Freedom of Speech

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is ANNOYING, and this will be my response:

Dealing With Those Annoying Hecklers:

Man giving speech
“Before we open this discussion, I’d like to remind you that our committee firmly believes in freedom of speech. Everyone who shares our enlightened perspective on this topic will have a chance to express themselves freely. If anyone here doesn’t see the issues the way we do, transportation will be provided to a comfortable gulag in Siberia where dissenters shall be totally free to express their viewpoints.”

Stashing Stuff Safely

This post, an original compilation of Whatnot, has been written in accordance with all the rules of Biff’s Whatnot Wednesday.

I thought of baking cookies today so I pulled my cookie sheets out of the cupboard and extracted my laptop from between two of them. Later, when I went looking in another cupboard I discovered where I’d hidden my cell phone.

Are you wondering about my strange storage places? Mind you, if you’re a worrywart like me, you won’t even have to ask, as you probably have all your own hiding places for your valuables. The laptop was sitting in plain sight on the table when we were ready to leave for a shopping trip. Couldn’t have that!

Cabinet.Alexas ftos
            Alexas Fotos — Pixabay

I read years ago that if you’re going to store valuables in the house, you’re better off to keep it in the freezer where no thief will think to look. (Except that now I’ve told. 😉 ) I’ve never done it, mainly for lack of cash to hide, but it made perfect sense to me. I don’t doubt that house-dwellers have various little nooks and crannies where they stuff their stuff for safekeeping. (Beware, though, about storing anything in a hot place like the oven.)

But do keep a record — and do warn your spouse and children that things are not always what they seem. One lady gave away a pair of her husband’s old socks that he never wore anymore — without checking. He nearly had a stroke when he got home, did a random double-check, and learned that his over $1000 nest egg had been donated to the Salvation Army.

To add insult to injury, they hadn’t deemed the socks worth keeping and had tossed them in the dumpster — without checking. That evening guess who was down at the local landfill searching for a pair of socks with a wad of cash stuffed inside. Another lady, trying on shoes in a charity shop, found $1100 stuffed in the toe of a shoe. Bless her, she was honest enough to turn it in.

Yes, do tell someone trustworthy that some things are hidden and they should beware of doing a random discard. Some elderly couples, not trusting banks, squirreled away their life savings with no one the wiser. Money caches in old mattresses and such has gone up in smoke.

Back to the freezer. I read yesterday that you should NOT store your coffee in the freezer. It’s apt to lose flavor. And since our morning java is pretty important, we do want to keep it fresh — and safe. Don’t leave it on the shelf where a burglar may find it; rather, keep it in the back of your filing cabinet, or hidden behind the dictionaries in your bookcase. (You never know, a thief might snitch your novels.)

Faces

Faces

The Ragtag daily prompt this morning was THINGS WITH FACES.

An intriguing prompt! I’ve turned it over in my mind, thinking of the many objects that have — or could have — faces. Toys…pictures…paintings…book covers… AH!

What better place to find faces than in a book store or library? As you walk in the door you’re greeted with numerous book covers set on display to entice you. And in the library there are many magazines with faces from the current news, sports and Hollywood looking back at you.

Wander into Adult fiction section. Have you noticed that it’s uncommon in our day to find actual faces; for some reason the current fad in book covers seems to be someone walking away.

The Girl from Ballymor

In the mystery and thriller section and you may find classics like Hercule Poirot detecting on the Orient Express. In recently published books you still find a few faces peeking at you.

I'll Walk Alone: A Novel by [Clark, Mary Higgins]

Check out the romance section and you’ll see the faces of sweethearts — and dozens of millionaire bachelors of all shades — looking back at you hopefully, wistfully, defiantly. What is it with millionaire bachelors nowadays that they’re swamping the romance section? Albeit a good catch.

Her Awkward Blind Date with the Billionaire (Billionaire Bachelor Cove) by [McConnell, Lucy]

In the History and Biography aisles you’re apt to see faces you recognize instantly.

King.Gordon Johnson.png
Gordon Johnson – Pixabay
non-violence-1158316_640
John Hain – Pixabay

Cookbooks often have the cook’s face smiling at you, holding their latest culinary masterpiece.

The section for teens features a selection of ordinary faces, high-school types trying to navigate the problems of today, plus the graphically rendered faces of superheroes and the gruesome spectres of vampires, zombies, etc.

ZSA teen sad

In the children’s section, especially among the old favourites, you’ll see rather unusual faces.

MaryP.ChaminaGallery
Chamina Gallery – Pixabay
Lion.Oberhoster Venita
Venita Oberholster – Pixabay

Flip the books over and read the back cover blurbs, where you’ll usually see the face of the writers, hoping with all their hearts you’ll get hooked on their books and read — or better yet buy — everything they write.

