendly, enthusiastic, starving. But before he picked up a fork he unpacked, plugged in and        booted his computer.  He asked if the coffee was the bold roast? No the coffee container was empty awaiting his selection. He returned from the coffee bar with a steaming cup to say,
" What is the purpose of decaf?"

No point in answering that so I just smiled while he organized his thoughts.
" You know my wife did not believe me when I said I had a f2f with an interior designer".  
" Why was that?"
" Well my wife says only idiots use designers. I mean, she has a point, what is your purpose?"

Speaking of idiots, I wondered if in this day and age it is okay to have zero social skills as long as you have nerd skills for hire. The idiot was me, sitting there being insulted while Daniel scarfed down a lunch I provided.  What I actually said is,
" How about I outline my website criteria while you inhale that sandwich?"
Which  I did. In the course of the conversation I got a few head shakes indicating no, he had not taken a look at any of the websites I had referenced as being an example of what FishyDesigns needs. So I pulled them up on his laptop while he munched and I talked. 

For a while there, he looked marginally interested.

He took a giant slug of caffeine and began telling me about the absolute importance of SEO ans SEM , meta data, web crawlers and  the variable search algorithms. He carefullly 
explained to me it was a numbers game. As he talked he pulled up a screen showing the graphs of  the effects of properly keyed and buried meta words. He said in the beginning I should maybe have a landing page  with a
contact form and establish a budget for right bar ads.

I asked to see examples and pointed out to him all the reasons that sort of approach was alien to my needs.  That I had a fairly specific target market in mind  and his recommendation  was a scatter shot when what I needed was a sniper shot.  He looked confused  but typed in another example and set about persuading me to his view point.

"Look Mrs. Fishy you will like this, once we get you up to blank hits per 24 we can do links and ads and expansions on even that. Here's how it all works. It's about numbers! We imbed algorithms for your site which generates thousands of clicks. The more clicks the more successful the website. The more successful the website the more you can sell links and apps and ads for your website, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter sites. If you can write, a daily blog is the way to really soup the numbers. If you are  serious about this and can program a tweet every 15 linking back to the blog and target  mentions for ads you want to host then you could get somewhere "

I looked him in the eye and said,
" Let me answer one of your earlier questions.
My purpose  here was not to generate a hit seeking engine for ad sales.
My goals are a lot more real and a lot less virtual"

" What does that mean?"  
" It means the thing I most want to hit is you".
" For real?"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Soltice

Blessings on your first day of Summer.  

Mermaid is coming home today.
We will take the boat out to the Big Water where we will picnic, 
swim with our pups and,
enjoy the gifts of the day.   

Oh Joy!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Garden Woes

The Pond is looking just plain sorry this year. We've had all sorts of  property management issues even before these record high temperatures and this drought. In early Spring Blowfish put out some new high tech pre-emergent weed preventer. It has to get broadcast a goodly while before you put out the seed starter fertilizer and the grass seed. Blowfish got the soil tested at the university, spent hundreds of dollars, and  labored for hours in an effort to have a glorious lawn.  What he has is a barren, dead looking yard.  Because of the early beginnings of the drought the pre-emergent stuff was not released until Blowfish began watering his precious new seeds. Yep, you guessed it.  The  weeds  had already emerged and the newly activated pre-emergent stuff killed the new grass. Some of the weeds died too.  Now we have a front yard of dirt. Think dust bowl capped with dehydrated clover. It crunches underfoot as if you were walking on potato chips. Gross. To increase Blowfish's misery, Brian came with a big trailer to haul away his beloved, vintage, Gravely tractor. Apparently the issues with the clutching system were too complex for on site repairs.
 I swear it is not an exaggeration when I say the man is suffering from separation
anxiety for his tractor. He goes out and stares at the empty space in the garage.

Then too there is the issue of his new patch up by the row of holly trees.
That grass has come in fine but it is absolutely awash in every kind of weed you never want to see on your property. At first Blowfish thought the weeds were being carried by run off. But run off from what? Now he thinks the birds have doe it .... I think the weeds came in the expensive bags of seed. I have tried to go hand pull them all but by the time I get to one end of the patch they are growing anew on the other end.

