LiveHD

To start this blog properly, I have to admit that I enjoy opera. Some would say that I am an “Opera Buff”. I have never figured out what a “Buff” is but, it doesn’t sound good. Certainly not masculine. To really be a”Buff” I believe someone would have to know a lot more about opera than I do. So, maybe, I am not a “Buff” after all. I have dragged my family to operas a number of times over the years. At times they have actually enjoyed them. It has been nearly a yearly event to go to the Met in New York City. Maybe it was the trip to the big bad city that my family enjoyed, not the opera. “Trip to the big bad city”, potential subject for a different blog; back to the point of this one. The Met periodically simulcasts performances live to theaters around the world. The Met calls these LiveHD. I have been intrigued by the idea of LiveHD but never attended until yesterday.

Tina and I are in South Carolina. Escaping some cold weather in Connecticut and overseeing some work being done to our place here. I happened to notice that the local theater was going to have LiveHD from the Met. A live performance of Rigoletto, how could I resist? I had never seen Rigoletto and wanted very much to see it; Rigoletto is one of the great Bel Canto operas. So, I used the theater ticket app on my phone, bought a ticket and Tina dropped me off at the theater. There were about twenty others in the audience. I was in familiar company, all grey-tops. The situation was great: I had a plush reclining seat, unobstructed view of the giant screen and a great sound system. There were some downsides: one individual clapped after every aria (that would be OK in the opera house but it was a bit much in a movie theater) and one guy’s phone started ringing as Gilda, Rigoletto’s daughter, was dying in his arms in the last scene (old guys like me are sometimes challenged by technology, I do not think the guy with the phone could figure how to turn it off; although he struggled to do so). Also, no place to get Champaign between acts.

The performance was wonderful; as one would expect it to be from the Met. The cost was less than $30 not $300+ a seat in New York. But, it was not the Met. It had more of a feel of a movie than a live performance. Close up shots were interesting but a bit off putting to me. There is nothing in the world like a live performance at the Met. There is truly something magic about being in New York City and getting the full effect of the performance.

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There was something else about Rigoletto, something very personal. As I mentioned, I had not previously seen Rigoletto. And, unlike my admonition to everyone that goes to an opera, I did not read the libretto before I went. I truly wish I had; I will be reading it now for sure. For me, opera can bring out some real gut issues. Sometimes it is like looking into a mirror. And, like looking into a mirror there are things we see that we can do something about. I need to comb my hair or I need a shave or that mustache really looks silly. And there are some things that one cannot do anything about without a great deal of work. My nose isn’t right or my teeth are crooked. That is what it was like for me seeing Rigoletto. Rigoletto is about a guy and his relationship with his daughter, could have been a son as well. There are some things Rigoletto could and should have done differently. Then there is fate and the actions of others that he had no control over. Like life. Rigoletto was written in the middle of Verdi’s career. Unlike any other opera that Verdi wrote, he referred to Rigoletto as his opera. It must have been very personal to him. Perhaps Giuseppe and I have some things in common.

When I picked up Tina after the birth of our children I neglected to pick up the operating manual of how to maintain this creature that was secured in the approved and properly positioned safety seat. After all, when we picked up the dog we were given a list of instructions. Not so with a human child. How can someone be expected to raise to maturity the most complicated creature known to be in the universe without a book of instructions? I did make mistakes and, it is my prayer that I did little permanent damage. I take some delight in telling new parents that they will screw it up, we all do. Just keep doing the best you can. We all do the best we can. Rigoletto did what he thought was best for Gilda. Things did not work out so well for the court jester, Rigoletto.

Squirrel Wars Continue

Evidently squirrels are more strategic in their thinking than I had previously given them credit. One was noticed in the bird feeder even with a healthy dose of red pepper flakes in the seed mix. I countered with a layer of red pepper flakes on top of the seed. The squirrels ate around the flakes.

So, be warned that pepper flakes are a temporary fix.

I am planning two new attacks, both capsaicin based. First, I will try ground cayanne, which should coat the seeds. Second, Tabasco which should also coat the seeds. Tabasco second because I use Tabasco and don’t want to use it on birdseed

I plan to keep posting results.

