Summerʼs End

My summer job is finally, fully over. Yesterday The Lovely One and I drove to Des Moines to return the GOV to its real home at USDA APHIS PPQ.* The entire trapping staff was there — seasonal workers (like me), fulltime office staff, seasonalsʼ spouses… everyone.

Each of us received his or her annual work review (mine was quite flattering), reminded ourselves of some governmental policies, and turned in our official documentation and GOV keys. The staff treated us all to a picnic of brats and hamburgers before sending us all home for the chillier months. If funding permits the emerald ash borer (and gypsy moth) survey(s) to continue, I have more short-term work ahead for next spring and summer. Our office head, Rob, also awarded certificates and gifts to memorialize this yearʼs service (and a plaque for one trapper retiring after 21 years and a quarter-million miles in the field). The time spent yesterday in the middle of the state was pleasant and fun.

Rain set in, heavy and ominous amidst the speeding semis on Interstate 80,** as I drove Janetʼs car back eastward — although blue skies popped out, at first just off to our left, north, as we drove in downpour less than a mile from the sunshine, and later, briefly, overhead in Jackson County. We might have missed some of the precipitation if we hadnʼt had to leave Polk County in order to return as early as we could for Janetʼs job, from which she had taken a day off just to drive me home. Once snugly in our house for an evening, we reveled in the novelty of that domestic experience.

Celebration on the Ward — the men joyously imagine a home run, assisting McMurphy to undermine Nurse Ratchedʼs fatal authority.

We hadnʼt had an evening at home since early August, with play practice for One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest every weeknight until now. And I spent just about all of September, once the EAB traps had been all taken down, working onstage for former Grand technical director (and general genius) Keith through most of the day.*** With about four or five brief but important exceptions, I was his only volunteer, unhelpfully unskilled as I am. Even with my fumblefingered carpentry, Keith put up an amazing set for opening night last Friday.**** He also crafted outstanding sound effects that really fulfill the wonderful performances of the hugely talented (and hardworking) cast — not to mention Melissaʼs delicate lighting and Dougʼs startlingly perfect special effect.

The wonderfulness of this production is almost enough to keep me thinking about future theatrical endeavors.

My sister Margaret came for the opening weekend, and I hope she enjoyed the show, even with her inefficient hosts being utterly preoccupied and too busy for a proper visit (our conversations mostly stranded during the hours around midnight). We all really should just get together to visit without special events, glad or sad.

However, as the dire gales of autumn wail grayly around the house, thrashing treetops and bushes into barely constrained gyrations and scattering batches of freshly torn-away leaves everywhere, summer things are definitely drawing toward an end…

(Maybe Iʼll find/take the time to write something, finally, now.)

* We both had to go, of course, so that I had a way home once the vehicle I had driven out there was no longer mine to drive. Also, the office staff likes to meet the spouses of the seasonal workers.

** (I-80 really should be three to five lanes each direction all across the county, I sometimes, even often, think)

*** (with rehearsals continuing until sometimes nearly the next day, thus suggesting a reason for the lack of posts to the blog lately)

**** The performances continue and then conclude this coming weekend — Thursday through Sunday.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Past Blast

As the dextremist Enemies of Americans at Fox News attempt (tiresomely, repetitively, again) to distort real news/events for Their own smarmy purposes (abetted by that shady and seditious shark, Andy Breitburp), I, who have mowed the lawn today (such a major accomplishment, we must say), feel the best post I can make for this Labor Day is the one I published one year ago. You may read it here.

Our Iowan 2011 Labor Day brings/continues the midwestern coolth we first experienced yesterday, and, even as I type with sweatshirt and long pants upon my body, the temperatures are a pleasure. The Lovely One and I traveled on Saturday to Mt. Pleasant to visit Dawn and Kevin (she has been suffering from chicken pox, a truly unpleasant experience as an adult), returning yesterday. Dawn was pretty completely recovered (even being permitted back into her elementary art classroom this past week), and (I think) all four of us enjoyed a good time together.

I came home a bit lighter in the head (very marginally) when my just-more-than-a-week-old crown fell off the stump of my tooth about 11:00 AM Sunday! Fortunately, I wasnʼt chewing anything, and the $1000 misinserted (or failed) part is nestled in my vest to be restored for free (or so I presume) early tomorrow (or so I have requested). Happy holiday to me. And I certainly hope you, gentle readers, have enjoyed more fully your three-day weekend (which corporate powers and the dim Dextreme, along with their utterly mindless Teabots, would like to render more meaningless than the day has become).

