What We Have Here Is A Failure to Communicate . . .

This is a first: The first time I’ve posted from the little reconditioned HP laptop I got. Frustrating. I’m used to a large gamer keyboard and this jicky little keyboard is a PITA. If I situate it in my lap, where I can reach the keyboard, I can barely read the screen. I already knew from using my BFF’s laptop that I hate touch pads, so I got an “el cheapo” wireless mouse and a mousepad, but there’s hardly any room for it on the little lap desk. Yeah. I know. First world problems.

Anyway, the failure to communicate mentioned above reared its ugly head yesterday after I’d gotten my labs drawn and my port accessed and was in my oncologist’s office. Turns out this is my fourth session of Rituxan (he counted) and not my fifth (I miscounted; chemo brain strikes again), which means I still have two chemo sessions to go, which means I’ll be having my last chemo session in September right around the time of mom’s 98th birthday (the 23rd). The degree of bummer-tude of this development will depend upon how far into September that last session falls, as my white blood cell count needs at least a week to recover from the preceding chemo session before I’ll even risk removing my mask, never mind be among a group of people of unknown COVID status. My sessions are three weeks apart. My penultimate session is 29 August and three weeks from that is 19 September. I can ask my oncologist if I can have an extra week between the last two sessions so I will be four weeks out from my last chemo instead of four days. He’s done it before. I bet I can sweet talk him into doing it again.

The best development out of this very mixed bag is that I have a chin again. The lymphomas in my neck had gotten so large you could barely tell where the bottom of my jaw was. But they have all shrunk drastically and those lymph nodes are back to normal size, which means I’m showing a good response to the chemo regimen. It will take a CT scan to check the response of the rest of the lymphomas in my chest and abdomen which he will probably order when I’ve completed all six of my treatments in September.

My chemo infusion went OK and I got the Udenyca shot this afternoon to boost white blood cell production and get my white count back up to normal. I gained seven pounds between Sunday night and Monday night, all of it from the chemo regimen. I get the decadron and anti-nausea medication in 0.25 liter of IV fluid, followed by the Rituxan diluted in a full liter of IV fluid, followed by 0.25 liter of IV fluid to flush the line, followed by the cyclophosphamide diluted in a full liter of fluid, followed by 0.25 liter of line flushing, which is 2.75 liters of fluid over the course of about four hours, plus the 32-ounce stainless steel bottle full of Crystal Light I sucked down between yesterday and today. A liter bottle of soda weighs 2.2 pounds, so imagine having three of them strapped to you. I lost 2 pounds between last night and tonight, but my poor little kidneys are having a hard time keeping up. I don’t have to go anywhere tomorrow so tomorrow morning, I’m going to take a Lasix (“water pill”) and see if I can’t get my legs emptied out. (I should have spent yesterday evening and the rest of this afternoon and evening in bed with my feet elevated instead of sitting at my desk puttering on the computer.

I saw my cardiologist this morning and he said my oncologist was concerned about me, so the cardiologist wants to do a stress test — not the treadmill thing, but what they call a chemical stress test. His office is used to dealing with the VA, and they will set it all up and let me know when. I’ll have to get a ride because I can’t drive myself home after it, but Carillon provides rides to and from doctor’s appointments at no charge. I just have to give them 24 hours notice.

Saturday, I spent the afternoon downloading the requisite drivers (software) for my little Epson printer from Epson’s website onto the new computer so it could talk to my printer and I could scan financial and bank statements to the computer that has working email and email them to Mom to keep her up to speed. (Gmail won’t run right on my old computer since Google stopped supporting Windows 7 — Google is the “G” in “Gmail — which is why I got the new computer in the first place. The setting up of the software was a fairly straightforward process, but getting the computer and printer to talk to each other was tricky and expletives (and more than a few pejoratives) were not deleted!.

Among the groceries I got Monday was one of Market Street’s fruit bowls — the one I got had chunks of cantaloupe and honey dew melons, chunks of pineapple, a handful of raspberries, a couple blackberries, a handful of blueberries and a couple grapes. It’s a big enough bowl that you can get two servings out of it. I supplemented that with some cherry tomatoes cut in half and some whole black olives. I had the second serving tonight likewise supplemented, and as a side to a brisket sandwich on a big ciabatta roll which I’d already inhaled half of before I could get the camera app on my iPhone limbered up. Copious nums.

I had been using a gamer chair with a foot rest, a birthday present in 2020, as my computer chair. The desk I was using at the time was on casters, so it didn’t matter that the gamer chair wasn’t. I could just sit down and pull the desk up as close as it needed to be.

After I moved to Carillon, I had to get a longer desk so I would have a place to put my printer. I was putting it on my filing cabinet, but when I moved to the smaller apartment, there was no way I could get the filing cabinet close enough to a plug to continue doing that. This new longer desk doesn’t have castors and it was very difficult to get in or out of the gamer chair if it was too close to the desk. Unfortunately, “too close” was not close enough. So I got a desk chair with casters. It is also higher than the gamer chair, which puts my shoulders and forearms at a more comfortable angle when I’m keyboarding and mousing.

