joanna irl

Unexpected Adventures– a New Windshield

Take a good look at this:

Windshield FAIL

It’s kind of interesting looking. Well, except for the fact that it’s my windshield and that the roundish bit is lined up with (roughly) where my right eye would be. Not cool.

I was on my way to the zoo on Thursday morning when I heard a sound like a (relatively quiet) shot and saw this in front of my face. I didn’t see what hit me, though I’m assuming it was a rock. It looks sort of like a golf ball, but I promise I wasn’t anywhere near a golf course– I was downtown on the H1. That highway is my nemesis. I’m not kidding, either. It’s made me late more times than I can count and you can’t predict travel times (If I leave an hour early, I’ll be ten minutes late, but if I only leave a half hour early, I’ll still be ten minutes late. Always.) and it’s congested with people who don’t know where they’re going because if you follow signs that say “Waikiki” you wind up on the H1.

Anyway, because of traffic, I had to continue all the way to the zoo, drive on past it (and phone in to tell them I wouldn’t be there that day), and then drive all the way back home on the H1 because the company that fixes windshields was back near my house.

So after two hours of sitting in traffic, I finally got to the glass place. In the meantime I’d discovered that Hawaii isn’t one of the states in which windshield replacement is covered under “comprehensive” insurance. I feel like someone should look up the definition of comprehensive because I think they missed the finer points…

I paid out of pocket for new (shiny! clean! pretty!) glass and was thankful they had it in stock and we didn’t have to get it shipped from the mainland (no windshield cave-ins from sitting in the sun for days!) and they even saved my military base stickers so I didn’t have to sit in line for three hours getting new ones. Tiny silver lining? Oh yeah.

So that was the excitement at the end of last week. I hope this week won’t be quite so adventurous.

conservation ftw

Learn a new animal day! Siamang edition.

I’m going to give you a leg up on the average zoo visitor today and teach you about this animal:

Thoughts?

Well, on a typical day while cleaning/feeding around this animal, I hear the following on a regular basis:

“Look at the monkey!”
“I love it when that howler monkey yells!”
“(Name of small child), what does the monkey say?” “Ooh ooh aah aahh!”
“Oooh, it’s a baby gorilla! I didn’t know they had gorillas!”
“Look at the chimpanzee!”

There are others, but that’s the usual. If I have time, I’ll tell people what those animals really are (there are two of them), but I don’t usually have time. I wish there was a good sign, but this zoo is (in my opinion) seriously lacking in the sign department; signs are either tiny and faded (like the one on this exhibit– it has one, but people don’t notice it and so don’t read it), or they’re entirely too wordy and most people (especially with kids) don’t have time to read tiny font.

Anyway, let’s look at this animal and what people say about it.

“Look at that monkey!”
First of all, look closely at these animals’ bodies. Do you see a tail? No. This is not a monkey. Just because it’s a primate, doesn’t make it a monkey. It’s sort of like you’re calling a lion a wolf because they’re furry and have four legs and eat meat. Sound silly? Well, primates are in the order Primate (surprise surprise) but after that, they’re subdivided into different families before we even get to genus and species. Lions and wolves also share an order (Carnivora) but are, like apes and monkeys, not in the same family. See? Not as silly as you think. A more obvious example? Moths and butterflies are in the same order, but clearly not the same animal. People don’t usually get those confused, so why do most people call all primates monkeys? I blame Curious George (but I’ll get back to that).

“I love it when that howler monkey yells!”
Okay, we’ve already established that it’s not a monkey, so I won’t say it again. (I’ll admit that in my head is a voice yelling NOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEY!!! quite a bit, though.) This one bothers me for two reasons. The first is the assumption that because this animal is very vocal (and they do have a loud, distinct call) that it’s a howler monkey. I know howlers are on Animal Planet all the time for being extremely loud, but there are a lot of other primates that are very loud, too. An example would be the family (again with classification) that includes all of the gibbons (and hey! these animals are a type of gibbon!). Here’s an example of a gibbon calling in the wild. Here’s an actual howler monkey sound. And here’s a video of the same type of animal pictured above. See? Lots of noisy primates. Second point: when an animal is making a loud noise, it’s not because it’s excited to see you, or is showing off, or is “putting on a show” (I hear that one all the time, too). Usually these animals get worked up when there’s a huge crowd of children all yelling at them and they feel territorial (their exhibit has viewing on all sides so they can be “surrounded,” which is poor exhibit design, but just the way it is), so they yell. They also yell when it’s close to food-time (which is twice a day) and first thing in the morning. It’s a territorial display, not a “show” for you.

