Thursday, June 26, 2014

The importance of asking the right question

I've just finished reading a Neil Gaiman book - The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  It's a bit different and offbeat... although perhaps that's the same thing as saying 'it's a Neil Gaiman book'.  In any event, the main character said something that really has me thinking.

In part of the story, the main character is a child.  He's speaking to someone, and begins to think she must be older than he thought, so he asks her "How old are you?"  And she replies "Eleven".  Now, initially, he'd assumed she was about eleven, but as I said, some things had happened that made him think she must be older than that.  He considers her response for a moment, and then asks "And how long have you been eleven?"

Wow.  Now that's a question.  A good question.  And a terrific lesson.

You have to ask the right question, if you want the right answer.

This isn't anything new.  I've annoyed more than a few people over the years, because if someone asks me if I know what time it is, I typically say 'yes'.  If you want me to tell you what time it is, you need to ask me what time it is.  When people get annoyed, I point out that I answered the question they asked.

Then I got to thinking.... what would Siri do?  Well, interestingly enough, when I asked Siri if she knew what time it was, she told me the time.  Hmmm... a bit disappointing, actually.  You see -- I already knew what time it was... I just wondered if she knew.  In this case, I asked the right question, but Siri answered the question she thought I intended.

So maybe the problem is that people don't necessarily answer the question you asked, instead they answer the question they thought you should have asked.

Kind of feels like a chicken and an egg sort of problem.  Which came first, the bad question, or the bad answer? While I don't know the answer to that question,  I do know that I just received a new shipment of tea... and I always think better after having a cup of tea.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Oh deer

I live out in the country.. and I like it out here.  There are a lot of good things about living out in the country -- it's quiet,  houses are not on top of each other, and the streets are wide enough that it's ok if someone has stopped in the middle of the road to talk to someone... you just go around them.

I don't mind the lack of sidewalks.. after all, the streets are wide enough that it's just not a problem.  I don't mind the lack of streetlights... in fact their absence makes it much easier to see the stars.

And not only do I not mind the critters... I actually like them.  The sounds of the coyotes in the evening are kind of cool.  When we first moved here, the sounds of the frogs at night would keep me awake... now, they lull me to sleep.  Sure, we have mosquitos -- but that's what screens are for.  Yes, occasionally a mouse will make its way into the house, but that's ok -- I think of them as free cat toys! The rabbits are cute and the chipmunks are amusing.

But then there are the deer.  Now don't get me wrong, I like deer.  Even just standing there, they have a certain grace, and when they run, they simultaneously exude power and vulnerability.  And I don't even mind the deer droppings.  It doesn't smell, the lawn mower chops it up, and I understand it's good fertilizer.

But I have a problem with the deer.  You see, we have hosta plants.  We like hosta plants.  We intentionally planted them, and we have several varieties.  You don't know what a hosta plant looks like?  Well they have great big broad leaves, and in mid summer they send up shoots at the end of which are little flowers.  Here, take a look.

Pretty, isn't it??

The only problem is that in the eyes of a deer, these hosta plants, especially once they get the shoots and the flowers...  actually look like this...

and so, in very short order, my hosta plants turn from that lovely picture you see above, to something like this...

Yeah, I can hear you laughing.. and that's ok.. I chuckle too.. at least a little bit ---  although I don't understand why my hosta plants get devoured, while the hostas in the rest of the neighborhood remain untouched. 

But now... now those deer have just gone too far.  You see, I've planted a vegetable garden out back. I've had such gardens before, and it's never been a problem.  At least, not until now.  A couple weeks ago, I put in a garden.  It's just a small garden.  I planted a few varieties of tomatoes, some green peppers, a summer squash, and some cucumbers.  Six cucumber hills, to be exact.  A few days later I wandered over to the garden, to see how things were doing... and immediately realized that something was wrong. I looked closer, and to my dismay, I found that each of my cucumber plants now looked like this...

And my summer squash and some of my tomato plants had also been munched on.  So now this is war. I've replanted, replacing the sad victims.. and I've sprayed everything with this special spray I found.

Yes, people have told me I'm wasting my time.. that I'd be better off throwing the spray bottle at the deer, or even just posting signs like this...

.. but so far, it's been 6 days, and my plants are still intact.

So I'm sitting here on my porch, drinking my tea, with my special spray bottle in my hand, hoping to change Oh Deer, to No Deer.