Loss of a tree

I contributed to global warming a tiny bit more than usual recently. When we moved in to our home over 40 years ago there were two maple trees and an ash tree that provided shade in the summer, but now they were showing their age. The maples had reached a height where I could no longer stop the branches from rubbing against my siding and roof when they blew in the wind, much like a kitten rubs against your legs, when they want to be pet. This was causing damage that was unavoidable and unacceptable to me. There was also an ash tree in my front yard that was wrapping it’s hands around the wires heading to my house, the power lines and the phone line. 

I had considered having some tree work done since about 2010 when I started noticing an increased amount of branches of all sizes in our yard every time we had a wind storm.

Originally, I called a tree guy just to have the offending limbs trimmed and the ash removed before they caused any more problems. It was not an easy decision, at first. When he arrived he looked over my trees and we sat down on my porch.

In a tone reminiscent of a doctor telling you your test results, he asked if I wanted the good news or the bad news first. I opted to hear the good news first. He said that the ash tree in my front yard was healthy and showed no evidence of the emerald ash borer beetle that was devastating hundreds of millions of trees in North America. He said he wouldn’t remove it but could trim it so if it was uprooted in a storm or died it would simply fall away from my house without taking my wires with it. He said he could also trim back the maple that was becoming overly friendly with my house and my new addition. So far so good.

The bad news was the sugar maple that was shading the majority of my house had seen better days and was rotting from the inside out. He said he could trim that one also but it was only a matter of time before it died completely and came crashing down, possibly into my house. Well, I had anticipated cutting one tree down and trimming two others just not the ones he suggested. So we agreed on a price and he scheduled the carnage for a later date.

As the maple tree’s last days loomed ahead of us, my wife and I were asking ourselves whether this was the right decision. Who really knew just how long this tree would stand, offering us shade and the neighborhood birds a place to live. This tree and the shade that it provided, was one of the things that first attracted us to this place. But, over 40 years later, it was dying off.

Early the morning of the bloodshed, after reading the day’s news and having breakfast, I walked over to the maple’s trunk. I gazed up through its branches and leaves one last time. I watched as the shadows of the leaves formed ever changing patterns on the side of my house and I sighed. How could something that moved this much be dying. And I hugged it. I actually became a tree hugger. I thanked the tree for all its service, patted the trunk and, as a single tear streamed down my face, turned and headed back into my house.

The tree guy and his crew arrived shortly after that to take care of business. It was interesting to watch how they removed the limbs over my house without dropping then on my roof. It was like a midair ballet.

Later that day, I went out to check the chainsaw’s progress, which is probably a strange way to refer to the end of a life. There were a few hollow parts in the upper branches but a section of the trunk was emptier than my own heart. They loaded up the wood (I’m sure they have a firewood business also) and hauled it off.

I was impressed that, when the tree was down, they ground out the stump, they raked up all the chips and filled the hole with topsoil. The topsoil was probably a better grade of dirt than on the rest of my yard.

 I am now surprised just how much light comes in thru my dining room window. Even at night the street lights shine in so much that I don’t need night lights anymore.

A recent study published in the journal Science stated that the Earth has enough open space to be able to plant more than one trillion trees. They said this is enough to capture some 800 billion tons of carbon dioxide. I am sure the loss of my one tree won’t make much of a difference in global warming but it sure has made a difference to me.

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My Wife’s Kindle

“Honey, My Kindle is broken” she said. With the urgency she would have used if the house was on fire. This was at 6:00 A.M. on a Saturday, a day that I usually get to lounge in bed a little longer. My eyes were barely open.

Her Kindle was not booting up. I told her I would look at it later when I was awake and rolled over to go back to sleep. Fat chance. She said “I can’t turn it off. All it does is show me that it is loading.” So I grudgingly sat up, put my glasses on and looked at it. She was right, that little loading circle was going around and around, not doing anything but making me dizzy. I tried shutting it off to no avail.

She was having a panic attack because she had no books to read, no Facebook and no instant messaging. How was she going to survive? She said maybe she needed to go to the library to get some books. But unfortunately, the library is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s going to be a very long weekend. 

