A Different Drummer Drumming

Not my cat.  Not my drawers.  My drawers fit, thank you very much, but I can appreciate the frustrating of trying hard to fit in and not being able to no matter how hard you try.. .

Considering that large parts of the world are on fire or have been run over by hurricanes, and there’s a global pandemic still going on that’s still killing thousands, the fact that nothing much is happening chez nous is actually a good thing.

I was watching this Chinese cooking show video the other day because it had Joe Cheng in it (for whom I have a thang), and I watched in bemused amazement as he used a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine (at 0:59).  He’s the only person I’ve ever seen besides me who turns the bottle and not the corkscrew. . .  When I’m screwing a lid on a jar or bottle, about half the time I’m holding the lid in one hand and turning the bottle with the other hand.

In the knitting news, progress is being made on the Malabrigo shawl.  That’s one skein’s worth, with the new ball just knotted on.  I think I’ll try for three skeins and see where that gets me.  I am pleased with the way it’s going.   I still have it on my computer desk to work on at odd moments.

Even though I have cordless headphones, I decided to try a sound bar for my TV, and I got this one.  The box was damaged in shipping  — as in a big gaping hole torn in the cardboard — and the wall-mounting brackets and the product setup instructions were missing.  But I intended to relocate my cable box and DVD player to the bottom shelf of the sideboard I’m using as an entertainment stand and slide that dude right under the TV so it sits at head level to seated me.  Good value for money, and it was intuitive enough that I managed to get it to work without set-up instructions.  The sound quality is good and the price is right.  Money well spent.  I think it might be time to rewatch “Я дракон” again, or re-binge-watch The Witcher . . .



In a Sea of UFO’s, Two FO’s

My desktop was a little crowded earlier today.  I have gone cold CO which means I am honor bound not to  cast on  (CO) anything new until I whittle down the accumulation of UFOs.  I need to re-sort my stash, do a yarn cull, and go on a FO-it-or- frog-it tear.  I also need to clean house, empty the dishwasher, etc., etc.

To coin an idiom, *  if I had ninepence for everything I need to do, should do, and ought to do, I could hire somebody to do them for me.

I did finish this, though:

And this:

Or the knitting part, at least.  I still need to weave in ends and sew on buttons . . .sigh!

Now, if some friend or relation will just oblige me by having a baby. . .





*”If I had ninepence for every (*___*), I’d be richer than the flashing Queen of England.”

Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone.

Yes, I’m having another “ooooh, shiny!” moment, but what a way to start a bittersweet, socially-distanced Tuesday . . .

There is a reason why the music of camel cultures is rhythmically different than the music of horse cultures.  (The music of Spain is a blend of the two cultures.)  Horses walk by moving the hind foot that is diagonal to the front foot that just stepped — left front, right hind, right front, left hind.  This gait produces a steady 1-2-3-4 beat = 4/4 time.  It meshes seamlessly with the 1-2-1-2 = 2/4 time of a person walking.  You hear this rhythmic pattern all through the music of Western culture.  But there are three animals that have a unique walking gait — they walk to the beat of a different drum, if you will.  The front and back legs on the same side move instead of on the diagonal — right rear, right front, left rear, left front.  Those three animals are the giraffe, the cat*, and — the camel.

Compare the rhythm of the horse:

with the rhythm of the camel:

Horses rock with a front to back motion as they walk (just like a rocking horse); camels sway with a side to side motion as they walk — riding a camel for the first time actually makes some people seasick!  But listen to the sway in the deep drum beat.

Compare it to that good-ol’ Human two-step:

*Remember that Henry Mancini Pink Panther theme?  That da-dum da-dum figure that keeps repeating throughout --  It's the rhythm  that a cat's feet would make if you could hear their silent tread.

The Dark Side of the Moon

A camera 1 million miles from Earth recorded this amazing video of the dark side of the Moon

I have one of those desktop apps that puts a graphic on your desktop that shows the current phase of the moon.  (No, you can’t just go outside at night and look because the rising and setting times of the moon change on a daily basis.) Apart from the fact that this gadget shows a graphic representation of how the real moon looks as it goes through its phases, which is cool in and of itself, the person who wrote the gadget I downloaded once upon quite a while ago called it “Werewolf Monitor” — which always makes me smile.