Missed my chance

Yesterday, November 10th we took Tina’s cousin Sharon and her husband Bruce to visit the Marine Corps facility at Paris Island, South Carolina. This is the Marine Corps boot camp. They have a great museum of the facility, the training and the history of the Corps.

I missed my chance because it happened to be the 246th anniversary of the founding of the Corps, March 10, 1775. I didn’t take any photos.

Hoorah!!

Fortunately Tina took some photos

JOY!

It is with exceeding joy that Tina and I announce to the world the marriage of our daughter, Emma, to Mr. James Reeves.

Mr. and Mrs. James Reeves

For once I have few words except to say that we are looking forward to watching Mr. and Mrs. Reeves build a beautiful and wonderful life together.

On the Movie Set

Thursday I had a new adventure. I participated in the filming of a new documentary pilot. No, I am not replacing Daniel Craig as the next 007, although that would be enticing as long as there were plenty of doubles to do the stunts and the heavy lifting. The reality is that my friend Sherm is putting together a pilot for a documentary he is producing. Sherm wanted to make use of the Jeep for filming moving shots while he was driving his Porsche 356 through winding roads of western Connecticut. So, the Jeep is the star, not me. In reality the 356 is the star.

The day was lot of fun. The only downside is that I took the top and doors off the Jeep. The modifications were done so the videographer could get unobstructed shots. Getting to the location early in the morning was an adventure in the cold and dark. Fortunately I dressed for the weather with several layers and a warm hat. I must have appeared an odd site to the others on the road at that early hour, they being comfortable in their cars with the heater on.

Sherm hired both a videographer, Evan, and a drone operator, Tray. Both interesting young guys and totally serious about their craft. My part in this enterprise is to drive the Jeep. Something that I truly love to do. Safety was a big issue for both Sherm and I. Evan was made totally secured in place with harnesses and was in turn secured to the frame of the Jeep. It would have been bad form to have him fall in front of the 356 during the filming of a high speed closeup. And we certainly would not want to put a dent in the 356. The drone was an adventure in itself. The shots that were made with it was unbelievable. And, the technology is unbelievable and amazing in the hands of a fellow that knows his stuff. I should also mention the videographer’s technology with a gimbal mount for the camera that keeps it rock solid on a bumpy road, amazing. The camera looked like something out of Star Wars.

The Crew

The documentary production is, in my view, a very large and involved project. As I understand the goal, the documentary will focus on the change of the place of the automobile in our society. For me driving was a right of passage, a car was central to my young identity. I, and many other young fellows, washed and polished them until they gleamed. We took pride in working on the mechanics and loved the sound they made and the power that was in our control. All this was central to our independence and ego. This love of cars has stayed with many of us through our advancing years, at least it has for me. It seems that automobiles are now nothing more than utilitarian tools to be used and scrapped at the end of their useful lives like nothing more than washing machines. (These are my words not necessarily Sherm’s). At least I think that is the focus and the plan. I am not altogether on board. Whatever the product, knowing Sherm, it will be well thought out and beautifully crafted.

The task we had was to gather video scenes for the pilot and possibly in the finished produce. From what I said above, one might conclude that we were putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. Inasmuch as the bulk of the prep had not yet been completed. However, there was method to the madness. The fall is the most beautiful season in New England. There is a very short window to take advantage of the peak fall color. If we did not shoot the video when we did, there would have been a year long wait for the next opportunity. That is, if one does not want to compromise and use a less colorful season. There will be few compromises here, of that I am sure. So, we were off to Litchfield County, Connecticut for a day in the fall color. In addition to the filming, it was a great time to enjoy the beauty of our state and some great companionship.

Squirrel Wars

I have been in a constant brutal struggle. After years of scheming and planning; after countless hand crafted stealth devices I finally, a couple years ago, threw in the towel. I was humiliated in defeat. I surrendered to the will of a superior being. I gave up trying to keep squirrels out of my bird feeder. I would fill the feeder and cast seed on the deck. At least birds might get some of the seed left over from the overstuffed squirrels strutting with overconfidence like Ramadès retuning to Thebes. Their cheeks stuffed with the spoils of victory.

