An unscientific observation

First, a couple of poems.

The bright clouds

Go from sky blue to sunset pink

To vague gray smudges

As the sun sinks on the longest day.

Airplanes fly across,

Adding winged stitches to the sky.

Cicadas drone and fireflies glimmer

Adding accent

To summer beginning.

The heat has yet to come.


A chorus of katydids cranks up

Backed by the drone of cicadas.

Fireflies flicker and swoosh

On this longest day of the year,

Summer is here.

I’ve lost note of which years I wrote those but I have always loved watching the fireflies in my back yard. I’ve lived here 17 years.

I live in the middle of a large metropolitan area in Texas and I also live beside a heavily forested area with lots of wildlife in it. In that wildlife are countless mosquitoes. Last summer, there were cases of West Nile virus that were recorded in my city, one of them within a mile or so of my house. So, the city decided to spray for mosquitoes. I did not get notice of it happening on my street but I’m sure the wooded area was treated. I don’t know what poison they used but it affected more than mosquitoes.

For some reason, the only time we can sit outside without being swarmed by mosquitoes is the month of March. Well, this year we didn’t really get outside so didn’t notice the lack of mosquitoes until a few weeks ago, and then it was just noticing that we weren’t slapping bugs as much. They’re not as much of a nuisance in the daytime either and that’s when I’ve been being outside mostly.

Last Sunday evening, there was nothing but reruns on tv so we decided to sit outside for the evening. There were still very few mosquitoes. But then I noticed, there were also no fireflies. The backyard should have been a regular courtship blinkfest. There were NO blinks of light. Not. A. Single. One.

For the next few evenings, I looked for fireflies. Still no blinks. Nothing.

And then I realized I haven’t seen the little green lizards that usually are scampering around on the fence and porch roof. Now, I know my cat likes to catch and eat a few of them but the population has been able to keep up with his predation for every summer until now.

This can’t be coincidence that the mosquitoes, fireflies and lizards are all gone at once.

I also have a wren box on my front porch. Wrens eat bugs. Last summer, they raised four broods in that box. This year, they haven’t even moved in. I hear a wren fussing or calling once in a while but they just seem to be passing through.

Is being mosquito free worth the tradeoff? I would say no but I haven’t seen a friend or loved one go through West Nile virus. Zika was also recorded in this state last year. I would not wish microcephaly on anyone’s baby.

Then again, this is just one unscientific observation by one person in one backyard.

Happy Father’s Day

Arkansas trip with my dad

I got an early start and made it to DeKalb for lunch at the local eatery. After that, we loaded up the car and headed toward Pine Bluff. We decided to take the slow scenic road. Good decision, the traffic was very light and lots of tall green trees to look at. We got to Pine Bluff about 4:30 and stopped in to visit my Aunt Frances. We had a good visit with her and she took us to eat at a Mexican place she likes.

After dinner, we drove on to Little Rock, the final destination for the day. Got checked in to the hotel which is right on the river and got a room with a fine view of a stucco wall. We got settled in and it was just about bedtime.

Woke up the next morning to a sunny day, very good breakfast at the hotel and then we walked over to the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. They have a WW2 submarine called the U.S.S Razorback. No kin to the local college mascot. It is 80% still functional so you go down into it by way of a 12 foot ladder and climb out the other end on a 14 foot ladder. My father made both climbs without incident. I was impressed! Going across the river right by the museum is a former railroad bridge turned into a pedestrian bridge. As we were walking across the parking lot, I heard a voice from on the bridge yell “Holy crap, there’s a submarine down there!” Well, the language was a little stronger than that but you get the idea.

After that, we crossed the Arkansas River and went to the Arkansas Art Center and had a nice lunch in their cafe then walked around and enjoyed the exhibitions. They have several going and all were really nice. The center is in a park and we walked over toward a pond that had Canada Geese and some kind of domestic ducks around it and rested, enjoying the antics of the waterfowl. There were a couple dozen ducklings roaming around, they were so cute!