Tonight, all we can see is the dark side of the moon, which is also the title of a really great album by Pink Floyd. (IMHO, not as good as “Wish You Were Here,” which has to have the coolest album cover, but then, as Mr. Clemens pointed out, that’s what makes horse races. . . ) (. . . oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?)

While I’m here, I want to lay this on you.  Something nice to give your eyes (and head) a rest:

©2020 Lagniappe

If you’re into nature, or photography, or just like to look at nice pictures, slip on over to Lagniappe and give it a look.

And there’s my good deed done for the day. . .

. . . . one good deed deserves another:

Here are the two daughters of the late Pandit Ravi Shankar, carrying on their father’s legacy of giving music to the world.

(P.S. I was listening to the “Suburbs of Goa” channel of Soma FM the other day while I was playing games on my Kindle Fire, and they played this duet between Anoushka Shankar and violinist Joshua Bell.  Yowsa!)

Serendipity, Serendoogles, and Serendubes

The word “serendipity” is defined as something beneficial or desirable that is found or that occurs by accident or chance.  A while back,  I coined the word “serendoogle” (serendipity + google) for something cool/interesting you come across while you’re googling for something else.

And then there is  that glorious, bottomless *SEARCHABLE* Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hole called “YouTube.” One of my favorite activities in these long days of isolation has become “channel surfing” YouTube for serendubes. (If you think about it, it’ll come to you. . .)

The other day, those arcane YouTubean algorhythms coughed up a video called  Art in Isolation.  The one I chanced upon was number 6 in a series, was short (around 15 minutes), and looked interesting.  Because I am well trained in the art of binge watching, instead of watching that one,  I naturally searched for episode 1 and watched it.

Turns out, they’re  a whole series of videos by this Brit art dealer guy geeking out about various pieces in his personal art collection, which is interesting if you are into that kind of thing, but, guys — his house!  Look at THAT HOUSE!  Only in Britain, where you can hardly turn around without falling over something historic*, could you have a house like that that!  By the time I’d watched back up to episode  6, I was like, enough about the art, dude**.  Do a tour of that house!

*As for history here in the flat lands of Tx, we have the Clovis culture,  followed by 11,000 years of hunter/gatherers wandering over bald prairie dropping the odd stone arrowhead until my town was founded in 1876.  No ancient neolithic monuments, no Roman ruins, or castles, or medieval stone cottages or stately homes.  NadaBubkes.  Zip. 
**which is why God gave us the mute function/button/icon.

The Roof Over My Head

Fortunately, I was more or less awake at 6:55 a.m. yesterday morning when my doorbell rang.  I heard it, thought it might be a USPS or UPS delivery — I do have one Amazon order outstanding.  (It’s a used book, and I am resigned to the fact that it will get here when it gets here.)  There are some conscientious delivery folk who plong the doorbell of the houses on whose porches they leave boxes, and it was not out of the realm of possibility that one might have started their day entirely too early because HOT in Tx in Aug, or COVID-thinned ranks.

I threw on one of my sleep shirts (which I don’t sleep in, oddly enough) and meandered toward the front door thinking thoughts of porch piracy and the removal of temptation, when the doorbell plonged again.  I do have a glass storm door with a fairly substantial ($7.73) latch on it.  I unlocked the front door and peered around it to see that there was a very rotund young Hispanic man  on my porch, who informed me that the roofing crew was here and that they were going to be replacing my roof today.

As regular readers will know, out here in the flatlands, we are prone to a weather phenomenon called “super cells,” which is to say we are accustomed to getting the dickens hailed out of us on a fairly regular basis. — often enough, in fact,  to support quite a healthy hail damage repair industry.  We had an attack of golf-ball sized hail earlier in the year, and the local roofing companies have been in a feeding frenzy for months as a result.  The lady in “B” had mentioned earlier that an insurance adjuster had been by to look at our mutual roof, but that the landlady  was on the fence about whether or not to have the roof replaced because $$$, and that was the last I (or the lady in “B,” as it turned out) had heard about it until 6:55 a.m. yesterday morning.

Well, joy electric.  So much for any plans I had to sit quietly and do anything, including hear myself think.  Still, it is for times like these that God gave us cordless headphones and smart TVs with WiFi access. That and Netflix (and an abundant supply of TV knitting) got me through a day that otherwise would have sounded a lot like this:

for about 10 straight hours. . . .

