Crashing and Thumping Along


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Mom called Sunday evening to tell me her computer died.  The hard drive crashed.  Our friend CK is ordering her a new one.  He hates Windows 8 and Windows 10, (me, too) and he will be putting Windows 7 on it, which is good, because that’s what she had on it.

The thing that finally struck her earlier this evening was that all her data on the old one was unrecoverable, and she lost her email address book and all her pictures.  While cleaning up her desk to make ready for the new computer (yes, I know), which will come next Thursday or Friday, she found what she said was a diskette (it’s a CD) from 2011 back when we got the computer that just croaked, where I copied things like her email address book with 9 gazillion email addresses to transfer to it from the computer it replaced, and she thinks it will be a simple matter to just bung it in and reload all that data on the new computer.  CK, who goes at things like a bull at a gate, will be the one doing it.  Hopefully, he will be able to recover most of her data base.  Of course, people have changed email addresses since 2011, and getting her address book sorted out and back up to date is going to be like a Keystone Kops car chase.

While looking up the phone number of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church for her so she can call and see what time church service is — she wants us to leave Pearland Sunday morning and drive 120 miles to Round Top in time to go to church —  I found this:

This is Joseph Ripka playing the church’s pipe organ which was built in 1865 by Johann Traugott Wandke, and contains all hand-carved wooden pipes made from local knotless cedar.  It’s one of the oldest organs in Texas.  You also get some shots of the church, which was founded by my great great grandfather J. Adam Neuthard in 1866, making it the oldest church still in continuous use in Texas.  You will notice the organ only has one manual, and has doors to close it off when not in use.  It does now have an electronic bellows; when it was first build, somebody had to pump it.

It seems that asymmetrical scarfs are all the rage so I wrote a pattern for one.  I’m calling it “Threepers Creepers” because it has three “K1, yo” at the front of the pattern row, and three “k2tog”  at the end we’re sneaking up on Halloween.  Because the body of the scarf is stockinette, it’s going to need blocking.  I got three skeins of this yarn, called “Gumdrop” in the color “Grape.”  I may try it again using garter stitch in the body instead of stockinette and see what that does.

Riverine Dreams



Mag Challenge 288
dream-2011 Jacek YerkaRiverine Dreams

I floated last night
Through a riverine dream
On a wide, amazonian
Somnambulent stream
In my barge of a bed
Like an African Queen
Carried down by the current
That slid slowly between
Faraway riverbanks
Of rustling green.
‘Neath a Cheshire cat smile of a moon

Deep in the delta
Between midnight and morning
I slid
Eddying elegantly
Through a
Shadowy, flickering
Floating World
Art exhibition of
Watercolor sculptures
Recumbent and strange
Of opaline oranges
Coleoptera greens
Butterfly reds
And aquamarines
Bowed along silently
By kimonoed curators
Through shadowy halls
With rice paper walls

The cat, of course,
Slept through it all.

Relating to Po


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A carryover from the Crayola, the old 1987 Toyota Corolla that got traded in for the Silver Beetil, the new 2015 Toyota Corolla — a year old next month, actually — is the little Teletubby plushie keychain fob I’ve had, seemingly forever, dangling from the rear-view mirror of the Crayola, and now from the Silver Beetil, that helps me spot the Beetil in a parking lot (you’d be astonished at how many late-model silver sedans there are in this town).

If you know anything about the Teletubbies, there are four of them, each a different color:  Green, purple, yellow and red.  They each have a name, Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Lala, and Po, respectively.  I have the red one, Po.  (Mine has now faded to pink.  The Texas sun is brutal that way.) There’s an explanation that I do when somebody asks about it, or when I want to point it out:  “It’s a Teletubby, it’s Po. I relate to Po. I’m po’, too.”  It’s a pun/carom off the Southern/Afro-American pronunciation of “poor”  as “poh” (the origin of the “po'” in “po’boy sandwich“). (Black American Vernacular pronunciation typically elides final consonants.)  I did the schtick for the East Indian-American salesman at Gene Messer, where we got the new Toyota, and it sailed right by him, but the Black man who happened to be walking by at the time and who overheard it, cracked up, because he totally got it.

Anyway, Po changed cars when I did, because I’m still po’.  Even more so, now that my car insurance premium has tripled.  And, let’s face it.  Nobody likes to be poor. I certainly don’t.  And I am poor.  My monthly/annual income from Social Security falls between 100% and 120% on the Federal poverty guidelines, (i.e., between “at poverty level” and “just really poor,” according to the Federal Gummint)

Anyway, what started me off on this whole tack was looking at how many books I’ve reread this year owing to not having anything new to read.  There for a while, I could budget $20 a month for books.  If you buy used books through Amazon that could be as many as 5 books a month (I’m averaging 13 at the moment), which  is about right.  I got a Kindle because of my space problem — I only have room for five bookcases now(!), so I can only keep the books I know I will want to reread multiple times — but ebooks/Kindle books are almost as expensive as the dead tree editions —  anywhere from $11-$25 a book depending on how old the book is, and the genre.  Yep.  The proverbial rock on the one hand and the proverbial hard place on the other.  Sigh.  And the libraries here have nothing I consider interesting/fit to read.