Got back to the hotel and after resting a while, we weren’t really excited about getting out and driving somewhere for supper so on a whim, I looked at the room service menu. There were sandwiches available for a very reasonable price so that’s what we had for supper. They were very good. Especially since there was no walking or driving involved. After supper, we walked back to the river and watched the sunset as it washed colors over a big storm cloud many miles away.

After a long nights sleep and a good breakfast we looked at the planned stops today only to find they didn’t open until 1 because it’s Sunday. We took a little drive to a small sculpture garden which had a farmers market going. I bought a fancy soap for a friend and sampled some local honey. Driving around, I realized the parking for one of the places we wanted to see was going to be taken up by Riverfest goers. Back to the hotel and wait until 1 o’clock rolls closer. I did a little looking and found the trolley cars we had seen went right over to where we wanted to go and in honor of Memorial Day weekend, they are free to ride. Quick step to plan B. So we rode the trolley car to the Discover Museum and had a great time and rode it back to be dropped off a short block from the hotel. Even at regular fares it would have been a bargain.

We walked over to the river after supper again and watched the evening come in after another room service sandwich.

Up the next morning for a good breakfast and on the road north. We’re spending the night in Harrison but taking a side trip on the way to Mountain View to visit the dulcimer shop there to buy a few things. We get there and it’s closed. The Ozark Folk Center is up the road a couple of miles so we drive there and find them open so we go in and look around. We both found things to buy and saw some more interesting things.

We got to Harrison and got checked in and after resting a bit went to find supper and found most of the places closed in honor of Memorial Day. Including the Italian place we had eaten at before and really liked. We ended up at Burger King. Not a fan.

The next day’s plan is to drive to Fayetteville by way of Eureka Springs and visit Crystal Bridges museum in Bentonville. Turns out they are closed on Tuesday. So much for that.

No hurries this day, the whole day’s drive is about 2 hours. We take a scenic loop around in Eureka Springs and then stop along the way at War Eagle cavern and saw the cave which was interesting. Siri is guiding us along the way and she got quite perturbed when we got off the highway and then got off her map. She was sounding almost panicked by the fourth time she said “proceed to the route!” The cave used up a couple hours. It’s privately owned and we had a friendly and knowledgeable guide. The history is more interesting than the landscape inside. The resident bats had moved farther in to their nursery location so we didn’t see any. We got checked into the hotel about 4. We had a very late lunch and are tired so probably won’t go out again. I think we’re both about ready to be home again.

We woke up early again and on the road by 8:30. We changed plans this morning, which is why nothing was booked more than a day ahead. The original plan was to spend the night at Mount Magazine again but it’s only a 2 1/2 hour drive from here and that’s taking the long way around. Then we would have half a day to sit and look at each other or look at the view. It’s a nice view, but. So, plans changed. Instead, we decided to drive to Hot Springs instead. It’s closer to home, so shorter drive tomorrow. And there’s things to do and see there. We are staying at the Alpine Inn where we have stayed before.

We took the scenic route and enjoyed twisty, tree covered roads with very occasional breaks in the trees to see the mountains. Slow but soul-nourishing. We saw several motorcycle groups out riding.

We got to the Alpine Inn and found out the lovely Scottish couple who had been running the place had retired and a couple of young men are running it now. The Inn is old but well kept. The room is small but looks fresh and comfortable.

It turns out the Inn cat, Al, has been passed along with the property. He has had a hard life in the last six years though. He’s an old cat now and lost about half of both ears. He enjoyed some pets and scritches on the back of his neck that I gave him. I actually got a purr.

Up the next morning and last day’s drive. Again we stay off the main highways with little to no traffic which makes it a pleasant drive. I have lunch in DeKalb and it’s a solo drive the rest of the way.

We saw good art, climbed into and out of a submarine, learned some things and had fun together and enjoyed spending time together. Another good trip with my dad.

Working for Walmart

I have worked for Walmart for over 17 years. It used to be a good place to work. Once you got hired on, they looked out for you. Your supervisor made sure everybody got the hours that worked for you. If special needs arose, it was accommodated. You knew your job cared and had your back.

How times have changed.

When I hired on, full time was 28 hours or more. That meant anyone working more than 28 hours was entitled to full time benefits. Part time got benefits, they just had to work twice as long to get them. That included health insurance for you and your family and disability and life insurance.