I’d gotten in the habit of just swiveling the chair around to the side to get in or out of it. I’m having to learn to roll the new one back back from the desk before trying to get out of it. I’m going to list the old chair on Craig’s List and see if I can’t sell it to offset the cost of the new chair (which wasn’t all that much, really).

In the knitting news, my dive into my button stash proved bootless, so I swung by a local fabric store on the way home from JACC and picked up what I needed. I’ve finished the little baby top. I just need to weave in ends and sew on buttons and it’s done. I’m at the heel increases on the second matching bootie and the crown decreases on the little sun hat. I’d like to get this stuff in the mail by the end of the week and get it out of my hair. I’ve got until Thanksgiving to finish the little red dress(es). I’m thinking I’ll have enough yarn for a little matching red headband with two crocheted holly leaves in the green yarn, and some red shanked buttons for berries to decorate the headband. or else I could just do the holly leaves and button berries as a kind of removable corsage that could be safety pinned to the front of the dress for Christmas, and removed later.

However, in the several matters mentioned above, the plan is that bridges will be crossed when come to.

The first season of Neil Gaiman’s dramatization of his “Sandman” graphic novels dropped on 5 August on Netflix (early reviews are that it sticks very close to the novels, has a brilliant cast and is visually fabulous) and I still haven’t watched season 2 of The Witcher (Henry Cavill!). I may be crossing The Bridge over the River BingeWatch after a certain package gets posted. Not to mention the Bridge of TV Knitting . . .

I Went On A Little Binge . . .

I was watching a YouTube video by Bernadette Banner Friday morning in which she was constructing the blouse portion of an Edwardian “lingerie gown” (she was recreating a period accurate version of the gown Julie Andrews was wearing during the “Jolly Holiday” scenes in the film “Mary Poppins”). She mentioned binge-watching TV while she was hand-sewing down all the gathers at the top and bottom of the blouse to the respective lace panels and waist band. (This is a woman who considers hand sewing garments a (mostly) soothing, meditative activity in the same way I consider knitting to be, i.e., a kindred spirit.)

Friday afternoon, I finally reached the point in the baby blanket where it was time to begin the knitted-on lace edging. The thing about “knitted on” edgings (versus an edging that you knit as a separate piece and sew onto the work) is that you knit the edging at right angles to the thing you’re edging, and at the end of every other row, you work some kind of decrease, typically a k2tog or ssk, where you knit together one stitch of the edging and one stitch from the work, thereby attaching the edging to the work as part of the finishing process. Knitting on an edging is really just a very fancy way of binding off your work.

I had chosen a “toothed” garter lace pattern with an 8-row repeat, which is to say, working the 8 rows of the pattern gives you one iteration (or “tooth”) of the lace pattern, and you keep repeating those same 8 rows until you have enough to go all the way around. (The original lace pattern was for lace you sew on, so first I had to adapt the pattern to make it “knit-on-able.” See below. ) Each iteration of the lace pattern binds off 4 stitches along the circumference of the blanket. Since the blanket is 513 stitches (9 panels x 57 stitches per panel) in circumference, that’s 128 iterations of the lace pattern. Now, I’m sure you math whizzes have already figured out that 513 cannot be evenly divided by 4. So here’s the math. The blanket has 9 panels. 9 panels x 56 stitches per panel is evenly divisible by 4 (= 126 repeats), but I have to cast on 5 stitches and then knit a “freebie” row to set up the lace pattern, and that setup incorporates 1 of the circumference stitches.

Now, because you are knitting the blanket from the center out, you need to keep increasing the number of stitches at the outer edge in order for the blanket to lie flat — this pattern increases 9 stitches every other row. So, by adding two more rows (the row where you work the yarn-over increases at the end of each of the 9 panels, followed by the row where you work a knit stitch into each of the yarn overs on the previous row), my panels went from 56 stitches to 57 stitches wide, which gives me 9 more stitches to play with. 9 more stitches (57 stitches per panel x 9 panels = 513 stitches in circumference) gives me two more pattern repeats (8 stitches) plus one extra stitch for that setup row. Et, voilá.

Bernadette (see above) reminded me how pleasant it is to binge watch TV while you knit, so I streamed some Acorn TV and binge-watched a 3-part series about the interiors of Buckingham Palace in London, and a 6-part series about traveling in the wilds of Scotland, and got 4 of the 9 panels edged. Tonight I edged another panel and a half, so I’m in the home stretch on this project.

For those of you who are into that kind of thing, here’s how I adapted the pattern for sew-on lace so that it could be knitted on. I had to add in an extra stitch for the ssk that would be worked with one of the work stitches as a means of attaching the lace to the work, and I had to add in a set up row to get the pattern oriented correctly to the work.

