Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

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Location: Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, United States

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Poetry Corner: Emma Lazarus

When I started this blog, I didn’t really intend for it to get political. But now I look at my new crop of students, and I also remember students past, who came here from other countries, looking for a new beginning. Many of them were fleeing from wars or famine or political oppression. I have had refugees from Bosnia and Cambodia. There are the Cubans, who love their country but despair of ever being able to return. There are also those who come here to find economic opportunity, whether from southeast Asia or Latin America. Some arrivals have come from privileged backgrounds, such a the rocket scientist from Kazakhstan who married an American college professor. Many others have come from situations in which they could barely survive, devastating poverty.

This country really needs to change the way it screens the people who come here, and the policies about who is or isn’t allowed in. We certainly don’t want to let in terrorists or criminals. But at the same time, we need to find a fair and equitable way to let in people who contribute to this country’s well-being by working hard and earning their place in society.

Evidence that the current system doesn’t work: All of the 9-11 terrorists entered this country legally. Their only illegal act, prior to the terrorist attack, was that some of them overstayed their visas. On the other hand, the government deported a large number of illegal immigrants working in a chicken-processing plant in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in many cases leaving their children stranded in day-care with nobody to care for them.

What’s the bigger threat – illegal immigrants chopping up chickens in a factory, or mostly-legal visitors taking sufficient pilot training to crash airliners into important buildings?

OK, enough diatribe, let’s get to the poetry. The final sestet of this poem is well-known. The first part of the sonnet is not so familiar.

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This is what I think about when I see all of those students who have come here, often at great risk, from someplace else.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The first day of school

OK, so really, the excitement of the first day of school is supposed to be all about the joy of kids in the primary grades, returning after summer vacation to meet new teachers, plus both new and old classmates. By the later elementary grades, all of the first-day hullabaloo is passé, and by middle school, the end of summer vacation is nothing to celebrate. So why is a middle-aged community-college instructor so interested?

Partly, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I look forward to the students. There’s such diversity in their backgrounds, personalities, and experiences.

This year has actually started out almost flawlessly smoothly. I was positive it wouldn’t – Murphy’s Law has always been very much in play. I thought I would be tempting Murphy by postponing my arrival back in Albuquerque and staying up at Five O’Clock Somewhere until just the night before classes were to begin. But I’d looked up the master syllabi for the courses I am teaching, and there was no change of textbook after all, so I needed to make only minor syllabus revisions that I could do without returning to the big city. All I would have to do once I got back was to change the telephone number if I’d been assigned a new office cubicle, and add in the times the classes would have reserved time in the computer lab. Then, I’d have to run off copies of my syllabi. THAT, I was sure, would be where I ran into trouble – the copier, for sure, would break down, and I’d have to go in search of a working copier.

So I headed in to work, stopping for lunch at a fast-food place on the way. There, one thing did go wrong – the “low oil” light on the dashboard of my car came on. But there was an auto parts store right next door, so I got a couple of quarts of Pennzoil (shameless plug: I’ve never used any other oil, and the only car I’ve ever had the engine give out on did so only after 270,000 miles of serious abuse, a 4-cylinder engine called upon to do V-8 duty), put one quart into the engine and kept the other as a spare, and I was on my way.

The I got to the office. The new ID card reader on the door accepted my new ID card without any trouble. I was still in the same cubicle, and I don’t have to share it with as many cubicle-mates as usual. The memo listing my classes’ computer lab reservations was waiting for me in my mailbox, and the time slots assigned are nearly perfect. To top it all off, once I’d made the final touches to my syllabi, the copier was working PERFECTLY!

It gets even better. When I checked my email, I discovered that my union has been working on my behalf. Even though I’m a part-time instructor, since I have “veteran” status, I actually qualify for sick leave! Whoa!

I keep expecting to wake up and find this has all been just a dream. Or else, to make up for all of what has been going right, something else is about to go disastrously wrong.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Manufactured housing vs. hurricane

Yet another hurricane sweeps through Florida on its way to doing even more damage in the rest of the United States. And the news footage has shown and undoubtedly will continue to show devastated mobile-home parks. It’s not that tornados and hurricanes target mobile-home parks; it’s just that the most spectacular damage tends to happen there.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Five O’Clock Somewhere is a manufactured housing unit, and part of the reason we chose the manufacturer we did was a set of photographs taken of a mobile-home park in Florida following Hurricane Andrew. In those photos, the mobile-home park is thoroughly wiped out, but five homes are still standing, all made by this manufacturer. The one home made by this manufacturer that didn’t survive suffered a direct hit by a tornado that would also have destroyed a site-built house. One other home suffered severe damage from being hit by a flying refrigerator.

It turns out, the home construction isn’t the real key. Consumer Reports magazine reported on the quality of manufactured housing, and what those reporters found out was that manufactured housing is just as weather-resistant as site-built housing, IF the home is properly set up and anchored. One test organization even set up some mobile homes on the flightline of an Air Force runway and had jet airplanes blow their exhaust at the home. If it was properly anchored, the home might suffer some broken windows and blown-off shingles, but that was it – no structural damage. Most states, however, have very low requirements for setup and anchoring, and two states (New Mexico is one of them) don’t have any regulations at all.

In the case of Hurricane Andrew, the state of Florida responded by creating new regulations for the installation of manufactured housing. Now, Florida requires all manufactured housing to meet the standards similar to those this manufacturer has required all along.

The manufacturer of Five O’Clock Somewhere has very strict standards for installation an anchoring. Here in New Mexico, many manufactured-housing dealers advertise “free delivery and setup.” Not our manufacturer. We had to pay extra for the delivery and setup. But we got an installation so secure that both our mortgage company and our homeowner’s insurance company consider the house just as secure as a site-built house, so we get the best rates from both.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Grammar mini-moment: misplaced modifiers

This isn’t a full-fledged grammar lesson. But it is a warning that when you put a descriptive element into a sentence, you should be sure it’s clear what the descriptive element refers to.

