Memes are today's proverbs: None is perfect for every situation, but good ones speak truth clearly and efficiently. This is a good one.
I love sitting on our back porch in the early morning. It's usually dark when I come out, and at first my only company is the insects and the frogs. A little later I can often see the armadillo as he leaves his burrow and goes out on his explorations through a small hole in the fence. As dawn approaches the birds start to wake up. Most common are the Carolina wrens and the cardinals, though there are many more, including owls, hawks, crows, tufted titmice, and unidentified warblers. Soon squirrels are scampering through the trees and across the screened enclosure that covers the pool. If I ignore the traffic noises, the air conditioners, the pool pumps, and the neighbor behind us who gets up early and likes to smoke on his porch, it's a very peaceful time.
Today I went out at about 5:30, and I sat there listening, except for a five to ten minute period when I ducked inside to attend to something in the kitchen. When it was light, I started walking my customary laps around the pool. Shortly before seven o'clock, I heard a small noise from one of the trees, and looked up, expecting to see a squirrel.
Apparently we grow our squirrels on the large side here in Florida.
That photo was taken by our neighbor, Carol; we called them over despite the early hour, knowing how much they would want to see this visitor. The Florida black bear is not uncommon in the neighborhood, but we'd never seen one on our street, let alone in our yard. We're not as close to the bear as you might think; Carol was shooting with a 400 mm lens. The video below was taken with my cell phone and gives you a better sense of the geography of the situation.
At that point we decided it prudent to stand a bit closer to the door to the house, but after descending the tree, he (definitely confirmed to be a male) squeezed back through the hole he had created for himself (Porter's photo), and went on his way. We were lucky he didn't take down a whole section of the fence.
My question is this: Did the bear come into the yard and climb the tree during the short time I was back in the house? Or had he been comfortably ensconced on the branch the whole time I was sitting on the porch in the dark? I'm inclined to believe the former, because when I'm out there I'm listening for and sensitive to unusual noises. But he was amazingly quiet in his moves for something so large, and the idea that he was sitting there the whole time is something to ponder!
I love cooking shows. Most of them are on cable television, which we have never had and I hope will never feel the need to have, but they're a favorite of mine when available on long overseas flights. And then there's YouTube.
Ann Reardon's How to Cook That channel first caught my eye because of her "debunking" videos, in which she tries out and exposes too-good-to-be-true internet "hacks," mostly related to her specialty, food. Here's one (16 minutes).
And here's one for our daughter who has always loved miniatures (6.5 minutes). So has Ann, and in her "Teeny-Weeny Challenges" actually bakes in her miniature kitchen.
These are just some of the sidelights of her channel, however. Mostly she focusses on amazing desserts, and has recently published a cookbook called Crazy Sweet Creations. Here's a basic video on working with chocolate (13.5 minutes).
Are you hungry yet?
Most of Ann's creations are too complex to interest me in attempting them, but they are fun to watch, and I can pick up some interesting tips and tricks along the way.
At last, Christmas drew near, and we focussed our activities nearer home. Christmas Eve saw us in church, of course, with some of our guests pressed into service in our hand chime choir. Hand chimes are not nearly as beautiful as handbells, but they are what we had. We didn't even have a handbell choir until it emerged as a desperation move to give our choir a way to make music when rehearsing and singing were forbidden. In this we were oppressed, not by the state, but by our very own bishop, whose rules were far more draconian than the governments'. I had so looked forward to being able to share with our family the absolute beauty of our high church worship, especially on such a special day, but it was not allowed to be. Nonetheless, we were grateful to be permitted in-person services at all. We were there; God was there. And some of us went back later for the midnight mass.
Credit for the above three photos Anke Cirillo of Three Point Photography
And then it was Christmas! Happiness is a house full of family.
After Christmas we boldly got together with our long-time friend and former choir director for one of our spontaneous music-making sessions. It's impossible to describe what a glorious outpouring of joy there is in these events. I do have a few recordings I treasure, but out of respect for the true musicians who don't always appreciate having their impromptu experimentations broadcast to the world, I'll leave it to your imagination. We had singing, piano, harmonica, viola, recorder, hand chimes, and all manner of percussion. If I could do this every night I know my mental state would take a drastic turn for the better. And the interaction between me on the tambourine and our granddaughter on the maracas was pretty good physical exercise, too.
We visited several playgrounds and natural parks, including taking the Black Point Wildlife Drive on the east coast. It's a favorite of ours, and a lovely place to see birds. On this trip, however, the more exciting views were of another sort:
And what's a trip to that part of the state without a stop at the Dixie Crossroads restaurant?
