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.

ACK! The A/C Just Came On!

This is what the forecast for the next ten days looks like:  Are you kidding me?!  101 ye-gadz degrees F on Star Wars Day!*  (That’s 38.3 C for the Celsius crowd.  Yeah.  I know!)  Sigh.  When I change my bed today, the blanket will be washed and put away until about November.  I’ve already turned the ceiling fan up to the Stiff Breeze setting. If wishes were horses*, that south-facing sliding glass door in my bedroom would be replaced with double French doors with between the glass shades.  (Frankly, if wishes were horses, we’d be knee-deep in horse poo, would we not?)

Here is this, because who doesn’t need to be thoroughly cheered up by baby pygmy Nigerian goats in pajamas?  (They’re tiny and live in Maine, where it gets durn cold!)

A bittersweet pleasure because their black cat reminds me of mine.

Today’s adulting should include changing my bed, doing laundry (possibly only one load) and taking out the trash.  How much of that will actually get done remains to be seen.  Afterward I will wash my hair and fold unmentionables while it dries.

Life in quarantine for me is not significantly different from the usual.  I’m pretty much a solitary WOL owing to my place on the spectrum.   The only major difference has been grocery shopping.  Since I only get paid once a month, I normally only grocery shop once a month.  However, I have felt a decided social pressure not to do that since I do not want to be mistaken for a hoarder.

I confess to having somewhat of a siege mentality when it comes to food and paper goods that come in a roll.  In the best possible world, I will always have at bare minimum a month’s supply of food (canned, frozen and boxed) on hand at any given time.  The more available space I see in my pantry and freezer, the less comfortable I feel.  Since I have not been able to replenish my pantry, I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable.   The irony of it is that since I cannot shop in once-a-month quantities, I must expose myself to COVD-19 more often.  What makes me feel even more uncomfortable is that we are moving into the A/C season when my electric bill will triple, and stretch my budget skin-tight.

I made a bowl of tuna salad the other day.  I like to eat it one of two ways — dolloped on crackers or in a sandwich.  I usually make 1-1/2 to 2 tuna salad sandwiches, wrap them in cling wrap and put them in the fridge to chill before eating them. It’s the only time I ever use cling wrap.  Really.  The roll of cling wrap I have has moved house with me twice now.  Seriously.

My tuna salad tends to be a little gooshy, and I do not stint when I make sandwiches with it, hence the cling wrap, which allows me to eat them without having to wash my hands (or shirt) afterward.  This time the sandwiches were made from artisanal “rustic” white bread of which I had three slices left.  Thus 1-1/2 sandwiches.  It was totally nums.  It had chopped green onions in (as well as diced Kosher dills, sliced black olives, chopped white onions and mayo.)

You will notice in the next to last photo a package of Pedros Tamales thawing in the fridge.  I am currently devouring them three at a time.  I put them in a shallow soup bowl, put a layer of refried beans on top, sprinkle with chopped green onions (in the plastic produce bag above), sliced black olives, and sprinkle cheese — Sargento’s Three Mexican Cheeses by choice — then zot them in the microwave.  A one-dish meal.

Cats and Threads did a post about working from home and about sharing what our at-home work stations look like.  When I did work from home, my work station looked pretty much like this.  The recliner is on casters.  It’s also almost 20 years old and is getting pretty shabby.   (I’m angling for a new recliner for my birthday . . .  hint! hint!) The table is also on casters.   I scoot the recliner up to the table, recline, then pull the table toward me.   The pegboards hold various cables, a box of stitch markers, a duster thingie and a clock.  I also still have a foot pedal mounted to the back pegboard, although I don’t use it anymore. The carryall at the bottom of the shot holds the shawl I have one more ball to knit onto.  I also have half of a 4′ x 8′ sheet of 3/4′ plywood on the floor underneath the setup so the desk and chair roll easily and don’t ruin my landlord’s carpet

Here’s the view from the command chair.  Note the bowl of knitting. And that’s all I’ve got for now.

*May the 4th be with you.
**FYI, the actual quote is, "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride."



“Go to the Limits of Your Longing”

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.


Doing the Social Distance Dance

So, I supported my local small businesses last night and called in a pizza strike (an expression I appropriated from a guy I used to date who had done two tours in Vietnam (which dates both of us!).  It’s the same idea as a unit in the field calling command on the radio and requesting an air strike or artillery fire on an enemy position, only much better.).