From last night’s television news: “A University of New Mexico student was saved from being raped by a police officer who just happened to show up at the right place and time.”

From this evening’s television news: “A woman at a Wal-Mart was saved by a fellow customer who shot the attacker with a knife.”

I’m sure the people who wrote those news stories didn’t intend for readers to believe the police officer was a rapist, or that the Wal-Mart customer was somehow able to use a knife as a firearm. But the placement of the descriptive phrases leaves the reader guessing exactly what the writer means. You don’t want your reader to guess what you mean; you want to make the meaning perfectly clear. Thus, you must be sure that when you use a descriptive element, you must also make sure that it’s clear what that element is describing.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mental health "care" in the U.S.

Last week in Albuquerque, a man who was reportedly mentally ill went on a shooting spree that ended up with five people dead. A medical professional had called police to request that he be taken into protective custody because he was a danger to himself or others. Before the police found him, he shot a Department of Transportation highway repair worker and two employees of a motorcycle shop. And when the police did find him, he shot the two officers who had come to take him into custody.

According to press reports, this man had a long history of mental illness. His neighbors told reporters that he was a pleasant man, a gentle soul – when he took his medication. When he didn’t take his medication, he got scary, which (my guess now) is probably why somebody involved with him professionally called for police help in getting him rounded up and into a controlled situation.

The American health care system is already in a shambles because it is run by for-profit insurance companies and HMOs that are more interested in saving money than in making the most effective health-care decisions. When it comes to mental-health care, the system is even more of a joke. It’s as if any chemical imbalance in the brain is something that can be overcome by the patient thinking right.

I don’t know details about the patient involved in the shooting spree. But I do know about a student I had. To preserve his privacy, I’m not going to give details. But I will say that he had a severe mental disorder that disrupted the classroom. His family had medical insurance, but that insurance didn’t cover mental illness, and his working-class family definitely didn’t have the financial resources to pay for the treatment he needed. He couldn’t even qualify for a publicly funded treatment program until after he’d been cited for the incident in my class. I wish him well in his treatment. I can clearly see that he is an extremely talented and intelligent writer, and I want to see him succeed. It’s just a pity that he couldn’t get help for his mental problems until he became a problem himself.

In New Mexico, and also throughout the nation, there are many reports of mentally ill people who commit crimes, but who could have been helped beforehand if only the resources were in place. I wonder, how many unnecessary deaths might be prevented if we had a good way to get mentally ill people into the treatment programs they need?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Really annoying television commercials

When I’m down in the big city working, I don’t have time to watch much television. But when I’m up here at Five O’Clock Somewhere, I’m on vacation, and I have satellite – down in the big city, there’s not enough time to watch television, and cable is way too expensive (the last rate hike put the standard service over $50 a month), so we got a nice antenna and make do with broadcast.

Meanwhile, up here at Five O’Clock Somewhere, we have satellite for about a third less than cable costs in the city, and we have twice as many channels. I have developed strategies to maximize my viewing experience, such as finding an alternate channel to escape commercials. When a commercial break comes on, I will switch to another channel. Usually I select a commercial-replacement channel that doesn’t have a plot that needs following, so I often use music channels, such as MTV, VH1, or CMT.

Unfortunately, sometimes the commercial-replacement channel is also on a commercial break when I switch over. And when I’m down in the big city, there isn’t a commercial-replacement channel available. So sometimes, I have to endure commercials. I can mute them, but they’re still annoying.

I have a few commercials that I would nominate for a “most annoying” award. At the top of the list would probably be the Countrywide Mortgage ads. I can’t exactly say why. Maybe the people in those ads are just too artificially cheerful. I just get a bilious feeling in my stomach.

Another set of ads that I can’t stand are the ones for a prescription allergy medication whose name escapes me. A bee with a pseudo-Maurice Chevalier accent is allergic to the flowers he’s buzzing about in. First, there’s a whole lot of fakeness since worker bees are female, and bees would never be allergic to the pollens that they work with. Second, there’s a totally inappropriate level of anthropomorphism, with the bee having human-type eyes and suffering human allergy symptoms. Third, I just plain don’t like that bee. Additional commercials have been made in which the bee woos his girlfriend via this allergy remedy (even more stupid than the first), and in which he markets a children’s version of the medication.

So what commercials would you nominate for the “most annoying” award? What ads make you want to shut off the television rather than keep watching?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Grammar moment: when to put commas around descriptive elements

This is a common problem: You’re writing a sentence, and you have a descriptive word, phrase, or clause. You know that sometimes you’re supposed to separate those words with commas, but sometimes you’re not. You vaguely remember some lesson you got from some English teacher sometime in the distant past, involving “restrictive” and “non-restrictive” something-or-other, but you can’t even remember what those terms mean, let alone how they relate to commas.

Here’s the good news. The actual rule is pretty simple: If a descriptive element contains “extra” information that can be removed without changing the meaning of the sentence, separate it from the rest of the sentence with commas. If removing the element DOES change the meaning, don’t use commas. You don’t need to remember the technical terms unless you have a grammar teacher who makes you memorize them. (If that’s the case, be aware that the terms are confusing, since “non-restrictive” refers to where you DO use commas, while “restrictive” refers to when you DON’T.)

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Edgar brought his wife, Cleo, to the party.

In this case, we know Edgar brought his wife to the party, and her name is extra information. If we remove it, we still know that Edgar brought her to the party. On the other hand, if we remove the commas, we end up with something different.

Edgar brought his wife Cleo to the party.

Now the wife’s name is not extra information. This means Edgar has more than one wife, and since we need to know which one he brought, we don’t put commas around her name.

Here’s another example:

The town built a memorial to all of the people, who were killed by drunk drivers.