“(Name of small child), what does the monkey say?” “Ooh ooh aah aahh!”
(NOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEY!!!) Okay, I get that you’re trying to get your child engaged and interact with you at the zoo, but teaching the kids to roar at the lion or make monkey calls at the primates isn’t teaching good behavior. The sounds people teach kids at zoos are usually the animals’ loudest sounds that, guess what, are the aggressive sounds. Are you sure you want to teach your kid to make aggressive noises at animals? Maybe not such a good survival strategy. On top of that, monkeys don’t make that noise anyway. That’s a chimp sound.

“Oooh, it’s a baby gorilla! I didn’t know they had gorillas!”
Well, the zoo doesn’t have gorillas. They’re not anywhere on the map. Of course, these guys aren’t either, which brings me back to this whole signage issue (someone should really do something about that), but they absolutely don’t have gorillas at the zoo. Besides that, other than it having black hair, do those animals seriously look like gorillas??


That’s a gorilla. If you’ve ever seen one, you know it’s HUGE and doesn’t look like the animal I’m showing at the top, except for the color. Again, similar to looking at a rhinoceros and saying “Look at the elephant!” because they’re both large and have gray skin. And baby gorillas? Baby gorillas look like babies. Not like another primate that has black hair and happens to be smaller than a gorilla. There are LOTS of primates that fit this description. Points for not calling it a monkey, though; gorillas are apes, though they are great apes and these are lesser apes, it’s at least a little better.

“Look at the chimpanzee!”
Almost there! The ones that say this (I’m assuming) realize that they’re looking at an ape and not a monkey (unless they think a chimp is a monkey, which is very likely since most people on TV call chimps “monkeys” NOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEYNOTAMONKEY!!!), and that it’s too small to be a gorilla. The thing is, if you’ve ever seen a photo of a chimp, then you know it also looks nothing like this animal. There’s also the fact that the zoo does have chimps (nine of them!) and they’re in a totally different section of the zoo AND clearly marked on the map (being popular animals).

On a slightly separate note, if you know anything about chimps or gorillas, do you really think we’d have them in a smallish, WIDE OPEN exhibit like that? Does that make any sense to YOU at all? Didn’t think so.

So what is that animal?
Glad you asked. It’s a siamang! There are two of them at the zoo, and they’re loud and can be very active. They’re lesser apes (a type of gibbon to be specific), and are found in Asia. They have these big throat pouches that they fill with air to make the loud call I showed you in the video, and they love to swing and flip around in the trees. Not monkeys, gorillas or chimps, but especially not monkeys. No tails. Plus, they walk more upright than on all fours and have a relatively large head compared to their bodies, which are all hallmarks of apes. Monkeys have tails, walk more using all four limbs equally, and have relatively smaller heads compared to their bodies.

Knowing all of that, what is Curious George? The books, TV shows, etc, call him a monkey, but he is, in fact, an ape. Oh, George, you silly primate.

joanna irl

Milk Fail

Today I fail at milk.

This morning I made tea and put it in my travel mug and drove to the zoo and was gone 8 hours… and when I got home I found the brand new carton of milk that I opened for the tea this morning sitting on the counter. Expanded. And warm.

I fail at milk.

And now I have to go back to the store to get more and it’s payday and I hate going to the store anywhere near payday (unless it’s before payday, then I like going to the store). This is because the commissary on payday (and for about 4 days afterward) is kind of like an insane military spouse holding pit. It’s almost like having to do battle with the forces of darkness, except it’s a bunch of women with bad attitudes, poor budgeting skills and three to five kids a piece. Pushing two carts in many cases. Taking up the aisles. Yelling at their screaming kids.

It’s a nightmare.

Okay, maybe not a nightmare, but it’s not fun for little shopping-by-myself me.

Maybe I won’t worry about the milk for a bit. Maybe. I still have another carton, this was just the one that I opened this morning. As long as I don’t fail at milk again for a little while, I should be fine. Should be. I’m optimistic.

And I guess the sour milk is where we end this BEDA thing. It’s hard thinking of stuff to say every day! That’s why sometimes you don’t get much. I don’t lead an exciting life.

Let’s face it; I just rambled for several paragraphs about milk.

the geek life

Avatar: not as great as all that

I just saw an ad that they’re re-releasing Avatar with extra scenes. It’s being billed as the “greatest movie of all time!”

That is just plain ridiculous.

Now don’t get me wrong, Avatar was a beautiful movie, visually. It was fun to watch.