God also gave us nail guns, which means they had the old roof off, the new roof on, and errant bits of debris picked up out of the yard by dark.  The supervisor from the roofing company did plong on the door at around lunch time to check my end of the HVAC  and water heater ducts to make sure they had not been dislodged by the herd of buffalo overhead, and actually checked that the smoke detector in the hallway by the mechanicals closet also detected carbon monoxide.  During our brief conversation, he did remark that he was supervising eight roofing crews (see ‘feeding frenzy’ above).

Anyway, today things have returned to what passes for normal chez nous. Blissful silence reigns again.  I am at the computer, having a large, soothing dollop of Franz Schubert applied to my soul by those fine folks at Venice Classical Radio, and as soon as I’m done catching up on my blog reading and webcomics, I’m going to do a little writing.

Here We Go Round The Postal Service

There is a supplement called NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) which I take for asthma as well as some issues arising from being “on the spectrum.”  I used to buy it locally, but the only store here where you can buy it only sold one brand of it, and that manufacturer switched from a gelatin capsule to some sort of “vegetable capsule” without bothering to tell anybody about it.  Turns out whatever vegetable that is, I’m allergic to it and it makes me itch like crazy.  Amazon, however, carries another brand in a gelatin capsule and I have been ordering it through them for almost two years now.  I get a price break by ordering it in a 3-pack of 100-capsule bottles from this one seller, which lasts me about two and a half months.

Unlike other supplements, though, it is inadvisable to just start taking NAC at full dose, or abruptly stop taking it completely.  You have to gradually increase or decrease the dose over at least a two week period.  Because of this, when I open that third bottle, I order more, since that seller offers free shipping, but not the two-day shipping of Amazon Prime, and it can take up to two weeks for me to get them.

So, I placed an order on July 12th, expecting to get my order within two weeks.  After two weeks had come and gone with nothing to show for it, I went to Amazon and tracked my package.  Their tracking showed it had gotten to my town on the 22nd.

Since it was now the 28th and I hadn’t yet seen hide nor hair of my package, I called my local version of the USPS* and gave them the tracking number.  Apparently, in order to get to my city, USPS mail hitches a ride on UPS*’s planes.  UPS had delivered the shipment of mail my package was supposed to have been in (or at least the one they told Amazon it was in), but according to the Post Office, when they processed the individual pieces of mail from that shipment, my package wasn’t one of them.  Since the tracking number was a USPS number, UPS could not be expected to know where my package actually was, even though they told Amazon it was in Tx, because they had schlepped it there on their plane.   So now what?

I went to the USPS website.  Their phone is answered by a computer and none of the options it offered me included speaking with a live person.  I opted to drop back 5 yards and punt, which is to say, I filled out their little email complaint form.  Fortunately, I was able to  cut and paste the whole nine yards of the tracking number into the email.  After adding a verse and chorus of “Oh Where, Oh Where Has My NAC Gone,” I clicked “Send”

A quick consultation of Google revealed Wal-Mart also carried that same brand, but it wasn’t sold in stores locally, would take two (more) weeks to get to me from where ever it shipped from, and there was no way I could seem to get an expedited shipping option on just one bottle of it.  CVS carried it, but not locally, and the brands they carried didn’t come in the right dosage.  No joy with Walgreen’s either. I found another vendor on Amazon that offered the same brand and had Amazon Prime shipping, which meant I could get it as soon as last Friday, but definitely by Sunday, so I ordered a bottle from them to tide me over until payday, when I can get two more.

No package on Friday.  Sunday came and went,  and all I got was an email from Amazon saying “USPS wasn’t able to complete your delivery and needs addition information to try again.”  *&%^$#<@!!

So, bright and early this morning, I boot up the ‘puter, and while I’m spending an hour and a half trying to get somebody to answer the phone at various locations of my local version of the USPS, I get an email from same, stating:  “This message is to let you know that we have received your inquiry at the Fort Worth C&IC Office. Your service request will be redirected to the delivery unit to review, investigate and provide a resolution.”  Well, yeehaw.