Stroll up to the archives and you’ll see the face of anyone who’s ever been someone in your area.

Yes, libraries and books stores are great places to find faces new and old.

The Irascible Agatha Raisin

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener
Agatha Raisin Mystery series #3

By M C Beaton

I read the first book in the Agatha Raisin Mystery series, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, and one other short story tacked onto that one. Now I’ve finished the third book in the series and have had my fill. Actually, though I hate to quit before the end of any book, I was ready to toss this one several times before I discovered whodunit.

The setting in interesting; the plotting, pacing and writing are excellent, but the main character is so disagreeable. Back in London she was a hard-nosed — and pretty much friendless — business owner and she carries this personality into her retirement years. She may want to make friends in her new home town and does mean well — at times. Overall, though, she’s self-centered and defensive. I was hoping to see Agatha mellow in this peaceful Cotswold village as the series progresses. She doesn’t.

Pugnacious and mulish are the adjectives the author often uses to describe Mrs Raisin. Belligerent and snarky would also fit. She lies constantly, swears, staggers home tipsy from the village pub, insults almost everyone, and has a real temper. In one story she invites the neighbours for a Christmas dinner, but bashes one lustful old guest over the head with a Christmas pudding.

Always competitive, she cheats in village contests. In The Quiche of Death she’s newly arrived and wants the acceptance of the villagers. She sees her chance when she discovers there’s to be a village baking contest. Culinarily-challenged herself, she buys a quiche from a great little bakery in London and submits it as her own creation. Unfortunately someone adds a bit of poison and serves it to the judge. So the truth must be confessed.

In this third book she wants to impress certain gardeners and win the local flower show, but she’s hopeless at growing things. Supposedly she’s learned her lesson with the quiche, but weakens and buys a nursery-grown rose to enter as her own. Forgetting to take off the tag. Again her deception is exposed, but village folks are amazingly tolerant.

One big plus for Agatha is that she’s made friends with Mrs Bloxby, the curate’s wife, who is a saint for sure. Sanguine, welcoming, accepting, charitable, always thinking the best, she saves and soothes Agatha’s pride several times in this story. Agatha is also friends with her bachelor neighbour James, a retired army colonel — on whom she has a serious crush as this story starts. (I gather they work together in several stories to figure out whodunit.) However, Agatha insults him, too, petulantly calling him a male chauvinist pig when he scolds her for throwing a lit cigarette into the tinder-dry grass.

Like all amateur sleuths in all cozy mystery stories, she’s nosy. When the local CID inspector Bill Wong, who has taken a liking to Agatha, tells her to stay out of the investigation, she slips on her halo and nods a meek “Yes.” As soon as he’s out of sight, she and James are off hunting for evidence and interviewing suspects. In this book she’s trying to find out why a lovely divorcee, Mary Fortune, a newcomer and enthusiastic gardener, has met a sad end in her conservatory.

Because this is fiction, the writer is able to say that in spite of Agatha’s abrasive character she’s well liked by the villagers. Some characters testify that “Mrs Raisin has many good qualities.” In real life this would be highly unlikely. I know a woman much like this: not as insolent or combative as Agatha but just as self-centered and flexible with the truth. Her friendships and relationships are all short-lived.

I have some sympathy for Agatha Raisin because she is so lacking in interpersonal skills, but find her lack of conscience hard to take. Since the villagers of Carsely are stuck with her it’s a good thing they like her. And since it’s such a popular series — as I gather from the reviews — a lot of readers are willing to tolerate her faults, too.

Ragtag Daily Prompt word: Evidence
Word of the Day Challenge: Sanguine

The Life Cycle of Water

It’s been a long time since I thought of Dutch puck disease, but I read a news article this morning that jogged my memory, so I’ll tell you about it.

Dutch Puck Disease: From Beetle to Humbug

Back in the early 70s most Canadians had heard of the invasion of an elm bark beetle and the fungal infection, Dutch Elm disease, that was devastating our elm population. Cities were doing what they could to protect their beautiful shade trees, sadly, without much success.

Around 1972 some wit at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation got the idea to do a send-up on the story and the idea went over. So they made a mini documentary about the dreaded “Dutch puck disease” destroying Canada’s hockey-puck producing trees.

A narrator warned that this posed a dire threat to Canada’s favorite sport. Cameras showed scenes of devastation: shriveled and deformed hockey pucks hanging from the branches of wasted-looking trees. They even persuaded hockey great, Bobby Orr, to give an interview about the scourge. He almost managed a straight face as he said, “This is terrible! I can’t score goals if there are no pucks.”