In this case, the town built a memorial to all of the people. It’s just a little bit of extra information that all of the people were killed by drunk drivers. Of course, that means this is now a ghost town, so one is left to wonder who built the memorial.

The town built a memorial to all of the people who were killed by drunk drivers.

This makes more sense. The memorial is not to everybody in the town, because not everybody in the town was killed by drunk drivers.

One other issue to note: when you use commas to separate an element, you MUST put commas BOTH before and after the element you’re separating, unless it’s already at the end of the sentence. Otherwise, your reader can get really confused trying to figure out where the extra information ends and the main part of the sentence resumes.

There’s another related issue – when you have a descriptive element that begins with who, which, or that, which one do you use?

First, when you’re referring to a person, you can use either who or that, although who is generally preferred (and some grammar teachers will insist that who is the only word to use for people). Things can be referred to as either that or which. People are NEVER referred to as which.

In the U.S., the convention (it’s not a rule, although some grammar teachers may try to tell you it is) is to use that for clauses that don’t use commas (restrictive clauses) and which for clauses that do use commas (non-restrictive clauses). In Britain, the convention is the opposite.

Monday, August 22, 2005

This is a test

This is a test.

I’m sure it was only a coincidence. I responded to a poll from Blogger asking what improvements I would like to see in the service. One of the suggestions I made was making things easier for people who don’t know too much HTML, by making more keyboard shortcuts available for such things as characters with accents – I even went so far as to suggest making those shortcuts similar to the ones in Microsoft Word, since I’m familiar with that program.

Two days later, Blogger came out with an add-on that lets me create my posts in Word. That’s even better than just getting some keyboard shortcuts similar to Word’s – assuming it works. This offering must have been in the plans for some time, so probably my request had already been made by a whole lot of previous users. Now I will see whether it works.

There are already a couple of en-dashes above. Other important characters are letters with accents, so I can spell Española correctly, since that’s the biggest town in Rio Arriba County and therefore where a lot of important events happen. It’s also important to spell my new sister-in-law’s last name correctly; it’s tricky: Křenova. And then there is the occasional word borrowed from French, such as fiancé.

So this is a chance to see how well these things transfer.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

This has been a good year for rainbows

We've now had the third utterly awesome multiple rainbow this summer. This time, we were at the marina, celebrating its official opening, after a long drought that had left the marina grounded, and then major work to rebuild the marina and also to get insurance so we could reopen. Pat, who is the vice-commodore of the sailing club that runs the marina, volunteered WCMIK and me to make a Greek salad, and the commodore volunteered to grill up burgers and dogs. All members were invited to bring potluck side dishes to join in the feast.

As we were finishing up dinner, a small rain squall blew up. And then the sun came out, and we were looking at a full-arch double rainbow, and then a third rainbow emerged beneath the first. And the sun was shining on the clouds as well, so there were shifting hues of rosy gold reflecting from the clouds onto the water and the boats. And the camera was up on shore in the truck, but even if we did have the camera, it couldn't possibly capture the whole awesome light that surrounded everything and everyone.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Vote while there's still time ...

Yes, while the polls have closed on where you like to be at five o'clock, there's still a chance to vote on what car the World's Cutest and Most Intelligent Kid gets. Right now, it's a tie between my '96 Cavalier and his great-aunt's '89 Volvo, but the mid-'70s Oldsmobile is only one vote back.

The Cavalier and the Volvo have the safety advantage of airbags, plus they have both been well maintained, so they're more likely to be reliable. The Olds is likely to keep WCMIK out of trouble because he will have to spend more time keeping it running than driving it -- which may be just as well, given that it gets about 11 mpg, and is therefore going to be expensive to run at today's gas prices (premium plus an additive to make up for the lead that's not in today's gas but that the Olds needs). He wouldn't be able to tote his string bass around in the Cavalier, and he would be able to do so in the Volvo only if he stuck the neck out the sunroof (not advisable given how much the bass cost). Another disadvantage to the Volvo is that we'd have to talk Auntie into driving it back to Albuquerque (she's moved to California) and parting with it in exchange for the down payment on a new Volvo. Auntie loves her car, so I don't know how easy that would be.

Or you could still consider the other cars up for election: a new Camaro or Mustang (put terror into the hearts of the parents and grandparents), the 2000 Expedition (can haul the string bass, a cello, plus a bunch of construction materials all at the same time, while also towing a 25-foot sailboat and going over rough roads in 4-wheel-drive, and so what if he crushes the occasional Yugo while driving around?), or the '82 Lincoln Town car (can you say "art car waiting to happen"?).

If you haven't voted, do so. If you have voted, do so again -- this is Rio Arriba County, after all.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

How hard is it to find me?

Visitor #201 to this blog was my first visitor to come by way of a Google search. That got me to thinking, how hard is it for someone who doesn't know this site to find out about its existence?

First, I did a Google search on the name of the place, Five O'Clock Somewhere. That search got 693,000 results, so I figured, since this site is extremely new and doesn't have all that many connections, it was unlikely anyone would find me using that search string. Still, I decided to have a look and see what came out. To start with, there were lots of sites featuring the lyrics to the hit song that Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett did. Further down, there were sites offering to sell sheet music and/or karaoke software. Then a surprise: at 101 on the list, the original rock-stacking episode from last summer from Jer's blog, Muddled Ramblings.

Heartened by seeing this place mentioned so high on the hit list, I went on. I encountered a bunch of interesting sites, including a really nice beachside cottage for rent in Florida (2600 SF, 5BR, 3BA, sleeps 16, for $1250/wk winter, $2250/wk spring break, $2500/wk summer). But after getting to about 400, there was no further mention of this place, so I gave up.

To compare what happens with a well-established blog, I searched for Muddled Ramblings. Jer's website came out Number 1 out of 15,800 results. That's what happens when you don't choose the name of a really popular song for your blog, and when you get lots of traffic.