Sewn On Version:                     
Cast on 4 sts.

Row 1: K1, yo, k2tog, yo, k1.
Row 2: K5.
Row 3: K2, yo, k2tog, yo, k1.
Row 4: K6.
Row 5: K3, yo, k2tog, yo, k1.
Row 6: K7.
Row 7: K4, yo, k2tog, yo, k1.
Row 8: Cast off 4 sts, k3.

Repeat rows 1-8.

Knitted On Version: 
Cast on 5 sts using e-loop method, k4, ssk, tw.

Row 1: Sl1 wyif, k1, yo, k2tog, yo, k1.
Row 2: K5, ssk, tw.
Row 3: Sl1 wyif, k2, yo, k2tog, yo, k1.
Row 4: K6, ssk, tw.
Row 5: Sl1 wyif, k3, yo, k2tog, yo, k1.
Row 6: K7, ssk, tw.
Row 7: Sl1 wyif, k4, yo, k2tog, yo, k1.
Row 8: Cast off 4 sts, k4, ssk, tw.

Repeat rows 1-8.

Abbreviations:
Sl1 wyif = slip 1 stitch purlwise with yarn in front
tw - turn work
k2tog - knit two stitches together. 
yo - yarn over (same as yfwd, yarn forward)
ssk - slip 2 stitches knitwise onto the right needle, return the two stitches to the left needle and knit them together through the back loop.  In this instance, the ssk is worked between the last lace stitch and the next stitch of the circumference stitches, to join the lace to the work. 

My Best Laid Plans . . .

. . . Gang a-gley this morning when I put my car key into the Greyola’s ignition, turned it, and it clicked at me. The car wouldn’t start because the battery was dead. The Greyola is a 2015 Toyota Corolla bought in November of 2014. It has 18,499 miles (29,771 km) on it, which includes 4,754+ highway miles (7651 km). When I got my first car shortly after Rome fell to the Goths, my dad cautioned me not to drive the wheels off it. I took his advice to heart. Which is to say, the battery that died was the battery that was in it when it left the showroom. (I’m the one who traded in the Crayola, a 27-year-old, 1987 Toyota Corolla with 44,489 actual miles on it for this car, remember?)

Well, zut alors. Decision time. I have to be at JACC in 30 minutes (I allowed 15 minutes to cruise through three parking lots looking for someplace to park.) I could call Security and get them to boost the car with their battery pack thingy and maybe start it, but then what? Will it start in the parking lot when it’s time to go home? Decision made. Hauled my chemo bag and purse out of the front seat and schlepped as fast as I could manage back up the hallway, round the corner, past the swimming pool and the weight room, across the front lobby, up to the receptionist’s desk. J is on duty this morning and without the benefit of antihistamines by the look of it. Puffing and blowing like a steam engine at the station, I explain to her the situation. Takes me 5 minutes to talk her through the decision making process it took me 20 seconds to go through. Transportation provides rides to medical appointments for free, but they need at least 24 hours’ notice. I need to be there in 25 minutes.

Thankfully, they had a driver who could take me, and I got there at 8:45 a.m., right on time to wait the obligatory hour in the waiting room before going back to the lab for port placement and blood draw. Then I went up the little stairs and across the hall to wait the obligatory hour in the doctor’s waiting room to see my oncologist (to be fair, they needed time to process my lab draw and obtain results). The oncologist talked about a trial of Rituxan. Now that COVID seems to have settled down and Omicron has burned itself out, he’s throwing it back on the table. Rituxan is the brand name of rituximab that is used to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (what I have) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (what it could convert to — i.e., bad to worse). (Yeah, some of the side effects are bad, badder, and very bad, but my oncologist thinks it’s the best bang for my buck.) That -mab suffix at the end of the generic drug name means that it’s a Monoclonal AntiBody. What monoclonal antibodies do is put a big red tailor-made target (antibody) on the baddie cells just like a vaccine does, so your immune system can find and attack the (cancer) cells the Rituxan has targeted. This means swatting flies with a claw hammer instead of a nine-pound sledge hammer. Or, for the NRA crowd, selectively targeted .22 rounds versus both barrels of a 12-gauge shotgun at close range x 6. Yes! x 6. After today, I’m halfway through a course of 6 rounds of COP chemotherapy. (*does the happy dance seated in a desk chair because it’s 10 p.m. and I’m running out of spoons.)

To tell the truth, I’m thinking seriously of going for the Rituxan. I’ve had it before, but I had it in combination with bendamustine. Both my oncologist and I are pretty convinced that it was the bendamustine causing the lion’s share of the problem I had then and not the Rituxan. It is a more targeted therapy. Granted, it has some scarey potential side effects but I’m relatively young. What’s important to me is quality of life. I don’t want to live another 25 years if those 25 years are a continual never-ending, Sisyphean, rolling-the-boulder-uphill slog.)