They filmed a few man-on-the-street interviews, including one of an incredulous young lady exclaiming, “They do?! Hockey pucks grow on trees?”

From Spring to Bottle:
Big companies process for profit.

Apparently conservationists are trying to stop the Swiss company, Nestlé, from draining some California streams to bottle water. Protesters claim the giant Swiss corporation is actually drying up creeks by taking so much water out and making huge profits selling it back as bottled water.

There’s likely reason for concern, but one needs to exercise care to get the whole picture, not just the attention-grabbing headline. A person could make the same case against farmers irrigating crops. All summer long, “big corporate farms” draw water from the underground supply, pay next-to-nothing for it, irrigate their crops, sell their produce “pre-packaged” to consumers in the form of veggies, and pocket the profits. All the while, you could argue, depleting the nation’s underground water supply. Nestlé is accused of taking water from the streams, paying nothing for it, bottling and selling it as “safe pure water,” and pocketing the profits. The question is being asked: “Is this a crime, or is it business?”

As with Dutch Puck Disease, headlines, news stories, and especially documentaries can be manipulated to sound sensationally dire and point fingers. And people can be gullible: “If it’s on the news it must be true.” However, readers need to examine the facts carefully and ponder the validity of statements like the following:
“At its current pace, the world will run out of freshwater before oil,” Brabeck said. Apparently Brabeck is suggesting “privatization” as a possible answer.

Private companies — or the government? What blessings or woes would privatization bring? Communism was supposed to be wonderful, too.

People here in North America are very concerned about the environment and it’s so easy to raise a scare story. But let’s consider the logistics behind our water supply (the sky) and the possibility of drying up springs, streams and rivers.

We can’t squeeze more prehistoric animals to produce more oil, but water’s a different kettle of fish. I’m thinking the world will “run out” of fresh water when the clouds stop dumping it on us.

You can syphon off water at its source so the folks downstream get almost none. You can dam a flowing water source and even change its course so one area gets a stream and another area gets none. But mankind has not yet been able to dry up the clouds.

From Gush to Flush: The Life Cycle of Water

Every day the sun draws zillions of tons of water vapor from the ocean, lakes, rivers, etc. If we could shut off the sun we could prevent all this water vapor loss. But…

By some miraculous process, this vapor gathers into clouds that drift across the earth’s surface and, at a given signal, pour their contents wherever they happen to be. Drizzle, rain, hail, spit or snow it down on us. Topography, like mountain ranges, and a cooler land mass (as in hurricanes) influence where the clouds will empty out. However, in the past human attempts to redirect rainfall to dry areas (cloud seeding) have often met with grief.

A free gift from heaven, precipitation falls where it wills. It fills mountain streams, rivers, lakes, soaks into the land, replenishes underground springs. Water is absorbed by tree roots and drawn up into leaves that give off water vapor. Farmers draw from underground aquifers to irrigate their land. Cities draw water from said sources and people use it.

We water our gardens and lawns and the water is drawn up through plant roots and later evaporated by the wind. Thus it finds its way back into the cycle. As we hoe the garden or mow the lawn we sweat, and the breeze dries us off, whisking the moisture into the atmosphere to rejoin some cloud somewhere. Just think where all your sweat may travel.

People drink the water, replenish their cells, and urinate the excess. Our bodies are an amazing filtration system. Whether bottled water, tap water, or beverage, we drink it, filter it, and flush it. Really, we should should all do our part and drink lots so we can put more water back into the recycling system. 🙂

Conserve Water: Don’t Bathe

Just think. Every morning all across the continent people use zillions of tons of water to shower and bathe. My washing machine is chugging away as I write this. If we’d stop all this bathing and laundry we’d waste so much less water.

Thankfully, water is never used up. Household water runs down the drain, into the city’s waste disposal system, and — hopefully filtered — back into the rivers and reservoirs. Directly or indirectly it finds its way back into the ocean to begin another cycle of evaporation and precipitation.

We need to treat all natural systems with care, including our water sources, but conservationists shouldn’t resort to fear tactics. Big corporations may well be greedy; it kind-of goes with the territory. Bottling companies make a mega-buck profit selling their goods, and some may be diverting some streams, but they don’t actually destroy the water.

The company can’t keep taking water that isn’t there. If there’s no water in said streams, it’s more likely because there hasn’t been sufficient rainfall in that area to replenish them. At this time the folks in southern Quebec would gladly share theirs, but alas! We’ve not yet found a way to redirect clouds.

In my understanding, the system of evaporation and precipitation was in place when man arrived and will continue to replenish the springs, streams, lakes, and rivers until the end of time. We can dam it, redirect it, and pollute the “container,” but we can’t use it up.

Hockey pucks don’t grow on trees, either. The game goes on.