However, it was badly written with no plot or character development. People argue this with me, but give it a minute and think: after the first ten minutes, you knew exactly who was on which side and how the story would go. No one changed, no one grew (c’mon, you didn’t see the Jake thing a mile away?), and if you’ve seen any version of “Pocahontas” it should’ve taken you about half that long to get it. (I’m not the only one who thought so, either.)

So why does everyone go on and on about it?

Well, it touches on two hot-button topics: war and the environment. You can sum up Avatar as “War, Bad! Environment, Good!” and get the main point. The movie hits you over the head with this message, it’s so blunt.

In terms of bad writing, I offer the scene that first drew me out of the movie: when the character Grace, who has been living on Pandora for years with the mining operation, goes into a room with a man she has also known for years, they spend ten minutes explaining to each other why they are there. If they don’t know why they are there after all that time and need to explain it to one another, then they have some serious issues. No, it was just a plot dump of the worst kind. A cleaner method would have been for the new recruits to get a briefing… or for the people of Pandora to do some recon… or for Jake to stumble upon the lab and have to get an explanation…. or for us to discover it through the course of the movie. I could go on, but the point is that plot dumping is lazy writing. Basic writing technique is “Show, don’t tell” and this movie was nothing but “telling” in terms of plot.

So there’s my two cents. If you want a nickle’s worth, just let me know.

joanna irl

Arguing with the DoD

The housing manager for our community has just come and gone. He took a couple of photos and really was only here about five minutes, but we accomplished something important: I now have documentation that my house is badly insulated.

Anyone that has come to visit me knows that the upstairs (especially the guest room) is always about ten degrees warmer than the rest of the house, and I have to have two or three floor fans going at once just to make it bearable for sleeping.

I wasn’t going to worry too much about this as I only have guests every couple of months (not to mention, it’s not like they hang out in that room anyway, it’s just for sleeping) and because we living in “military” housing, we pay a flat rate for everything.

That’s about to change.

Late last week, I got a letter in the mail from the Department of Defense (you know, the government agency that takes a nearly 20% chunk of our national budget and does… well, something with all of it, including paying my spouse) saying that they were no longer going to simply pay for our “high” energy consumption. Starting in January, for every time we go over the “average” usage of energy in our neighborhood, we will have to pay the difference. If we’re under the average, then we get “credit” (which I’ll get back to in a minute). They’ve been monitoring everyone’s energy usage for two years and have decided to use us as the “pilot” program (aka the guinea pigs) to see how it goes.

Now, I’m all for cutting down on energy consumption, but here are the problems I see:

  1. We already give our entire housing allowance to be able to live in a place at a flat rate, including all utilities (water, electricity, waste disposal, etc). This should already be accounted for somewhere in the budget.
  2. They claim they are going to only compare our usage against other “like units” in our community. This is supposed to account for things like different building standards in each community (which believe me, there are) and for different size homes (though there are several sizes just in my neighborhood). With these inconsistencies, how can they make a fair comparison?
  3. Our homes are not energy efficient in the first place. If they (the Department of Defense) are truly cutting back because they are tired of paying overages on our energy bills (which I am told are around $19 million a year), then why not fix the houses?

And now we come to my real problem. My house is badly insulated. There are gaps around the doors and windows because we don’t have weather stripping. The outside is covered only in a plastic/composite siding instead of wood or stucco. The appliances are the cheap kind and not the energy efficient kind. We have no ceiling fans in a tropical climate. Just having fans upstairs would make a world of difference. They have them in other communities here on the island… but those communities were not built by the DoD. How then can they penalize us for not being energy efficient when they require us to run the air conditioner (because of mold and mildew problems) but have houses that leak that air conditioning out through the doors and windows. And they want us to use less water, but we have high-use appliances. It makes no sense.

Anyway, I’ve got a group of neighbors going with me to the “Town Hall” meeting that’s being hosted by the DoD and we’re going to tell them exactly what we think of all of this. I’m hoping they’ll at least give us some weather stripping and ceiling fans.

It’s not that I’m worried about getting charged for energy usage. I’m usually far below the average in my use anyway. It’s more the principal of it, to be honest.

And this whole thing about getting “credit” for being under the average? We can either have a $5 check (whoop-ti-do) or “bank” it for a month when we “might” go over. DUMB.

Y’know what else I just realized? You can measure the level of my irritation with the number of times I use quotation marks. Heh.

joanna irl

The Wildlife is Winning!

But not for long…

I made a nasty discovery today. Well, two of them. The first was that I went to check my plants, as I do every morning, and one of my container gardens now contains a large number of round, bright yellow mushrooms. They’re the kind that seem to grow from a sort of slime along the rim of the container.