Then I tried the search string that led my first Google hit here: Pirates of the White Sand. That search got 376,000 hits. Most of those were about Caribbean vacations, discussing the history of the area and the composition of the beaches. Fuego's Place was Number 17, and links to Muddled Ramblings came in at 46, 52, 159, and 155. The article in the Albuquerque Journal about the Duke City Shootout was Number 111. At 219 was a boat for charter, a 50-foot Beneteau named Pirates Lady, that might have been interesting to charter if only her captain had paid more attention to apostrophes. But by 300, I hadn't found a reference to this blog. So whoever got here just after midnight last night must have been pretty dedicated, to go through so many search results.

The moral of the story is that, until my blog becomes a powerful media force like Jer's, if you can't remember the address and you're on a computer (such as at work) that doesn't have this site bookmarked, the easiest way to get here is to search for Muddled Ramblings and then use the link there.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Catly wisdom

A few words to live by from our local felines:

From Dulce: A good nap is never a waste of time.

From Tres: When in doubt, wash.

From Miss Kitty: When it's raining, the crawlspace under a doublewide is just as good as the crawlspace under a palace.

Grammar moment: Apostrophes

One of the most frequently misunderstood punctuation marks is the apostrophe. Some people seem to regard it as a decorative embellishment, while others just throw apostrophes into their text at random and hope they get it right.

Let's start with the basics. There are two primary uses for the apostrophe: contractions and possessives.

The rule for contractions is simple: When letters are left out of words, often when words are combined, the apostrophe is put in to show where the letters got left out.

do not --> don't
I have --> I've
he would --> he'd

Possessives are more complicated. Depending what grammar book you're looking at, you could see as many as six pages of complicated rules. And no two grammar books have exactly the same rules. If you are taking a writing course, you will want to find out what rule book your instructor uses, and then use that same rule book. But if you're not working to please a particular instructor, or if you're in MY class, I like to keep it as simple as possible.

First off, figure out whether one thing "belongs to" something else. Then ask yourself, "Who or what does this thing belong to?" The answer to that question is the word that you need to make into a possessive. Now, if that word doesn't end in s, you add an apostrophe and an s. If it does end in s, you just add the apostrophe.

restroom
Who does the restroom belong to?
women
women doesn't end with s, so you add apostrophe plus s --> women's restroom

book
Who does the book belong to?
Ms. Jones
Ms. Jones ends with s, so you just add apostrophe --> Ms. Jones' book

Now, many grammar books will have all sorts of other rules, such as when the owner is a person, even when the name ends in s, or if it's a plural of a certain type, or if the word has a certain pattern of spelling or pronunciation . . . well, it's all very complicated, and I don't believe any normal human being can remember all of the little details. So unless you're taking a class in which the instructor specifically tells you to use other rules, just keep it simple. If it ends in s, add an apostrophe, and if it doesn't end in s, add an apostrophe and an s.

There are also situations in which you should NOT use an apostrophe. For example, while possessive nouns need apostrophes, possessive pronouns never have apostrophes. That's because otherwise, your meaning becomes unclear. Thus, its is a possessive meaning "belonging to it," while it's is a contraction meaning "it is" or "it has."

The Chihuahua lost its temper; it's been antsy lately.

Apostrophes are also NOT used for plurals under most circumstances. The plural of horse is horses, not horse's. The most frequent exceptions to this rule are if you're making a plural of a single letter or digit, or using a word not as its own meaning but as a word.

We hope WCMIK gets all A's on his next report card.
This guarantee is good, no if's, and's, or but's.

Lest you believe apostrophes are so trivial that you don't need to pay attention to them, let me assure you, they're not. If you're sloppy with apostrophes, people will assume you're sloppy with other details. And sometimes that assumption is accurate. An electrician moved into our neighborhood in Albuquerque, and as a good-neighbor thing, he put flyers on everybody's front doors, announcing that he'd give all of his new neighbors a 20% discount on all services to all of his new neighbors. Everywhere there should have been an apostrophe, there wasn't one, and everywhere there was an apostrophe, there shouldn't have been.

We'd been having trouble with the doorbell, and I'd tried to solve the problem but hadn't been successful. Using masking tape, I'd carefully labeled all the wires and terminals so that I would be able to reassemble the system. When we got this guy's flyer, Pat wanted to call this guy in to fix the doorbell. I pointed to all of the apostrophe errors in his flyer and told Pat that if this guy couldn't pay attention to details about apostrophes, I wouldn't trust him to pay attention to details in his electrician work. Pat called him anyway.

Not only was this guy unable to fix the doorbell; he also removed all of my careful labels, so there was no way I could even reconnect the wires to where they had originally been connected.

Even before this incident, I have always mistrusted people who don't use apostrophes appropriately. Since then, I have NEVER responded to an ad, or hired anybody, when apostrophes are consistently misused. The occasional error that is probably just a lapse, I don't have a problem with. But anyone who persistently and consistently misuses apostrophes isn't going to get MY business.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Summer's end approaches

Yes, fall is coming. WCMIK is already back in school. I'll be heading back to the big city to start teaching my classes the week before Labor Day -- there's a new textbook for English 100, so I'll need to make a few changes to my syllabus, which means I'll be heading back a few days early to get the new book and make the changes.

While the end of the summer and the return to the city are depressing, I do have a new crop of students to look forward to. I teach at a community college, where the only mission is to serve the needs of the students. There's no distracting pressure to do research or publish important papers. In addition, I teach evening classes, and I get the very best students. A large portion of them are students who either didn't graduate from high school or graduated without learning anything. Now they've been out in the real world and discovered they don't want to work for minimum wage the rest of their life, and they've come back, and they're highly motivated. I also get displaced homemakers -- women who expected that a man would take care of them for the rest of their life, but then an unexpected death or divorce has left them with a need to earn an income. And then there are the military veterans; they make great students because they already have the self-discipline to do the homework. There are also students who have come here from other countries, and who are working to learn the language and earn their citizenship. That's heavy-duty motivation.

