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 Beast Wildlife Exclusion has mostly come and gone. They spent two days nailing metal sheeting over the many squirrel holes in our eaves and installed a couple of complicated exterior squirrel traps that I can't entirely explain. There's a long chamber of wire mesh hanging from the eaves that is supposed to entice and then imprison squirrels exiting the premises. And then there's another ingress trap that is mostly up on the roof over the egress trap that... I don't know how it works. I think that squirrels trying to get back into the house get redirected into the egress trap, but at least one ended up stuck in the ingress part so who knows?

Honestly, the whole arrangement looked really unlikely. But somehow it managed to ensnare 6 squirrels over 3 days! I am cautiously optimistic. 
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 Yup, the tree pollen is flying, specifically my nemesis Juniper/Poplar.

I didn't even see the pollen.com notification until I noticed that my eyes were itchy and went looking for the email notice. Yeesh, it's only at Low/Medium level and it's really bothering me. Not a good sign. 

Promoted!

Mar. 20th, 2017 03:40 pm
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Lena proudly displaying the letter announcing that she has been promoted from toddler to pre-schooler at her day care.
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 ... yet I am. Honest, I just put this sweater on this morning because it's so warm and the air was so cold and clammy. I don't usually wear green on St. Patrick's day because I am very much not Irish and don't see any reason to direct my cultural appropriation in that direction. If the pre-revolutionary ancestor (McKinstrie?) WAS from Ireland he was probably Scotch-Irish, in which case orange would in fact be the right color. But I'm not actually looking for trouble, so maybe I should go put on something brown (which is what I think you get if you mix green and orange). 
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Ice is out on Lakes Calhoun and Harriet (for liberal definitions of Ice Out). There is still a little broken ice floating free on the east sides of both lakes, but the main body of the lake and most of the shoreline is completely melted. If you look it up, you find that there are multiple ways of defining Ice Out, and none of the websites that report ice out dates actually report the definition that corresponds to the date. However, my rather hasty research suggests that if this is not the earliest ice out on record for these lakes it is at least a tie for the earliest.
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 While trying to read today's news I realized that I really don't know what is meant by common terms like "the White House" and "the administration."  I am also very murky on how the DOJ is organized, who exactly the FBI works for, and what the Director of National Intelligence does. In the past, all of these terms tended to refer to pretty much the same nexus of power. Not any more, apparently.

Anyway, after a short google-fest I am both less and more confused. According to Wikipedia:
  • the Department of Justice (DOJ) is headed by the Attorney General
  • the AG reports directly to the President - so does that make him part of "the administration?" I always assumed so.
  • the AG is a member of the cabinet - so does that make him part of "the White House?" Again, I always assumed so.
  • the FBI is under the jurisdiction of the DOJ, so the head of the FBI (Comey) reports to the AG (Sessions)
  • but the FBI also takes direction somehow from the Director of National Intelligence (nobody, at the moment)
So what does it mean when??
  • the head of the FBI "asks" the Justice Department to declare an assertion by the president to be false? Comey is asking his boss to contradict his own boss, presumably, which seems unlikely to happen. But if Comey is the one with the information, is there something stopping him from making that statement himself? He didn't seem to have any problem making provocative announcements about Clinton during the campaign without permission from the DOJ.
  • For that matter, exactly what is the difference between publicly asking your boss to announce "X" and making that announcement yourself?  
  • What does it mean to say that "no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the DOJ?" Isn't the AG a "White House official?" And doesn't he direct the DOJ?

ETA: Ugh. Dreamwidth editor does really ugly bullet points. Another strike against it. I may just go back to LJ.

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 Al Franken reminds Jeff Sessions: ‘The ambassador from Russia is a Russian’

I'm proud to be from Minnesota right now, as my junior Senator leads the charge against the increasingly appalling and probably criminal Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. Besides getting off a pretty good deadpan quip on CNN, it was Franken who asked the question that led to Sessions' bald-faced and well-documented lie:

"At a confirmation hearing in January, Franken posed the following question to Sessions: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

“I'm not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions replied. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn't have — did not have communications with the Russians.”