By the way, the birthday bash for my mother-in-law at Timmermanʼs Friday evening was very fun. Janet brought home a full meal of leftovers from her order (Chicken Chardonnay with added artichokes), while I consumed both of my Greek-style pork chops. My Beloved is right now on the phone with her sister, but that call is probably drawing toward an end, so I should cease saying somewhat less than nothing here and be ready to actually speak with my spouse.

So thatʼs the news for now. Power to the People, and welcome back to work tomorrow.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Free as a Bird (Not)

The poster for our production. It was one thing in which I participated productively yesterday.

Rainʼs moving in…

Of course, the radar has shown that rain closing in all morning, but the front wall of the rainfall has curved around Our County, encompassing Dubuque and a big region south of Interstate 80, but not us. Yet. The forecasters continue to insist it is coming; it will probably be here by the time I get this item composed, edited, illustrated and finally posted for today.

My summer job has ended. Like so many college students I enter September temporarily unemployed. My GOV still needs to be returned to the main office, and that event is currently scheduled for sometime late next month. So Iʼll earn a day or two daysʼ income taking it back and getting debriefed. Unfortunately, The Lovely One will have to take a day off work to drive me home afterwards. Or else I will have to locate other help lest I remain stranded in Urbandale…

Until that trip, I no longer have the ten-hour days encompassing my time and energy.

Fortunately or un-, my time is not yet quite my own. Our play* is busy in rehearsals, currently four nights each week (soon to become five), and I also have some duties during the day to fulfill (now that Iʼm “free”). Like finding some costumes, acquiring or manufacturing sound effects, helping to locate props, and assisting in set construction.

I also need to apply formally to work as a substitute teacher in districts nearby, and at least in Our Town that means about a dozen pages of various forms to complete along with credentials to locate and copy. So thereʼs plenty to do to keep me busy.

But I still find time, fatuously, to create and post material to the blog, like this. And I still want to take time to work on real writing and even give myself a chance to read some things for pleasure. This morning I composed a letter to my brother Stephen, long-overdue, and vague bits and pieces of what I had to tell him kept churning through my mind to become this post. However, now that Iʼm trying to put those same fragments of thoughts into print, Iʼm not sure I really have much to say. So at least this post will be brief.

And maybe I will get this into the electronic æther before the rain arrives.

Thanks for reading…

* I hope some may remember that Janet and I are directing One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest for the Grand Opera House in Dubuque. Auditions were held August 7 and 8, with actual rehearsals beginning on the 11th. The performances will begin September 23 through October 2.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Best Laid Plans?

“Looking out my garage door…” at the Trailblazer in the rain (actually the sun is coming out).

Yesterday, almost from the predawn moment I arrived at my government Trailblazer to fetch it home for the dayʼs activities, rain poured from thick, dark skies, persisting all morning, as thunder revved and rumbled all around the atmosphere. Craggy shafts of lightning startled the gray world almost regularly but unpredictably. Although The Lovely One* dutifully headed off for work in her poor, padiddled** Toyota Corolla in the driving downpour, your humble blog host dryly elected to alter my penultimate plans for my seasonal job and leave checking out what few EAB traps I might have accidentally skipped, during the Great Takedown this past month, until the next day — meaning this day, today.

Instead, I sought shelter in our garage, with the big door wide open on the deluge, and packaged my collected hangers into groups of ten and boxed them up. I also worked laboriously to clean dirt and acquired glue from about a dozen or fifteen spreaders (all the rest I had judged clean enough to just pitch in the tangled agglutination of such items in a box in the GOV). Then I gave my faithful pole a final (at least I hope itʼs final) cleaning before starting in to vacuum and scrub the good old GOVʼs pretty dirty interior. The rain had ceased about 11:00, so I wasnʼt risking a wetting from the storm as I dragged our faithful shop vac outside to scour the carpeted and other parts of the vehicleʼs cabin. I knew that chore would be extensive (and not just because I had gotten a lot of dust and stuff into the GOV; it wasnʼt any too clean when I began this job back in April), but two and a half hours was a little more than I had anticipated on just that part of the vehicle clean-up.

That element of my work day drew to an end about 3:30 (as I indicated, quite a bit later than I had imagined), and I spent the next ninety minutes beginning my concluding bookwork — checking trap sheets to be sure I had marked off visits to remove the traps at each site (and struggling to recall to myself that I had done so/could remember something about doing so). I also wanted to count various aspects of my trapping.