Every term that I teach, I learn from my students. They have so many different experiences. They come from so many different places. I've had a rocket scientist from Kazakhstan in my class, and I've also had an auto salvager from the South Valley. Both had fascinating stories to tell. So while I'll regret being at Five O'Clock Somewhere only on the weekends, I'll enjoy the travels my students provide.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Poetry Corner: Back to Elizabeth

This week is National Resurrect Romance Week, so in honor of the celebration, I'm returning to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This time around, rather than one of the Sonnets from the Porguguese, it's a poem in the form of a ballad, a compendium of quatrains: "Amy's Cruelty."

Fair Amy of the terraced house,
Assist me to discover
Why you who would not hurt a mouse
Can torture so your lover.

You give your coffee to the cat,
You stroke the dog for coming,
And all your face grows kinder at
The little brown bee's humming.

But when he haunts your door . . . the town
Marks coming and marks going . . .
You seem to have stitched your eyelids down
To that long piece of sewing!

You never give a look, not you,
Nor drop him a "Good morning,"
To keep his long day warm and blue,
So fretted by your scorning.

She shook her head--"The mouse and bee
For crumb or flower will linger:
The dog is happy at my knee,
The cat purrs at my finger.

"But he . . . to him, the least thing given
Means great things at a distance:
He wants my world, my sun, my heaven,
Soul, body, whole existence.

"They say love gives as well as takes;
But I'm a simple maiden,--
My mother's first smile when she wakes
I still have smiled and prayed in.

"I only know my mother's love
Which gives all and asks nothing;
And this new loving sets the groove
Too much the way of loathing.

"Unless he gives me all in change,
I forfeit all things by him:
The risk is terrible and strange--
I tremble, doubt, . . . deny him.

"He's sweetest friend or hardest foe,
Best angel or worst devil;
I either hate or . . . love him so,
I can't be merely civil!

"You trust a woman who puts forth
Her blossoms thick as summer's?
You think she dreams what love is worth,
Who casts it to new-comers?

"Such love's a cowslip-ball to fling,
A moment's pretty pastime;
I give . . . all me, if anything,
The first time and the last time.

"Dear neighbor of the trellised house,
A man should murmur never,
Though treated worse than dog and mouse,
Till doated on for ever!"

This poem at first glance doesn't seem so romantic, but there is something very human in the main character's ambivalence. That gives this poem more depth than a lot of what's floating around out there.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Speaking of service ...

This entry was inspired by a post I read on another blog (see the link for Write to say it over there on the left). That blogger was frustrated by the modern definition of "service." He was trying to check into a hotel, and he'd asked for a particular size of room, and he requested nonsmoking. Eventually, the clerk was able to tell him that the computer said there were no nonsmoking rooms of that size available. Since the computer said it was so, that was that.

Here in Rio Arriba County, we are fortunate to have some innkeepers who don't need to wait for a computer to tell them whether a particular type of room is available. They already know, off the top of their heads, what lodgings are available. While Five O'Clock Somewhere was under construction, we greatly enjoyed the services provided by these people. And there was never any question about the availablility of nonsmoking lodgings.

At the Shamrock Hotel (the Chama Choo Choo link at left), there's no question about the availability of nonsmoking rooms. Because it's a historic lodging, with not-so-modern construction, the insurance company insists that ALL rooms be nonsmoking. The Shamrock was designed to be the latest in modern convenience, with such luxuries as most rooms having private bathrooms. Unfortunately, it was completed in 1930, just in time for the Great Depression. It's seen its share of hard times. Now, it's furnished with vintage furniture, and recalls an era long gone. My favorite is the front suite, where some unknown artist started (but didn't finish) a painting of a mermaid on the bathroom wall. She looks like some star of the silent movies, but I have no idea who painted her, or whom she might be modeled upon.

The other place where you can be sure of getting personal service is the Stone House Lodge. There are a half-dozen one- and two-bedroom cabins, two studio apartments, a three-bedroom mobile home, and the Stone House itself, a big cabin suitable for conferences that sleeps about 17 people. There aren't any designated non-smoking facilities, but these cabins are VERY rustic -- even when all of the windows and doors are shut, there's enough air flowing through that smoke is thoroughly dispersed. The big virtue of the Stone House facilities is that you can do all of your own cooking; all units have very well equipped kitchens. You can go fishing, and then you can fry up your catch for dinner within hours of catching it. And if you want to supplement your fish with some home-cooked pie for dessert, the Stone House restaurant produces the most awesome home-made pie ever.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Interruption in service

One side effect of being out in the sticks is that services that can generally be taken for granted in the city are not so reliable out here. Last night was a case in point. The monsoon rains have finally arrived, and last night they came with a vengeance. We had torrential rain, high winds, and a great deal of lightning. Consequently, we also had a power outage. The power was restored fairly quickly, but telephone service was spotty still this morning -- the weekly Bible verse that the Seventh-Day Adventists leave on our machine about 9:30 every Friday didn't come through until after noon. Even after telephone service was restored, the ISP's local phone number still wasn't working until this evening, so I couldn't get online to check on the Internet world.

The one service that wasn't interrupted was the satellite television. Even at the worst of the storm, there was nary a blink on the screen. That's not to say the satellite system is totally perfect -- rodent activity can loosen connections in the cables, so they occasionally need tightening up. However, now that Miss Kitty's on the job, we have far less rodent activity. I have considered getting a satellite modem; however, even that wouldn't have worked this time, because, while it uses the satellite signal for downloading data, it still requires a telephone line for information uploads.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Grammar moment: O'Clock

Since the word is part of my site's title, and since grammar is one of my major topics, even though this blog is in its very beginning stages, the search engines are sending seekers of knowledge this way when they use the words grammar and o'clock in the same search string. Here is a brief rundown on how to use o'clock.

