Feeling Miffy about the 4th


It’s that time of the year! Time to bust out the red, white and blue and celebrate the July 4th – the start of the Tour De France.

This year Le Tour starting in Utrecht where Miffy (seen above sporting a “king of the mountains” jersey) is a cultural icon.

The thought of seeing giant Miffys in various jerseys popping up here, there and everywhere is actually more of the reason I’m tuning in.

Sorry, TDF, but I just don’t find the group of riders or the route very interesting this year. Seriously, how many times can I watch 150 sweaty men in spandex climb L’Alpe d’Heuz?

But Miffy? Awww, I could look at her for hours. I can’t wait to see where she turns up!

Citizen Science Catch-22, or, Birding Gone Bad

CC 2.0 -- Dominic Sherony - April 22, 2005 Flickr: Red-faced Warbler (Cardellina rubrifrons)

CC 2.0 — Dominic Sherony – April 22, 2005 Flickr: Red-faced Warbler (Cardellina rubrifrons)

If you were out walking and chanced upon this bird, I’m certain you’d remember it and be able to describe it accurately. It is rather distinctly patterned after all.

Before I left California, I encouraged a friend, and long-time closet bird watcher, to get more involved in birding with other birders. I told her about a course she could take in the area and about the local Audubon Society. Reluctantly, this spring, she ventured out.

Now, the weird thing about “Meg” is that she’s not just a person that likes birds; birds like her. If you went for a walk with Meg, you’d find yourself shadowed by Western bluebirds, you’d see pairs of Cooper’s Hawks calling to you and flying across a field to be in the tree you were walking toward, you’d discover Common Yellow-throats bouncing to the edge of their narrow-leaf willows to sing at you. Meg likes birds; but I’m telling you, birds LOVE her.

At first you think, “Oh, it’s my mind playing tricks on me. It’s just coincidence. Birds aren’t really following us, watching us, stalking us.” But for some reason, birds truly are attracted to Meg.

Once, when we had come back to her house from shopping and were getting stuff out of her car trunk, I looked up at the telephone wire behind us and there were 5 birds looking at us (at Meg really) chirping enthusiastically, and jumping up and down on the wire, as if to say “Look, look! There she is! We’ve got to go tell everyone she’s home!” Then they flew off.

I asked Meg. “What’s the deal with the birds around here? They really seem to like you.”

Meg said, “I’ve always thought God made a mistake with me. I have bird soul, but I was accidentally born in a person body.”



And that was all she said. The end.

Anyway, Good Me thought, “She’d love being with real birders, I bet.” I told her about The Great Backyard Bird Count, Cornell University, Project Feederwatch, and eBird.org, about how citizen science is contributing to what we know about birds and helping us better protect them for the future. She replied, “That’s nice.”

However, I think that germ of an idea sprouted because she later ended up taking a bird identification class and meeting a bunch of enthusiastic birders. She liked the class. She thought the people were terribly nice. But still, she didn’t think “birding” was very fun. It was ok seeing birds as she walked around or in her yard, but the idea of going somewhere solely to look at birds seemed “not very interesting.”

Apparently at one point, during the class, someone discovered there were 20,000 Sooty Shearwaters amassed on the local coast. Everyone wanted to go see this highly unusual sight, everyone but Meg. She said, “I’ve already seen a Sooty Shearwater. Why do I want to see 20,000? Isn’t that just big mass of really noisy, black birds? What’s the point?”

Luckily I was on the phone when she said that, and Der was walking by. He was able to close my dropped jaw before I blurted out something like “Yeah, who would bother to see a field of rare flowers having seen one?”

Anyway, she called me on Monday and told me she’d been out walking her dog when she saw the above pictured bird. She looked it up in her book when she returned home and noticed it was uncommon in her area, so she put it on ebird’s site. She doesn’t post her sightings to there, like some people do, every day. She doesn’t have a life list. She isn’t shooting for street cred in the birding world. She wouldn’t have bothered at all except, having taken the class and realized how much other people liked to look at birds and that scientists were interested in rare ones turning up in weird places, she just wanted to help out.

eBird.org is a Cornell University site where they encourage citizen scientist’s to make reports of birds, especially rare ones. Once a bird is up there, if it’s rare, an alert might go out letting birders know there particulars so they can go see it. Knowing when odd birds turn up in an area can be a clue to climate change or environmental changes. It may be the bird is establishing itself in a new area and maybe it’s endangered and the some habitat needs to be reserved or protected. Anyway, it’s important. I was glad she had put her sighting up.

Then on Wednesday she calls me and tells me she got an email from someone in her county who acts as a reviewer for eBird. She was told her sighting was extremely rare and significant. The bird had never been seen in the county before and because it was so unusual (even though the guides said it periodically turned up in California) she needed to send in a photograph or a recording to prove she saw it.