I know.  I should count my blessings.  I have a roof over my head that (mostly) doesn’t leak, a nice sized apartment (600+ square feet) that is weather tight and in good repair, that I can afford to heat and cool. I can afford to eat regularly. I have shoes to wear and decent, climate-appropriate clothes.   I have a nice car (bought with my dad’s life insurance money) and I can afford a tank of gas a month.  I have TV and internet, and a rinky little cellphone. I’m able to scrape by without having to work, thanks to my mom, so I can be available to travel whenever she wants to.  I have my health.  Life could be a whole lot worse.  Still, I feel entitled to see the glass as half empty if I want to, and I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t wish that what the glass was half-full of was good German beer and not water . . . grumble . . . grumble . . .

RedditlogoI also have a left arm full of flu shot, which I got Thursday at the VA.  My arm was somewhat sore yesterday, and today apparently, my shoulder and upper arm have the flu and that particular region is not happy with me at all.  As I was driving home from the VA, I also noticed that in the big vacant lot behind the VA clinic, there is a prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) burrow.  I did a double take, and sure enough.  Three of them at the entrance to a burrow.    Really odd to see any inside the city limits — or to see one at all, as almost all the land use around the city is for farming and farmers (and ranchers) consider them pests.

While I was out, I got my car tags renewed as they were due for renewal this month — They’ve changed the procedure.  It used to be that once a year, you had to get your car inspected for road-worthiness at a State Inspection Station, and they gave you a sticker; and once a year, you had to get your vehicle registration, for which they also gave you a sticker.  You had to have both stickers and they both had to be valid, or any law enforcement officer who notices they aren’t will give you a traffic citation; however, having one was not a prerequisite for getting the other.  Now, you have to have a valid state inspection first, which they give you a receipt for and the inspector registers it in the Department of Motor Vehicles computer.  Then you go to a county clerk’s office, they look you up in the DMV computer database, and see that you have a valid state inspection and give you your new license plate and/or registration sticker (that’ll be $66, thank you very much). So now, you just have the registration sticker on your windshield /windscreen instead of a registration sticker and an inspection sticker.  Apart from having one less sticker to fool with, it also assures that nobody gets a registration sticker unless the car has passed inspection within the past year.  Anyway, that’s done and paid for, for another year.

Recently I’ve noticed that we’re sliding around to that part of the year where I’m going to have to start wearing more clothes inside.  It became apparent to me just now that my usual summer attire of a cotton tee-shirt dress and bare foots isn’t enough clothes.  I need to get busy and finish my new pair of sock feet because having bare feet on cold floors is now becoming undesireable.  The high for Monday is supposed to be 68 F/20 C, and the highest high in the five-day forecast is 80 F/26.6 C. It’s going to fool around and get winter on us, if we’re not careful . . .

I have the extension cord, but I need to move my dining room table so I can move my china cabinet and plug it into the wall outlet behind the china cabinet, so I can use my sewing machine.  I really need to get those lap robes done.  I’ve had the microfleece blankets to make them from for over a year.  However, there has been a tendency for roundtuits to be thin on the ground . . .