Blowfish is an even tempered fellow but these difficulties are about to wear him to a nub. He's a man that wants to feel proud when he comes down the drive and he's a long way from that these days.  Just the other night he walked up and looked at this sorry patch and I could swear he was thinking about fetching a flame thrower. The droop in his shoulders as he turned away made me think about the same thing.

Before we started turning into the dust bowl of 2011 we had a early and  wetish Spring. So when all the new Spring growth started coming up out in the Courtyard garden we were anticipating  a bountiful, colorful, green spring. What we got was the plague. Some horrid  soil based fungi got revved up and as new shoots on the annuals started making their appearance the leaves unfurled and promptly turned black. That same horror
ruined the peonies, threatened all the Carolina Phlox , the Hydrangeas , deformed the bulb plants and even the Anemones turned black on the edges.  I took samples over to the Extension Office only to be told one has to remove all effected plant materials, letting none of the removed matter stay on the ground.  Which means a leaf by leaf  backbreaking effort. Then you have to spray everything with fungicide to prevent spread and total loss of the garden.

The first time didn't work. All new growth came up, turned splotchy, then  black and curling.
More leaf by leaf removal and more poison was required.

That was before none of the Moonflowers and dern few of the Caladiums came out. But I did notice in one of the pots we seemed to have some giant species of dahlia volunteering. We do have a whole section planted in pretty little pink "Patio Dahlias" from Parks Seed Company. I thought maybe the wind did a little transplanting but as the shaft started looking as big as Jack's stalk  and, setting largish bud,s I accepted the reality it was not going to be anything expected.  There in the midst of my pink , white and blue garden is this huge, deeply
red, 4 foot tall giant Dahlia. They could write a new  murder mystery over this bloody  thing.  It has remained only because it looks relatively healthy.

I took comfort in the thought the Hydrangeas were setting up for a big show this year. Some editing of the early growth had been required because of the fungi. Our Hydrangeas are  under a giant Oak so  they set later than ones that get more sun. I thought this was a good thing as the chemicals had been put out before most of the new growth had appeared.  I am sure you all know Hydrangeas are the litmus paper of the garden, showing out in either pink or blue depending on the soil PH.
Some years we put out amendments to make sure the blooms will be true blue, not a hint of lavender or Heaven forbid purple.

That can happen if your PH is balanced.
Which is unacceptable.

  Just a bit to the left of the begining of the  blue Hydrangeas is the final resting place of my mother's beloved Scottish Terrier. They were here when he died so he stayed in the garden with us. I will always remember my mother's angst over leaving him "behind". Not taking him  back to Florida with her was a painful decision. Necessary though. She had stood in the driveway by her car making me promise if I ever  moved away from the Pond I would bring Angus with me and  not leave him with strangers.  He has a St. Francis marker out there and is planted over in Lemon Balm. He, like many terrier breeds, had skin allergies so he was not always the best smelling dog. I have over the years fondly thought of him being scratch free and enjoying the crisp lemony scents. Not this year. Either the fungi, the fungicide, the drought or the combination has resulted in peaked looking, fragrance free  Lemon Balm.

  I shrugged off the worries about this and tried to keep focused on how bountiful the Hydrangeas were looking. When the blooms first start they are a lime green. Then they start showing color along the  perimeter before filling in with a uniform blue. This year they started filling in purple.  It is out of the question for there to be purple in my garden. Especially not adjacent to the resting place of my mothers dog.
There has never been on this Earth a human with a deeper seated loathing of the color purple than my mother.
Think of it as a violent allergy. No purple allowed is a rule all of us kids honor and respect.

 Until now.