I’m going to talk to my oncologist again about Rituxan and when/how he thinks it should be given and tell him I want to go for it. In the meantime, I’ll call my cardiologist’s office and see if I can get in, because I do have a slight heart arrhythmia (occasional PVC‘s left over from scarlet fever at the age of 21!) which is corrected by the metoprolol I’m taking. But my blood pressures are concerning — my top number is high (125-135) and my bottom number is low (40’s-50’s). I’ve been taking a split dose of the metoprolol because taking a whole one in the morning makes it very difficult to keep myself from sitting and staring at the wall all day, but both the metoprolol and the cetirizine I’m taking for allergies have the side effect of causing nightmares, and I’ve been having more non-pleasant dreams with that second half-dose at bedtime. I need to get the top blood pressure number down and the bottom number up to my usual normal range of 110-115 over 70-75. I’m also wondering what having to push large volumes of fluid through my system to flush out the chemo drugs is having on my blood pressure.

Anyway, I had knitting, I had my old Kindle reader and my iPhone (and charge cords for both — I come fully equipped.) I had my five tablets of prednisone. My labs were good. I bunged down the prednisone and we hooked me up to the IV rig and let’er rip. (I’m currently devouring book 3 of The Bear, the Otter and the Kid 4-book series by T. J. Klune, after having read The House in the Cerulean Sea by him, which is such a good book on about umpteen levels, m/m but tame, with magic, found family, and Happily For The Foreseeable Future ending. His characters are very relatable, and very well rounded. They are people you could actually meet and know and really like. He does m/m shifter books, too.) (They should make a movie of The House in the Cerulean Sea. They really should. But only if they could do it justice and not screw it up.)

At about 1 o’clock, while I was still in medias res chemo infusion, Carillon Transportation called and wanted to know if I’d gotten a ride home. I told them no, I had labs then a doctor visit then chemo and I should be finished around 3. They said they had me covered. Which reminds me, when I get the Rituxan to let specific people at Carillon know so they’re on scramble alert just in case of side effects (nurse on duty 24/7 in assisted living downstairs, Security on campus 24/7, etc.). JACC also has this deal where you can call a home health nurse/EMT and have them come out at any time day or night, so I feel like I’ve got a good safety net. (If you have it, you don’t need it; if you need it . . . )

So, about the car. The Battery Joe up the street and round the corner has bays and they do car batteries. I’m going to call them in the morning, tell them my make and model and see what my options are. If I go that route, Security can give me a jump-start. I’m also going to call Gene Messer Toyota and find out what a Maint Rec’d light means. If I have to do anything through the dealership, though, it’s going to cost arm$ and leg$ and I’d rather not. But whatever I’m going to do, I’m going to wait to do it until after I’ve stopped bouncing off the walls and have gotten some sleep. Like Friday.

This was yesterday’s supper. A dunk salad (green onions, cherry tomatoes, cantalope and baby carrots) with Ranch dressing dunkage and a side of Muenster Cheese melted onto toasted Rustic Italian bread. Two plates worth of nummy goodness thoughtfully snarfed.

Today’s supper was baked chicken breast meat with asparagus sauce, rice pilaf and Italian green beans.

In the knitting news, ongoing projects are ongoing.

I’ve done the brim on the baby hat the same way I do my Hemmed Toboggan with Internal Ribbing, which is to say with a provisional cast on using scrap yarn instead of the three needle bind-off like the pattern said. Just easier for me to pick up the ready-made stitches from a provisional cast on, than try to pick up stitches off the lower edge of a long-tail cast on and come up with the right number. That (k2tog yo) trick that gets the picot edge on the brim is nice. Definitely adding that technique to my repertoire.

I haven’t started the Rita Dress because that one skein of Malabrigo sock spontaneously yarn barfed and I don’t have enough yarn now. I alerted the Malabrigo folks about the skein that self destructed and they were very nice about it and promptly wrote back saying that while you may get a knot in the skein from time to time and it’s unfortunately the nature of the beast, they very rarely have any difficulty with a skein miswinding like that. They very kindly offered to send me a replacement skein (which I didn’t think they’d do) and I very thankfully took them up on it. After I had already ordered a replacement skein from Webs. Plus two more skeins and five skeins of a redder red (colorway: Boticelli red!) which I like better. I have this Valley Yarns Southampton “garnet” mohair and I want to see what happens to the fabric when I hold it double with the Malabrigo sock, but not on a baby dress, on a cowl or something. Maybe I’ll consider doing this after the baby knitting is done and I’ve knocked out some more WIPs. I could use the darker Tiziano red for the dark lines and the lighter Botticelli red held double with the garnet mohair using stockinette stitch instead of garter stitch. Hmmmm. . .