She said that when I get up I should look at the website I had visited months ago to fix this Kindle the last time. I’ve looked at hundreds of websites since then but sure, I remember which website that was. I knew I wasn’t going to get any rest until I fixed the problem.

So I got up, got dressed, skipped breakfast and went on the internet to try find out how to trouble shoot a Kindle Fire. Only about 470,000 websites showed up. This is getting better and better.

They all had different suggestions, all of them guaranteed to work. But after much pressing this, sliding that or swiping something else that the sites said would definitely fix the problem, I had only managed to turn it off and on several times just to see that annoying circle taunting me, time and time again. It looks like I might be missing lunch also.

I must point out that my wife paces when she gets stressed, and every time she passed me she would ask “How are you doing?” thus destroying my train of thought.

Four hours later, I finally reached a site on my computer that asked for her password. I asked her what it was and she answered “I don’t remember it. You set it up.” My stress meter went through the roof at this point. She looked around and found four scraps of paper with multiple passwords on them, none of which were for her Kindle. It was at this point that the Kindle almost met the wall.

Continued searching revealed a 24/7/365, Amazon, tech support, website. Maybe they could help me. So I went on it and started a chat with “Carl”. He ran me through all the things I had done for the last 4 hours and said it was rather peculiar. He said he would have to put me on hold while he went and checked with someone else.

Meanwhile Donna was asking me about the hundreds of books I had gotten her, her pictures, her Facebook and her instant messaging accounts among other things. When I answered that first off, just let me see if we can get her Kindle working, she disappeared. She then returned to ask if I thought we should just go out to buy a new Kindle soon because the stores would be closing shortly. ARGAAH.

When Carl returned he asked me if I had tried the factory reset yet. I told him I didn’t know because I didn’t know what he was talking about. He told me it was very easy. I asked him about the accounts, pictures and books and he answered the books would still be downloadable from “the cloud”.

What this cloud was and where it was I didn’t know because it was fairly sunny out at this time. He said the pictures and accounts would “probably” be lost. This is tech support talk for “kiss them goodbye.” He said we would just have to log on to Facebook to get back to her account.  

We then went through what seemed like an hour of jumping through hoops with the Kindle until eureka! It started again. Of course everything was missing. I managed to find the cloud that was holding her books hostage and had to download them all, one by one. So far so good.

Off to Facebook. She has 2 accounts there because she had forgotten her password when her first Kindle crashed so I had to start her a new one. I went to log on to the one she was currently using and I asked her for her password. She again presented me with those same four scraps of paper with passwords scribbled on them again. I might have as well have been using the menu from McDonalds because none of these passwords worked there either.

So we had to set her up with her third Facebook account, notified all her contacts and download the IM APP. Eight hours after I started, my head hurts and my eyes are blurry. I was ready for bed. I still wasn’t finished but I called it quits for the day. We did eventually get her all set up.

Two weeks later she woke me up at 5:30 and said she could not get out of her “Alexa” APP, the voice application that is like “Cortana” and “Google Voice”. Here we go again………

Norb is an independent journalist from Lockport. You can find him at nrug@juno.com when he is not fixing his wife’s Kindle.

Handicapped parking

On a Facebook group I am in, “Buffalo & WNY seniors group 55 and older” there was a debate going on about Handicapped parking places.The story started with a post by someone that said “I went shopping yesterday at a local produce market. I witnessed a SUV parked on the diagonal lines between the handicapped spaces. There was a sign stating No Parking Anytime. No sticker in the window either. I asked in the store if I could speak to a manager. The cashier asked if she could help so I indicated that maybe they should phone the police. The poor girl gave me a sheepish grin & confessed that the vehicle belonged to her manager…  I was so stunned I just left.”

The post garnered 215 comments in the first 24 hours. One of the first comments was by someone named Rocky who said  ”Nevermind , it’s not your business !!” and somebody else said “I think your a busy body who is just itching for trouble. I agree with Rocky mind your business. Most who have legal handicap stickers do not really need them. This is one of the most abused privileges ever.” (Misspelling is the way they were posted)

I take offense to this. In the interest of transparency, I have a handicapped parking tag due to multiple health problems. Two of which are COPD and Peripheral Neropathy. I am mostly limited to the first floor of my house and rarely get to go out, usually only going out to doctor’s appointments. If it is too hot or too humid, I normally don’t leave the safety of my home that has the air conditioner running because I can’t breathe. If it is snowy or icy I stay home for fear I am going to fall down breaking something. I have fallen or slipped on several occasions, one time breaking my leg.