But, perhaps the battle isn’t over. Was it Yogi Berra that said “The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings”? Well this fat guy hasn’t sung his last song.

Recently I was reading an article: “What Makes Us Love the Pain of Hot Peppers? Matt Siegel WSJ Aug 28, 2021”. The article suggested that capsaicin (the stuff that makes chili hot) is a plant defense mechanism. Mammals chew seeds making them useless for plant reproduction; hince mammals do not tolerate capsaicin. Birds, on the other hand, pass seeds through their bodies allowing germination of the seeds. Birds tolerate capsaicin.

African farmers sometimes construct bricks of elephant dung and chilis. They burn the bricks the keep animals from eating their crops.

I could not find much elephant dung in West Hartford. Besides, there is an ordinance against open fires. But I do have cayenne pepper. I sprinkled a little on the birdseed. The birds eat the seeds and I don’t see any squirrels.

In truth, this is a well know cure for my squirrel issue, I just was not aware of it.

Experiment

I noticed that the treated birdseed did not attracted many birds. True, it kept the squirrels away but there were few birds. Usually I note a lot of birds and that the feeder empties in a relatively short time. So, it is time for an experiment. I have put out four piles of seed:

  1. My control with no addition
  2. With red pepper flakes
  3. With Tabasco added
  4. With Cayenne added

Six hours later and neither bird nor squirrel has visited the seed. I will change the location to a place that birds and squirrels congregate.

Same order left to right
24 Hours later
And there are larger birdseed raiders

I have noted a number of birds at work on the piles of seed. I have only seen one interloper, a chipmunk was into the cayenne spiked pile. I do not see a clear preference for any particular pile. However, there seems to be a slight preference for the non spiked pile. Second, I would guess to be the pepper flakes followed by the Tabasco then the cayenne.

Going forward, I will lace the birdseed with pepper flakes. I wonder if bears are put off by capsaicin.

My Covid Adventure

Preface: I recognize that my general demeanor is that of a cranky old geezer. And, anyone who knows me understands that I embrace that image. I am afraid that you may find this post particularly cranky. My sincere apologies. I do have an excuse; I feel particularly punky as I am isolating in quarantine with COVID.

After dutifully getting both vaccine shots and continuing to mask in public places like the Lone Ranger or Superman sans tights and cape, I tested positive for COVID. Both a quick test and a PCR test were positive. I am now quarantining in my daughters old bedroom: my wife leaves meals outside the door like I am in the”nick”, and I am writing this blog post. The good news is that my fever has broken and am feeling almost 100 percent. I still have many days of quarantine left. And, yes, I plan to quarantine the whole time to assure, as best I can, that my wife doesn’t have to experience this and I don’t spread COVID around to the rest of mankind like some cranky Typhoid Mary. To make it particularly troublesome, the State of Connecticut virus trackers contact me daily. Big Brother is watching.

I recently received a note from a friend who asked if my next blog will be the humorous side of Covid. That was the best question anyone could ask. Otherwise I would have created a blog that went off on a tear about big government, big pharma, and the lousy state of the republic. What fun would that be? And I want to be especially sensitive to people who have had a rough time or who have lost loved ones to this mysterious, troubling disease.

I am fortunate on many levels: I have a somewhat mild, although prolonged, case; my wife tested negative; I have a place to hang out that’s dry; my Social Security checks keep coming; I am blessed with friends and family and, if I am really fortunate, the sun will rise in the morning. Covid shots, it turned out in my case, are not an iron gate against this virus; I do recognize that I likely would have a more serious episode without the shots.

Speaking of being fortunate, I quickly came to the realization that what makes me most fortunate are my friends and family. When I tested positive, I broadcast the fact very widely to anyone with whom I had recently connected. I wanted all to be aware of their possible exposure and get tested if they felt it to be appropriate. I also contacted others with whom I had not been in contact to let people know that vaccination, in cases like mine, is pretty weak protection. I have been tremendously taken aback by the response. I have received numerus inquiries as to how I am doing and well wishes. I cannot begin to express how very much their outreach has meant to me.