We continued to enjoy our final days of this visit, trying not to think too much about the upcoming long trip to Miami and the even longer trip across the Atlantic. And the 10-day quarantine awaiting them back in Switzerland. But they survived all that without catching COVID-19, and so did we. We are so grateful to Florida for welcoming our overseas family, to Switzerland for letting them come (and return), and to all whose efforts made this visit possible. I hadn't fully realized the toll these pandemic restrictions had taken on our mental health until we were reminded of what we were missing. I believe this visit came just in time, and I'm so glad we made the joyful choice.
This December visit seems more than six months distant, given that January and February brought us vaccines and the beginning of more freedom, at least in Florida. It would be April before the Northeast opened up enough for another healing family visit ... and that's a story for another post.
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Since it changed hands, I haven't found the Babylon Bee as interesting as it used to be. Or maybe Facebook has only been showing me their worst efforts recently; sometimes I think Facebook is a conspiracy theory dream all by itself.
In any case, this one is funny on more than one level. Be sure to watch to the end; it's only two minutes long.
Butterflies don't look back at the caterpillar with shame.
Stop looking at your past with shame.
It was a transformation and it brought you here.
I saw this yesterday on a friend's Facebook page. I'm not going to spend any time analyzing it, but use it as the perfect introduction to these cute little guys, who with their companions are devouring our substantial parsley bush.
They're welcome to it. Not because we don't like parsley—we certainly do—but because these babies are pre-transformation swallowtail butterflies.
We get monarchs every year, but haven't had swallowtails since 2018.
I'm guessing not many of my busy blog readers will find it a worthwhile use of 14 minutes to see the latest Viva Frei video, about more Canadian craziness, but I'm sure it could easily happen here. I'm very pleased that we now have two bona fide medical doctors in the family, but I'm beginning to wish we had a lawyer as well.
The short version is that a couple from Alberta was accused of being in contempt of court for violating a court order that they were not a party to, and had not been served notice of. Let that sink in a minute. Spoiler alert: after lawyers representing them pushed back, the Crown retreated, but came after them from a different angle, successfully getting a court injunction against their planned, peaceful protest on private property.
Apparently their protest violated Alberta's strict lockdown regulations, so the Crown had a case for fining the couple for the violation. I believe that suspension of Constituional and/or Charter rights (freedom of assembly, of peaceful protest) in the name of public health has been grossly misused, but that's not the issue. Let it stand for the moment.
What a conviction for contempt of court (either in the case that was withdrawn or through the injunction) does is up the cost of the protest significantly, adding criminal penalties and potential jail time to the fine. One could speculate that the initial imposition of the regulations went through proper legislative procedure (thought I doubt it), but this is an egregious attempt to impose harsher penalties than the law provides for.
Be that as it may, I enjoyed learning about the two types of contempt of court and more about how the system works.
Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
— C. S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters
Lawyers aren't very popular among the people I know, and even in general are more often maligned and mocked than almost any group of people—except maybe dead white males. I am one of those who frequently rail against lawyers because our increasingly litigious society has robbed us of the ability to make rational risk/benefit assessments, be it in childrearing, schools, medical decisions, playground equipment, government regulations, corporate policy, or almost anything else.
There certainly are bad actors in law, as there are in any field of endeavor. Perhaps the legal profession is at more risk of this than most, given the combination of great power and lots of money to be made. But following the Viva Frei vlawg (law-themed video blog) has made me aware of a very important truth:
The only way to fight bad lawyers is with good lawyers.
It is perilous to mock the professions that stand between us and the disintegration of society, from the policeman on his beat to the Supreme Court justice. That we do so reflects the relative security of our lives—a high form of privilege.
This video (11 minutes), one of several chronicling the defamation lawsuit of Project Veritas against the New York Times, illustrates how lengthy, difficult, and often tedious the process has become. A few bad apples aside, maybe lawyers are earning their hefty fees after all.
Yesterday's video (16 minutes) has an update to the case—the next tedious step—which you can see by clicking on that link. I chose to embed the earlier one as more illustrative, and especially because of the quotation at the end, from George MacDonald, one of my favorite authors. I tend to fast forward over the repetitious stuff after the main story, instead of merely closing the video, because I almost always like David Freiheit's choice of quotations at the very end. In this video, MacDonald is slightly misquoted, but the meaning is unchanged. The correct version, from The Marquis of Lossie, is below.
To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.