Saturday, April 27, 2019

Well, that was inconvenient

The guest suite in the garret is named for her

Well, Cookie has been through the wringer!

More and ongoing computer woes.  The hard drive in the 8930 died, and after a great clusterfuck, was returned to Cookie last Saturday.   So I spent all Easter resurrecting the beast.  Since I am here, you know, it has powered up and is working.  It has risen: a miracle.

This mark the FIFTH time in six months that Cookie has had to install programs, bother.

I am too cheap to pay money, monthly, for Photoshop CC, so that means going out, inputting all manner of byzantine information into Adobe to get the pass free version of Photoshop CS3 that is available to those of us who shelled out $799 when it was new, then jumping through more hoops to get CS5 Upgrade working.   Then there is Office, blah, blah and legacy programs.  Suffice it say, if you are reading this, then we are working at full steam.

On top of this, Cookie has been rehabbing our guest suite, which probably hasn't been painted correctly since 1965.

I don't know what Floyd and Martha painted with, but paint wouldn't stick to the depressing color that we called "Renter's Office White".    So we had to use a bonding primer on the walls, which are not plaster, not drywall, but something else that was manufactured in 1928.  It's panels, nailed up, and then had wooden straps installed over every seam.  And after 91 years, all those panels and straps had to be caulked.

So that was 32 panels that all had to be caulked, have cut in work done, then sealed and painted.  Three gallons of paint later (Ceiling, Trim, Walls, and Windows) one room of the "Edna Garret Suite" is finished.   That's right.  One week, three gallons of paint, one room.   But it is lovely and very metropolitan, very sleek.  The upholstered headboard is finished and mounted on the wall.  Cookie went beige, off white and white almost a tone on tone on tone to cut down the busy feeling.  The end result is restful, clean, inviting.

I had hoped to have both rooms and the stair hall done, but that will have to wait for May.  Cookie is FIN.

Coming up:  I am heading back to school for a class on graphics for three weeks in May.  Which will be fun, but its a concentrated course with classroom lab time an hour from home.  UGH.  But it was the only one I could find that wasn't "Distance Learning", which for a hands-on learner is a terrible thing.   Those of us who learn like this want on-hands time with the "thing" we are learning about and we like to ask questions. 

"Why is it doing this?"

"What if I do this?"

"Where do I find it?"

"How do I structure this, and who thought it was a good idea to do something counter-intuitive?"

That kind of learning doesn't do well with canned online lectures and screen time with your professor.

In other news, the latest on our City Hall mess, the Mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh has disappeared.  MIA.

"She isn't lucid," says her attorney.

We feel like she is playing ("cough") Camille.  Her attorney says she is trying to recover.   Her pneumonia has turned into bronchitis, but after a month of this, she no longer in the hospital and is trying to recover.  But WHERE?

MEANWHILE, the FBI raided City Hall, her two homes and three other locations.

And then we learned that her consignment shop, a side business that we all knew existed, that was offering GROUPONS until it wasn't offering GROUPONS?  Well, it closed.  Kinda.  When it closed has been up for some debate, because her business partner, Baltimore Comptroller Joan Pratt - who used to be the only adult in the room at City Hall - first said it was open by appointment.  Now she has corrected that statement by saying it closed on December 31, 2018.  Which is it Joan?   Was it open by appointment until Holly Hit the fan in March when it was selling GROUPON, or did it close in December, (cough) the date your corrected statement said?

Now we knew about the store, but not that Joan Pratt was in a side business with the mayor. 

There is yet another conflict of interest.


Because the Comptroller and the Mayor make up two votes out of three on the Board of Estimates.

That's the Board that approves city contracts.  See why that is a conflict?

Cookie spent many years working in the consumer financial institution world, and the number one rule, aside from "Thou shalt not keep two sets of books," is "The auditor is never your friend, they can never be your friend." 

An auditor, or comptroller, is a neutral observer who is loyal to the law and the rules of accounting.   Always.

Sort of like your shrink.  You can never be friends with your shrink - ever.

So no - you cannot be friends with the comptroller.  Ever!