The hangers grouped in tens in stacks of fifty — with one stack a few short, of course

Statistically, I now know that I have 244 hangers which I have collected over the takedown process (and I know that some trap sites — less than a dozen, but a significant “some” — didnʼt even have a hanger clinging in a tree when I arrived to take down the — in those cases blown away/fallen/vanished — traps). I canʼt count up the spreaders because theyʼre just a nest of tangled metal devices (much like oneʼs Christmas tree lights seem to become in their box from one year to the next, as my immediate supervisor John remarked at our last meeting). I had never counted how many traps I had actually put up (nor how many remained up as I discovered traps in oaks and hackberries and box elders and elms and walnuts and even a mulberry… and which I didnʼt replace if or when I could not locate an ash in that grid; nor did I yet know just how many of those instances occurred), and I figured I could keep count as I checked over the sheets. I wanted to know a full, accurate total on how many traps I had personally put up (even wrongly), and an enumeration of how many I had visited and revisited and finally removed over the course of this past summer.

Reality didnʼt actually measure up to those plans. First, I didnʼt get through everything in the ninety minutes, so Iʼll be continuing to work with the books before I head out to check the possibly skipped traps this morning. Second, I lost count on both the overall number of traps and in particular the ones that originally were placed in other trees than an ash. So those statistics may just never be calculated or result from some activity on my own, not on government time.

If my plans for today go better than my bookwork plans yesterday, I may even get to continue cleaning the GOV late this afternoon. No matter what, I intend to get it finished and reloaded with unused and collected supplies tomorrow and, except for the return of the vehicle to Des Moines, conclude my seasonal employment for this summer.

At least thatʼs my plan. For now.

* I inserted that asterisk as I dictated this post before play practice yesterday. But why? Surely most of my several dozen readers know who The Lovely One is by now…   

— Oh, yes! Now I remember: I finally figured out how to get idiot Dragon Dictate to insert the words for numbers to one hundred instead of defaulting to digits. So now “The Lovely One” appears correctly when I say, “Cap The Cap Lovely Cap One” instead of becoming irrationally “The Lovely 1.”

** Ah, the sweet scent of youthful experience… In my late childhood and teens, a “padiddle” was a one-eyed car (with one headlight out), as Janetʼs vehicle is right now (and will remain until we get it to our repair guy on Saturday).

And third, the rain was much-needed hereabouts. And gratefully received.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Wrapping Up

The trap from our tree, viewed from above, showing: bugs stuck to the exterior, the spreader and the lure depending thereupon. (The hanger is cut off slightly, lying to the left.)

Hmmm…

The month of August is nearly gone with just one little post from me to mark this time, way back on the first of the month. Pretty sad record, that.

Whatʼs up?

Work. Plenty of it.

August is the time for all the purple traps for emerald ash borers to come down, and I have been churning around Clinton, Jackson and eastern Dubuque counties every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday all month long trying to get every one of my traps removed and trashed. (Yes, once I have examined the trap to consider each bug stuck thereon this final time, the big purple contraption is nothing but trash — saving the “hardware:” the hanger, which holds the device aloft from a branch, and the spreader, which holds the triangular trapezoid in shape and from which dangle the packets of scent lure which supposedly draw the bugs. In fact, one of the most vital jobs this past month has been lining up or otherwise locating trash bins which will accept all the disassembled and flattened traps — including those at campgrounds and parks, civic and other government offices/facilities and [at least in my case] several cooperative schools and businesses.) And as of today, the job is done. I left the trap in our own front yard for the very last, and after cleaning out the city of Dubuque itself, I came back here and pulled down that one last trap.

Several days of work remain. I still need to go over the trap sheets in comparison/contrast with the official maps of trap sites to ensure that I didnʼt somehow skip one (or two or…). Iʼll focus on that tomorrow, and because I canʼt remember a couple of key sites, I figure the GOV and I will be on the road for at least some (if not most) of the day double-checking and verifying. And I have a collection of several hundred hangers that I need to put in some kind of order (evidently wired together in groups of ten and placed neatly in boxes. Too bad no one told me to save the boxes I started with, since those, having been emptied, are long gone to recycling). And the good old GOV needs a thorough cleaning inside and out before I repack it with leftover supplies and the preserved hardware to take back to Des Moines sometime in the future.