Since she didn’t know the bird was rare when she saw it and didn’t have  camera or a recording device on her, she didn’t think to gather evidence. She said the folks at ebird told her because of the rareness and the lack of evidence, they had to take her sighting off the public site. She could keep it on her private lists, but it couldn’t be used as data and had to be removed. The upshot of that, no one else would know to go out to where Meg had been to look for this rare bird and photograph/record it.

Meg said that she “totally understood and respected that this was their process.” But I have to confess, I didn’t get it at all. This is a citizen science. It’s supposed to be open to people to submit observations. I could understand if someone flagged her sighting as unconfirmed, but deleting it entirely? Wow. That seems extreme. And again, look at the bird.

It’s not like you could mistake it for ANYTHING else in California, especially a distance of 5 feet, when it’s right in front of you, singing at you (which is what she said happened, and because it’s Meg, I know it’s what happened). Apparently Meg was asked if she was sure it wasn’t a different bird, a House Finch. I almost fell off my chair laughing. They look nothing alike, and Meg’s seen House Finches in her yard since she was a small girl. Not a mistake she could make.

I asked Meg if she was going to continue to submit observations to eBird. Because let’s face it, she sees more birds on a 1 hour walk in her neighborhood than most birders will spending 16 hours searching for them in a wildlife refuge.

She said, “No. Because I’d only post birds I’d never seen around before and if they won’t believe rare bird sightings without video or pictures or sound recordings, they won’t post it, so I wouldn’t be helping anyone. No one would be able to go out and find them and enjoy seeing them. What would be the point?”

I tried to protest that this was just a really unusual case, but she didn’t believe me.

“It’s okay. It’s how I thought it would be. They don’t want help from average people who like birds. They want members of birding groups and people who spend significant time contributing lists. That’s not me. That’s why I didn’t want to get involved.”

I sighed deeply. I knew in my heart she was wrong, but what could I say. The very first time she put a rare sighting out there, she got shot down. Once burned, why bother?

“It’s the difference between a saint and a theologian,” she explained. “I want to love the birds for themselves. At eBird they have to know them only as research subjects.”

Small wonder some wildly rare bird chose to appear before her and sing to her. Meg wants the wonderful, memorable life experience. She wants to love a living thing that’s right in front of her, in person, with nothing (like a smartphone) between her and it.

Shouldn’t that be what everyone aspires to? A wonderful life loving all the amazing living things that are right in front of us?

Lesson learned, my friend. Lesson learned.


When your personal banker gets way too personal

Can he be my Personal Banker?

Could Mr Pig be my banker? I”m looking for someone professional rather than personal to handle my millions.

Recently I went to my bank to open a new account. Toward the end of the process, my personal banker leaned over his desk and said in a low voice, “I’d like to tell you something.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that comment, but I do carry mace.

“It’s about the surveys they send out, because I can see you’re not happy. ”

Oooh, he can see I’m not happy, but he’s only concerned about what I might say on an anonymous survey? Interesting. Proceed.

“That last survey you completed …”

I knew the survey he meant, but how did he? It was anonymous.

“… I know it was you because of the details.”

Seriously? Someone shared details of my anonymous survey with him? Weird. Mostly because the survey wasn’t about him.

“I just want you to know that any answer that’s less than a 9 or higher is interpreted as a 0, and we have to get 10 surveys with scores of 9 or higher to make up for a low survey. Also, those negative reviews are used against us, to deny us promotions or raises.”

Most of the time I say only good things on surveys. I rarely have fact-to-face interactions with my bank. In fact, anything I can do to avoid speaking to a bank manager or a personal banker … I do. Part of the reason for this is, if I need to accomplish something even slightly complex or out of the ordinary, invariably they give me the wrong information, fail to give me a critical piece of information, or I get it in the neck because they fill their own forms out incorrectly!

He went on in the face of my silence. Brave soul.

“I know the survey scores didn’t apply to me, because you said so in the note.”

The survey was general. It didn’t name anyone. It just asked about my experience that day. Since I’d gone to the bank multiple times and spoken to multiple people, I explained on the survey note what the problem was, who caused it, why it happened, and how it could be prevented in future. I wanted to make sure the bank understood I was giving both the person and the bank the low scores.

My experience had been negative because the bank’s manager didn’t know a specific regulation. It was information he didn’t use on a regular basis. So he gave me the information wrong. I get that, but it caused me two days of grief. It was a problem the bank could have avoided — if they’d given mangers access to a database that walked them through little used regulations.