A couple mornings ago I realized that I lost my sense of smell. I had just bought some aftershave, the kind I use at the gym in South Carolina. My wife likes the fragrance; which was the most important factor in deciding to buy it. Well, I splashed it on and thought that I had mistakenly bought fragrance free – no indication of that on the bottle. I then went to the kitchen and tried to smell the jar of ground cinnamon, nothing. Losing my sense of smell is particularly troublesome to me and is turning out to be the worst part of this experience.

My son had a like experience when he had Covid a couple months ago. Losing his sense of smell was truly troublesome for someone in the wine business and currently getting certification in the field. Fortunately his loss was very short lived. I am hoping for a similar experience.

The whole politicized international response to Covid reminds me of what a very wise boss, an ex Navy Mustang, told me years ago. We were discussing a new corporate initiative from our California headquarters. We were in Pennsylvania and considered the red headed stepchildren of the corporation. They tolerated us because of the profits we generated. Charlie, the Navy Mustang, said to me “You know Bill, if you have a bunch of cooks you can have a banquet, if you have a bunch of musicians you can have a dance. But, if all you have are clowns your going to have a circus.”

Apologizing in advance for this glumb post. Hope the next one will be upbeat. I hope that I smell better in the future. (Hmmm, that statement doesn’t sound quite right.)

My guard dog
My other guardian, this one’s awake

A Few Photos

I have not been putting photos in the last few posts, that’s no fun. I figure that most people who honor me by reading this blog are most interested in places and people around me. So here goes.

Today Tina and I were invited on a boat ride in Palmetto Buff. It was a really nice day in the Low Country.

Palmetto Bluff has a lot of nifty stuff. If you want to take a boat out, just call the marina and have one brought out. It will be prepped, launched and stocked for your outing.

We were on the inland water where we could see lots of wildlife.

Tina and I lingered around the Montage Hotel and had a light lunch and an Aperol Spritz.

So that was how our day started. As for me, it ended with a nap.

Things Unseen

We are still in South Carolina for a couple more weeks. The other day I came to the realize that there are different things to be weary of here than in Connecticut. In Connecticut I am used to being mindful of bears, rottweilers off their leash, an occasional rattlesnake  and brain dead drivers. South Carolina has a different list. And, the list does not begin and end with crocodiles.

A couple evenings ago we went to a small music event in our community. I took a couple chairs from the patio for the outdoor event. Afterwards, while carrying them back to the patio in the dark — there are copperheads around here! I replaced the chairs in the morning.

Yesterday we went to the beach on Hilton Head. The water is delightfully warm and the day, sunny. We go to Bert’s Beach, a bit of a hike to the beach but plenty of parking. Swimming around like a kid, I suddenly noticed that I was being attacked by fish. The fish were small and harmless but the first encounter was startling. But, there are sharks around here. A little while later the lifeguard ran up and down the beach blowing a whistle; all the swimmers left the water. There was a pod of dolphins traveling the length of the beach, (probably eating those little fish that were trying to eat me). There had been a shark reported in the middle of the pod of dolphins hence the alarm. The lifeguard said there is a half hour no swim time after a shark sighting, I wonder if that is long enough and if the great white sharks have figured that out, remember “Jaws”? I wonder how many hungry sharks sneak close to the beach without being seen. I will not be taking any midnight swims around here.

A midnight swim reminds of the time, years ago, when I was in the Air Force on temporary duty at Elgin AFB near Panama City, Florida. I had gone there to observe an experiment that a buddy, Dale, was doing. (This was known as a “Boondoggle” in the service). I arrived in the late evening and checked into the BOQ (Bachelor Officer Quarters). The BOQ was near the beach. Not wanting to let this opportunity pass, I decided to take a swim. The beach was closed until the following week but there was nobody around to stop me. It was delightful, swimming toward Cuba through undulating waves in the warm clear water in the moonlight. Then I thought, Sharks. I swam to shore. The next day Dale told me about all the huge sharks his wife had seen from the pier that was close to the base.

I cannot forget the alligators here in South Carolina. We have been warned to carry a flashlight at night when walking dog. The alligators are, evidently, nocturnal and travel from pond to pond at night. I was also warned that golfers need to be aware and not reach for that ball that is in the water and close to shore. My golf game is bad enough without having to play one armed.