I consulted with the extension people and yes the fungicide can change the soil PH and usually any amendments for  bloom color  must happen early in the season and blah-blah.  I tried what they recommended and kept an eye out for changes. We got them . Dark purple instead of red grape purple.
 Most mornings I start my day in the garden with a cup of tea. I wander around, listening to the birds singing their morning songs and enjoy the garden. Lately I walk outside and think "I'm so sorry Mom".  Today

                                                           I put an end to my misery . 

                                                            Bye Bye Purple Horror!

                    Then I went to lay in my broken hammock which Blowfish " fixed " for me.

I can swing in my hammock and just about ignore
the unplanted ferns around the Chinese Fringe Tree
Unplanted because the ground is baked into a brick
and I cannot did holes deep enough to plant the ferns.
So I must wait for Blowfish to come to my aid
with the gas powered auger.

                                         Pray the hammock will not break with me aboard !

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cereal Aisle Gossip

I ran into Phyllis in the cereal aisle today.
I haven't seen her in about a decade .
She looks great, pretty much the same at 70 as she did at 60.
She and Fitz sold their home of 40 years and downsized to a patio home with no maintenance. Which explains why she was suddenly shopping in our neck of the woods.

After all the pleasantries and  the usual question about how one's garden is doing in this drought she said,
" Fishy, do you remember my grand daughter Caitlyn? She is getting married today to a High-wa-yen".
Before I could put my tongue in park I said,
" As opposed to a Low- wa-yen?"
She laughed, generous as always in her forgiveness.
" No! Fishy she's marrying up with a boy  from Hawaii "
" Then why on Earth are you standing here by the Fruit Loops? Shouldn't you be down at Adeles  drinking mimosas and getting polished?"
She laughed again.
" No! Caitlyn and her man have gone modern on us.  They went off to one of those island resorts for a package wedding. They live in Washington, but some time this Fall they are coming here for a visit and we'll rustle up some kind of reception for them."     

" Well Phyllis, you don't look sad about it so you must be a thoroughly modern Granny".

The truth is Phyllis and Fitz are  allergic to weddings.
Caitlyns mother, Eryn.  had a few difficulties in that area. She walked away from Caitlyns "donor dad" a few hours before the ceremony. She walked away from her second daughter's donor too. When the girls were 6 and 4, Eryn got reacquainted with, and then actually married, her high school sweetheart.  She managed to stay put for almost a month before leaving. She forgot to take the girls with her so eventually Caitlyn called Phyllis and Fitz and asked if they would come and fetch she and her sister. Thing was Eryn was going to work everyday, talking on the phone to Phyllis regularly and just never got around to mentioning she'd left her new hubby and her daughters. When Phyllis confronted Eryn about this oversight she said, "Well, I knew you and Daddy would be fussed about this so I was trying to spare you til after all the bills had come in for the wedding. I'm real sorry  to disappoint y'all. Again."

In the midst of this family drama is when I  first met Phyllis. She and Fitz  went on and remodeled their house and made sure the girls had a stable life. They added a separate suite above the garage for the times Eryn would be living there too. It all worked out. Just last year Eryn got married and stayed put.

Thinking back to what a lovely child Caitlyn was I asked Phyllis where they were registered.
She replied, " Well, they didn't do all that. They set up a website about  ' their story'  which they update every few days. There's a place on there where you can make a " donation to happiness" and then they post about  what made them happy."

Very modern indeed.
I smiled, trying to think of a response that would not convey my  absolute shock.
Phyllis gave me a pat on the arm and said,
" I know Fishy, I know!  It sure shocked me and Fitz too"
"Phyllis, have you met him?"
" We met him at Christmas time. He came home with her then to meet everybody. He's a little bitty thing. But he's real cute being a mix and all. His mother is Portuguese and his father is a native islander. He seems devoted to Caitlyn, but Fishy I have concerns because he says his religion is nature."

" Well maybe Caitlyn will be able to bring him into the fold".