The pinwheel blanket is getting larger than the 40 inch circulars. I’ll have to see if I have 60 inch circulars in that needle size. Not sure I have some free, because WIPs. . . sigh.

They’re supposed to come install my cable today. They’ll probably get to my room about the time I’ve left for my Udenyca shot. Which means Security will let them into my apartment when I’m not here to ask that they not mess up the programming on my smart TV, please. I’d better leave them a note about my WiFi modem and how it’s plugged in behind my china cabinet because that’s where the only coax cable connection is in this room of my apartment and how pissed I’ll be if they move the china cabinet and platters fall and stuff breaks, and no I am not going to rearrange all my furniture because that is the only coax cable connection in that room and there’s not one on the wall behind my TV, unless they want to run the cable from the coax connection in my bedroom under my bedroom door and around to my TV which is on the other side of that bedroom wall, and I’ll tape the cable down to my baseboard with clear packing tape. Of course, men decided where the coax connectors were going to go solely based on ease of installation. A woman would have also given thought to furniture placement and that putting a TV there would have it sitting directly opposite the windows. DUH! Grumble. . . . grumble . . . . grumble . . .

(*insert sound of a box of Lego blocks being dumped here*) And my icemaker just lost another game of Jenga.

A Problem of Size

A while ago, I saw most of the movie “Girl with a Pearl Earring” on network TV in an “edited for television” ( we’ll cut lots of tiny bits out of practically every scene, the viewers will never miss them, and we can have a commercial every 10 minutes instead of every 15 minutes) version. What I saw was good and I wanted to see the whole film without interruption, the way it had played in theaters. It has two actors I like a lot, Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson, and it’s about the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), whose work I like. The screenplay of the film is based on the novel of the same name by Tracy Chevalier, which speculates about the life of Vermeer (about whom very little is known), his model for this one painting (about whom nothing is known), and how the painting came about.

I picked up a “gently used” DVD of the film on Amazon for cheap as a little treat for myself. It came yesterday and the mail carrier put it in our mailbox.

It’s still there.

You see, mail carriers access our mailboxes from the front with a key that causes the whole front wall of a block of about 30 post boxes, individual doors and all, to swing open as one piece, revealing the mailboxes behind. Unfortunately, the opening made by unlocking one of the individual mailbox doors is about an inch smaller than the opening of the box as a whole. The mail carrier could put the DVD in my mailbox, but I couldn’t get it out!

I left the mail carrier a note to that effect on my mailbox door. Sigh!

In other disgruntlements, we are paying AT&T $107 bucks a month for 5 megs of internet (which is infuriatingly slow when you’re trying to stream something especially when it intermittently freezes for minutes at a time starting around 8-9 pm) and one phone line. Thing is, I could get 20 megs (as in 4x faster internet) from Carillon for $27 bucks a month. Both* my DVD players are hooked up and working, but there’s no way I can connect my TV to the internet because the stupid AT&T modem has to be in the bedroom because wiring, which means I can’t stream on my 55-inch TV — although doing it would be equally as infuriating as trying to stream movies on my computer. I’ve been living in the apartment for 18 days now and we still don’t have our TVs hooked up. I’m going to try again Monday and re-fill-out the forms and resubmit the work order, and I’m going to opt for internet as well as TV and send this hunk of junk modem back to AT&T.

*One DVD player is about 15 years old, is region-locked to region 1 and will only play DVDs from the US and Canada. The other DVD player is new and is not region-locked, meaning it can play any DVD regardless of which country it’s from.

Within Feet of a FO

I’m within about two feet of being finished FINISHED! with the Sweet Irene Shawl. It’s on a 40-inch circular needle, which is just fine when you’re working on the humpty gazillion stitches you end up with in the body but now that I’m working on the knitted-on edging, which only has seven stitches, it’s a bit much. I stoppered the aft end of the circular needle and got one of my US6 (4.0) 6-inch DPNs so I can just use one end of the circular needle and the DPN, and I don’t have to wrestle the whole body of the shawl just to work back and forth over those seven stitches of edging. You’ll notice I’m also playing yarn chicken. Thrilling times! I started this project in June of last year. Slowly, slowly up Mount Fuji . .

I have managed to get the yard raked. It took me three separate sessions with days in between to finally pull it off, but I got it done. It only took about 8 trash bags this time instead of the 14 it took the first time I did it the year after I moved in. The first time, I managed to do it all in one day. (This was before I had two stents, chemo, four hospitalizations, pneumonia and a knee replacement all within two years’ time.)

I have also gotten my new sewing table, which is currently leaning up against the wall in my kitchen doorway, so there’s that. I am now in the process of washing all the blankets I intend to make lap robes out of (some of which I’ve been intending to make lap robes out of for literally years and still haven’t yet). I need to get up and put the last load into the dryer now. Then, I get to decide where I want the sewing to take place and see if I have appropriate sewing notions. I have made no progress on my yarn stash sorting out or major house cleaning. Let’s not get carried away, shall we?