“Well, I was as clear as possible,” I explained. Still not quite understanding why he was so upset over his manager’s low survey score — from 4 months ago.

“I know, but the survey unit didn’t care. They had sent the survey out to review only my actions.”

“I wasn’t told that.” I said. I remembered his actions. They were helpful, sort of. He forgot to tell me a critical piece of information that day and — as I was sitting there with him — that oversight came back to bite me. Hence my “not happy”-ness.

“The manager even called the head office and asked them to reassign the low scores to him. But they wouldn’t do it.”

“Well, I’m sorry for that,” I replied. I meant it, too.

I looked down at the coaster on his desk. The one that said “Great Bankers Conference.” It gave the name of fabulous tourist destination several thousand miles away. Always one to engage in pleasantries, I had asked him about the conference when we sat down. He had been sent, for the entire week-long affair, and it had been wonderful.

I wondered how much the survey had actually held him back if the bank had paid to send him to a week-long conference for great bankers just the previous week? Also, I wondered why his choosing to work for such a hard-nosed institution was my fault, or why that meant I couldn’t have an honest, clearly stated opinion about another person on an anonymous survey.

If you’re thinking, it can’t get worse. It did.

“I just wanted you to know. Because I can see you aren’t happy.”

Yes, and you’re scared they’ll send me another survey. I get that. But the “not happy” factor is your fault. Because I’ve just found out the information you neglected to give me in January, and now I realize this new info means a whole bunch of new hassle for me.

He went on.

“I mean, I don’t have any hard feelings about what happened or I wouldn’t serve you.”

Oh, that’s lovely. My personal banker is telling me he would get someone else to serve me if he didn’t like what I had said on an anonymous survey about another person. How on earth am I supposed to respond to that?

I dug deep.

“Well, if that’s how the surveys are used, just punitive tools to deny workers raises and promotions and the bank doesn’t actually care about improving its service to me,” I replied calmly, “I just won’t fill out any surveys.”

Not the answer he expected. I could tell by his slightly stunned expression. But I hadn’t done anything wrong. I felt no need to apologize or promise to make it up to him by giving him a good score next time.

At that point, the conversation ended. I assumed I had completed all the necessary steps to opening the account because he stood up and wished me well. So I stood up, shook his hand, and left.

Not long after leaving the bank, I had a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I let it go, but no voice mail was left. It happened 3 more times. Finally, 3.5 hours later, as I sat down to dinner, there came another call from the same number and this time they left a message.

“Hi, Indra. Sorry to bother you. This is your personal banker. I forgot to ask you what you wanted printed on your checks. Can you give me a call by tomorrow morning and let me know?”

Sigh. Eye rolling. Frowny face.

I wasn’t even surprised. This is the level of service — from a top global bank — to which, sadly, I have grown accustomed.

Possibly, if he’d been less concerned about getting me to give him a good score on the next survey and more concerned about doing the job he was supposed to, this wouldn’t have happened.

I called him back and told him what to put on the checks.

I’m glad I don’t have to go back on my word to him and answer the survey invitation that’s just arrived.

I can’t imagine he would still have a job after I mentioned he breached my anonymity, confessed his bank doesn’t use my survey to improve service, blamed me for his employer’s abusive practices, accused me of thwarting his raise and promotion, tried to shame me into giving him a good review, and then told me service at his bank is apparently based on someone “liking” me.

But I have to say, I felt the fact that the previous bad review I had specifically aimed at someone else missed its mark and hit him was rather poetic justice.

This entry was posted on May 13, 2015. 4 Comments

In any important situation, never be distracted by . . . SQUIRREL

When looking at any situation, never be distracted by SQUIRREL

But I like  . . .  SQUIRREL!

Well, it’s that time again. Time to hit the open road. I’m excited.

A couple friends (and my dad) are helping me get my stuff transported. Der is on his way to Europe today. Da is waiting impatiently with my cat, dog, 7 goldfish, and, of course, my beautiful duchess peony that still has not bloomed.

Miraculously, I’ve managed to line up a job I can do strictly online, from anywhere in the world. Yeah. Admittedly, it won’t pay a bundle but it’ll keep me from dipping into my savings, and it’s enough to keep me in baubles and finery.

Piccolo called me on Thursday morning. He left a message. He wanted me to do another job for him, an emergency job. He had a May 10 deadline. Everyone would work 24/7. The sum he was willing to pay was frankly a year’s wages.

My Gran said I could stay with her for those few weeks. My friends said they would store all my boxes.  Everyone was willing to help me stay. But I called him back Friday and said no.

The life I had lived here was over, dead and gone. I couldn’t live it again. I didn’t want to, no matter the price. I told Pic I was packed already. I had another job. And I was sorry, but . . . .  I was surprised how easy it was to close that door and how happy I felt doing it — ecstatic actually.