First, the basics. O'clock is a contraction, short for of the clock. In a contraction, letters are taken out, and an apostrophe is substituted for the missing letters. That means the word isn't all run together without any punctuation. It also doesn't use a hyphen (this little short line - ).

When and how to capitalize o'clock is a trickier matter. Normally, you wouldn't capitalize anything, so it would be all lower case:

Willie really ticked me off when he phoned me at three o'clock in the morning.

If it shows up at the beginning of a sentence, you capitalize the O, but nothing else, just as you always capitalize the first letter of the first word of a sentence:

O'clock is a contraction, short for of the clock.

If it's part of a title, opinions vary. Some grammarians, and Microsoft Word's spelling checker, say you just capitalize the O. However, the rules for titles are that important words get capitalized, and if you go back to the original words that became the contraction, it's clear that clock is an important word. Therefore, I capitalize it.

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere.

Technically speaking, by that definition, I shouldn't capitalize the O, just the C. But I also draw on the tradition of Irish names -- all of the O'Connells and O'Gradys of the world capitalize both the O and the letter that comes after the apostrophe. Since that O also means of the, I have no trouble extending the same convention to O'Clock.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Why people come here

As I look at data regarding who comes to this admittedly fledgling blog, it is interesting to look at data about where visitors come from, both where they are and how they linked to this place.

Some visitors are easily identified by the computer system they're using. I'm pretty sure, for instance, that there is only one visitor here from duke.edu, and only one visitor with a .no suffix. It's also interesting to look at the time zone breakdown of visitors -- as expected, there are a whole lot of visitors from UTC-7, where Five O'Clock Somewhere is located (UTC stands for Universal Time Coordinated, also known as Greenwich Mean Time). UTC-5 also gets a respectable representation. There are fewer visits from UTC+1, fewer still from UTC-6, and yet fewer from UTC-8. Lately, I haven't had any visitors from any other time zone, although an early visit that is no longer reflected in the data came from UTC.

It is also interesting to see how the visitors arrived at this blog. The majority come via links from my brothers' blogs, with Muddled Ramblings outnumbering fuego's place by about 4 to 1. A few have come via searches, although none from Google so far. Someone out there is desperately searching for a lighted five o'clock somewhere sign -- there was a Yahoo search, and two days later an MSN search and another Yahoo search a half hour apart. There was another searcher on MSN looking for information about bugs in home during monsoon. There have been a few searches that included the word grammar, especially combined with the word o'clock. I'm guessing that these searchers were seeking information on spelling, usage, punctuation, or capitalization of the word o'clock. To please these searchers, my next Grammar Moment will be about how to use o'clock.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Fresh-peach ice cream

Pat and I recently hosted an ice cream social to raise funds for our local community center. It was a great success, despite chilly, rainy weather that wasn't exactly great for ice cream consumption. It did, however, have one flaw compared to the ice cream socials I remember from the past -- all of the ice cream was store-bought. A true ice cream social would involve people coming together to share all different sorts of homemade ice cream.

I have particularly fond memories of my mother's family tradition -- fresh peach. In the summer, our family would go to visit my grandparents in a small town in Arkansas, and many aunts and uncles and cousins and inlaws and outlaws would converge. We'd go in Daddy Teague's pickup truck (for updates on the reconstruction of said truck, see Cousin Andrew's "Beer and Trucks" blog in the links list to the left) to a peach orchard just outside of town. Much of the orchard's produce was picked while still green, to be shipped to market elsewhere -- being unripe, and therefore firmer, meant the peaches wouldn't get bruised during shipping. However, there were always some peaches that the pickers missed until they were too ripe to ship, and these peaches were awesomely sweet, having ripened on the tree. So we'd get some of the very best peaches on Earth -- a key ingredient if you want to make the very best ice cream on Earth.

Next, we'd go to the ice house for a big, clear, 10-pound block of ice. The stuff sold in bags in the supermarket or convenience store would never do. The ice house was not the sort of place that in Texas is called an "ice house" -- in Texas, ice has generally become a secondary function, and cold beverages, especially beer, the primary reason for an ice house's existence. But in that county in Arkansas, Prohibition never ended; it's a dry county. So the ice house is actually about ice. Wow.

Once we got back to the house, Munzy would do something magical in the kitchen with the peaches, also involving cream, eggs, and sugar, and eventually she would come out with a rich, creamy mixture that was poured into the central cylinder of the ice-cream churn. The dasher (a complicated paddle that resembles a wooden Venetian blind) was inserted into the churn, the lid was placed over the cylinder, and cylinder was placed into the bucket, and the cranking mechanism was clamped over the top. Daddy Teague was a purist about the ice cream -- it wasn't really homemade unless the bucket was wood (preferably cedar) and the churn operated by a hand crank, not an electric motor.

Now the freezing process began. Daddy Teague would get out the ice pick and start chipping away at the big block of ice, filling the bucket around the cylinder. He would put in a layer of rock salt every now and then -- salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, so, even as the ice was melting into water, it was getting colder, to speed the process of freezing the ice cream.

The next hour or so would involve a lot of physical effort, but there were always plenty of cousins around to take a spell at the crank. We would crank the ice cream, and the cylinder in the middle would spin, and, unseen, the dasher inside the cylinder would spin in the opposite direction. As the cream mixture froze along the outer edges of the cylinder, the dasher would scrape it off the side to allow more cream to freeze, and the dasher would also whip air into the ice cream as it froze, to make it smoother. While cousins cranked, Daddy Teague would, as needed, chip off more ice to replace the meltoff that flowed out the overflow hole on the side of the bucket, and sprinkle in more rock salt to keep the freezing process going.