" This all seems so different than anything I ever expected.  You know Fitz and I came up with rules. You courted for a year, were engaged for 2 years, married for life. We've rarely missed a service or a bible study in all these years and we've gone on just about every marriage retreat the Presbyterian church has offered.
Times change.   I guess Caitlyn has made  a necessary choice by moving across the country and finding her own way so far from any family.  Her High-wa-yen  has a good education, a fine job, he's 29, never been married, hasn't fathered any children and doesn't have diseases. These days that's about all you can hope."

To hear something so bleak delivered with a smile and a laugh is ... disturbing.
Made me wish they were handing out mimosas instead of apple juice in the next aisle over.
I cannot begin to imagine what Blowfish would think if I came home to say I thought the pertinent criteria for a mate was no diseases, no donor children, no divorces, educated and employed.

I will never , ever understand women who spill their guts like that.
Telling every detail of everything they know.
I doubt Phyllis has ever had a secret in her entire 70 years and  I know for certain I would never tell her one. I hope for Caitlyn this is the beginning of a wonderful marriage. I will not be sending a donation to their happiness. The very idea of setting up a website to solicit monetary donations to your packaged wedding with strangers is offensive to me.   I  did say a prayer of gratitude that Phyllis did not seem a bit distressed over not being invited to the wedding of the grand daughter she raised. 

I also offered up a prayer of hope that Phyllis's viewpoint of  our current culture is an aberration not the norm.
But I think I heard a statistic recently which indicated  only 50 percent of couples  living together today are married.  This disturbs on countless levels. It's even a bit frightening. Not because I am the parent of a 20 something daughter. No. It's about the speed at which our culture is changing. Like the other side took over the world while some of  us had our heads down hoeing our rows, paying taxes and  gratefully making it to our Sunday pews.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Haiku Monday: Funny Bone

That 4 hour warning thing:

Viagra alert!
Users may experience
funny bone results 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mama's wisdom

A few years back my Mama tried hard to teach me an important life lesson. I am not sure I was a very apt student.

I was visiting  her at the time of year when the great grands were having their season ending ballet performances. Mama's love of ballet is notorious as is  her witty commentary about Dame Margot Fontaine, Nureyev and Barishnakov to name a few. Some sisters and I all had the starter lessons at 5 or 6 but I don't recall any  proud moment Mama stories about our talents.  It's different with these E-Ticket  greats. These girls produce  proud moment stories for three generations of  Mamas. A proud for them Aunt Fishy too. All justifiable as the word talent, used with these girls, is an understatement.     They have got the goods.

  For this particular visit, I was the point person for getting Mama to the ballet. This means arriving hours early to help Mama get dressed in her going out social clothes, hair and makeup and , getting her transferred to a travel wheelchair. It really isn't unusual for the temperatures in Florida to be in the 90's on a late Spring afternoon. This means the temperature in a parked car, in the sun,  is maybe 120 and therefore, unsuitable for little old ladies in wheel chairs. So somewhere in the getting Mama ready activities, when you think you might be  getting close to a possible departure, you must run get the car started and the AC blasting  but you cannot move it to the entrance of the ALF.  Once you are ready to depart you must wheel the chair to the entrance,get Mama signed out, get her situated in the vestibule where the automatic doors will not impact the wheelchair, fetch the car, fetch  Mama and the chair from the vestibule, get her transferred, get the wheelchair stowed all without breaking a sweat, wrinkling your own clothes or God forbid, getting  wheelchair tracks across your lap. It isn' t hard to do, but it can be ridiculously stressing.

