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Friday, June 23, 2017

Too Connected to Everything

Every so often, I travel to a place where cell phone and Internet service is limited or nonexistent.

After a few days of feeling somewhat lost without instant text messaging, e-mail and Web access, life returns to the way it used to be, before electronic communications took over. And that, I have learned, is a good thing. 

Being device-free definitely lessens the stress I feel. No longer am I bombarded with the latest bad and sad news from around the world. No longer am I faced with a never-ending barrage of pleas for donations to 'go fund me' pages and charitable organizations. No longer do I feel a need to keep up to date with everything. A self-confessed news junkie (most of my professional life was spent working with the news media), I like to feel 'in the know' at all times. But having no or limited access to the news is a very freeing feeling. Whatever happens will happen whether I am aware of it or not. And there is little, if anything, I can do about whatever happens.

Lately I have been really frustrated by my electronic world. First, it's the passwords. I'm told not to use the same password for more than one account. Don't write passwords down. Be sure not to use anything that is easy to guess. And make it a combination of numbers and letters. Of course, this is impossible for me. I have far too many accounts to keep track of every password in my head, especially for accounts I seldom use. I constantly have to hit the 'forgot password' button and create yet another password that I will forget the next time I need it.

Then I decided to dump my expensive DirecTv service, which claims to have 150 channels. In reality, half of them are nothing but infomercials for some vacuum cleaner, copper cooking pans or 'best sex ever.' One of my favorites (I saw it in the channel lineup but didn't look at it) was "Do you poop enough?" And I'm paying how much every month for this nonsense?

So I purchased an Amazon Fire TV stick that allows me to stream a variety of channels without the need for cable or satellite television. I'm still getting used to it, as I have had cable of satellite television for decades. But I'm sure that after a while it will seem normal to me. Of course, then I had to call DirecTv to cancel service. As expected, I got the usual high pressure sell of why don't I block the infomercials (I would still be paying for them), why don't I use DirecTv streaming, etc. I finally told the woman to stop arguing with me and just cancel the service. Naturally, I'm getting hit with a $240 'early termination' fee, but that's still considerably less than I would pay if I kept the service for another year. So goodbye, DirecTv!

Technology does have a good side, of course. I like being able to use my cell phone to call for roadside assistance if my car gets a flat tire. I like being able to get directions with a simple click or two. I love being able to compare prices and to order things online, and to use a small e-reader to carry 30 books with me when I travel. I can share photographs from my trips, and technology allows me to write and share this blog. My car has a navigation system that gets me to my destination, if not always the best route to take.

I remember spending hours in the college library doing research, and hoping that the books I needed hadn't been checked out by another student. I remember struggling with a paper map or road atlas to find my destination. Now I can do research online.

 I guess it's too late to disconnect completely. That would be a very difficult step to take, and it would present issues of its own (online banking is a real convenience).

Still, I am looking forward to my next trip and the escape from technology it will offer.








 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Staying Right Where I Am

One of the reasons I love to travel is the opportunity to learn about new countries, people and cultures.

But last week I learned something from a domestic trip. I spent a fun week visiting a friend in South Carolina (and neighboring North Carolina), my first visit to those states. And that trip helped clarify something for me.


We visited Ashville, Old Salem and Blowing Rock, NC. We had dinner with some of her friends, and I spent some time photographing their horses. We had lunch at the new Sierra Nevada brewery, where I enjoyed a half pint of orange-infused beer. I did a bit of walking (5 miles most days) and ate way too much. I helped take care of her four dogs (her father died recently, leaving behind his two chihuahua brothers). I walked the streets photographing the small town on whose outskirts she lives.

I enjoyed the greenery, which is lacking here in the high desert of New Mexico. There are trees everywhere in the Carolinas. What I did not enjoy was the humidity, which ran in the 90 percent range. Combine that with temperatures in the upper 80s to low 90s (both humidity and temperature will get worse as the summer goes on), and just being outside was very uncomfortable.



My friend drove me to a new subdivision on the Catawba River, hoping that I would like it and want to move there. The houses, while lovely, are on tiny lots just feet from each other. They are all two-story, which I don't want. And they are expensive. 