Off I went to the garden shop to get a fungicide (and a pot for the new orchid I got today, but that’s another story). I got help from a guy who works there and he went through all the different options before helping me find a sulfur-based fungicide that’s organic and won’t hurt any of my plants. In passing, I asked him if he knew of a yellow and brown striped beetle, as I’d seen one in my house this morning. It’s the second one I’ve seen– the last was a couple of weeks ago in the dishwasher and I smashed it and then ran the washer to clean it. This one was on the cabinet door where I keep my baking sheets and pans and skillets. It also got squished. Bugs are fine outside, but not allowed in my house.

We looked at a chart the guy had and none of the beetles looked right to me. He started describing something and I told him that what he described was exactly what I saw. That’s when he dropped the bomb:

That’s a variety of cockroach.

SHUDDER.

Sooooo the guy helped me buy a pack of really good bait traps and I’ve pulled everything out of that cabinet that had the cockroaches and I’m washing every last thing in there. I’m also checking the rest of the kitchen, but so far there’s no, shall we say, “evidence” of roaches in the other cabinets (small evidence was found in the back of the baking cabinet). At the moment I’m SO grateful that I haven’t baked cookies recently. Or anything else for that matter.

joanna irl

The Disenfranchisement of Military Spouses

I’m getting on a soapbox. You have been warned.

This has been brewing in the back of my head for a long time, but I wanted to wait until I was calm before writing about it. You see, every so often something happens that makes me really angry at the way military spouses get treated. Some of that is brought on by the way many military spouses act themselves, but I’ll get to that later. What bothers me the most is our government-given classification as “dependent.”

Let me be clear about this: I do not mind, in and of itself, being dependent on my husband. With him as the main income-earner, I have been able to follow a lot of dreams that I would not otherwise be able to afford. I have worked fun jobs where I play outside, where I work with animals, where I have time to write and take photos and entertain any and all company that we have visit. I am not complaining about that freedom at all.

The problem lies in how the government treats me and others like me, simply because our spouses are in the military.

We are not individuals and cannot do anything for ourselves. Does this sound old fashioned? A little, you might be thinking. It’s more than a little; we seem to exist in a system that you’d think would not be tolerated in this day and age.

When I got married, J took me to various offices around the Navy base to register me as his “dependent.” He is called the “sponsor.” There is no “spouse” or anything as equal-partnership sounding as that. Oh, no. And that was when I discovered that I might as well kiss any individualism goodbye. I understood the idea of him getting me listed on his paperwork, since I needed to be connected to his benefits, his insurance, his pay, and other things. That was fine. What bothered me then were the little things: I couldn’t get an ID card without my “sponsor” present. In fact, the people at the ID office would not speak to me, except to ask me where my sponsor was. It took me three days (we also do the DMV-style thing for IDs where you show up when they open and hope they have time to see you) to get an ID because at the time, J could only get partial days off to help me with this stuff. He had to ferry me around everywhere. The ID finally allowed me to come onto base by myself and go to the Exchange and the Commissary, but that was about it.

When we moved here, the fun increased. We discovered that not only could I not be the one to authorize our belongings to be shipped (the government considers everything “we” own as belonging solely to J), but I couldn’t be the one to get them back on the other end without J filing a special power of attorney. When we got here and I tried to check into the hotel (J was bringing in the bags), the woman at the desk kept asking where my sponsor was. The moving company wouldn’t call me to give me information even though J was on the ship and had no cell phone use during the day. We had to get another power of attorney for me to set up utilities in our house. I could go on and on about this. The point is, every time I deal with anything to do with the government, I cannot even get someone to answer questions without permission from my “sponsor.” I can’t even plant flowers in the front yard without either a power of attorney or J filling out paperwork for me with the housing office.

Does it sound old fashioned now?

Most of that stuff I have learned to take in stride, but I have to admit that sometimes I get, shall we say, short with people who are rude about asking where my sponsor is. Somehow all military spouses are supposed to be able to function as the entire household (with a POA, of course) when their military members are deployed, and yet when they are here, it’s like we’re the tag-a-longs. The hangers-on.

It’s insulting.

Really, that’s all it is, though: insulting. We can work around it, we can manage, and J reminds me constantly that it’s just wording (though he isn’t the one getting ignored at desks and counters when he asks questions).

The latest thing that sent me over the edge happened when we filed our taxes this year. You see, there’s a new law to “help” military spouses. Under the new law, I am not legally allowed to be a resident (i.e. paying taxes and voting) in the state in which J is stationed.