Finally, I got somebody at the USPS to answer the durn phone already.  I told the nice lady my tale of woe, and (just for grins) read her the 22(!)-digit tracking number of the first package, which was still MIA. She proceeds to tell me it has arrived on the August 2 shipment from UPS and is out for delivery! So then I read her the 22-digit tracking number of the second, package, and apparently it’s out for delivery, too.  So I thank the nice lady, hang up, mutter various and sundry general-purpose imprecations and go make myself a cheese sandwich**.

One cheese sandwich and a couple of YouTube videos later, it’s sneaking up on 11 o’clock when someone plongeth on the doorbell.  I go to the door.  There is nobody there, but — mirabile dictu! — lying on the doormat are two packages!  So now I have four bottles of NAC, which is just as fine as frog hairs with me.

Along with the email from the USPS, I also got an email from my local utilities company stating my electric bill for July has dropped and I can view it on their website.  However, since I know it’s going to be higher than giraffe’s ears and I have a whopping $8.58 in my bank account to last me until payday, you know what?    Sufficient unto the Monday is the evil thereof, y’all.

*United States Postal Service is a department of the U.S. government, AKA "The Post Office."   UPS is United Parcel Service, a privately-owned global shipping company.

**2 slices of Sargento Sharp Cheddar Cheese placed between two pieces of toast, put on a plate and zotted in the microwave for 23 seconds to gently melt the cheese. (20 seconds softens the cheese but doesn't actually melt any of it, 25 seconds melts it too much and makes it run out onto the plate.)

Hard Times, Hygge*, and Authors Who Are Hard On Their Protagonists

I’m reading “The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman right now, and I can only read a little bit of it at a time.  It’s a historical novel set in 70-74 C.E. in Judea at the time of the destruction of the second temple (Solomon’s) and the capture of the fortress of Masada by the Romans.  The whole novel is based on the information given by the historian Josephus that two women survived the mass suicide of the defenders of Masada by hiding inside a cistern along with five children.  The novel concerns who these two Judean women and five children were and how they came to be at Masada.  It’s a gripping story told from the women’s viewpoint, which makes it apocalyptic in tone, and it’s a positively grueling read.  I can only read so much at a time, and then I have to “chase” it with some “comfort reading” that is light, funny, and full of feel-goods.

I’ve notice in the last couple of years that I have had to just quit reading books by several of my favorite authors because they are so hard on their protagonists.  Ye gods!  Elizabeth Bear is one who comes to mind.  Her stuff is deep, compelling and transformative, with well-rounded engaging characters and page-turning, thrilling plots and I’ve really liked the books of hers I’ve read, but she is just brutal to her protagonists.  Even some of the lighter stuff, like her novella “Bone and Jewel Creatures” has a fairly hard edge.   (That’s one of the reasons I’ve held off reading the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon.  There are places in those books I don’t really want to go just now.)

Seanan McGuire is another author I’ve had to stop reading because she is so hard on her protagonists.  I love her  October Daye books (13+ a new one in September), but she puts poor Toby through the wringer in one way or another every durn book.  McGuire is strong on world building, with fully-fleshed, three dimensional characters, though, and if you like the Fae, urban fantasy, mere- and were- creatures, and don’t mind protagonists who get beat up both emotionally and physically, truly dysfunctional families,  and plots that are real nail-biters, there is much to like in this series.  Tybalt, for example.

Generally speaking, I love Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books, except the ones Miles Vorkosigan features largely in, because of the way that poor guy invariably takes a beating.  Even the first book, “Shards of Honor” that tells of the meeting of Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan (Miles’ parents) is pretty much all uphill.  They also tend to have that kind of “Cold War” police-state-noir atmosphere, though, especially the ones that take place on Barrayar because it is a very militaristic, oppressive type society.   Her Penric’s Demon books are much kinder to their protagonist, Penric and his demon Desdemona (what a great name for a demoness!).  They are witty, and fun as well as thought provoking.  Her Chalion books are good if you’re into a medieval-Spain-but-with-magic kind of thing.  All of Bujold’s books feature great world-building, good plots, and three dimensional relatable characters.