I would love to be nearer to my friend. We get along really well, we have much in common, and it would be nice to have someone to help out when I need it. I also would like to be there to help her when needed. But the heat/humidity combination is just not to my liking. Going for a walk at 6:30 in the morning, when both temperature and humidity were lower, left me feeling hot and sticky. And conditions went downhill from there.

What I learned from my week in the Carolinas is that I can scratch those states off the list of possible places to move to. I realized -- not for the first time -- that I love the warm (OK, hot), dry climate in which I have lived for the past seven years. I loved the warm, fairly dry climate of northern California where I lived for 28 years. I love being near, but not living in, the mountains. 

So I will happily stay right where I am. I love my house, my yard and my views of the mountains. I love the 300+ days of sunshine every year, the amazing crystal blue skies and the lack of humidity. I plan to visit my friend again once she gets moved into a new house. 

Just as the heat and dryness of the high desert aren't for everyone, so the heat and humidity of the American southeast aren't for me. I will admire its greenery during visits, but for now at least, my heart -- and home -- will remain where they are. 



Copyright Ann Sullivan 2017.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Help Save Victims of Puppy Mills

I just watched a dog die on video.

The dog, named Iris, was a nine-year-old Chihuahua rescued just the day before by the wonderful folks at National Mill Dog Rescue. Iris, who was named following her rescue, spent nine years making puppies to feed the greed of the operators of the puppy mill in which she spent her life. She was nothing more than a puppy-making machine.

Those cute puppies you see in mall pet stores? They come from commercial breeding operations. Many puppy mills are in the Midwest (Iowa, Kansas and Missouri), as well as in Nebraska, Arkansa, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The Amish are big puppy mill operators in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio. The Amish treat these animals the way they treat livestock, or worse.

Puppy mill dogs typically receive no veterinary care, their feet never touch the ground, and they never know the kindness of humans. They may have a number, but never a name. They spend their sad lives packed into wire cages until they get sick or are unable to produce any more puppies. Then their worn out bodies are tossed into the trash.

Here are a few facts from the NMDR web site (www.milldogrescue.org):
  
Dog Facts


More than 11,800 dogs rescued to date

Rescue average/year: 1,067 (Past three years)

Average number of dogs at kennel: 110

Average age of a puppy mill survivor: 7 years

Typical number of dogs in foster care: 60

Average number of adoptions per month: 51

Average rehabilitation time: 6 to 8 weeks
Rescue Facts


Trips: 2x per month, average 44 dogs per trip

Rescue mileage: Approximately 28,500 miles per year

Expense Facts

Kennel expenses (mortgage and utilities): $6,400/month
Food for entire kennel: $100/day
One rescue mission: $16,000 (includes dog care expenses)
Basic veterinary care: $300/dog (includes spay/neuter, extensive dentals, heartworm testing and treatment, vaccinations, microchipping
Specialty veterinary care: $13,000/month average. Roughly 1/3 of our dogs require specialized treatment.

Our community embraces thousands of donors, supporters and volunteers from around the world. To follow us online, go to:

My golden retriever Tia was from a southern California puppy mill. She and a dozen other goldens were rescued by a California rescue group and adopted to new, loving homes. When Tia was rescued, she took with her a small log, her only possession and source of comfort. She was seven years old when my daughter and I adopted her. She was thin but otherwise healthy. It appears her growth had been stunted, most likely from being forced to produce puppies when she herself was still just months old. We had Tia for five years, until we lost her to brain cancer.

Please, NEVER BUY A PUPPY FROM A PET STORE OR ONLINE!! We must stop this institutionalized abuse. Animal rescue groups and humane societies often have purebred dogs, if that's important to you. I have adopted five golden retrievers -- each one a wonderful dog -- from humane societies and rescue groups. 
 
Puppy mills are chambers of horrors. A little Chihuahua named Harley (check out his Facebook page) lost an eye when his cage was pressure-washed with him inside. His broken body was found in a pail. Iris died the day after she was rescued, being cradled and loved for the first time in her life. These are just two of the dogs of all breeds and sizes that spend their lives producing puppies to make money for greedy, heartless people. 