The gypsy moth trappers are still busy far into September, and I could have worked about a week longer myself, if necessary (it wasnʼt). But come Thursday evening, I am finished.

— So why havenʼt I been at least posting a couple of times each week? My torpid nature, naturally. And The Lovely One and I are very busy in the evenings directing a play — One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest* for the Grand Opera House in Dubuque. We held auditions early in the month, the seventh and eighth (casting over a long, arduous evening on the ninth), and rehearsals began that Thursday. Weʼve been practicing every weeknight since then (with me desperately trying to get both Act One and Act Two blocked before the necessary rehearsals last week — a triple dose of time and effort). Of course, preparations for the rehearsal period to commence began even earlier than auditions.

And so it goes… until the two weekends of performances — September 23, 24, 25, and September 29 and 30 and October 1 and 2.

Time has been (and will remain) at a minimum, a premium. And I had better be off to Dubuque right now for tonightʼs rehearsal!

* You will have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the cast list (at least it will remain visible until showtimes, I hope).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

All Shook Up!

I am babbling at my computer while summer squash and zucchini are cooking in vegetable broth on the stove (yep, itʼs time for the first squash soup of summer!). For a day off this one hasnʼt been particularly relaxing, primarily because were looking forward to that apparently endless “excessive heat” wave arriving tomorrow. So I did a bunch of chores Iʼd rather not “excessively” sweat my way through — mowing the lawn, cooking this soup (thanks, neighbors to the west, for the veggies), and a few other things.

I had planned to get a blog post up yesterday evening or this morning, but clearly that never happened. In fact the computer didnʼt get turned on today until well after noon. This item won’t be much, but at least itʼs something.

Work has been going fairly well. I should as of Monday be complete on phase two (or should I say phase 2.5+?) of my summer job. The first phase, working with my partner, was getting sticky purple emerald ash borer traps in trees (presumably but not certainly ash trees) all over Clinton, Jackson and eastern Dubuque counties. The “.5” part was me checking on the traps (moving some from walnuts and oaks and box elders and hackberries and… into ashes) and preliminarily on the bugs during the first two-thirds of June, until my boss visited and assigned me to take whatever time required (four days) to help get gypsy moth traps placed in Linn and Scott counties. Then I began working phase two: checking every trap for possible emerald ash borers (and one sample earned a trip to Des Moines for further study — although, thankfully, clearly not itself an emerald ash borer) and resupplying new lure in every trap. Phase three will involve trap removal from all three counties (and of course close observation of each trap before disposal of the bugs we have caught).

Phase three, which is slated for August, begins after I make a flying run back to Des Moines for a computer upgrade (that Iʼm hoping I actually won’t need). I call in Monday morning to discover when I drive out and back.

Real life has more or less been placed on hold for the summer. My nephew (and new niece)ʼs wedding went off very well. The bride and groom both looked elegant and blissful, and my brother Paul did a wonderful job officiating the ceremony. Niece Rachel also did exquisitely handling all the details of the day and made a fine speech herself after the best man and maid of honor. It was also great to visit with Margaret and David and Aunt Alaire. The Lovely One and I even enjoyed our hotel, a Country Inn & Suites much like the one where I stayed in Decorah.

However, real life kicks into a major gear also in August, as Janet and I will be directing a production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for the Grand Opera House in Dubuque. After all my many years of constant play direction for school and community theater, I’m not sure how excited I really am about this project, but if a lot of good people turn up for auditions the first weekend in August, this thing might be fun.

Time is passing. I need to stick my magic mixing wand into the cooling soup to get it ready for supper. Theater also calls tonight as weʼre off to Ohnward Fine Arts Center/Peace Pipe Playersʼ production of All Shook Up. Mustnʼt dawdle.

Break a leg, cast and crews!

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Another Brief One

I just finished getting my checkbook in order (and discovering that DirecTV had invented/connived/manufactured a $16.08 charge, supposedly “due” on June 29 that they explain nowhere among my various incomprehensible bills on their website — that sort of financial falsity is why I do not wish to permit  corporations unchecked rein/reign in our nation ever. Period). The important stuff (back to the checkbook balancing/verification process) must come first.

I am excited to be anticipating my Lovely Oneʼs return home from work some time after noon today (to learn why, youʼll just have to wait until tomorrow, heh heh). Therefore, this little post will be as advertised in its title, brief.