Books Read in 2015


120. Harrowing the Dragon, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
119. Alphabet of Thorn, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
118. Ross Poldark, Winston Graham
117. The Bards of Bone Plain, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
116. Flora Segunda, Wilce, Ysabeau S.
115. The Cygnet and the Firebird, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
114. The Sorceress and the Cygnet, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
113. Ombria in Shadow, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
112. The Tower in Stony Wood, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
111. Revenant, Richardson, Kat
110. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling, J. K. (reread)
109. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Rowling, J. K. (reread)
108. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Rowling, J. K. (reread)
107. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Rowling, J. K. (reread)
106. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Rowling, J. K. (reread)
105. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rowling, J. K. (reread)
104. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Rowling, J. K. (reread)
103. Liaden Universe Constellation, #3, Lee Sharon and Miller, Steve (reread)
102. Liaden Universe Constellation #2, Lee Sharon and Miller, Steve (reread)
101. Od Magic, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
100. A Liaden Constellation #1, Lee Sharon and Miller, Steve (reread)
99. The Tomorrow Log, Lee Sharon and Miller, Steve (reread)
98. Hunter of Worlds, Cherryh, C. J. (reread)
97. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
96. The Book of Atrix Wolfe, McKillip, Patricia (reread)
95. *The Winter Long, McGuire, Seanan
94. *The Winds of Marble Arch, Willis, Connie
93. *Firewatch, Willis, Connie
92. *The Best of Connie Willis: Award Winning Stories, Willis, Connie
91. Impossible Things, Willis, Connie
90. Dragon in Exile, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (reread)
89. Dragon Ship, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (reread)
88. Necessity’s Child, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve
87. Ghost Ship, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (reread)
86. Saltation, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (reread)
85. Fledgling, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (reread)
84. I Dare, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (re-reread)
83. Plan B, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (re-reread)
82. Carpe Diem, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (re-reread)
81. Agent of Change, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (re-reread)
80. Conflict of Honors, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (re-reread)
79. Mouse and Dragon, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (re-reread)
78. Scout’s Progress, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (re-reread)
77. Local Custom, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (re-reread)
76. Trade Secret, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (reread)
75. Balance of Trade, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (reread)
74. Crystal Dragon, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (reread)
73. Crystal Soldier, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve (reread)
72. Dragon in Exile, Lee, Sharon, and Miller, Steve
71. Uprooted, Novik, Naomi
70. Elfland, Warrington, Freda
69. Tracker, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
68. Peacemaker, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
67. Protector, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
66. Intruder, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
65. Betrayer, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
64. Deceiver, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
63. Conspirator, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
62. Deliverer, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
61. Pretender, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
60. Destroyer, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
59. Explorer, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
58. Defender, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
57. Precursor, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
56. Inheritor, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
55. Invader, Cherryh, C. J. (Foreigner series, re-reread)
54. Foreigner, Cherryh, C. J. (re-reread)
53. Doomsday Book, Willis, Connie
52. Not To Mention The Dog, Willis, Connie
51. Saga, Vol 3, Vaughn, Brian K. (graphic novel)
50. The Adventuress, Niffenegger, Audrey (graphic novel)
49. Saga, Vol 2, Vaughn, Brian K. (graphic novel)
48. Saga, Vol 1, Vaughn, Brian K. (graphic novel)
47. Tracker, Cherryh, C. J.
46. The Masterharper of Pern, McCaffrey, Anne (reread)
45. Ender’s Game, Card, Orson Scott
44. The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall, McCaffrey, Anne
43. Nerilka’s Story, McCaffrey, Anne (reread)
42. Dragondrums, McCaffrey, Anne (reread)
41. Dragonsinger, McCaffrey, Anne (reread)
40. Dragonsong, McCaffrey, Anne (reread)
39. *Who Buries the Dead, Harris, C. S.
38. The White Dragon, McCaffrey, Anne (re-reread)
37. Dragonquest, McCaffrey, Anne (re-reread)
36. Dragonflight, McCaffrey, Anne (re-reread)
35. Archer’s Goon, Jones, Diana Wynne
34. Enchanted Glass, Jones, Diana Wynne
33. Why Kings Confess, Harris, C. S.
32. The One-Eyed Man, Modesitt, Jr, L. E.
31 Tehanu, LeGuin, Ursula
30. Castle in the Air, Jones, Diana Wynne
29. *Thieve’s Quarry, Jackson, D. B.
28. *A Plunder of Souls, Jackson, D. B.
27. *The Price of Doing Business (short story), Jackson, D. B.
26. *A Spell of Vengance (short story), Jackson, D. B.
25. What Darkness Brings, Harris, C. S.
24. When Maidens Mourn, Harris, C. S.
23. Where Shadows Dance, Harris, C. S.
22. What Remains of Heaven, Harris, C. S.
21. Where Serpents Sleep, Harris, C. S.
20. Why Mermaids Sing, Harris, C. S.
19. Fire and Hemlock, Jones, Diana Wynne
18. What Angels Fear, Harris, C. S.
17. When Gods Die, Harris, C. S.
16. Possession, Richardson, Kat
15. The Year of the Griffin, Jones, Diana Wynne
14. Dark Lord of Derkholm, Jones, Diana Wynne
13. Till We Have Faces, Lewis, C. S.
12. Catch the Lightening, Asaro, Catherine
11. Seawitch, Richardson, Kat
10. Unexpected Magic, Jones, Diana Wynne
9. Fortunately, The Milk, Gaiman, Neil
8. Downpour, Richardson, Kat
7. Labyrinth, Richardson, Kat
6. Pogo’s Double Sundae, Kelly, Walt
5. Pogo’s Bats and the Belles Free, Kelly, Walt
4. Primary Inversion, Asaro, Catherine
3. Johannes Cabal, The Necromancer, Howard, Jonathan L.
2. Beau Pogo, Kelly, Walt
1. Emerald House Rising, Kerr, Peg

* Ebook

Septover, Octember, and a Nearing Vember


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Thirty days have September,
April, June and peanut butter
All the rest have 31,
Except my granny
Who has a little red wagon. . .

The Autumnal Equinox has come and gone, when day and night balanced in the scales of the year.  The nights lengthen steadily and the world is cooling.  We’ve been in the mid-80’s F/26+ C for about two weeks now, and this weekend we are predicted to dip down into the high 70’s F/23+ C.

We’re going away this October, mom and I, back to Pearland, Tx, to stay with cousin EYJ and her husband.  Mother will visit her only remaining sibling, a brother, aged 96.  He is still doing well physically, but mentally he has begun to deteriorate.  As the saying goes, the lights are on but nobody’s home.  We will be taken to Galveston to meet Miss Raelyn Rose, for whom I knitted greatly earlier in the year.   On the way back, we will stop in Round Top, a town knee deep in family history and famous ancestors, and sojourn a night in a house of historic significance on several counts.  The black cat will stay in the pet hotel at Petsmart for the duration.

Painting 24I’ve been in kind of a lull lately.  I’ve grown obsessed with the art of Anne Bachelier, she of the flaming oranges, whose art is shown in castles and cathedrals, and other old dwellings repurposed into galleries (which is where I first discovered her), and in New York and San Francisco, and other far flung cities, whose blog I have been following for some time.  Ms. Bachelier is four months my senior, French, and her blog, written in French (oddly enough) is as impenetrable in its way to my two years of high school French as her paintings are mysterious and  imponderable.  I have made a host of her paintings into puzzles on Jigsaw Planet’s website, where one may convert any image into a jigsaw puzzle.

I loved working those 500- piece and 1000- piece jigsaw puzzles one could get when I was a child.  My dad and I would work them on a card table.  He got onto them when he was a traveling salesman as something to do in the motel room at night in the days before there was a television in every room.  We had a collection of them tucked away.  I associate them with school holidays at Christmas and Thanksgiving and with boiled sweets and ribbon candy from Christmas stockings.  You can’t buy jigsaw puzzles like that any more.  Photographs of foreign places or works of art.  Two houses ago, when you could still buy those kinds of jigsaw puzzles, I worked puzzles on the big dining room table I had then.  I bought the table from a colleague at work.  It had been her parents’, stored in a storage building in the back yard, whose roof leaked on the top (particle board and veneer) and ruined it.  But my dad and I took the top off, stripped the legs and skirting, put a new top on, and refinished it.  I acquired chairs, and that was my dining room table for years until I bought the table and chairs and china cabinet I have now.

That was in the days of portable cassette players, when I recorded my own cassettes, and listened to the tape du jour on my portable player on endless loop while I worked puzzles and let my mind wander where it would.  But puzzles got harder and harder to find, and I got cats (one of whom would eat cardboard, which is a form of paper, after all . . .).  I framed about six of the puzzles after I worked them.  I still have a couple of them.  One of the puzzles was of King Tut’s gold coffin — I sold that one when I moved.  I still have one of a painting of a vase of flowers which hangs in my bedroom.  Another one I still have is of an embroidery sampler, whose motto reads “So much of what we learn of love we learn at home.”   It hung in the kitchen of the duplex, and now hangs on the wall between the dining area and the living room.

So for a couple of weeks now, I’ve been working jigsaw puzzles of Anne Bachelier’s paintings I’ve created on Jigsaw Planet, and listening to various Rhapsody playlists.  Lately it’s been the music of Erik Wøllo, a Norwegian composer.  As I type this, the song happens to be a dialog between acoustic guitar and oboe (cor Anglais?). Typically, I’ll be listening to internet radio, hear something that strikes my fancy, see who it’s by and look them up on Rhapsody and make a playlist of what’s available and listen to it.  Rhapsody lists an artist’s work from most recent to oldest, and I deliberately construct the playlist chronologically from oldest to newest.  That way I get to listen to the artist’s work evolve through time.

I’ve started knitting projects but haven’t finished any yet.  I have a baby afghan to finish before we leave on our trip in October, which is tomorrow (October, not the trip.)  I have to go out tomorrow to get my flu shot.  I’ve ordered a new mouse.  I go through them fairly quickly.  I have a style I like.  It should come tomorrow.

In the latest episode in the unfolding saga of my BFF’s life, her car was acting up.  It’s a 22-year-old Honda.  She hasn’t had it that long — she bought it used.  The engine kept trying to die.  Turns out only two of its four spark plugs were working (!) and the spark plug wires needed replacing as well.  That’ll be $300, thank you very much.  At least it was something fixable, and relatively cheap to fix, as fixing cars go.

My car, the Silver Beetil (as it is now known) has 3500+ miles on it now and is about to get 1200 or so more this coming month.  I shall have had it a year come 22 November.  I have to get it inspected and renew the registration come October.  That’ll be almost $100, thank you very much.   I can’t renew the registration until I get it inspected.  I may do it all tomorrow while I’m out getting shot for the flu.  (I’ll have to break the news to the oil change guys where I get my car inspected that the old Crayola that they got such a kick out of has gone to that Great Parking Lot in the Sky. . . .) At some point before our upcoming trip, I also need to take the glass cleaner and clean the inside of the car windows.  I still have a coupon for a free car wash.  I’ll get it washed and vacuum it before then, too.  Busy, busy. . .

In Memoriam


Don Gum on his 92nd Birthday21 August, 1922 – 22 September, 2014

This picture was taken on my dad’s 92nd birthday.  It is, I think, his last picture.  A little over a month later, he was gone.  It’s been a year today since we lost him.  I should say finally lost him; he had been slipping away, ever so gradually, for the better part of a decade.  I have likened it to having to watch someone taking a bad fall in excruciatingly slow motion, while being powerless to stop it.  I had a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was losing him before I actually lost him.  A long time to watch the man I knew and loved fade into the sunset.  Those last couple of years were the hardest part.  When it was finally over and he was at peace, it was not so much a shock as a relief.