Someone stated “(This) Frustrates me, too, when someone sits in the car in a handicap spot!! Very inconsiderate of those of us who truly need the handicap spot and one isn’t available.” A person who responded wrote “I’m sure it was only for a very brief time. Maybe (they were) making a bank run or whatever.”

This is frustrating for me also. One of the times I collapsed, I was going to a medical appointment in a building on a main street. All the street parking, handicapped spots in front of the building were taken so I went to the side parking lot.

All the handicapped spots were taken there also, some of them by handicapped mini busses. They were there because the company that owns them was also in the same building. That is where the busses are parked when they were not in use. Because of this I had to park at one of the farthest spots in the lot.

After I had parked, I had to take a long walk across the sun baked, blacktop parking lot causing me to overheat. I had walked within 10 feet of my destination when my body gave out and I collapsed. This necessitated a call for a very expensive ambulance trip to the hospital.  If I was able to get a handicapped spot, I would have made it to my destination without a problem.

For some of us it is the whole difference between being able to shop and not being able to shop. I head out on a “good” day at a time the stores are less likely to be busy, only to find someone parking in the diagonal line area. This prevents me from getting in and out of my car because I need to be able to open the car door wide.

And yes, sometimes it is necessary for me to be out even on a bad day. People only see the cane I use. I see people thinking as I walk by, that I don’t look like I need a handicapped parking permit. But handicapped people are not all in wheelchairs.

According to the ADA, private businesses and public agencies must make available a stipulated number of handicapped parking spaces. They must be a minimum size and have the proper signs. The specified spaces can be used only by people with a handicap windshield placard or license plate that was issued by the state. Handicapped spaces must be located at a location that affords the shortest and most trouble-free route to an entrance of the building that is handicap-accessible.

I had discussions with my doctor about getting a handicapped hang tag for over a year.  He felt I should have one but I saw it as giving in so I told him I didn’t want one. I knew in my heart I needed one but my mind was just not ready to accept that. Finally I broke down and had him fill out the paper work. I then took it to the city clerk who issued a permit.

By the way, if a doctor signs those forms without a viable medical diagnosis to back it up or just to collect payments from Medicare or Medicaid, it is called fraud. A doctor who commits fraud can lose his or her license.

Norb is an independent journalist and blogger from Lockport, New York.

Celebrating a half century of true love

As appearing in the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union Sun and Journal

8/11/2019

Last Friday, my wife Donna and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.

A half-century ago, we were a pair of young, clueless kids. We went out into the world with everything we owned in the back of a Volkswagon “beetle” and drove 500 miles from home to establish a life of our own in Newport, Rhode Island. If it weren’t for wedding presents, we wouldn’t have had enough money for gas to get to Newport, which was my ship’s home port while I was in the Navy.

We first moved into a fleabag motel. Living there depleted our funds quickly so we scoured want ads in the local papers, looking for a cheap apartment. We didn’t have much money but we had our love to keep us going.

Then a shipboard buddy told us about some inexpensive apartments in Fall River, Massachusetts, just across the state line. We moved into this welfare development where your rent was based on your income. I was earning $64 a month back then. Our rent was $32 a month. Fortunately our rent included the heat and electricity. After I paid the rent, I had $8 a week left over for our phone bill, food, gasoline and auto insurance. Heaven forbid my car would break down. All the money we had left from our wedding went into cheap, pressed wood furniture. We still have some of that furniture today.

We were living without the benefit of family nearby so we had no safety net and we had to do whatever it took on our own to survive. We learned more about self-dependence than we had ever known. It made us reliant on each other.

I was proud of Donna the first time I went to sea. She didn’t go home to her parents. The apartment we shared was now home to her, and with the help of a few friends who were close to us, she was able to stay in our place. I am thankful to our next door neighbors, Millie and her family, for helping Donna out. Tony, Millie’s youngest, would spend more time at our house than his own keeping Donna company.