I just went to Al Franken's website and sent him an email thanking him for leading the charge and encouraging him to push for Sessions' resignation. I also went to Amy Klobuchar's website and sent her a similar message strongly encouraging her to do likewise. I used the subject line: "Jeff Sessions Should Resign" to make it easy for staffers to tally my message. 

dreamshark: Lena almost 2 in cute hat (Lena)
Amber and Lena hosted a family from the local baby-sitting coop for an afternoon visit (sort of an audition, I guess). Amber reports that Lena was SO excited to have visitors that she could hardly contain herself. I think Amber was a little embarrassed at the uncharacteristically hyper behavior, but if Lena was able to sit still for the group snack (and didn't bite anybody or throw anything) I think she was well within acceptable behavior standards for a 2-year-old. Look at that grin!! 
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 Inspired by [personal profile] pameladean 's posts detailing her odyssey of home repairs and adventures, I finally nerved myself up to call the squirrel whisperer she recommended. Should have done this 20 or 30 years ago, but I find dealing with home contractors so terribly daunting. We've had the squirrel holes sealed up several times as part of other repairs, but within a few months the little buggers had gnawed their way back in. Last summer I finally bought a Havahart trap and relocated 5 of them to Hidden Falls, but after a few squirrel-free months a new one showed up and has been terrorizing us ever since. This one is an absolute Houdini. I set that trap at least 20 times with results that were satisfactory only to the squirrel (who now thinks of our attic as a Squirrel Buffet). Sometimes it extricated the bait without springing the trap. But more often the trap was sprung, bait devoured, but no squirrel to be seen. I think it must be muscling it's way out, which none of the previous squirrel iterations could do.

Anyway, I called Beast Wildlife and made an appointment for Thursday afternoon. The inspection costs $125 up front, so this is no minor commitment. But our homegrown, half-assed methods haven't worked, so here we are

Westworld!

Feb. 24th, 2017 02:46 pm
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 So, is everybody watching Westworld?  

Why not???  I need people to talk to!
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 Happened yesterday or the day before, actually. Time to head out and see what's new in my local hunting grounds. The Silph Road Nest Atlas shows Shuckles at Lyndale Farmstead and Girafirags at Lake Harriet. 
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 Both Richard and I have Medicare Advantage coverage from Health Partners (Freedom Vital). It's a very comprehensive HMO-style plan that only costs $64/month per person, and we've been very happy with it. Co-pays are about what we were used to with the old corporate-provided insurance plan: $15 to see a regular doctor, $40 for specialist, etc. 

We've both been to the doctor in 2017, and for some reason the Park Nicollet system is no longer requesting a co-pay when we check in. I hate to call Health Partners to complain, but it makes me a little nervous. 
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 Richard had his 2nd hip replacement yesterday. Surgeon said it went fine, although it was a difficult procedure due to R's skeletal issues. Everybody at Methodist hospital (including the doctor himself) seems to believe that this surgeon is one of the very best. They keep saying things like, "And we routinely monitor for excess blood loss, although that's never a problem with Dr. Johnson's patients...."  When the nurses who clean up after you have nothing but good things to say, I figure that means you really are competent, so that's reassuring. 

Just like last time, R had a miserable first night in the hospital. His back is so bad that they just can't seem to make him comfortable, although all the nurses and staff seem to be trying hard. He'll probably spend the next 2 nights in the hospital recliner and then come home Friday. Any way, that's what happened last September with the right hip. Game party will be proceeding as usual. 

Methodist Hospital is becoming more and more like a luxury hotel. It's always been a nice hospital with pleasant public spaces and an excellent cafeteria (important for family members waiting around). Last time we were there they had instituted a "room service" approach to food: patients can order anything they want from the room service menu any time between 6:30 and 6:30. They are apparently renovating all their rooms, one wing at a time. We got one of the new rooms, which is a large, sunny single with all sorts of guest furniture including a sleeper sofa. Just yesterday they were having a little celebration in the lobby to roll out the new, redesigned hospital gowns that actually cover the patient's backside!  

Unfortunately the beds are still too hard for patients with skeletons full of bone spurs, so Richard is not happy. But he'll be home soon.
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 I predict that Donald Trump will not be impeached but will resign the presidency within his first year. After 3 weeks it is clear that he's not enjoying this gig nearly as much as he expected to, but he's going to have to soldier on for a few months to save face. But he has to realize that he is screwing up more every day and most of the world is laughing at him, and he hates that. The big danger has always been that one of the horrible people he surrounds himself with would get control of the White House and proceed with his or her own agenda, but after 3 weeks I am in awe of the amount of ungovernable chaos the Trumpster has created. If he keeps following his instincts to set his advisers at each other's throats, the chaos will continue indefinitely.

It's up to the Republican congress how long they want to put up with this. I figured it would be at least a year before most of them concluded that they had extracted all of the power that they could out of the situation and started thinking about threatening impeachment. But, my goodness, things seem to be moving along way faster than that. It's no surprise that the Democrats are calling for a "broader investigation into President Trump's ties to Russia," but ...  
OMG look at today's headlines. It's only been three weeks, people!