2015_09_20-01My mom had asked that in lieu of sending flowers to the funeral, people make a contribution to the music fund of the church my folks attended.  When they joined that church in 1955, they also joined the chancel choir and sang in it together for 51 years, until my dad had to stop because he could no longer see to read the music.  At one day shy of 91 years old, my mom’s on her 60th year and has no plans to stop.

A couple of months ago, my mom got together with their choir director and they picked out and ordered a music stand to replace the old black metal music stand the choir director used.  The new music stand was custom made, is quite substantial, and the Celtic cross* is inset (goes completely through the board), rather than inlaid.  My dad would have appreciated the woodworking skills that went into its construction.  Under the cross is the engraved brass memorial plaque, which is partially obscured by the reflection from the overhead lights. It was dedicated during the morning worship service this past Sunday.  That’s mom and the director in their choir robes.

After the service, my mom and I and long-time family friend CK went out to eat, and a delicious lunch was had by all.  I am grateful to report that when I returned home, no untoward plumbing events had transpired while I was gone.

*Their denomination is Presbyterian, which had its origins in Scotland, so their church’s use of the Celtic cross is legitimate.

A Word or Two About Words


English is a largely syntactic language.  Instead of using suffixes, prefixes and/or changes in spelling (like Latin, or Russian) to indicate the grammatical usage of a word, English puts a word in a specific place in the sentence.   English, especially American English has a zillion and three words that can be used as several different parts of speech — noun, verb, adjective, etc., — depending on where you put it in the sentence.   For example, there’s a big difference between “the right to bear arms” and “the right to arm bears.”  (I’m waiting for the tee-shirt with the legend “the right to bear arms” and a picture of a person whose arms have been replaced by the forelegs of a bear.)

In fifth grade English class, we were taught to diagram sentences.  Parsing, it’s called.  You take a sentence apart, map out what grammatical roles the words play in it, and see how it works.  Apparently, they don’t teach that in school any more, which may explain why I run across things like this:  “…seems as though ‘hard SF’ refers to novels and stories written by mostly white dudes.”  (What, I wonder, is a “mostly white dude.”  An octaroon?)  What she meant was “mostly refers to novels and stories written by white dudes.”

And lately I’ve been running into “in the meanwhile” —  two of my most favorite authors have used it in their books (!) — and their book publishers’ editors seem to think it’s OK.  No.  I’m sorry.  It’s not OK.  It’s a horrible franknonsense monster* cobbled together from two perfectly good expressions:  “in the meantime,” and  “meanwhile.”  I can go along with using “because” as a preposition, and I can play along with sticking “non-” on words that have perfectly legitimate “un-” forms (like using “nonresponsive” to mean “unresponsive”), but “in the meanwhile?”  No.  Just, no.

And then, on “How the Universe Works” — a Science Channel series I love and highly recommend —  there’s this usually quite well-spoken Ph.D. (astronomy) who is describing how the orbital mechanics of Jupiter and Saturn disrupted the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, and caused comets from the Kuiper belt to be “slung-shot” into the inner solar system. I actually cringed when she said it.  Darling**, if you use the compound noun “sling shot” as a verb,  the business end of the verb would be “shoot,” because that’s what you do with it, shoot at things.  It would have the grammatically correct, albeit awkward sounding present tense of “sling-shoot.” The past tense of “sling-shoot” would be “sling-shot,” since “shoot” is  regular when a euphemism, but irregular when a verb.

And while we’re on the subject of word usage, I’ve been hearing the word “deserve” being used in commercials a lot, not only in ads for the “ambulance chaser” variety of law firms  (“We’ll get you the compensation you deserve”), but for firms touting knee braces and back braces (“get the pain relief you deserve”).  As long as we’re getting what we deserve, I believe I deserve more TV and fewer commercials, especially from attorneys who apparently have run away to join a media circus — We’ve got one who calls himself “The Strong-arm” and another who calls himself “The Gorilla.”  They sound more like professional wrestlers than attorneys.

*which is not to be confused with a horrible frankincense monster, which is something quite else.
**in Texan, to be called “darling” in “that” tone of voice indicates you have fallen short of the mark, and when you are spoken of in the third person, as you will be, you will have your heart blessed. 