One of my friends, Cole, a bosun’s mate and mountain of a man, would check in on her to see if she was OK during my absences and if she needed anything.

The neighbors would share their food with us and showed us how to apply for a monthly allotment of surplus food that the state gave to low income people. Every month we would have a food exchange in the common area of the complex. We would meet up with whatever free food we didn’t want and swap it for food we did.

It was during this time we had two of our children. How crazy were we to do this? I don’t know. We figured, “How expensive would it be to have children?” Of course, this was in the days of cloth diapers, rubber pants and diaper pails.

As I look back on those times, I have to wonder just how we made it. Foolish as we were, we managed to survive. We were from the generation that believed when you made a promise, you kept it.

I think often about how much in love we were. How our marriage was made stronger by having to make it on our own in the early years. How we couldn’t run home to our parents when we had differences of opinion. How I learned the four phrases that helped keep us together: “Yes dear,” “You are right,” “I understand,” and most importantly, “I love you.”

Now, 50 years later, I think about all the problems we overcame together, standing back to back with our guns drawn, ready to take on whatever came at us.

I now send my wife a cheesy text every morning, professing my love for her to make her smile and to let her know that I am thinking about her. I also try to keep fresh flowers in the house just because. She is the best thing that ever happened to me and I love her with all my soul.

The first time I saw her, my heart whispered “That’s the one.” Imagining my life without her is impossible and I am so lucky to be able to spend my life with her.

Norb Rug is a writer from Lockport. His email is nrug@juno.com where he welcomes comments

Bear Ridge Solar

Cypress Creek Renewables is proposing to construct a project called “Bear Ridge Solar” to install solar panels in Cambria and Pendleton. I have no problem with people using their property for legal reasons.

Solar energy gives us clean power from the sun and it’s use is growing in both the United States and globally. The cost to put in solar energy has decreased by over 70 percent since 2010. In the past decade, solar power has had an average annual growth rate of over 60 percent. Many businesses and households that switch to solar energy save money.

While without a doubt solar energy might be a very important solution for a lot of the world’s energy problems, it’s not a cure all without problems. Studies have shown that solar energy has a significant environmental disadvantage.

The effect that solar farms may possibly have on plants and animals be capable of sending ripples through the entire ecosystem. The environment could become less livable for plants and wildlife that thrive in local conditions.

Utility size solar panels can take up a lot of space. I understand the Bear Ridge Solar project will take up 900 acres and I think it might result in environmental degradation. Solar farms could also obstruct local vegetation growth. Think about all those farms that let their land go fallow so the naturally occurring plant life can be harvested for hay.

However, a deeper perception of the environmental effect of solar installation could educate farmers on microclimate changes and how they could make better use of the land under panels. Farmers may need to think about selecting crops that can survive in the lower ground temperatures and shade created by the solar panels.

Solar farms that blanket a large volume of land are apt to impact the local fauna and flora, particularly birds. The loss of habit for birds include nesting sites, nest building materials, food sources like bugs and places to hide due to habitat loss. Solar panels aren’t able to share the land they occupy for other uses like wind energy does.

Solar panels for domestic use usually don’t require very much land. In fact many of these installations are on roof tops and don’t use any land whatsoever. However, at the industrial level, the large amount of space required for the installation of panels needed to produce energy is a challenge.

 Also, a great many people feel that utility scale solar panels will create a visual disruption for the local communities. I believe the song goes “Oh beautiful for spacious skies and amber waves of grain” not “the glint of solar panels.”

However, it is not just plant them and hook them up. There are emissions associated with different stages of the solar cell lifecycle. It is very important to know the solar panel production process. It begins with the mining and subsequent processing of the raw materials. Quartz, copper, silver and aluminum ores are mined from the earth utilizing trucks, tools and heavy equipment. These ores are then transported by trucks or rail to processing facilities.

All of this requires fossil fuels or electricity. Quartz for instance undergoes processing with hazardous chemicals in high-temperature furnaces to produce electronic grade silicon. Creating solar photovoltaic panels is a very water intensive process. Even though the solar cells themselves don’t use water to generate electricity, the manufacturing process requires a quite a bit of water.