Some people (my mother) seem to have gotten the idea from jocular comments made herein (usually involving trained chimpanzees) that I’m intimating that my mom’s intelligence is less than stellar. This is not the case. Let me set the record straight. My mom was a legal secretary for half a million years to one of the partners of a very prestigious local law firm. She’s been retired for a number of years now, but she was, and still is, legendary at that firm for her organizational skills, her clerical competence, her people skills, her meticulous attention to detail, and her elephantine memory of cases.

Considering that she came from a time when cultural norms and societal constraints made career opportunities for women problematic, to say the least, and considering where she started and what few opportunities were available to her, she came a long way, baby. I’ve often wondered if she had been born in this century instead of last, and got a halfway decent shot at a college education, where she would end up. Board room? Cabinet post? Who knows? I do know, though, that whatever she ended up doing, she’d be really good at it.

That said, when it comes to contraptions of any kind, she’s a visual learner. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just the type of learner she is. Give her the thing and the instructions, and no matter how simple or self-evident the device, she will be thoroughly frustrated within a very short time, throw up her hands and give up. Show her how the thing works, and she gets it right off.

A YouTube Channel to Check out.

I love this guy’s channel. The videos are short, usually about knitting, always about life, light and chatty. His work room is next door to a brontosaurus hangout, and just around the corner from Mr. Rogers. He reminds me so much of a dear friend, JT, who has moved to another state, and who I miss being able to visit with.

The other day I received the DVDs (to replace my VHS version) of the 1995 Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice, which is a miniseries, and I got to thinking about how many dramatizations of this novel there had been over the years. (I prefer my P&P in accurate period costume, reasonably faithful to the novel, and without the zombies, thank you very much.) It’s kind of like Doctor Who. Immediately two Doctor Who fans discover their mutual Whovianity, the next question inevitably is, “Who is your Doctor?” (David Tennant) Your answer helps plot you along the time and relative dimension in series. When two fans of Pride and Prejudice meet, the corresponding inevitable question is, of course, “Who is your Darcy? Need you ask? Firth forever!

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.

Sanity in the Time of COVID-19

I have a feeling the hygge-ers, the binge-watchers, and the cocooners (speaking) are going to make it through the pandemic with a lot more sanity than the social butterflies,  the “people” people, the oxytocin junkies, the herdies (who can’t go anywhere or do anything unless accompanied by one or more friends), those who have been helicoptered to the point that they don’t know how to occupy themselves, and those poor folks who have a deep-seated need to have their  existence independently verified by somebody else to the point of panic at the thought of being alone.

We have lost the art of solitude, and it is an art.  We don’t know how to be still anymore.  Some of us have forgotten how to take the mind out of gear and just let it coast; some of us either don’t know how or, worse, are  totally unaware that it can be done.   Apparently, there is a widespread myth that there is a lot of thinking involved in it.  To understand solitude is to understand the difference between fishing and catching fish.  Sometimes you sits and thinks, and sometimes you just sits.

There is a certain zen state that happens when the hands are busy with a repetitive task, the sort of task where your body is doing something and your eyes are keeping an eye on it, but  the part of your brain that balances checkbooks and reads recipes, and decides you’d better take an umbrella is not needed for the task at hand.  It’s been called “being in the moment.”   It’s a neat trick if you can do it.

So now that you’ve got more “me-time” than you know what to do with it, here are a few suggestions:

Project Gutenburg offers free downloads of books no longer under copyright.  The downloads are available in several different formats for the various e-reader platforms.  The Kindle app (which uses .mobi  format) is free.

Seat 14C and Avatars, Inc.  are two websites that offer free bespoke SciFi anthologies.

Go to Amazon Kindle and type in “free Kindle books.”  There are more than you might think.  Be adventurous.  Try this one with this fantasy cast.

Learn how to do something by hand.  That’s why God gave us YouTube.

For that matter, there’s a lot of goodies from  British TV on YouTube– twenty seasons’ worth of “Time Team,” or David Suchet playing the title role in several Agatha Christie “Hercule Poirot“dramatizations,  or the above mentioned Jeeves and Wooster with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry,  or a bunch of David Starkey historical documentaries, Michael Wood documentaries and Lucy Worsley documentaries.   There’s all kinds of amazing stuff down the YouTube rabbit hole.

Jigsaw Planet is a free-to-join free-to-use website that allows you to upload pictures (.jpeg, .png  formats) and turn them into jigsaw puzzles. You can customize the number and shape of the pieces.  You have the option of letting others work your puzzles, just as others can opt to let you work theirs.  This website works best on a laptop or PC with a decent sized monitor screen, or, ideally, a smart TV that lets you bluetooth a keyboard and mouse, and can access a web browser.