"Republican leadership in the Senate said that it was likely that Mr. Flynn would be asked to speak to the Intelligence Committee..."

The Senate's second-ranking Republican and other GOP senators have called for an investigation into the episode, building on a string of investigations underway on Russian interference in the US elections. 

“It’s dysfunctional as far as national security is concerned,” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said of the Trump White House. “Who’s in charge? Who’s in charge? Who’s making policy? Who’s making decisions?”

Indeed, Senator McCain. Indeed.






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 After much dithering around, i finally booked our room for the Helsinki Worldcon. Following a tip from [personal profile] barondave I chose the Scandic Marski. So there are at least two of us from MSP in that hotel now. Anyone want to join us and make it a local room block? 

They have a very nice hotel page on the Worldcon website that lists all the hotels with prices and status of the room block. Be sure to click on the link from this page to get the special booking code. However, if this takes you to a lovely hotel website all in Finnish... just copy the code that was filled in for you and take it here.

The rooms are not cheap, but bear in mind that the price includes taxes and breakfast. It sounds really nice. Free wifi, gym, and of course a sauna or two. Also loaner bicycles and Nordic walking sticks. 
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Thanks so much to [personal profile] quility and Terry (not on DW/LJ?) for their help with my degenerating phone charging cases. Terry kindly brought along an impressive box of soldering equipment to last Friday's game party and swapped the new battery from the defective case into the old case with the dead or dying battery. When I slipped my phone into the rehabilitated case the phone took a charge. Yay!  That's the first step.

The next question - would the case recharge when plugged into a USB cable? Early attempts were not successful - the light on the charging button just kept blinking red for hours. Having nothing else to lose, I got aggressive -- grinding my finger down on the charging button, bending the case in various ways. My hope was that I was somehow improving the connection between internal components.

Unlikely as it may seem, this seemed to work. After a brief interval of steady red light, the LED went back to blinking red. But the next morning it was green! Unexpectedly, the poor old case had started charging again. Still remains to be seen if it will take a charge a second time, but right now it is charging up my phone. Thanks, Terry!
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So here's what we ended up with. I like it. The rainbow colored one can be seen from quite a distance, drawing attention to the other one which is rather self-effacing and easy to miss by itself. 

The colorful sign came from Northern Sun Alliance on East Lake St. The plain and earnest one ("We Stand With Our Neighbors") was commissioned by Kingfield Neighborhood Association and made available for a suggested donation of $10 at a couple of neighborhood businesses.  If you would like a similar yard sign, try checking with your neighborhood association.  Northern Sun Alliance has a few other signs as well, but having trouble keeping them in stock. 

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I discovered that I could have a free month of HBO access without having cable through HBO Now. It's $15/month after that, which seems outrageous to me, so I'll just cancel in 29 days.

My whole and entire reason for doing this was so I could watch Westworld, which has now been begun.

Besides that, I'd like to see at least a few eps of Game of Thrones so I'll feel like I'm living in the same century as everybody else on the planet. Beyond that... is there anything else on HBO worth watching? Although I've never had HBO access before, I have seen a surprising amount of this content on Netflix and/or Amazon: Carnivale, Deadwood, Sopranos. Is there anything else I should sample? Nothing really jumps out at me.
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Just saw Rogue One. It's a big, fat video game with really really good graphics. I didn't hate it. After all, I did play Half Life 2 all the way to the end, and that took way more than two hours out of my life. The primary mechanism in games like this is: you start with a little bit of information and a limited mission - go here, find this or that thing, and along the way shoot everything that moves. Then you finally make it to a beautifully animated cut scene where you have a chance to catch your breath and make a new friend who starts to explain just what is going on, when SUDDENLY....

Oh no! Here they come - run! Take this thing and go THAT WAY! Give it to Dr. Whatsisname! Quick quick quick!! You scamper off in the indicated direction, shooting everything that moves, leaping over crevasses, clambering over walls, creeping through tunnels. Finally you get to the next destination and meet somebody who starts to explain everything (finally) when SUDDENLY....

And so on. Sometimes the characters you meet are sort of interesting. Sometimes the little bits of exposition start to cohere into an actual back story. And the environments get more and more spectacular until eventually you are careening down a cliff-side road in an open jeep shooting at giant ant lions, or climbing through the girders of a breathtaking suspension bridge. Big fun! (I loved those levels in Half Life 2). But ultimately, the plot consists mostly of running frantically from one place to another and shooting at everything that moves. And solving puzzles. But that's just in the video game version. The movie is mostly just running and shooting and never really knowing what the heck is going on.
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