There and Back and Friday Afternoon


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House Art Nouveau HouseWhen I booted up my computer this time, my wallpaper program  displayed this picture of a little Art Nouveau house, probably somewhere in Southern France, because Art Nouveau.  It’s a delightful little house I wouldn’t mind having if I also had the moderately large fortune it would take to keep it up.  The embellishments are charming, but I can’t help thinking they would be a booger to paint (I’d change the base color to a pale robin’s egg blue, though.)  It would have to be furnished in period furniture and have all the other accoutrements, of course.  Art glass, objets d’art and what not.  It would be very pleasant, I think, computing in an upstairs room with the french doors and windows open, but the jalousies closed and the shutter louvers tilted just enough to let in slivers of light and any breeze that cared to wander through.  It would have to have a high wall all around the house with a wrought iron gate and about an acre of surrounding garden with a paved terrace but no lawn, many flower beds, espaliered fruit trees, rose bushes, a little fountain in an arbor. (“arbor” apparently wants a “u” because I keep trying to put one in.  The spell checker objects to this and red underlines the word sulkily until I take the “u” back out.)  There would be flagged paths throughout the garden in among the flower beds.  , and the whole upstairs would solely consist of my bedroom and a large en suite with tessellated tile floors of hexagonal tiles, white with a black border and accents, a huge claw-foot tub. . . .  And if wishes were horses, we’d be knee-deep in it. . . .

Thursday, my trip to Amarillo went off without a hitch.  I left the house at 7:40 and was on the highway by 8:00, armed with a large Coke and a brace of biscuits from my friendly neighborhood Whataburger (they make the best biscuits).  It’s all interstate between me and Amarillo, I-27.  Four-lane divided, two lanes each way with a large median in between (which needs to be mowed before all the tumbleweeds die and tumble off).  The road beds are concrete, including the shoulders, and the speed limit is 75 mph/120.7 kph.  It’s beautiful road to drive on, mostly straight except where it wiggles around places like New Deal (with the accent on “New”), Tulia (TOOL-yah), Abernathy, Hale Center (in the center of Hale County, oddly enough) and Canyon (aptly named because the second largest canyon in the US).  Actually, I-27 and US Highway 87 are the same for part of the route, but at Kress, US87 wanders off to the east and visits Tulia before veering back, then it scoots off to the west just before you get to Happy, before coming back between Canyon and Amarillo. (If you follow US 87 south, you’ll end up in San Antonio, among other places, then Port La Vaca, and the Gulf of Mexico, at which point you’ll need a boat to keep going.

There was traffic getting out of town (going to work), and there was traffic leaving Abernathy (including me), but other than that, there was hardly any traffic, only one or two 18-wheelers, and most of the rest of it pickups.

The land out here is absolutely table-top flat as far as the eye can see until about Abernathy, when the land begins to have long gentle swells like a calm ocean.   I saw a lot of milo but not much cotton, and what little livestock was more horses than cows.  I’m told cotton prices are so low the farmers aren’t planting much.  The cotton is about all flowered out now and is setting bolls (seed pods). The flowers are white, and the plant is an intense shade of green that has more blue than yellow.

I am struck again by the dense interrelationship of trees and people out here on the flatlands.  Until you get past Canyon and close to Amarillo, you don’t see trees without buildings, or buildings without trees; they surround houses, barns, and occasionally bracket the turnoff to a road to somebody’s house way off in the distance.  Cedars mostly, with Siberian elms here and there.  Cedars for windbreaks, elms and cottonwoods for shade. (The Spanish word for “cottonwood” is “alamo.“)  The ratio of cottonwoods to elms favors cottonwoods the closer you get to Amarillo (“amarillo” is Spanish for the color yellow, but the “L’s” in the name of the town are English “L’s” — You get that a lot out here — Spanish names with English pronunciations).  Siberian elms are technically an invasive species, since they come from Asia, but they like a lot of sun and like well-drained soil, both of which we have a lot of out here.  If they get enough water and the wind doesn’t beat them to pieces (their branches tend to be brittle), they do well out here.  And let’s face it.  When it’s between 90-100 F/32-37.7 C outside with 20% humidity for literally months at a time, shade is shade.   A stand of mature trees shading a house can drop its internal temperature a good 10-15 degrees.

VA Medical Center
Those black rectangles are the hospital’s covered visitor parking areas. What they’re covered with is solar panels!

Once I got to the VA Hospital in Amarillo, wandered round the parking lot looking for a parking space, and got parked, it was 9:45, and by 9:55, I was seated in the waiting room.  I had barely enough time to knit two small rows on the knitting I brought before the lady called me in to the EMG suite 20 minutes before my appointment.  I was out by 10:30.

I decided that I would be thoughtful and go someplace else besides the hospital to eat my lunch in order to free up the parking space at the hospital.

I retraced my route back to Loop 335 and found a United Supermarket (they also sell gas), parked by a planting in the parking lot of its little shopping center, and ate my pasta salad and flour tortillas spread with cream cheese and chives and rolled up.

I have this little “six pack” cooler — just large enough to hold a six pack of canned beverages or bottled water — that I got when I knew we’d be going to New Mexico this past July.  Wednesday evening, I put two plastic bottles of water in the freezer.  Thursday morning, I dumped an ice tray into a large plastic baggie, sealed it, folded it in half and it fit in the bottom nicely.  I cut my rolled tortillas in half and put them in a sandwich baggie. They and my plastic container of pasta salad fit nicely on top of the bag of ice cubes, and I laid the two frozen bottles of water on top.  That worked out well.  My pasta salad was still nice and cold.