The TV was off, and I was sitting and knitting, so I heard the pizza delivery guy drive up.  I opened the (actual) door (but not the glass storm door), and here he comes up the walk carrying his delivery pouch in one hand and one of those shower stools for the elderly like you can buy in drug stores in the other hand.  The stool has a rubber band around the seat.   He put my delivery on the stool and backed away to the end of the porch.  I took my order off the stool and set it on the floor.  Then I slid my pair of Andrew Jacksons under the rubber band, told him to give me a Lincoln in change and stepped back behind my storm door.  He replaced my Jacksons with the requested Lincoln and stepped away from the stool.  I retrieved my Lincoln, wished him a good night, and he took his stool and left.

I carried my food items into the kitchen and opened the cartons up so I could get at the food AFTER I did the 20-second hand wash thing.  THEN, without touching the cartons, I put slices on a plate and chowed down, all the while expecting at any moment to hear that music . . . .

They tell us social distancing is working, though.  This is why.   Let’s say the ping pong ball is the corona virus . . .

Oddly enough, the first part of this video is the same one they use to illustrate nuclear fission with the ping pong balls representing neutrons (bang is how it goes. . .).

Had to share this truly beautiful, truly human picture.  These medical professionals have taped pictures of their faces to their isolation gear to, quite literally, put a human face on their care.  Cue the Bowie song . . .

My part in the MTV generation was  a bit vicarious, but be that as it may.  Today’s earworm is a rather relevant blast from the past . . .  We’re all having to do the safety dance these days.

We can do this.


*Save Our Sanity.

Emilio Sanchez-Perrier Winter in Andalusia 1880

I worry about those people like my mother who have a wide circle of friends and derive a lot of satisfaction from socializing.  This is a hard time for such people.  Social isolation is very telling on the psyche.  (That’s why solitary confinement is a punishment, y’all.)  It would not be so worrisome if she didn’t live by herself.  This social isolation thing has cut her off from a major source of what makes life fulfilling for her:  Interacting with her friends.  She has never been very tech savvy (operating cable TV is a challenge).  She has no smart phone, and has no idea there is such a thing as Skype or FaceTime, never mind how to use it.  Unfortunately, she has a significant hearing loss, which makes following dialogue problematic so she mostly watches game shows and sports on TV.   Reading does not appeal;  she neither knits nor crochets.  (How can I be related to this woman???)

When the social isolation is beginning to tell on you and you are bouncing off the walls from boredom, give a thought to people like my mother.  Call them, chat with them, engage with them.  Back when AT&T was just a telephone company, their advertising slogan was “Reach out and touch someone.”  Guess what.  That reaching out and touching someone works both ways.

Personally, I’ve not noticed a big change in my life in the time of COVID-19.  At my end of the spectrum, solitude is peace, and I cherish it.  I’m pretty much doing what I’ve always done, blogging, reading blogs, keeping up with the YouTube channels I follow, reading, knitting, watching Netflix.  I’m lucky in my self sufficiency, seeing as how I’m in three or four high-risk groups.

Avebury House

I thought I’d share a couple of pieces of eye-candy from my collection, as well as some goodies I’ve discovered:

The Corning Glass Museum has a YouTube channel with commentated videos of glass artists making glass art using varied techniques.  This stuff is fascinating, educational, and suitable for children.

Some of us are old enough to remember when Pride and Prejudice was a BBC miniseries on PBS, and Colin Firth was (the definitive IMHO) Mr. Darcy (the lake scene!!).  Elizabeth Bennett was played by an actress named Jennifer Ehle.   For those of you who are into audiobooks, here is a YouTube series of Ms. Ehle reading the book.  If you’re on Instagram, Ms. Ehle’s ITV channel there is the source of these videos, and you may prefer to follow her from there (it’s ehle_jennifer )

For the knitting crowd, Arne & Carlos are having a quarantine knit-along on their YouTube channel with free patterns on their blog.  It’s color work, so if you haven’t tried it, you might give it a go.  They have how-to tutorials on their channel, oddly enough.

There’s a YouTube channel with relaxing ambient music.  If you like that kind of music, check out Soma FM which offers that genre as well as many others.  It’s all ***commercial free*** music you can listen to for free, but if you like what you hear, contribute what you can.   They’re listener supported and you can buy stuff from them with their logos to help keep them on the air.