If you can't volunteer (NMDR is in Colorado), consider sponsoring a kennel or signing up as a monthly donor. And please, educate yourselves about the evils of puppy mills, then spread the word. And check out the wonderful dogs available for adoption. NMDR's teams of veterinarians, groomers and rehabbers prepare each dog for its new life of freedom as a beloved family member.

YOU can help NMDR save more dogs and YOU can help bring an end to puppy mills. For more information about NMDR, please visit its web site or e-mail customerservice@nmdr.org

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What To Do With $1,500

What can I do with $1,500?
  • I could pay rent for one month in some US cities. 
  • I could buy a fancy 4K television. 
  • I could buy a nice camera or a decent telephoto lens.
  • I could go shopping and buy some nice clothes.
  • I could buy a couple of the latest smart phones.
Or, I could change a life by making a charitable contribution to the Save the Elephants scholarship fund. This will pay for one year of high school for a deserving student in Kenya. This is what I have chosen to do.


My $1,500 annual donation helps provide education, uniforms and supplies for a young lady named Jecinta, who was left orphaned when her parents died of AIDS. She was taken in by an older brother with a family of his own. The brother can't afford to send Jecinta to school. If she doesn't go to school, she will spend her life herding goats or cattle. She might be married off at a very young age and end up taking care of a husband and several children. Instead, she is attending high school.

This young lady has dreams of a better life. She wants to work in the medical field, hopefully as a doctor. If she can't get into medical school, she wants to become a nurse or a pharmacist. Despite the challenges of going to a new school and having to learn twice as many subjects as in her primary school (including physics and chemistry), her first semester grade average was B-. (Kenyan schools typically start in early January). She wasn't satisfied with that grade, however, writing that "it was very painful" for her to get that grade. She has promised to work even harder the next semester. She also has joined her school's wildlife club and vows to work to protect Kenya's wildlife, particularly elephants.

So far 129 students have completed their secondary school education under this program, with 10 currently in college. One, who completed his secondary education in 2005, emerged as the top student in his district. With the help of the program and his sponsor, in 2013 he completed his 6-year medical degree at Nairobi University and is now a doctor in that district. Another, the program's first-ever scholarship student to get straight ‘A’s in his final exams, has graduated with first class honors in geospatial engineering at the University of Nairobi, a path that has led him back to studying the very elephants that brought him his education.

I can think of nothing more worthwhile on which to spend $1,500 than providing an education for a deserving, intelligent student. I chose to sponsor a female student because opportunities for girls are fewer than for boys. 

One day I hope to meet Jecinta in person. Because her school is in Samburu, in northern Kenya, I likely won't get to meet her during my next trip there. She will be in school. But I have bought five books, a photo album (with pictures of me, my family and house) and a New Mexico T-shirt that I will give to a Save the Elephants representative in Nairobi to give to her during their next meeting. I also will send a letter of encouragement to this blossoming young scholar. 

For more information about sponsoring a deserving student, go to http://www.savetheelephants.org/project/elephant-scholarships/






Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Remembering D-Day

Today, the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day invasion of the beaches of France, please take a moment to remember the soldiers and sailors from the United States, Great Britain and Canada who fought a fierce battle for freedom on Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches. Other countries taking part in the battle were Australia, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia, Greece, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland.

Despite a series of failures and missteps by the Allies, these brave men fought against the odds and the big guns of the Germans, and by the end of the day they had gained two footholds on the coast of France. The defeat on D-Day was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
Remnants of one of two temporary harbors built to support the D-Day invasion can still be seen off Omaha Beach.





I stood on Omaha Beach and visited the American military cemetery on the bluffs above the beach just three weeks ago. In my small group were three other Americans and an Australian, plus our French guide. No words can describe the emotions we experienced as we reflected on the horrors and death of that day. Some 2,499 Americans are confirmed to have died that day, along with 1,914 from other Allied nations. Many more were killed in fighting after June 6.

I caught a glimpse of Utah Beach, where my father, just 19 years old, served as a gunner's mate second class on the USS Corry, the lead destroyer of the Normandy invasion task force. The Corry was sunk and 24 of his crewmates were killed. After more than two hours in the cold (52 F) waters of the Atlantic, he was picked up by a British warship and went on to serve in the Pacific. 