If you are a knitter or crocheter and have never been on Ravelry, it’s free to join and use, and boy, are you in for a treat!  Lots of free patterns for everything.

If you’re desperate for something to read, try this.

 

Those Blooming Trees

Those durn ornamental flowering pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) are blooming again.  They may be pretty, but my sinuses are having a wall-eyed fit.  Commonly called Bradford pears.  I am not alone in my antipathy to them.  Invasive is right.  I counted over twenty of them in the five minute drive to my mom’s house.  My system is so full of antihistamines and decongestants I’m like the zombie apocalypse.  The picture at left was taken a couple of days ago.  Today was rainy and foggy.  So foggy, in fact, that when I was on the way to my mom’s house, two blocks away was like a fog bank.

Don’t know what these plants are but they’re wild and they’re all over some of the lawns around, including my mom’s.  The grass people use for lawns here is a species of Bermuda grass, which dies off in the fall and comes back from the roots in the spring.  Long about this time of year, people set their lawn mower blades way down and “scalp” off last year’s dead growth practically to ground level so the new growth can come out.  So, that whitish stuff is dead Bermuda grass.  The flowers on this plant are teensy and look a lot like snapdragons.

There’s this house up on 19th Street, the “main drag” that runs along one side of Texas Tech University — your classic southern style “mansion,” two storey, red brick with white pillars in front.  It was built in 1928.  Because 19th is such a large, busy street, and there’s no curbside parking on it, the people that owned the house had a semicircular drive put in.  They excavated a pile of dirt in order to do it, and instead of having the dirt hauled off and the lawn leveled out again, the lady of the house had them just smooth out the piles of dirt and plant grass because the berm of dirt deadened the traffic noise.  The landscaping people planted a bunch of early spring blooming ‘bubs’ (that’s Texan for “bulbs”) — crocuses, daffodils, narcissus, snowdrops, etc. — all over the berm.  They just scattered them about and mixed them up.  The bulbs come up and bloom and are done by the time the Bermuda grass comes out.  I think it’s a cool idea.

I binge-watched “The Witcher” ‘s first season on Netflix yesterday and worked on my “Mrs. Crocombe’s Braided Delight” shawl.  I had to fast forward through some of the monsters and a lot of the battle scenes.  (It’s very violent and gory.)  Yes, Henry Cavill is very drule-worthy and well worth watching, but I can do without all the flying blood, guts and body parts.  So if that kind of stuff bothers you, be forewarned;  it is very graphic.  Also, there’s nudity of both sexes front and back (although not full frontal male nudity), so if that bothers you, be forewarned.  (Yes, I did rerun the whole bathtub scene several times.  Bite me.)   If it is true, as purported, that Cavill did all his own stunts, I hope his costumes had a lot of padding.  He got thrown about and bounced off walls an awful lot.

I’m not sure if I can access Star Trek: Picard in a way that will enable me to binge watch it on my TV, but I think I can watch it on line.  The reviews I’ve seen of it are good.  I’m seriously starting to think it might be more worthwhile to just cancel my cable TV and subscribe to Netflix, Amazon, Starz and HBO.  The cost would be about the same.   All I need to get them on my TV is internet access.  Cable TV has so little worth watching, never mind anything I’m interested in watching, and I can’t see paying for something I don’t watch because it’s mostly utter junk.

I test-fitted the “Assssin’s Daughter” shawl and decided I’m going to use all seven skeins of yarn.  Both it and the Mrs. Crocombe’s shawl are now too big to work on at the computer, which is why I was binge watching stuff on TV.

I need to organize my yarn stash, and while I’m at it, I need to go through my embarrassingly large pile of WIPs* and do a FO or frog **.  I need to start knitting hats for the cancer center again, too.   I’ve got several hats that need finishing and a whole plastic storage tub full of donated yarn.

I think I’m going to have to haul my folding banquet table out from under the bed to block shawls on.  The floor is the only other place big enough, and I have no business doing any kind of kneeling on the knee I had replaced.  Because the shawls I need to block are all made from acrylic yarn and I plan to kill the yarn, there’s going to be a wet tea-towel and a steam iron involved, so that lets out my dining table.  I’ve got two boxes of the blocking mat tiles.  I may need to get more T-pins, though.   I’ve got several shawls that need blocking.  I’ll have to do all of them at once, and I should do it before the weather starts getting hot.  I’ll also have to locate a spot where there’s enough floor space to set the table up — preferably somewhere close to an electrical outlet .  Now, what did I do with those roundtoits . . . ?

*WIPs -- Works In Progress**FO or Frog -- either Finish the Object or completely unravel (frog) it and recycle the yarn into another project.

Par For The Course

Friday night, we had a little cold snap and Saturday morning, we woke up to this — We only got a light dusting, and with a low of only 32F /0 C, it wasn’t cold enough for snow or ice to stick to the sidewalks or pavement.  The snow quickly melted, but it was picturesque while it lasted.  I understand other parts of the country have not gotten off so light.