I had started my trip with a full tank of gas ($1.859/gallon).  After lunch, I topped off my gas tank (3.403 gallons at $1.949/gallon), used the convenience store’s restroom, bought 2 Rolo candy bars for the privilege (that’s manners), and I was on my way, eating one of the Rolos for desert.

There was more traffic going back, but not much more.  More 18-wheelers, lots of pickups, a smattering of SUVs and this tiny white car, possibly one of those little Fiats, that I played leap frog with most of the way back.  (I’m not sure it even had a back seat — more like a shelf, if it did. )  I can see the attraction of a car like that in terms of gas mileage, which would be a good thing out here where everything is very everywhere with a lot of not much in between.  However, they’re so light to begin with and at 75 mph, any kind of crosswind would be a real problem.  Wind tends to get in a hurry out here, and 30 mph/48.2 kph wind speeds are not at all uncommon with gusts higher than that.  It’s enough of a problem that there’s signs up here and there to warn truckers of cross winds that can just knock a truck trailer over.

I was back home by 1:30.  I spent half a day and drove 257.7 miles (414.7 km) to spend 20 minutes getting an EMG  (and had a twitchy left arm all the way home).

I slept late on Friday.  Got up after 1 o’clock and was still halfway sleepy, but I needed to call the VA to see why University Medical Center had sent me a bill for $523.00 (!) for an MRI that was done on 02/13/2014 (!!).  (That was the MRI that showed I had pinched nerves in my neck.) After four or five calls, I finally got to the person I needed to talk to, who told me it was not a co-pay and that the VA had already paid that bill in May, 2014.  So I called UMC to see what they had to say for themselves and they said, “Oops!  Please disregard that bill.” They had indeed already gotten their money.  I disregarded it through the paper shredder.

Then I started writing this blog post, pausing frequently to work jigsaws on Jigsaw Planet, which is set up so you can create your own jigsaws, and to play Spider Solitaire, so now it’s after midnight, which makes it Saturday. . .

I’ve been slowly but surely getting the house back together since the plumbing disaster.  The “office” is done.  I threw the broken bedroom lamp out (but kept the shade) and switched out the lamp in the office for the remaining bedroom lamp.  I’ve vacuumed and dusted everything, and re-shelved and re-alphabetized my books.   My BFF came over Wednesday afternoon and helped me change my bedroom back to the way I had it before, with the head of my bed back in front of the windows.  The other way just wasn’t working.  It’s all straight now and dusted and vacuumed, too.  That just leaves the living room and the dining room to do.

The dining room won’t take any time.  I’ve already vacuumed the rug. I just need to dust.  I do need to get a plug strip and plug it in behind the china cabinet (which entails moving the dining-room table and chairs out of the way so I can get to the china cabinet to move it), so I can plug in my sewing machine. There’s only two plugs/points in that area:  the one behind the china cabinet and one beside the sideboard.  The one beside the side board has the kitty fountain and a doorbell chimes unit plugged into it.  The one behind the china cabinet is behind the china cabinet.  Once I get a plug strip plugged into it, I can put the plug part out of the way under the china cabinet until I want to plug in my sewing machine.   I’ve got two twin-sized microfleece blankets I (still) need to make lap robes out of before winter comes again.



Oh, Amarillo*


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Tomorrow morning, I have to hit the road for Amarillo, drive 300 miles (there and back) to get an EMG to test the function of the nerves in my left arm.  My appointment is at 10:30, and since it’s over a 2-hour drive, I’ll have to get up at Oh, God o’clock to get there in time.  Last month I had an MRI of my neck because two years ago I hurt my neck and shoulder trying to upend a 40-pound bottle of water onto the water dispenser I was using because our local tap water tastes horrible.  This episode led to, among other things, my getting a reverse osmosis unit put under my sink.  (It’s worth $29 a month not to have to wrestle 40-pound bottles of water onto a dispenser in order to get decent tasting water.)

At one point I was told I had nerve root compression at C1-C2 in my neck, and that was the source of the pain in my shoulder and the muscle spasms in my arm, and a large part of the whole problem with my shoulder.  (I’d already had rotator cuff surgery on that shoulder in 2009, and wrestling 40-pound bottles of water wasn’t doing my shoulder any good either.)  It took over a month for me to convince the VA that I really did have something wrong with my neck and shoulder.  They x-rayed it, and said there was nothing wrong with my neck or shoulder, but guess what?  Nerve compression isn’t going to show up on an x-ray.  I finally had to practically get hysterical to get my VA PA to do something about it.  That’s when I got the first MRI that showed the nerve root compression in my neck.  I was finally gotten an appointment to see a neurologist — in Dallas.  However, I had to cancel the appointment because there was no way I could get to Dallas.  I couldn’t afford to fly, and at the time I was driving a 27-year-old Toyota Corolla (“The Crayola”) that I didn’t dare take on the highway.  So there the matter sat for 2+years.