I have always been aware that June 6, 1944 was D-Day, but I never truly grasped the significance and sacrifice of that day until I visited the beach in person.
My father didn't talk much about his wartime experience, but I wish I had tried to get him to talk about it. He is gone now, so I won't get to hear his account of the battle.

I would love to return to the beaches of Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the history-changing battles that took place there. I can think of no more fitting way of honoring those who sacrificed so much.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Glad To Be Old

I am glad I'm old.

I'm sure this sounds odd to many people, particularly when our modern culture values youth above wisdom. After all, who wants to deal with creaking bones, arthritis, dimming eyesight and all the other things that happen to our body as we age? But with the way the world, especially the United States, is going, I am glad I won't be here to face the aftermath of the wholesale destruction of the planet currently taking place.

I don't want to live in a world where all the apex predators such as lions, tigers, bears and wolves have been exterminated, whether for 'sport' or loss of habitat or because they might pose a threat to the cows that are overrunning our planet. I don't want to live in a world devoid of elephants and rhinoceros to feed the insatiable Asian demand for ivory trinkets and 'magic virility potions' of rhino horn, which, by the way, is made of the same material as human fingernails. 

I don't want to live in a country that sells off its public lands to corporations for drilling and mining. I don't want to live in a country that refuses to participate in a global climate agreement signed by nearly 200 other countries. I don't want to live in a country that seeks to remove protected status from national monuments and wilderness areas. I don't want to live in a country that rolls back environmental protections that keep our water and air clean and safe. And I certainly don't want to live in a country that allows the slaughter of hibernating bears and their newborn cubs in their dens, or of mother wolves and their pups in their den.

I have spent my whole adult life being an environmental activist and an animal activist. I recycle everything that is recyclable. I keep a supply of reusable grocery bags in my car and cringe when I see people roll their shopping carts through the parking lot filled with plastic grocery bags. I pick up trash as I go about my daily walks. I drive a car that gets great mileage. I have owned two hybrid vehicles. I consume as little as possible. I refuse to buy anything that is endangered or threatened. I do my best to avoid buying anything that includes palm oil (due to the destruction of palm tree forests that are habitats to endangered orangutans). I stopped eating beef to protest cattle ranchers' ongoing war on wolves and bears. I won't wear wool clothing or socks for the same reason.

The current administration and its storm trooper followers, not to mention the entire Republican party (with the possible exception of Sen. Susan Collins) care nothing about anything other than getting as much as they can in profits for themselves and their corporate masters right now. Forget about the future. 

They give not a damn about the average American citizen, international alliances, the environment or anything else. And they better not utter another word about how 'pro-life' they are. Anyone who is truly 'pro-life' would not destroy our children's and grandchildren's futures. Anyone who is 'pro-life' wouldn't remove millions of people from having health insurance. Anyone who is 'pro-life' wouldn't slash benefits from the most vulnerable among us -- children, the disabled and the elderly. 

So yes, I am glad I won't be around to face the barren, polluted, wildlife-free planet we humans call home. Once the planet is destroyed, it will be too late to do anything about it. What a sad legacy we 'advanced' humans will leave behind.




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Postcards from the Road

I travel a lot, but I never send postcards. It's a quaint custom that seems to have lost its allure in this age of electronic, nearly instant communication.

Souvenir shops in France had a lot of postcards for sale during a recent visit, but I didn't see anybody buying them. Even if I had bought postcards, I would have had to find someplace that sells postage stamps. And I don't know many people to send them to. It's easier and faster to text photos from my cell phone, or to upload them when I'm someplace that has a wi-fi connection. 

So rather than postcards, I will include some digital postcards -- photos I have taken -- from the road. I have visited some amazing places -- some more than once -- and I love photography. So some digital postcards from a few of my favorite places seem appropriate. They won't get lost in the mail. It won't take a week or more for them to be delivered. And best of all, no postage is required. 

Yellowstone National Park
 
Botswana
 
Near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Yellowstone National Park

Montana Grizzly Encounter, Bozeman

Yellowstone National Park
Vermont

South Africa

London

Yellowstone National Park

Botswana

Yellowstone National Park
Kenya
Omaha Beach, Normandie, France
Normandie, France

Costa Rica


C