In the knitting news, I know I should check my work for mistakes every inch or so, but I got to watching YouTube videos and made a (very noticeable) mistake on one of the borders and didn’t catch it until about four inches later.  Not gonna lie; swearing happened.  Fortunately, I was able to just frog that corner back to the mistake and fix it, and didn’t have to frog the whole durn thing back that far.   It’s my latest pattern, ( it’s a 3-ball shawl, and I’m on the third ball).

I’ve been watching episodes of the BBC’s “Digging for Britain” on YouTube.  It’s a show about British archaeology.  The presenter is a lady with a very posh accent .  She’s a bit precious but bearable.  However, we’ve already met a couple of former Time Teamers.   In Britain, you can’t hardly turn around without tripping over something historic. They’ve got Celts and Romans,  Angles and Saxons and Jutes (oh, my!), Vikings and Normans, kings and castles.  What do we got  out here in the flatlands?  We had some Clovis folks wandering through once or twice, hunting mastodons and leaving their trash at a nearby lake, then zip for the next 11,000 years — nothing but buffalo and prairie dogs and the odd Comanche.  My town’s only been here since 1891,.   I’m so jealous.

 

 

High Dudgeon

High Dudgeon.  That’s where I’ve been for the past three days now.  As we say out here in the flatlands, madder than a wet hen.  (See left)

Pourquoi, you ask?

So Suddenlink has been sending me these promos, and Saturday I called them to see if I could get a lower price for phone, internet and TV than I’m getting now.  Turns out I could.  That’ll be $165.14, thank you very much — first month’s bill and $45 installation fee.  The tech was scheduled to come out Tuesday afternoon.

The tech shows, looks around and sees I’ve got AT&T, unscrews plates behind the TV, puts a new doohicky on the wall, and then announces that there’s a service outage, and he doesn’t want to leave me with no (land line) phone (I also have a cell), internet or TV, tells me he’ll be back at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning to finish the installation, takes my equipment, and leaves.  Wednesday at noon, I’m still waiting for him.  I try calling their service number and am told wait times are in excess of 20 minutes.

So I get in the car and go to the Suddenlink office, which is just a couple of blocks away.  While I’m sitting in the Suddenlink office waiting for someone to wait on me, just for the halibut, I call Suddenlink on my cellphone.  I got connected on the phone within minutes.(!)  So I’m talking to Suddenlink’s technical support person while sitting in the Suddenlink store waiting for their one working customer service rep to wade through the 7 people ahead of me.  The lady on the phone says they’ll send a tech out.  So I go home.  The tech comes.  He can’t do anything because he’s a repair tech and the install tech took my equipment with him when he left.  So I try the Suddenlink phone number again.  Callers are warned that wait times are in excess of 20 minutes and they’re taking call back appointments — press 1 for Thursday the 5th, 2 for Friday the 6th . . . .  (No, I’m not making this up!)

So Thursday, after my dentist appointment, I go back to the Suddenlink store.  There is one person taking payments, two people helping customers, and about 9 customers ahead of me on the list waiting to talk to a customer service rep.  You have to sign a list to be seen, so I sign in.  In the meantime, I call Suddenlink on the phone again.  I held for upwards of 20 minutes, but somebody finally answered.  I go through my tale of woe to one person, who then transfers me to another person, and I have to repeat my tale of woe to them.   All she can do is send an email to the install team telling them what happened.  Then I wait for them to call me so I can reschedule.  I gave them my cell phone number and continue to sit there.

The SUPERVISOR comes in to start helping with the backlog, calls my name off the list (turns out I’d been there long enough for the 8 people in front of me to be served)  I went through the whole spiel yet again.  She writes another email with all the gory details, but she copies it to the VPs of one thing and another.  She also gives me her business card and instructions to call her if nothing happens.

Home again, home again, and I have some lunch.  At 2 o’clock, I get an automated phone notification that, “A technician is on the way.”  Which I will believe when they actually plong on the doorbell.  In the meantime,  I’d just gotten the latest Liaden Univers™ novel, “Accepting the Lance” by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, so I’m sitting in the living room, within lunging distance of the front door reading it on my Kindle Fire tablet.

The clock strikes 4:00.  Still no tech.  I’m in the process of calling the supervisor on my cell to apprise her that there is still no joy in Mudville, when the land line rings and it’s the tech.  SHE shows up at about 4:30 and proceeds to set up my service — bang-bang-bang-bang, and she’s done.

And everything works!

So I’m exhausted, way out of sorts, and feeling a lot like John Cleese in the dead parrot sketch.  I had to rattle cages Tuesday afternoon, all day Wednesday and most of Thursday afternoon to get what I paid for.  Now I’ve got to go change the WiFi access on two internet radios, a tablet and my cellphone.