And also happening this week?  The head of Univerity Maryland Medical Center - when the mayor used to serve on the Board, and initially got caught with the first shred of Healthy Holly stuff broke, has resigned.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

An accommodation, hope in the ashes, as Cookie would have loved it.

Faye was ROBBED!

So, what has Cookie been up to...

I am having a true First-World Existential Crisis.  For the FOURTH TIME in six months, my new Dell computer has died.  I know, I know, Apple, Apple, Apple.  But unless you are going to cough up the money for a new Apple, shut your yapple and just let me vent a true "woe is me" moment.

The situation is being solved by Trusted Retailer after Dell pissed me off.

When I buy your product, and it is under your warranty, and I play by the rules in reporting the problem, do not treat me, or any other customer as an "accommodation" that you have to bestow largess upon. 

It's a very dickish thing, James, at Dell.

Hopefully, the newly images SSHD will be fixed tomorrow so I can spend the weekend reinstalling everything.  The takeaway? Moving forward sometimes means taking charge and calling people on their bullshit.

In other news...

Cookie was heartbroken by the fire at Notre Dame.  I was watching CNN when the reports of the fire started, and once again, just like on 9-11 watched history unfold, and feeling helpless not to be able to stop it.

But, unlike 9-11 we can find some good in this event.  No lives were lost.  No country was attacked.  No faith was attacked, nor were fanatics attacking, either. The walls are still standing, though the north wall is in serious condition - not from the fire, so much.  But it was in poor condition beforehand.  Things of historical and theological value were saved.  Even the alter.  But sometimes we have to look at the ruins and find the sprigs of promise. The work of artists and artisans was lost, but more artists and artisans will be put to work. This offers a true chance to rehab the structure in a way that will help it stand for another 800 years.

My friend who works at the Beefhouse Strip Club said that sales of Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame - the book that forced the French to own up to centuries of abuse and neglect and helped to propel the Cathedral into a new era of popularity in the 19th Century - are flying off the shelves.

And perhaps this serves as a reminder to Catholics and the Catholic Church that this holy week, faith, like Christ, sometimes needs to be resurrected.

Maybe this fire will serve as a reminder to the church that terrible things can happen when you ignore problems and refused to modernize the inner workings, much like Notre Dame's stewards failed to maintain the electrical system that created the hazard that led to the fire.

Every day, find a silver lining where none seems to exist.  It's out there.  You have to be open to finding it.

Final Thought?

Faye Dunaway should have been Cersei Lannister.

Faye, you was robbed, dog.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Pee-U? Oh, no, not again

So y'all know that we have been in BMore for almost seven years, and the situation here keeps getting worse and worse.   Case in point, or Mayor's office.

In seven years, Baltimore has had two mayors and the specter of a third:

1) Shelia Dixon.  Shelia Dixon was elected mayor, she was very popular with the electorate.  Why?  Shelia is one of these people who develops instant rapport with the people she meets.  You really feel that she connects with you. That's good.  What's bad is that Shelia was found guilty of theft in office after she got caught stealing gift cards that were meant to be distributed to the poorest of the poor children in this community.   So Shelia had to resign in shame since she was convicted of a crime. 

2) Stephanie Rawlings Blake.  Steph is a brilliant woman, with the legacy of her father's lifetime of good works hanging over her head.  She is an Oberlin graduate, brainy, smart, but was terrible at connecting with people, and worse on TV.  Stephanie came to the job as City Council President, as per the charter, assumes the office of Mayor when the Mayor is unable to do their job or is removed from office.  And in this case, it was Shelia Dixon's conviction that brought Stephanie to the mayor's office.  But as Baltimore burned and rioted in 2015 over the murder of Freddie Gray, Stephanie was nowhere to be found.  She was not out on the front lines, she was not speaking to the people. She was spending a great deal of time getting her hair and makeup done.   So she removed herself from reelection, sensing certain defeat.

Now we have Catherine Pugh, a former state senator, who was doing what Stephanie should have been doing during the riots.  Catherine was out there on the front lines bravely standing up to the fear and the violence of the rioters.  Locking arms with Congressman Elijah Cummings, she walked into the buzzsaw and helped to bring people together.  And the city elected her mayor.