I get the “hero/heroine’s journey” thing.  I get the “coming of age” thing.  I do.  But  real life is pretty grim right now.   Society is going through a massive upheaval at the moment and the end is not yet in sight.  (My situation is pretty OK.  I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and a safe place to sleep, and I consider myself ahead of the game there.)   I’ve been through the wringer healthwise in the last couple of years.  I’ve experienced a significant personal loss, and another one is coming.  Though one of my major health issues is under control at the moment, that could and probably will change.  I have enough grim, serious, dark stuff going on in my real life.  Why would I want to read about it?

So what am I reading now?

Gail Carriger (and her alter ego G. L. Carriger) is an author I’ve come to love for her light, witty “steampunk-lite” novels — set in an England during the reign of Queen Victoria where vampires are the trend-setters of fashion, and a ball without at least one werewolve in attendance is not worth going to.  Earlier in the century, we have the Finishing School books (4), whose heroine attends a lady’s finishing school which is located on a dirigible and which has a rather unusual curriculum.  (There are spin-off novellas which focus on several of her fellow students.)  Moving forward in time there are the Parasol Protectorate books (5), which tell the story of how one young lady became the wife of the alpha werewolf of the London pack and the thrilling adventures that befall her and her friends. (Again, there are spin-off novellas about several of the secondary characters.) These are followed by the Custard Protocol books (4) which tell the story of the daughter of the protagonist in the Parasol Protectorate books, the dirigible her vampire god father gives her and the thrilling adventures she has traveling in it.

Ms. Carriger is a firm believer in Happily Ever After (HEA) endings, which is one of the reasons I like her books.  Now, one caveat:  The realities in Ms. Carriger’s books have LGBTQ characters, just like our own reality does.  She doesn’t beat you over the head with them, but they are an integral, accepted part of the world in which these three series of books are set.   So, if that aspect of real life makes you uncomfortable, her books might not be your ideal getaway destination.

That brings us to the books Ms. Carriger writes as G. L. Carriger.  If you are not comfortable with LGBTQ themes and characters, and frank portrayal of all aspects of that lifestyle, then the San Andreas Shifter books (3 so far) are not for you.  But if you’re cool with that sort of thing, and don’t mind people shifting to other animals besides wolves, as well as kitsune, kelpies, Mages, and mere-people thrown in for good measure, you are in for a treat.  Like her other books, Ms. Carriger’s San Andreas Shifter books are about found families, people finding people who accept them for who they are and  who love and appreciate them for their good qualities.  An additional caviate:  These books are a bit “x-rated ” in places, but who wants a G-rated Happily Ever After?  Not me.   The third book in the series has just dropped, and I’m planning to snuggle in to my knitting nook, find some peaceful music on my internet radio, plug in the Kindle Fire on the little reader’s table where I usually put my knitting patterns, notions, etc., and have a Self-Care Sunday tomorrow, to reread the whole series in chronological order, with the new book as the cherry on the top.

For the English majors in the crowd, there are Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books (7) — a delightful series of romps based on the fact that  time travel is real, books are actual places you can visit, whose characters can be kidnapped and their plots changed (find out why Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” once had a very different ending!). They are silly, punny, delightful books staring the redoubtable Thursday Next, literary detective.  They’re full of literary in-jokes, yet very accessible to someone who is not a book nerd.

Unfortunately, I’m having the same problem with TV that I’m having with books — everything’s all so dark and angsty and violent.  But, there is this I found on Youtube:

It’s visually lucious and — it has Joe Cheng in it!  Of course, it’s all in Chinese, and I haven’t a clue what it’s about, but it’s gorgeous to watch. . .  And it makes at least as much sense as anything else in this messed up world.   Good thing I can get YouTube on my smart TV.  Since this is a TV show and there’s 70 episodes of it, I might need to have quite a lot of “self-care” (and knitting) in future.

I’m still amping up to do a thorough reorganization/sorting out/KonMari of my yarn stash (yes, the new bins are still sitting in the living room. . . sigh) and I desperately need to go on a frog it or finish it tear with my great pile of Works In Progress.  I finished a little baby jacket yesterday that’s been languishing for a while.  I also need to go on a block-athon as I have some acrylic things that really need to be blocked (“killed“) with a steam iron, but in this weather?!?!

* Hygge - While there’s no one English word or simple definition to describe the Danish concept of hygge, several can be used interchangeably to describe the idea of hygge such as cosiness, charm, happiness, ‘contentness’, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness.