Friday, May 27, 2011

The Yellow Camaro

While watching the finale of American Idol with grandson where the two finalists received new cars, a Ford of their choice, I mentioned to the young lad that I would like a new car for my birthday. He replied that he would buy me one but needed to know how much they cost. The grandson is eight years old.

“What kind of car do you want Grandpa?” he asked.

“A Camaro I think, a bright yellow one would be nice.” I’ve always looked good in yellow.

We head for the computer and do a search for yellow Camaro's. We found a used one with only 34,000 miles for $23,000.

“Uh, I don’t have that much money Grandpa.”

“Well you have four months to earn it,” I say. “My birthday is not until September and since school is out for the summer, I’m thinking you could mow lawns.”

He thought that one over and countered with another idea.

“How about if I draw pictures and sell them?”

“That’ll work but you better get started.”

Out came the crayons. I managed to find a clean sheet of paper and soon the artist was hunched over his work in earnest, colors flying across the page. Two minutes later, “Done,” he cried.

It was obvious he was going for the minimalist style, only two colors, brown and blue covered the page. He saw the puzzlement on my face.

“It’s a waterfall. See the blue? That’s trees on the sides.”

“Of course; how imperceptive of me.”

He asked if I had a frame. I didn’t but I did have a white matte with an 8x10 opening. I taped in the artwork and we had a product.

I go back to American Idol. Thirty minutes pass and except for the blare of the TV, the household is quiet. This condition is very usual when grandson is here. I called his name. Nothing. I search the house. He’s not inside. The Missus goes into a panic mode normally seen only with a missing cat. We check the yard. No grandson. We check the street and there, at the end of the block, stands the boy, picture in hand.

Relieved, we wave him home. Seems he’s been going door to door peddling his wares, raising money for Grandpa’s yellow Camaro. And wonder of wonders, clutched in his grubby little fist were three crumpled one dollar bills.

“The lady gave me the money,” he explained. “She said I could keep the picture.”

I sensed economic opportunity here.

It was not to be. The Missus returned the cash to the generous neighbor, shattering my dream of driving down the coast of California, top down, ocean air in my face, while bystanders waved and smiled, admiring my new wheels.

Oh well, gray hair and yellow cars probably wouldn't look that good anyway.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Old Fingers and New Tricks

Typing on a little keyboard may be a snap for the younger generation, thumbs only from what it appears, but this old dude is having fits trying to train these ancient and arthritic digits to find the right letters on a Dell Netbook. Texting on an iPhone? Forget it.

My normal computer is sick and in the hospital. Why? Glad you asked. It all started with a Google search, no, not one of those to find nekked women, but a common search for info involving an NBA basketball player. When I clicked the link, a screen appeared that looked EXACTLY like my Microsoft Security Essentials program saying my firewall was down. It wasn't like I'd never seen the screen before, it's not uncommon on a reboot, but this time another screen pops up listing a number of viruses invading my computer; wham, wham, wham, one after another for a total of 24 of the nasty and infuriating little germs.. Like most computer owners, I panicked and when it asked if I wanted to "clean" my computer, I said Oh Hell Yes and do it quickly.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It was all a scam and I fell for it. My first hint was when the screen asked if I wanted to buy a program to clean up the mess. All they needed was a credit card number. I may be old and slow but I wasn't that stupid. However, it quickly became obvious that ridding the machine of the viruses was beyond my limited skills hence the hospital stay in intensive care. Anxiously awaiting prognosis.

Meanwhile, I fumble, stumble, and search  for the proper keys on this horridly small keyboard. Old fingers do not learn new tricks easily.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Birds and Cats, Like Oil and Water

Here at the present abode and for the last ten years, I have fed and photographed the birds, mostly common; Cardinals, Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and Blue Jays. But sometimes a bird of note comes along. Such was the case this spring when a bird by the name of Painted Bunting appeared and honored me with its presence. With a kaleidoscope of color, the Painted Bunting is unmistakable and arguably the most striking bird to pass through the state of Oklahoma.

The bird is photo tolerant. About a week ago, one of them patiently perched on my feeder, content to dine on millet, while I set up a tripod and camera not twenty feet away. I had two, maybe three days of opportunity with this beauty before tragedy struck. A feathered body of red, green, blue, and gold lay cold and lifeless on my garage floor, intact but graveyard dead. The identity of the killer was not in question. Brat Cat, aka The Problem Child, had struck again. The other resident cats around here have neither the physical ability nor the inclination to perform such a dastardly deed.

While a certain amount of predation is to be expected when cats are allowed to roam free (not my choice), the demise of the Painted Bunting, a fairly rare and beautiful bird, was more than I could easily digest. Something had to be done.

The first and obvious move—as painful as it was—was to remove the feeders. Despite the pleasure I get from watching the feathered creatures, I felt it was necessary, as I did not want to be responsible for luring the little creatures to certain death. Other options had their own consequences. I could shoot the cat but the repercussions would be most serious. The Missus looks at her cats as children for the senior citizen. She fusses and clucks over them like a barnyard hen. In her eyes, it’s a case of my birds versus her cats. No contest.

Deterrents in the past were of mixed success. A water gun known as a Super Soaker was semi-effective but only if applied during the act of stalking. Loud noises from banging on a garbage can or angry shouts accompanied by the throwing of heavy objects such as a patio broom were likewise without lasting result. A friend suggested bells, those that you attach to a collar. Not the little ringy-ding bells from PetsSmart but a clang-clanger such as you might find in a parakeet cage. However, a Google search revealed that such bells do not work and in fact, studies show that the cats learn how to become even stealthier in their approach. As I saw it, there were two other possible solutions.

One, build a wire fence beneath the feeders or two; attach a shock collar such as the ones used to train dogs. I must admit that option number two held great appeal, not only for the revenge factor, but for entertainment value as well. I could think of nothing more satisfying that melting her little feline ass to the ground just as she made her closing charge. But there was the cost factor, eighty dollars as compared to eighteen or so for the fence. That and knowing full well that the cat would somehow rid herself of the collar, losing it in a vast field of weeds and brush, leaving me holding a remote shocker control with nothing to shock.

The fence was installed today and already I’ve seen the return of a Cardinal, an Indigo Bunting, and yes, believe it or not, another Painted Bunting, probably the last of its kind. I will observe the success of this setup in the coming days. But not without a glass of whisky at my side and a 20 gauge shotgun across my lap, cocked and loaded.

This could get interesting.