But since winning office in 2016, the clusterfuck that is Baltimore City Hall hasn't gotten better.  It's still a clusterfuck.  In some ways worse.  And department and division leaders are still making excuses for slipshod work.

INTO THIS came news, starting around March 15th that Mayor Pugh has been selling a whole lot of children's books that she wrote and self-published.  And that's fishy. 


Each year thousands of children's books get published by major publishers and they go nowhere beyond their initial printings.  Unless you are an award-winning book author, even the cleverest kiddie books go into the toilet.  Remember Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster?  He wrote children's books - marvelous works with great art.  Anyone remember them?  Nope.

But Catherine Pugh is selling THOUSANDS of her self-published books about "Healthy Hannah".  But you can't get them at the nearest library, and you can't get them at your local or national bookseller either.  But she is selling them in bulk, by the box load!  Thousands at a time!

Where are they going?  Well the University of Maryland Health Center, on whose board the mayor sits, bought a whole lot of books.  Enough for the mayor to pay cash for a house in Ashburton, a traditionally black, middle-class neighborhood of very nice 1920s era houses.  She also rehabbed that house, but without pulling the right permits and with pending fines.  Yes, the mayor's people didn't pull the correct permits!

But wait!  There's more!

  • Not only did she get money for that first batch, but she failed to recuse herself from Univerity business that impacted dealings with city hall. 
  • Then the books that the UofMHC were found sitting in a warehouse until they weren't.  Then they reappeared. 
  • Then Kaiser Permanente bought a load of books and SUPRISE they were awarded a contract to provide medical treatment to City Employees!  Better yet, it was the Board of Estimates - on which the mayor is seated by virtue of holding the office of Mayor - that approved the bid, with Mayor Pugh not recusing herself from that vote. 
  • Now ALL of the mayor's deals are coming under scrutiny.  Acting Mayor Jack Young has asked that the deals she has struck over the past two years be looked at. 
In a "really?" moment while this was all breaking, the mayor developed pnuemonia.  And what hospital was she taken to?   University of Maryland Medical Center, of course.  A decent crisis management team would have said "Anywhere but there!"  But no one was thinking.   They took the Mayor, accused with insider dealing to the hospital that the dealing was happening with. 

Then in a Camille moment, the horse and raspy-voiced mayor made one last stand when she defended what happened in a presser with no questions.  From there, she placed herself on an indefinite leave of absence.  

City Council President, Jack Young, who also ran for Mayor in the last race, took over in Pugh's absence.  Now, did you catch that?  History repeating itself. Dixon out, Rawling-Blake in, Rawlings Blake out, Pugh in, and Pugh out with Young in.

Every day for two weeks its been one revelation after another. 

Meanwhile, "Rome is burning".  A Canadian racetrack operator is trying to strip the Preakness from Baltimore and move it to a track in Laurel.  We have gone through four chiefs of police in three years.  Murders are up.  City services are down. 

Honestly, if you think the shitstorm in Washington is bad, it's business as usual in Baltimore. 

And those of us who believed in Mayor Pugh are disappointed, demoralized and dazed. 

As for Shelia Dixon, she still thinking about running for mayor the next time office opens up. Lucky us.  Maybe not.  It would be difficult for Dixon to run in a race where illegalities are the topic of discussion because its an easy way to ask her about her own troubled past. 

But the best part???

The books that started it all?  Healthy Holly?  Poorly written and dialog like a Christmas pageant. 

What this city needs is a Lori Lightfoot, outside of the machine, to come in and put their foot down.

Baltimore: We're so damned proud.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Lacking boundaries

Cookie asks the age-old question: What is wrong with some people?

Today, the husband was working out back behind our house.  We don't have a garage, just a shed, and the shed is located where the garage should be.  Actually, the previous owners, Merle and Pearl should have built a garage and not the shed, but that is neither here nor there.

Because the shed is where the garage should be, you can see it from the street.