Stay safe and stay sane, y’all.  We’ve got this.




Wish I Was There

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I have a “double barreled” setup — a desktop PC with two 21-inch monitor screens.

Let me digress:  I was a medical transcriptionist (typing reports dictated by doctors for hospital medical records) for nearly 30 years before I hung up my foot pedal.  I worked “in-house” for the first six of those years — went to the hospital to a room in medical records that had a large computerized dictation machine that was hooked to word processors and a pair of printers.  I worked from 2 pm to 10 pm, put on makeup, dressed professionally, packed a lunch, drove to and from work, etc.  But then, entrepreneurs took advantage of these large computerized dictation machines to set up companies with server farms that could connect through the phone lines to serve hospitals all over the country.  It also meant that they could hire people all over the country to connect to the server farms over the phone lines and work from home to type up the dictation and send it back to whichever hospital they were working for at the time.  For most of my working life (until the advent of DSL), I had two home phone lines and my computer had its own phone.

This was back in the day when the internet still went SKWEE SQUAW tweedle-deedle-deedle.  For the vast majority of my working life, I worked from my back bedroom (tough commute!), with kitties sleeping either on or by me, from 9 pm at night to 5 am in the morning.  Because I  worked from home, I didn’t have to worry about walking alone through dark parking lots at night so I could work those hours that nobody else wanted to work (evenings, nights and weekends), the hours for which companies paid extra (shift differential) as an incentive.   I could forget about makeup, wear whatever I durn well pleased and didn’t have to worry about “looking professional.”  (This was why  when I traded in a  1987 Toyota Corolla in 2014, it only had 48,000-odd actual miles on it!).  I worked from home for years before working from home was even a thing.

Because of my work, I had to have a word processing program to do the actual typing on, plus a transcription company program that would send and receive sound files and text files within an encryption envelope, plus another transcription company program that would enable me to play their sound files, plus the proprietary software I needed that would enable my computer to use a foot pedal to manipulate those sound files, plus a web browser. (I was using Google before most folks even knew what a search engine was.  I found out about it from an article in Discover Magazine.)  I also had to play back the dictation over headphones (and later, earbuds) to protect the privacy of the patients because all this dictation I was typing was somebody’s person healthcare information and could have been overheard by somebody else if I played back the dictation over speakers.

Then I found out about a switch (it’s called a KVM switch, BTW) that worked with Windows 7 that would enable me to hook two monitors to the switch and hook the switch to the computer’s monitor port and toggle back and forth between screens by tapping the ESC key twice.  Having two screens made juggling all those programs so much easier than having all of them open on the task bar and shifting between windows by clicking with my mouse.  I used that KVM setup for years.

Toward the end of my working life, I discovered a little cord gizmo that would let me hook up a second monitor directly to the computer without having to install a second monitor board/port (It’s called a VGA splitter, in case you’re interested).  I could then extend my display across both monitors and have access to both monitors all the time without having to click a switch.

My current setup is a legacy from my working life.  Because I have two monitors,  I can have a knitting pattern open (which I am either writing as I go, or following) on one monitor and a YouTube video open on the other.  I can have a word processing program open on one screen, and a dictionary program and a “character board” of pictures open on the other.  I have a set of speakers, but they’re put up in the closet somewhere, because for 30 years I sat down at my computer and put on headphones/earbuds.  I have an extension cord with an earbud jack taped to the underside of my desk that lets me plug in a set of earbuds just under the front edge of my computer desk.

Because I’m me, and because I can, I have a wallpaper program with a whole folder full of pretty pictures that changes the wallpaper on the two monitors every 10 minutes.  A while ago, this painting was the one being used as a wallpaper.  My monitors are 21.5-inch diagonal size, so I could get a good look.

What would it be like to live in houses like that?  How would you make your living if you lived there?  What would the rooms in those houses look like?

A while later, this painting appeared.

What would life in this picture be like? What would the building be?  Why would these boats be there? What kind of society would build a place like this?

See where I’m going?  This is how you play mind games with yourself.   You find some internet radio music you like, google yourself a painting or photograph you like, kick back and wish you were there . . .


The Snowman

I know for the Brits in the crowd, this is probably a yawn, but I wanted to share this magical video with those who may not have ever seen it.  It’s been a favorite of mine for quite a while now.