At the beginning, cranking would be easy, but as the ice cream froze, the crank would get harder and harder to turn. Gradually, the younger cousins would drop out of the cranking rotation, until at the end, only Uncle Warfield and Uncle Dupes were left to crank. When the ice cream finally got so firm that even they couldn't crank any more, that was the signal that it was time for the next step. (Ice cream churns with electric motors would have quit far earlier -- that's part of why hand-cranked ice cream is better than electric-cranked.)

No, the ice cream, even at that stage, was still not fully solid. The cranking mechanism was taken off the top of the churn, the dasher was removed and the lid replaced, a cork was used to stop up the hole in the top of the churn where the dasher shaft had been, the whole thing was packed with more ice and rock salt, and then it was left to set for a while, wrapped in a blanket to keep it cold.

Finally, an hour or two later, the ice cream had set up nicely. That was when we could enjoy the ice cream, and we could understand that it was so absolutely heavenly that it was worth all of the work. Yes, homemade ice cream is a huge lot of work. But there's nothing else like it.

Beer IS good for you!

This was a human interest story on the news the night before last. Just as the news was preparing for a commercial break, there was a film clip of a little old lady, hoisting a large water goblet full of what, at first glance, I took to be champagne, and the newscaster said, "Just wait til you year what this 100-year-old says is the secret to long life." I was a bit puzzled that the lady had her champagne in a water goblet.

Once the commercial break was over, the full story was revealed -- it was beer, not champagne, in the goblet. The little old lady was celebrating her 100th birthday (hence the goblet rather than a can), and when reporters asked her what she credited for her long life, she said, "It's beer. I've been drinking it every day for 90 years." That's right, she had her first beer on her 10th birthday. She drank it when she was underage; she drank it during Prohibition; she's drinking it still.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

What makes a good employer?

Many years ago, I was working for a newspaper, in a seriously unsung job: sports agate clerk. What the sports agate clerk does is put together all of the sports statistics that appear in small print, usually on either page 2 or page 4 of the sports section, and in more enlightened newspapers, also adjacent to articles about the sports the statistics describe. The job involves getting statistics off the wire services for national professional and college sports and formatting them into box scores, and also taking information over the telephone about local sports, such as high school football and basketball games, and creating box scores for them.

Yes, it wasn't exactly glamorous work. And it didn't pay very well. But I enjoyed it immensely -- the people I worked with were crazy, but a whole lot of fun; the sports desk was known as the "toy department" at the newspaper, because we were all about fun and games. And the employer made sure I had all of the ergonomic assitance to be sure I could do the job as well as possible with as littls as possible discomfort (or risk of repetitive stress disorder).

Because I am very short (4 foot 11), the ergonomics folks disassembled my cubicle and reassembled it with the desktops as low as they would go. That still wasn't low enough, so I got a $1200 ergonomic chair, with fancy controls for arm rests and back support, and all sorts of other things. Once the chair was adjusted to reach the height of the keyboard, my feet didn't reach the floor, so I got a $150 footrest. And then, to keep me from getting a crook in my neck from using my shoulder to prop up a telephone receiver while I typed in data, I got a headset -- specially adjusted for me because, while I hear equally well with either ear, I only understand with the right. The newspaper did all of this for me, even though I was a peon, earning not much more than minimum wage.

I no longer have that job, but I do still remember how well I was treated. Anybody else who wants to work for that newspaper, I will give a glowing recommendation.

Pat, on the other hand, is working at a job that pays about four times what I got at the newspaper. And he's not getting any ergonomic consideration at all. He broke his wrist last year, and he's had to deal with limitations related to that injury, but his employer isn't willing to make accommodations. He has to deal with a desk that was too high even before the injury and that is now causing serious muscle strain because he has to type on an elevated keyboard. He doesn't get breaks from work to stretch overstressed muscles. He has a cheap chair that does have arms, but those arms aren't adjustable. He gets a lump of tense muscles the size of a grapefruit in his right shoulder from the strains.

I have suggested that Pat might request more accommodations for his physical problems, possibly as either a workers' comp or Americans with Disabilities Act issue. I know that grapefruit-sized lump could easily be seen as a workers' comp issue, and anything stemming from the wrist injury might involve the ADA. He's been reluctant to make such requests, since he doesn't want to be seen as "rocking the boat."

It just seems a pity that what one employer saw fit to provide, without even being asked, for even a very low-level employee, is something another employer considers unreasonable, even for a highly-paid professional.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Finally, some sailing news


At long last, after nearly two years of being unusable, the Heron Lake Marina is soon to reopen. Due to prolonged drought, the lake level had dropped, and the marina went aground at the end of the summer of 2003. For all of 2004, it sat on a mud flat. Finally, this year, we had a good winter, and the lake level rose, floating the marina. There were still delays to opening, however: The marina needed reassembly and repairs, and the sailing club that runs it needs to get liability insurance before the State Parks people will allow it to open.

Pat and other sailing club members have been working nearly every weekend to get the marina into shape; however, insurance has been surprisingly hard to come by. But some crucial paperwork came through Friday, and by early next week, the marina should be covered and ready to go.

The above picture, by the way, is not of the marina itself but rather of a nearby mooring field, although the picture was taken from the marina. It was July 3, 2001, and a summer monsoon rainstorm had just swept through, leaving in its wake a double rainbow. The shot was taken with a Pentax K-1000, circa 1977; I don't remember offhand the shutter speed or aperture, but I remember I went for depth of field.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The New Mexico rain

We're still waiting on the monsoon, but it does appear to be, finally, on the way. There's plenty of thunderstorm activity over in Arizona, but we've had a high-pressure cell parked just north of us that has kept the weather from moving into New Mexico. Finally, that high-pressure cell is weakening and moving eastward, so Rio Arriba County is at last getting some action. It's not the full-scale monsoon yet, but we did have increasing clouds this afternoon and evening, and a fifteen-minute downpour followed by a couple of hours of intermittent showers.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sorry, wrong number

I don't get a whole lot of phone calls up here at Five O'Clock Somewhere, and most of the ones I get are wrong numbers.