At the same time, I saw a couple - older, white - get out of their ancient K-Car in front of our house.  Merle and Pearl have been gone for five years, yet their friends still come over hoping to see them.  This annoys me because if you haven't heard from someone in five years, that tells me that you aren't quite good enough friends just to drop in unannounced.

I noticed them standing and looking towards the shed, which was open because the husband was in our Back 40 doing yard work.   I got up - sensing that an intervention was needed - went downstairs and opened the door, went out of the stoop and asked if I could help them with anything.

Man: "I was just wondering what you had for sale in that shed."

Cookie: "Excuse me?"

Man: "I saw that your shed was open.  Would you mind if I looked through your shed to see if I might want to buy something."

Cookie: "No. We aren't having a sale."

Man: "I just want to look-see what you have."

Cookie: "I said we are not having a sale."

Man: "I just figured since the shed was open..."

Cookie: "Ah, allow me to introduce myself - my name is Cookie.  And who are you?"

Man: "You don't need to know that."

Cookie: "Ah, well then...."

I explained to Mister "You Don't Need to Know That" that no, he could not go on my property to my shed, and that no, he could not look through stuff because nothing was for sale, and that it would be best if he and his lovely wife moved it along, back to Essex, or Middle River, or wherever they are from.

His wife pulled on his arm and said that she thought there was another sale in the neighborhood.  And they left in their garbage filled K-Car.

Now, here's the thing: There is nothing in front of our house that says "Sale".  There are no yard sales in the neighborhood today.  The shed door is open because the husband is going in and out taking things out as he works in the back yard, and returning them when he is done.

So, I ask, "What is wrong with some people?"

In this case, it's the T.V. show, American Pickers, I guess, which has planted the seed that it's OK to nose around in other peoples stuff looking for things that are worth money, and then offering a fraction of the value so you can resell it.   Maybe too much exhaust from that fine K-Car is drifting into the passenger cabin and smoking their brains.

Still, I am eagle eye, from my office, ready to call 911 if they should return.

Monday, April 1, 2019

"Fincaria Verna" is not a Harry Potter Spell

Happy April 1st, and I wish this were a joke, alas it is not.  Meet Fincaria Verna, better known as "Lesser Celandine", also known as "Pilewort", also known as the bane of Cookie's existence.

This vile little plant is everywhere in Maryland and is considered an intrusive species.  This crap starts pushing up thick, waxy, vivid green leaves at the end of February and can choke out native plants.  The flower is a Yellow daisy like thing.  It's toxic to animals that eat it, and once it gets established, good luck getting rid of it.

Worse still, when it gets into a yard, it chokes out the lawn grasses, THEN when it dies back (by the end of May) it exposes bald patches perfect for spread of weed grasses like crab grass, Running Bermuda Grass, etc.

And how does it get established?  When someone buys it "herbal properties" as a topical treatment for external piles, aka hemorrhoids.  But if you don't get on it immediately, it will spread.

Only two things get rid of it.  1) Is a ton of round up, applied constantly until the tubers are dead, or 2) you dig up the top soil, remove it, and put down new sterilized soil.  This year we are trying to smother it with a ton of much.

Cookie wants to try a third method, a flame thrower.  None to worry, they are illegal and I am not about to do anything that will result in me heading to a local jail.

Still, it makes me pine for the noble dandelion, a weed that could be eaten if need be.  This stuff, seriously, it will kill you. 

The dottery old people who owned the house before us let this crap get established, and every time I go out into the fenced part of the yard, I curse their very names.

Other than that, not much new here. 

April is my favorite month - one that holds the promise for warmer days, greener trees and bluer skies.

People always say that they want to see the Cherry Blossom Trees when they bloom and I tell them not to waste their money.  The Mid-Atlantic really shines in the weeks after the cherry trees bloom, but before the humidity settles in.  The Azalea and Rhododendron show out here is beyond words fabulous, and it can, with the right weather, last for weeks.   Baltimore and Washington are at their most beautiful then.

This year I promise to take pictures.  They don't do justice to the spectacular color, but I will try and shoot some photos.