Off-grid Photo Voltaic systems frequently have throwaway batteries that can store energy when the sun shines so people can use it at night. These batteries will damage the environment if they aren’t disposed of properly because they might leak toxins such as lead and sulfuric acid.

Furthermore, quite a few solar cells contain small quantities of the toxic metal cadmium. The batteries that are required to store the electricity generated by photo cells can contain a myriad of other dangerous substances like heavy metals and other dangerous substances. If the manufacturers don’t strictly adhere to the laws and regulations regarding these chemicals, they can create significant health risks, especially to the workers.

As solar technology improves, manufacturers may be able to move away from these potentially dangerous substances, but for now, they mar the otherwise impressive ecological benefits solar power offers.

Solar energy has some other problems. First, no matter how clear the skies, a solar panel won’t produce electricity at night, so a solar energy system needs to have some method of storing energy. And if there is bad weather for an extended time, a solar energy system will provide little output, which means you need to have backup energy generation alternatives available. 

Moreover, when solar panels aren’t disposed of as they should be, these chemicals can be an environmental threat. Often, panels end up in e-waste dumps in developing countries such as India, China and Ghana where these toxic chemicals might create devastating health effects for residents of nearby communities. Solar panels are said to create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than nuclear power plants do and we all know how nuclear power works out. Just think about Chernobyl or The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

Sure Solar may be the way to go but I think we need to find this out from someone that ISN’T going to benefit from this.

Norb is a freelance journalist from Lockport.

Why parents are always late

It’s the second day of summer vacation and already we are hearing Nana, Papa “What can we do?”We try to limit their screen time so we made several game suggestions. They answer no, they didn’t want to play a game today. We suggested that they read a book but that was also met with scorn so we decided we would take them to the park after lunch. But then, shortly after we made that decision, it started raining. Cortana had told me it was going to be a cloudy all day and she was right, it was cloudy all morning but she didn’t say anything about rain. I guess we aren’t going to go to the park either.   

I have the feeling this is going to be a long, hot summer.  My wife took the rain as an indication that she didn’t have to put sunscreen on the boys. Applying sunscreen to a couple of active youngsters is just about as much fun as it sounds. It’s like trying to put an octopus in a shoe box.

We decided that we would either take them bowling or roller skating instead. Offering them a choice however was a big mistake. One of them wanted to go bowling and the other one wanted to go skating.  After much complaining and whining and because we had some coupons, my wife made an executive decision. We were going to go bowling. The local bowling alleys have a “Kids Bowl Free” program again this summer where registered children all get 2 free games a day and we take advantage of this. All we had to do was rent the shoes.

So we began the long process of getting ready to go somewhere. It took a while but we finally managed to persuade them get their shoes on and walk out the door. My wife had just got both of my grandkids in the van and they were buckled up ready to head out when the sun broke through the clouds. 

Now they wanted to go to the park again. I was now swearing at Mother Nature for the sliver of sun light that showed up just a few seconds after we were all in the van. We had finally gotten two kids out of the door, ready to go and I was not in the mood for the persistence of a couple of young children. We said no because the park would be wet. After a lot of “aws” and “you saids” we told them there were plenty of days to go to the park during the summer. They finally accepted his.

Just as we pulled out of the garage, one of them decided that he had to go to the bathroom. This was in spite of the fact we had asked them if they needed the bathroom just 10 minutes before we left. They have bathrooms at the park but apparently he couldn’t wait. My wife threw the van in park and said she would be right back. I think the boys were playing divide and conquer. After what seemed like 15 minutes, the other grandson decided he too had to go to the bathroom. So I shut the van off and took him inside.

Of course they had to take off their shoes to walk thru the house and we were back once again at ground zero. As I sitting there waiting for them to finish, I thought, this is the reason why parents are never on time. I have been unsympathetic toward people with children, criticizing them for being late all the time. Now here I am, once again, running back into my house for yet one more delay and there are always, always delays.

I looked at the clock as we finally left and realized that the last thirty minutes had been pure chaos. Today was a bit quicker than it has been on many other days. The yelling, the screaming and the hollering, and this was just Donna and I. This was just one day, one attempt to leave, and one of many reasons why it takes parents so long to go anywhere.