Now I’ve decided to close another.

I’d like to say I’ll keep in touch, but I don’t know that I will.

I’ve been blogging for almost two years now, basically as a publishing courtesy. However, since I don’t publish anymore and I never really wanted a blog . . . it’s probably best to leave off now on whatever kind of note this is. Number 140, I think.

I’ll probably still comment on some of my favorite blogs. Just because I’m giving up writing one doesn’t mean I’ll give up reading others!  Hardcovers and Heroines, Liquorstore BearTalain’s photography blog, and The Bunny Adventures are some of my favs.

I believe all will go well for me “where pines and maples grow.” Platonia said last night my 6-card tarot reading* was entirely favorable to starting to a new life, so that’s what I plan to do. At least that’s the plan. You never know what will happen.  I might just  . . . SQUIRREL!

* Interestingly, she said the cards said I should marry Der not live with him, but I said either the cards misspoke or she’d misheard them!


Duct tape or Bubble wrap?


Packing? I laugh at packing. I'm a gypsy. I travel with just the clothes on my back!

Packing? I laugh at packing. I’m a gypsy. I travel with just the clothes on my back!

The other day as we were packing up my home, my friend, Naphthaly, was on the phone telling another friend:

“Well, he’s right. Never say you’re sorry if you’re not wrong. You have to stand up for yourself.”

I didn’t say anything, but it did explain Naph’s multiple marriages (3 or 4, I can’t honestly remember).

Of course, I knew at least a couple of her marriages had been bad, to really bad people, and  I do believe that one ought stand up for one’s self. But in a good marriage or a loving relationship of any kind, it’s OK to say you’re sorry — even if you don’t believe in your heart you are wrong.

Why? Because no one has 100% knowledge about anything. Everyone make mistakes, although sometimes we don’t realize it until it’s too late.

I don’t advocate peace at any cost. Heaven knows! But there should always be wiggle room in a relationship. There should always be some cushioning built in. There should always be compartmentalization so one failure doesn’t turn into relationship destruction.

In other words, relationships should be held together with bubble wrap, because the duct tape method is too intensely painful.

Ah, the choices we make when young . . . .


Last night, at about 8 pm, when it was full night, my doorbell rang. Red had a complete meltdown.  I looked out into the darkness and there were three young African-American boys, no more than 13, standing well back from the door and my dog.

I put the howling Red away and came back to the door. They hung back, about 5 feet from the door, at the edge of the porch light, as if they didn’t really want to be identified (or attacked by my dog).

They were well dressed. They seemed well cared for by their parents.

I asked what they wanted.

They said they were in the neighborhood collecting for “underprivileged Black youths in the community.”

They were well spoken and polite, but it was all I could do not to laugh out right. It was obvious these three were trying to scam money. Any youth in this area isn’t underprivileged. Too, it’s so white here they were probably the only African-American youth for miles. But I was amused. I liked them. And I wanted to see how far their story would go. So, I asked what was the group that had sent them out collecting.

They said, “The black adult community.”

I asked if they had a permit, which is required for collecting in the city.

They said no.

I asked if they a copy of the 301(c) of their charity.

They said no.

Politely, I recommended they go back to their pastor or charity leader and maybe get these things. Then, I wished them well and sent them on their way.

I watched them go the neighbors on the corner, one on a tiny fixed-gear bikes (indicating they lived in the area). After some discussion, they went around the corner.

About 10 seconds later, a cop car pulled up and went around the same corner after them.

I wasn’t surprised. Someone less charitable than I probably thought they were casing homes. I assume the boys were picked up for panhandling, or, if they did collect any money, fraud.

I hope they were sternly warned and released to their parents. Though I must confess,  I felt bad for their parents. I’m sure they had worked hard to bring their boys to a safe affluent community with strong schools. And now their kids had just thrown it all back in their faces in a bid to get some easy cash.

At the same time, I did wonder if their parents weren’t contributing factors.  That is to say, why did these children already hold such negative images of the abilities and opportunities of today’s young African-Americans that they thought it entirely reasonable to knock on strangers doors at night collecting for this group?

Someone put the idea into their heads that in America being of a certain race (to which they belonged) was reason enough for charity. I don’t mean to be skeptical, but are US African-American youth really as in need of charity as say, homeless victims of a tsunami, or  people who have been set on fire during religious persecution, or an actual orphaned African child with AIDs?

Anyway, I’m not sure why I’m writing about this. I guess as a cautionary tale. But what the caution is, you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Bad Me has decided the caution is never have children. They’re more of a crap shoot than a solid investment.