The song:

We’re walking in the air
We’re floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below
Are sleeping as we fly
I’m holding very tight
I’m riding in the midnight blue
I’m finding I can fly
So high above with you

Far across the world
The villages go by like dreams
The rivers and the hills
The forests and the streams

Children gaze open-mouthed
Taken by surprise
Nobody down below
Believes their eyes

We’re surfing in the air
We’re swimming in the frozen sky
We’re drifting over icy
Mountains floating by

Suddenly swooping low
On an ocean deep
Rousing up a mighty monster
From his sleep

We’re walking in the air
We’re dancing in the midnight sky
And everyone who sees us
Greets us as we fly


One of the stock interview questions authors, actors, film makers, and artists of other ilk get asked when they are interviewed about their creations is: What were your early influences?  What captured your imagination in your formative years?  In a way, it’s like asking someone who’s made a particularly delectable item of food, “What ingredients did you use in this dish?” It’s one of the many variations on one of the most important of human questions, “How did you do that?”

The Crescent Moon Painting by Montague Dawson***

I couldn’t tell you any more how I ended up thinking about influences just now, because I’ve breathed since then, but I can tell you that it set off one of those free association things in my head that can be such fun.  One thought pinballing off into my head and I get to see what bumpers light up and go ding!  (I’ve ended up in some pretty interesting headspaces (2) that way.)

Anyway, one of the dings of this particular instance (or dongs, I forget which) was an album by Jefferson Airplane called, “After Bathing at Baxter’s.” The cover art was by visual artist Ron Cobb who has a very distinctive style.   I’d already chiseled  The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band  into the bedrock of my memory by the time I encountered it.

Somewhat later, when I had more in the way of discretionary funds*,  I ran across the Airplane’s first album “Surrealistic Pillow” with  the iconic Grace Slick singing the iconic “White Rabbit” and had liked it.  I didn’t get to Baxter’s until a year or two after it came out because before I could get to it, I was blindsided by Crosby, Stills and Nash‘s first album and its positively orgasmic vocal harmonies (Sorry.  I don’t care what anybody says, Young was a mistake.  His voice doesn’t work with the fitted-together-like-Inca-stonework  triad of voices that was David Crosby, Steven Stills and Graham Nash in their prime.  Not sorry.).  If you want vocal harmony that is to die for, that album gets it in one.  Ironically, my favorite song on the whole album, the horse dance song, would still be my favorite if you stripped out the vocal tracks.  The guitar work on that song is just perfect.  (It led me to a magical place where the horses dance and the blue fish sing.  It was a peaceful, gentle place.  I haven’t been there in quite a while.  One day I might answer a Mag Challenge and take you there. . .)   (One more time, three great voices so tight, so right. Sigh.)

But back to Baxter’s.  It’s kind of one of those you had to have been there.  There is a fair amount of acid-trippy signal noise on the album,  — it came out of 1969 San Francisco, after all.   But The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil with some of its lyrics borrowed from the poetry** of A. A. Milne (I was turned on to Winnie the Pooh, not by having it read to me or by Disney,  but by Jefferson Airplane — try that one on your head.) and the gentle “Martha” stand out.  But, again, because this album, and the band, came out of 1969 San Francisco, you’ve got Slick crooning quotes from James Joyce‘s Ulysses (ReJoyce), and the aural hash that is “A Small Package of Value Will Come to You Shortly” which ends with somebody yelling “No man is an island!  No man is an island!  He’s a peninsula.” and a giggle. (I must have listened to that giggle a bazillion times, and it still makes me smile.  It’s a truly great giggle — right up there with Anderson Cooper’s.)  And some of it is just plain weird.  One of life’s many little opportunities to sift through the dross and discover the pearls.

There was a period in my life when I used to doodle (a lot) a tulip shaped bulb with convoluted roots and a daisy like flower blooming straight out of the bulb’s point, and on the bulb, in psychedelic lettering, was the phrase “Understanding is a virtue hard to come by.”  Which is a lyric from “Last Wall of the Castle” from Baxter’s.  If I had a dollar for every time I doodled that doodle, I could buy quite a nice armload of books . . .

Also out of that time came a song, “Wooden Ships” which was written aboard David Crosby’s schooner Maya by him, Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane.  It was recorded by CSN on their first album (mentioned above) and by Jefferson Airplane.   Somewhere between the poles of the two versions of this song was, once upon a time,  a small, strange burrowing bird living in the flatlands, learning to fly. . .