Once we were in the car speeding across town in the horror traffic Mama said,
" Fishy, we have to stop at a florist to get bouquets made for our girls".
" We can't", I reply " We'll miss the curtain."
" Fishy, you know I am not stepping out of this car without flowers "
" Yes Ma'am"
On that we could agree, "stepping" out of cars for Mama was history.
I never could fool her and this time was no different.
" I believe there is a florist on the corner of blank and blank, we'll stop there".
" We cannot. We will be lucky to not be late without stopping. But I tell you what,  we can call the florist now, order the bouquets and I will sneak out and pick them up during intermission."
" It isn't safe to talk on cell phones while driving. That's on the news every night"
" Fine, here's the phone, you make the call"
" Truth is Fishy, I want to stop and pick the flowers myself"
Feeling frazzled  I replied,
" We cannot stop! We are already rushing to just  get there!
I cannot get you and the chair in and out of the car rapidly.
I'm sorry but this just  isn't going to happen."
I could feel her stiffen as she turned her face to the side window.
She was acutely disappointed.
It is hard, hard, hard to no longer captain your own ship and suffer disobedient offspring.
Harder still to feel a glimmer of your old self only to be confronted with your broken body reality.
I reached over to give her a comforting pat which garnered me a withering look.
She did not speak to me the rest of the journey.

I felt wretched.
This was such an eagerly anticipated outing how could I possibly compromise her joy? And yet, being late wasn't an option either. If we arrived after the curtain I would not be able to wheel her
to the third row reserved seating with the rest of the family until intermission. I wasn't sure if the girls parts occurred before or after the intermission. I did know if we were in the very back she would not be able to recognize them.  We simply could not stop. I felt  terribly sad.

Arriving is departing reversed.
Get to the drop, put on the flashers, fetch the wheelchair, practice all the safety precautions for wheelchair transfers, don't get wrinkled, dirty or sweat. Get Mama inside to the air conditioning  and handed over to the care of other loves. Rush back to the car, park 2 blocks away in the asphalt sea and run in heels back to the theatre  because rental cars don't come with handicap permits.

When I got back to the lobby Mama was holding court. A talent I've always admired but did not inherit.
She was vibrant, charming, witty. Excited to be out in the world and ,she was picking flowers. Some smart fund raising group had a booth in the lobby. Thank God there were pink roses and white roses. Mama, of course, knew the names of every rose, even the detested red and lavender ones. She was making selections, charming the volunteers and all of us extended family present. Mama was beautiful, happy, engaging and fully living  in the moment.

Of course the ballet was fabulous.
Of course our E-ticket ballerinas were the best of the best.
Of course our  girls were the prettiest too, not just the most talented.

Afterwards the girls, still in costumes and theatrical make-up, came out to join their waiting family fans.
Proud parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins  were all beaming with open arms. The girls made a beeline for Mama, chirping  their excitement like brightly colored birds. Mama knows exactly the questions to ask so the girls responses  and their joy spilled  forth without reservations.  I caught a glimpse of their  beaming Dad  watching his daughters rush to be with his adored  grandmother.  He had that expression that says,
" It doesn't get any better than this."

It doesn't.
But in this era of busy, busy lives it wasn't long before folks started turning cell phones back on and made ready to depart. There was no family after party scheduled.. The Lobby visits before the ballet, the intermission and this mini celebration  for bouquet waving and picture taking  were the 'social hour' for this outing. It was plenty. Mama loved it all.

I went to get the car cooled down.
Mama was mostly quiet on the return trip.
She made a few comments about the roses, the girls, the costumes, what people wore to the ballet these days.  We were no longer traveling in a strained silence but we were a long way from chatty.
We were a good many years past the days where Mama could go out to eat after an event.  But we did stop at a favorite drive thru for a Mocha milkshake, her favorite.

By the time I got Mama back to her recliner she was exhausted.
It  had been a busy day and a big outing for her. I knew the following day she would want to chat plenty about all that had been seen and heard but not then. This abrupt exhaustion of the elderly is not terribly different from toddlers.  As we all know, a toddler can be  running one minute and the next drop to the floor reaching a deep sleep in seconds. Mama, a former insomniac, could now beat a toddlers record for reaching  REM sleep. One of her few pleasures of aging. She would be asleep in her recliner  within seconds of my departure.  I gave her a hug and turned to leave when she said,
" Don't be sad Fishy, live your moments."
" Ma'am?"
" None of our tomorrows will be the same as our todays. Even here, in this facility, where there is monotony and bleakness everywhere, each day is different. Don't be sad about what has gone before and will never be again. Find the joy in the moment and live it."