There was a vacant lot for sale or lease in a business/industrial area in Albuquerque, and there was a customer who was interested in it, but either the sign on the lot had the wrong number on it, or the guy who really wanted to buy it copied the number down wrong. He made numerous calls about the lot, all when nobody was home, so nobody was available to pick up the phone. We just didn't consider it worth the expense of a long-distance telephone call (calls outside NM are federally regulated and therefore less epensive, but calls within NM are exorbitant) to set the guy straight.

Then our phone number is apparently similar to an unpublished phone number for the county courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, and also to an unpublished phone number for a lawyer. The lawyer, as best as I can tell, gives this number to clients who might need to phone him in an emergency, and he seems to use it as an urgent-business number that people can call 24/7. In a small place such as the far northwest corner of Rio Arriba County, lawyers don't specialize, but this particular lawyer seems to handle a lot of divorce cases -- a lot of the messages run along the lines of, "My client will agree to xxx, so if your client will also agree to yyy, we don't need to go to court tomorrow morning. Please call me right away." If I've been away for a week and find that sort of message on the machine, I feel a bit bad that the message didn't get through, because if it had, maybe a whole lot of trouble could have been avoided.

Then there was one that went something like this (names changed to protect the "innocent" until proven guilty): "They've put Eddie in jail, and I need you to come help bail him out. It was all an accident; he didn't mean to break my nose. It was my fault for talking back to him. You have to come and get him out. I love him so much, I can't live without him; I'm calling off the divorce."

That was one message I did NOT feel guilty about not forwarding.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My favorite commercial

This was a Super Bowl commercial a couple of years ago. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best Super Bowl commercial ever, although when I went to a website last year that claimed to have the "top ten" commercials, this one wasn't among them.

http://www.swapmeetdave.com/Humor/Cats/CatHerding.mpeg

If you know cats, you will understand.

Poetry Corner: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ozymandias

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley
1792-1822

A couple of days back, on another blog, a guest posted a wonderful takeoff on this poem. Here, for your edification, is the original. It's a good lesson to remember -- that even the greatest of rulers or leaders will not be so forever.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Grammar moment: Yes, spelling really IS important

This was something brought up in Jay Leno's "Headlines" this week -- it falls under the category of Stupid Criminals. One of the justifications for making education widely available is that by giving people an education, we give them skills to succeed in an honest job, so they don't need to turn to crime.

Turns out, a good education is useful even for a life of crime. A man attempted to rob a bank, handing a note to a teller. The problem was that three quarters of the words in the note were misspelled, some severely, so the teller couldn't understand the note. Among the errors, the would-be bank robber was fairly random about what vowel to use, and he liked to stick in the occasional silent e at random, and he had difficulty dotting i's and crossing t's -- for example, he wrote "gel" whe he meant "get" -- Leno doesn't have the original on his website yet, but I'll paste it in when I get it.

The upshot was that the bank teller, upon receiving the note, just couldn't figure out what it meant. And by the time someone could figure it out, the would-be bank robber was canned.

It's Miss Kitty!

In a previous post, I mentioned how the cats had been reacting to a skunk that seemed to be hanging around. Well, for the past couple of nights, there hasn't been any sign of the skunk, but last night, Tres and Dulce were so interested in the visitor outside that they actually shared a windowsill. Dulce is sensitive about her space, and she NEVER shares a windowsill, but last night she did. When I turned on the porch light to see what was up, there was Miss Kitty.

Miss Kitty is a feral cat, very wild. The neighbors across the road had been looking after her to the extent that they could -- putting out food and water for her -- but those neighbors have moved away and put the house up for sale, and I hadn't seen Miss Kitty in months. She's extremely timid about humans, and doesn't allow any humans to come anywhere near her, but she did come up to the screen door that had our cats' food just inside.

She has the grey-tabby-stripe coat of the original North African wildcat ancestors, which allows her to disappear into the background in the blink of an eye, and which has allowed her to escape the coyotes. She's also probably doing us a great service in rodent control -- we've been having problems with mice, but lately, we've had much fewer of them.

Sometime in the past, Miss Kitty has been spayed, so she never has to deal with kittens. The question arises: To what extent should I be taking care of her? She's much too wild to become a house cat, and if she gets too close, she could bring fleas or other parasites to Dulce and Tres. On the other hand, she's doing a vital service in the pest-control department. I could leave food and water dishes out for her, but that's frowned upon in this neighborhood because it could attract hungry bears. But then, the neighbors across the road were leaving food and water for her, and they didn't have bear problems.

My current instinct is to set out a water dish and a dish of crunchy kibbles, and let Miss Kitty continue pest-control duty.

Monday, August 01, 2005

WCMIK and summer camp

Pat and I have just dropped WCMIK and his string bass off at summer music camp. Some of this blog's readers may remember their own experiences at Hummingbird Music Camp in the Jemez Mountains; the camp itself is preparing for 50th-anniversary celebrations -- the anniversary itself is still three years away, but the Higginses are soliciting memories of people who attended the camp, to prepare for a major anniversary celebration.

This particular camping session isn't the usual summer music camp; it's a special camp for the kids who have auditioned for and been accepted into the Albuquerque Youth Orchestra, which is a part of the Albuquerque Youth Symphony program. In addition to the usual intensive music practice, the kids will be working with a composer-in-residence, whose work they will be performing as a world premiere next April.

Later in the season, they will also be working with the violinist Midori, with whom they will be performing in concert in February.

I could imagine an album titled "Midori at Hummingbird." It just sounds so poetic.