Work, as I indicated yesterday, has been hectic (fulfilling and fun, too — but taking time and exhausting). Since I last wrote (before yesterday, that is), I have checked traps in all three of my counties, getting all of the big purple trapezoidal boxes, at least briefly, back up in trees. (We had a remarkably windy May-into-June this year, evidently — at least based on the number of blown-down emerald ash borer traps I have replaced* or put back up.) I was also checking on the bugs stuck, living and expired, to the sticky exterior of each trap, searching for (but hoping not to find) an emerald ash borer. I mostly find “click beetles,” flies and a few moths, but I have taken perhaps two dozen samples to be checked by those more experienced and knowledgeable than I.

In late June, once my boss did his ride-along with me (when he did all the work, interestingly; I guess a day out of the office is fun for some, regardless what you have to do here in the field — including stepping high over suddenly installed electric fenceline hedging off a ditch beyond which we had placed a trap in need of checking), I got assigned to help my EAB partner (now working on gypsy moth trapping) finish getting her hundreds of traps placed in Linn and then Scott counties. She found the spots and drew the trapsheet maps while I stapled up the little cardboard boxlets and did the computer files. It made an interesting four days, and Pam acted as tour guide around Cedar Rapids.

Also following boss Robʼs visit, it became time to replenish the lure packets in the traps. I elected to continue northward from where I had left off just checking on the traps (I wanted to ensure that as few as possible were missing from trees still), completing Jackson and my half of Dubuque counties before heading back south (just late Wednesday and yesterday). Naturally, I check each trap for its assortment of bugs, and yesterday my supervisor, John, looked at my samples, helping me realize what I already actually knew — they were click beetles. However, he took one test tube to send along to Des Moines for further scrutiny. The bug wasnʼt an emerald ash borer, but I had found one of its related species.

Work Costume

Todayʼs picture — one of those Janet shot on Independence Day as I examined our home trap — shows me in full working outfit.. The reflective vest is one I had bought years ago for running (it was rather warm for summer mornings) that I dragged out when I realized how close to traffic my work placed me.**  The t-shirt is work-provided and says “Burn It Where You Buy It” on the front, referring to the fact that the emerald ash borer (and several other pests, like the gypsy moth) mostly have spread by human transportation. A typical ash borer doesnʼt on its own get farther than a mile or two from its birth tree. The hat is an old one (from Alaska) that I use to protect my noggin (bald heads do burn, baby, burn, in the sunlight) and shield my eyes when gazing upward, usually directly in line with the sunʼs position somehow. I wear jeans because I get to clamber into and through overgrown ditches regularly, and I already had a minor encounter with poisonous wild herbage. I like carpenters pants in real life, and the leg pockets carry stuff on the job — a pen on each side, my cell phone on the right and some gum on the left. You canʼt see in this shot, but my keys are on a (Guinness) lanyard around my neck, along with my credentials from USDA; once I locked myself out of the GOV back in May, my first day out on my own at all, I have been very careful about those keys. I am actually (not pretendingly/ dramatically) extending my pole upward at a trap, and you can see (part of) the pole in the shot. Also out of frame are my beloved waterproof boots that I wear all day every day on the job.

I had bought the boots at the Bass Outlet store in Wisconsin which we pass (in an outlet mall) on the way to visit Janetʼs sister and her husband. Although supposedly listed at nearly $150, I picked them up for just about twenty bucks. Considering some of the situations into which I have staggered on the job, the original price would not have been too high. I hope they last and last.

I also have rain gear that I paid a lot more than I did for the boots (at Theisenʼs, from Carhartt***). But the Fourth was a warm enough day I wasnʼt going to model those orange bibbed pants and coat for my Beloved to photograph.

And thatʼs what I wear for work (and Iʼve already worn out one pair of pants that ripped out both back pockets from carrying a staple gun — used to attach little signs to the trapped trees). The clothes get washed daily, reserved just for the job because my GOV (like all the seasonalsʼ vehicles) stinks of manuka oil in the lure. Also, I get the sticky residue, from accidentally touching traps, particularly on my pants.

Wasnʼt that exciting? Feel enlightened?  — Thereʼs more to come. Eventually. When I have the time.

* You would think that something as large as the EAB trap is wouldnʼt vanish utterly when blown out of a tree — but about half the time, sadly maybe more, that is exactly what seems to happen. At least to me.

** No one else on our team of seasonal employees wears a reflective vest, but itʼs become a part of the daily costume for this role for me.

*** If you clicked the link and looked at the pants, I also bought the corresponding hooded coat.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.