We all eventually got out of the house, in the car and buckled up. If it’s not a book that a child thinks can be started and finished in a matter of minutes, or asking for just one more minute to do whatever ‘Lego’ thing has to be built right that second, then someone who suddenly can’t tie their shoes or has to use the bathroom.

It struck me that forty years ago, I was dealing with the same problem with my own children. It seems that nothing changes when dealing with small children. It doesn’t matter how long ahead of time you start out, children always have an innate way of making you late.

But seriously, just what is it about us saying that it’s time to go that makes our children have to go?

Norb is a loving father and grandfather who lives in Lockport and is frequently late. He blames children.

Reading to your child

There are many reasons to read to your child. Reading to your child, shows them that they are important to you and can open their eyes to the wonders of the world without them having to leave the comfort of your home. When you read to your child, your child learns how those letters on the pages stand for specific sounds and form words.

Reading has always been one of my favorite things, so I am not surprised that I enjoyed reading with my children. When I was in High School, I didn’t work very hard. I was a solid C student. In History class they made a mistake seating me next to a bookshelf filled with old Readers Digests. I spent all class reading them, cover to cover.

My wife is also a reader.  Every week she would trudge to the library with a tote bag full of books that she had read. She would then spend an hour or more refilling her bag and walk home. I decided to make her love of reading easier on her so I bought a Kindle for her. I was able to find a few sources for free books online. I have managed to get her hundreds of books, enough to fill her needs. When her first Kindle wore out, I had to go get her another one.  Some people have their cell phone by their side at all times. My wife is like this with her Kindle. 

When my son was very young, I would read to him regularly. Before he even went to kindergarten he would read the newspaper to me while I had my morning coffee. We would discuss words he didn’t know so he would understand what he was reading. I also helped him with annunciation. By the time he was five years old, he was an excellent reader.  I attributed this to the reading we did together.

Reading to your children is a worth your time. Snuggling up with them and a book is valuable quality time. Every parent is thier child’s first teacher. There are things you end up teaching your children without knowing such as how to hold a book, which direction to turn the pages and how the letters on the pages combine to form words.

If children want to jump ahead or simply hear the plot line when you are reading with them, that’s fine with me. They are learning, even if you’re not trying to teach them something. Let your kids take the lead and guide you through the tempo of the story sometimes. There is also room for kids to multitask. Let your kids color, play with Legos or action figures, while you read to them. You may be pleasingly surprised by how much they are listening to you.

We have always read to the children in our care. When my son was in elementary school, I was working second shift and didn’t see much of my children. I always encouraged them to read though. I used to let my son pick a book and I dictated it into a cassette recorder as a bedtime story. I would even tell him when it was time to turn the page. This never worked though. He and one of his buddies would rush home from school throw their jackets and back packs on the floor and rush upstairs to his bedroom to listen/read the day’s story. He is now an avid reader and has instilled this in his eight year old twin sons.

We have a great problem with the twins reading when they have to do something. They will have their noses buried in books and sometimes I don’t even think they hear us call them the first three times. Most parents would kill for such a problem.

We have to save the Sunday funnies for them every week end and they read them on Monday when they see us. Each week during the summer, Donna would take them to the library and check out a bag of books. They would pore over the books throughout the week, and I loved all the different places I would find them reading, draped over the recliner, under the dining room table or lying on one of the beds in the spare bedrooms.

My eight year old grandsons like reading manga. From what I understand, when reading manga, the pages are turned in the opposite direction than you would reading a novel. The front of manga is the back cover. Dialogue, sound effects and narration, are likewise read backwards. You read the narration from the top right corner, moving down the left side. Panels in manga may seem to flow awkwardly. It is often left to the reader to decipher the order, as there is really no set way that the panels flow. Now they are teaching me how to read.

Having the ability to read helps students in school. Our children all went on to further their education and have good jobs. Now my grandchildren are attending college. I know we helped foster in them a love of reading. I hope they also pass it on to their children one day. I hope you read to your child too. Everyone benefits when you do.

Norb is an independent journalist and blogger from Lockport. He also blogs at WhyWNY.home.blog