Things are very different now. Part time employees don’t get any benefits. There is no health insurance for them or their families. No option for disability insurance or life insurance.

And yes, Walmart made a big publicity splash about raising everyone’s pay to $11 an hour but someone has to pay for that. People at the bottom got big raises to take them to $11. I got a 28 cent raise. For the whole year. And the only positions open for new hires are part time. All those thousands of new jobs they are hiring for? They don’t pay for insurance for those people with a savings of millions of dollars.

Now, part time hours are considered to be 32 hours or less, and to be considered to be full time you have to average that many hours a week at least. And the big heaping pile of poo in the middle of this is the fact you have to be willing to work the shifts they offer to get those full time hours. And if the hours you are assigned to work don’t add up to that amount, too bad, so sad, you are cut to part time hours and classification after 10 weeks and lose all benefits including health insurance. and you have no choice to fight it unless you can bend down and accept the hours they will give you.

Did I mention the available shifts either start at 4 am or end at 11 pm. I cannot do the 4 am start shift. I can’t sleep when it’s light outside. I would have to go to sleep at 6 in the evening and get up at 2:30 in the morning. I might get to see my husband for 30 minutes, some days not at all on days he works later. Not happening. I would collapse before the week is up. And I could maybe do the 3-11pm shift but that would mean seeing my husband ONE DAY A WEEK.

Ok ,when did it become a choice between keeping my health and my marriage or keeping my full time hours and my health insurance?

I have a disability. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I am entitled , under the Americans With Disabilities Act, to a reasonable accomodation for my disability. As I see it, this should at least entitle me to a request for a consistent start time during the hours I can work. To me this sounds reasonable.

When I ask for this “reasonable accommodation “ I am told management doesn’t want to know why I am submitting the available times I am listing. And then I am told if I want more hours, I have to open up my availability to all of those hours I can’t do..

I know that Walmart doesn’t give a furry rat’s behind about me as a human being and the management team is only following company policy. That doesn’t make it right.

It’s an unwinnable situation.

I have been fighting this battle for a couple of years and frankly, I have given up.

I know if I transfer to another store, the same thing will happen again. I also know if I quit and go to work for another company, I will lose a substantial amount of pay and insurance for a year and have to start over with vacation. And we can get health insurance through my husband’s job but it will cost about twice as much.

I lose no matter what I do.

And then…

And then management comes to me and tells me I need to have section work done in the next 2 hours. There’s 30 ish sections on the list. Working the sections means straightening the 4-foot section, scanning the stock on the top shelf to see if it will go out and then working it down then scanning any outs to see if they really are outs. And with our clueless stockers, your out on the shampoo aisle may be sitting on the top shelf over the body wash. If I work them properly, it can take me 10-15 minutes each to do them. I go to lunch after properly working 10 or so. (I also spent 20 minutes in the personnel office trying to find out what’s happening to my benefits when they cut me to part time.)

“Oh, you don’t have many sections to work.”

I get back from lunch to have the manager tell me I have to have the rest worked in 15 minutes. Riiiiight. When she raises her voice at me asking why it wasn’t finished, i point out that I am thorough and I look for missing things and I do it how it’s supposed to be done. And I comment about how I don’t want to cheat just to get it out of the system. So ends up they don’t want it done right, they just want it done. So I cheat on the rest of it and it still takes me over an hour. I also look her in the eye and ask her if she’s just wanting to write me up. My defense is I’m doing things correctly and she knows she has no right to get ugly with me. Just because she’s having a bad day doesn’t give her a license to crap on all the rest of us. And you back me in a corner, I will defend myself. But this is the usual management style where I work.

People don’t understand why I don’t want to go see Crystal Bridges museum. That’s the art museum Alice Walton has built to display her collection of art from American artists. I am one of thousands of people who have been exploited and used to fund the millions of dollars used to buy the collection and build the display space for the art.. I don’t know if I could look at it and not be reminded of the greed it took to acquire the money to buy the art and the faux generosity to say “oh, here you can come look at it for free”. The idea of looking at all that ostentatious display of greed chokes me.