The pain and muscle spasms finally subsided to a dull roar, but I’ve been on 600 mg of gabapentin a day since then, which I would like to get off of because side effects.  I would also like to have my neck seen to because chronic nerve compression leads to loss of function, i.e., loss of sensation and weakness of the muscle, and I have this silly little thing about being able to use my left hand . . . .

Well, they have finally gotten this new program that if you have to drive over 50 miles to get to hospital/diagnostic services, they are supposed to get you seen locally.  Since the nearest VA hospital (CT scan, EMG) to me (Amarillo) is over 130 miles away, and the nearest VA neurologist able to diagnose and treat cervical radiculopathy (Dallas) is over 350 miles away, I definitely qualify.  Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, I’d be seen and treated locally, but to hear the Republicans tell it, the government has no business spending money on better healthcare for veterans.  That’s what charities are for. . .

However, I really don’t mind driving four hours on the highway to Amarillo and back now that I have the Silver Beetil (the new Toyota Corolla finally has a name!).  I’m here to tell you that driving myself in air-conditioned, back-supported, and cushioned comfort beats the heck out of riding for six hours wedged in cheek by jowl with a busload of overweight sweaty men with various and assorted physical and mental issues on that noisy rattle trap of a VA bus which stops at every one horse town between hither and yon. . .

I’ve got to get up here in a bit and make some pasta salad to take with me in my little ice chest thingie for lunch.  (I can use the little refreezeable ice sticks from my beverage bottles along with a handful of ice cubes to keep it cold for three or four hours.)  I should also select some CDs out of my music library for my listening pleasure en route. . .

In other news, for those just tuning in, I welcomed a new first cousin twice removed in August, by knitting her multiple outfits.  I thought I’d pass along this picture I got from my first cousin (the proud grandma) by way of my mom, of Miss Raelyn Rose and her doting daddy.   If only every child in the world could be this wanted and this loved. . . 20150906_102923*A little traveling music courtesy of Kathy Mattea

Returning to Normalcy*


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“…Probability factor of one to one…we have normality, I repeat we have normality.” She turned her microphone off — then turned it back on, with a slight smile and continued: “Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem.”

~ Trillian, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Well, normality, perhaps, but not normalcy.  The bathrooms are clean again.  I took a shower Thursday afternoon, scrubbed me thoroughly from hair to toe, and gloried in the feeling of being clean again.  I met my friends LK and her husband C at the China Star Restaurant, which is a buffet-style restaurant, and we proceeded to pig out big time.

Since then, I’ve been slowly but surely putting the world back together, doing a little vacuuming here, and a little straightening there.  I really, really need to sort out my books and do some serious dusting in the office, but it’s the ragweed season, and between the ragweed pollen and the inability to close my bathroom doors, life has become noticeably more sneezy and wheezy.  It’s weird not to be able to close my bathroom doors — I tried closing them, but then a musty smell still builds up inside fairly quickly, even after a week of drying out.  The cat that ate paper (including toilet paper) crossed the Rainbow Bridge this past April, so I could leave the doors open, except it’s bad Feng Shui to leave bathroom doors open. . .

Speaking of cleaning up messes, Jaks had a hairball in early July, and that’s the only time I’ve cleaned up cat mess since I lost my baby girl kitty in May . . .  I empty out the Littermaid hopper maybe once every ten or twelve days.  I’ve been working on trying to use up a container of cat litter for over a month and a half.  I’m still working on the bag of cat food I bought in June, and there’s still almost half a bag left. (I have a special air-tight container I keep it in.)  When I had three cats, two of whom were rather barf-prone, I used to go through paper towels, cat litter and cat food like nobody’s business and have to empty out the Littermaid on a weekly basis. . .  Not that I minded.

Speaking of cats, earlier yesterday afternoon, I was printing out some knitting patterns, and fell asleep in the chair (it’s ragweed season), and dreamed that my mom and I were staying with my late Aunt J, two of my cats were with me, and while I was out, my mom took the cats to a Humane Society and would not tell me where she took them, citing that they were smelly, messy and bothering my aunt J.  In the dream I was furious, hurt, and got practically hysterical.  Thank goodness the phone rang and woke me up.  It was a telemarketer.

Later yesterday afternoon, my BFF called and said she thought she had gotten taken for $2100 in an IRS scam (she has).  This comes hard on the heels of her little episode in a local emergency room last Sunday where she ended up after some kid was running in the store where she worked, cut in front of her and knocked her down.  (She was not seriously injured, although she is rather bruised.)  Unfortunately, her money is almost certainly gone and the likelihood that she can recover it is slim to nil. This is money she can ill afford to lose.  Unfortunately, she was an all too easy target for this scam, in which the perpetrator uses scare tactics, threats and intimidation.  If only the NSA would put their Big Brother technolog to use catching scum like this guy, instead of monitoring everybody’s cell phone conversations and internet usage under the guise of hunting down the terrorists under the bed. . .





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