*discretionary funds -- "extra" money, that can be spent on what I like to call "targets of opportunity." 
**If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!"

From "Spring Morning" in When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne.

***This picture has no relation to anything in the post.  I just like looking at it.

Fall Has Finally Fell

For a couple of weeks now, our temperatures have been faffing about in the 80’s F/26.6+ C, with intermittent pyrotechnics and gullywashers.  I’m still in summer bed linens — top sheet and a heavy cotton spread — but night before last, it got so cold in my bedroom that I went rummaging in the blanket chest for that little fleece twin blanket that I use as a lap robe when the weather gets below-zero, two-feet-of-snow-on-the-ground cold, and put it over my side of the bed.  I think it may be time to get out the waffle blanket.

In the early owls of the morning yesterday, the thermostat in the hallway said 72 F/22.2 C, and the one on the box of my desktop computer said 71 F/21.6 C which was a real eye opener, because that particular location is usually the hottest spot in the house, whether the computer is on or off. (Don’t know why.  The only window in that room is covered in aluminum foil, shiny side out, to keep the sun out of my eyes and out of the house. That should make it cooler, no?)  Supposed to be a high of 83 F/28.3 C tomorrow, then down into the 70’s F/21+ C again for the forecastable future.  I’m in long-sleeved, mid shin cotton now.  If this keeps up, I may have to start putting socks on.  (The city I live in is at the same latitude as Casablanca, Morocco.  Your climate challenges may vary . . . )

I have been in a kind of slow bummer for the past couple of days.  The “Rememberance” for my friend BL who passed away Sunday before last was this afternoon. It was a kind of secular wake, no body, no clergy, just people sharing food, beverage and grief.   My mom went with, as much out of solidarity as because I don’t do well in those sort of situations.  On my part of the spectrum, emotions are very close to the surface and often quite intense.   Her poor husband and daughter were practically propping each other up. He’s doing as well as can be expected for a man who has just lost the love of his life.   She and her daughter were particularly close, and it’s been a steep hill for her, too.

L.O.R.D. Critical World

I’ve run across another couple of those Chinese “historical fantasy” TV series, “The Untamed” and a spinoff of “L.O.R.D. Legend of Ravaging Dynasties” called L.O.R.D. Critical World.  The plots are what I would call “high Wagnerian” — i.e., convoluted and involved, deadly serious in tone, and with various characters and groups of characters being put through the wringer of traumatic experiences for no apparent reason.  The first one is the only one of them I can find with subtitles, which is really not all that much help, actually. Most of the time I have no clue who’s on first or what’s going on.   But they are visually stunning in terms of  hot young actors in long wigs and gorgeous costumes martial arts-ing about on fantastic sets, and who the heck cares if it makes sense or not? it’s just so “oooooh, shiny!”

I am slowly but surely being sucked into the super massive black hole that is the Outlander franchise.  I’m fighting it, but it’s a loosing battle, especially the TV show, because I keep running across clips from it on YouTube featuring Lord John Grey, a character I’m kind of hooked on at the moment.  In the books, Lord John is 5’6″ tall with blond hair and blue eyes.   The actor (David Berry) they’ve cast to play him in the TV show isn’t.  But, I know exactly why they cast him.  If you could CGI him shorter, and give him blond hair and blue eyes, his looks would be as perfect as his acting.  The fact that Lord John is so short, and that Jamie Fraser, the male main character, is well over 6 feet tall is part of the interpersonal dynamic between these two characters. . . . grumble. . . grumble. . . grumble. . . If I can just hold off until after Christmas, I will swan dive down that particular rabbit hole with abandon and probably go off on one long bender of binge-watching/reading.  Might make having to live through an election year a whole lot less maddening/infuriating/exasperating/all of the above.

As I’ve mentioned, the main Jamie+Claire story  Outlander books average out at around 300,000 words apiece.  If you’re tempted by the story, but are leery of committing to reading 8 such doorstops, you might try one of the Lord John stand-alone spinoffs,  which range in length from short stories, to novellas, to more manageable-sized novels, to see if you like her style of storytelling.

This just in:  The BJD sweater lacks about 5 rows on the remaining sleeve and weaving in the ends to be complete.  Film at 11.

And this because Steely Dan.