In the past, the military spouse could (and usually did) move her state of residence as the family moved, or if going to another country, the state of residence would usually be the last one in which they lived. In theory, you could maintain a “home” state if you wanted to keep one. When we got married, I switched everything to my new state of residence because I changed my last name and it made the paperwork all nice and neat. I was living and working in the new state, so it made sense that I would vote and pay taxes there.

Not any more.

Our tax preparer told us that under a new law, again meant to “help” us, military spouses are now required to claim their sponsors’ state of residence, even if they have never lived in that state. We discovered this only after I’d cut ties with the state of Virginia and switched everything, from my driver’s license to my voting registration, to Hawaii. I am not legally allowed to be a resident of Hawaii. Under the new law, I am supposed to be a resident of Minnesota.

If you tallied the amount of time I’ve spent in Minnesota, it would be less than four months, I’d guess.

You may not think this is a big deal, except for this: if I work, my taxes get paid to Minnesota, a state in which I do not live. When I vote, I have to vote for politicians in Minnesota, a state in which I do not live. And think about this– if we had kids, I would have no power, no say whatsoever, in how their schools were run because we’d live in a state in which I cannot vote.

So yeah, I think it’s a big deal.

Military spouses give up a lot to follow their soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines around the world. Our careers take a beating, we have to move constantly, we’re not near our extended family, and we’re subject to the military’s schedule. Most of us knew that going in, so it’s not a big surprise (or shouldn’t be*). What is frustrating is to feel like all of that doesn’t matter, like we’re just another piece of furniture that has to get relocated when the military member transfers. They could at least make it easier to vote.
……….

*I would like to insert here that I think the stickers and shirts and such that say “Navy Wife: The Toughest Job in the Navy” (or fill in your branch as need be) are asinine. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but even though it’s tough having to move around a lot and worrying about your spouse, your spouse has a much tougher job than you. They have to be away from their family, too; they move just as much (if not more) than you do; they don’t get to see their kids grow up (while you do); and their jobs, in and of themselves, are hard and dangerous and sometimes downright scary. Case in point: my husband is a welder and yet some of his training involves how to make judgment calls, like “if toxic gas is leaking into the ship, how to you choose the person to go in and seal it up, knowing that person will probably not come back out alive?” I’m not making this up. He had an entire week’s training about gas leaks and such things, and that was a serious part of it. I do not envy him in the least, having to know he might someday weigh that decision. Again, he’s a welder. Not a SEAL, not a SeaBee, not a sniper, not anything remotely worry-inducing, and he still has a tougher job than me.

joanna irl

Invasion of the Maggots!

Today, after leaving my next door neighbors’ house, where I’d been invited for brunch, I found another of my neighbors that I’m not terribly familiar with standing at the bottom of my driveway. I say standing, but she was actually in more of a crouch. And holding an aerosol can. And spraying little spots along the driveway edge. Lots of little spots.

Finding this a little, well, weird, I went down to see what she was doing on the pretense of bringing my trash can back to the garage, as the garbage truck had come a couple of hours earlier. We then had our Very First Conversation as Neighbors.

Me: What are you doing?
Woman: I’m spraying them! Haven’t you seen them?
Me: Seen what?
Woman: The maggots.
Me: What?! Where?
Woman: (while looking at me like I’m stupid) They’re all over! They were all over the driveways, and now they’re all over out here!

I looked around and sure enough, the culdesac looked like it was slowly moving because there were thousands (and I’m not exaggerating) of maggots swarming across it. I quickly looked to my feet and didn’t see any there, or on my driveway. We continued our Very First Conversation.

Me: Where did they come from?
Woman: I don’t know, they were in the trash cans. I didn’t see them until we got those recycling bins, though, and I think it’s because you don’t put bags in them!

Yes, her sentence was really that confusing. I think she was reaching a state of maggot-induced-panic. At this point, I went and checked my recycling bin, which was clean, as was my trash can. I pointed both of these facts out to her and told her that I’d call maintenance and see what they could do about it. She bent back to her task, sniping the maggots. One. By. One. Did I mention there were thousands of these things?

Let me point out here I would be a lot more disgusted by this if I hadn’t spent the last couple of years feeding mealworms to various animals. As it is, I’m bothered… but somehow entertained.

A couple of hours later, they were gone. This is the part that bothers me; maggots you can see are merely gross, but maggots that have disappeared have gone somewhere.

I think J and I are going to spend tomorrow putting insecticide around the house, again… After all, the problem with maggots is that you can’t be sure what they’ll morph into…. Elgh.