Friday, May 31, 2019

Sick Yesterday

     Maybe it was dipping a toe into contemporary politics that made my head spin.  Sinus/migraine headache so bad I was having trouble getting through doorways.  Driving would have been impossible. 

     Better today, so it's off I go.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Strange Times

     You know something's askew when Madame Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the very soul of her party's caution and restraint.  In the wake of yesterday's news, there's a great hue and cry and waving of pitchforks on the Democrat side, led by their howling pack of Presidential aspirants; but Ms. Pelosi emulates Ernest Lawrence Thayer's hero:

     "With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
       He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on...."

      CNN suggest careful political calculation on her part -- an impeachment battle is a publicity machine, one even more polarizing than everything that has preceded it, and if the House votes to impeach once that has run its course, the Republican-controlled Senate will conduct the trial.

     If that comes up dry, as there is plenty of reason to believe it will, the Republicans could find themselves ascendant while their opponents look like vindictive bullies.  Should things fall the other way, Speaker Pelosi's party will have formally unseated a President for the first time in U. S. history and handed the White House to Vice-President Pence, who they have no reason to love. 

     As a libertarian and LP voter, I guess I'm supposed to be above this partisan fray, but it is such a sad mess that I can't quite ignore it.

     Two pitches left and, I think, no joy in Mudville ether way. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


     Spent my birthday evening mowing the lawn and running the dishwasher, and had good all-beef hot dogs for dinner.

     Every single one of them made easier by electricity.  The quiet little lawnmower runs batteries and is so quiet that it's not unneighborly to run right through 'til you run out of twilight.  Having grown up doing the dishes with my siblings most night, a modern dishwasher remains one of the great wonders of the kitchen to me.  And the hot dogs....

     There's a little toaster-like gadget that holds two frankfurters and two buns.  Drop 'em in, push the lever and in a few minutes, there's dinner!  In practice, you're better off setting it so the dogs can run about half as long as needed,  and then add the buns at the halfway point, but even at that, it's quite the countertop marvel.  I had my dogs with horseradish, ketchup, a little pickled ginger and long, skinny, medium-heat Spanish pickled peppers, a combination that's not for everyone but it was better than you might think.

     Oh, these modern wonders!  I think we take them too much for granted.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Windows 10, Sullen Teenager, Same, Same

     It doesn't want to be seen with me.  My desktop PC is sulking, uninterested in running much in the way of software.  There was another Windows Update yesterday, either that or the thing's been subtly, deeply compromised.

     So, while I run various nostrums and magic spells, er, that is, diagnostics and malware-hunters, I'm back on the Raspberry Pi.  I could have fished out the Acer laptop, but the Pi's already set up and all I have to do is plug it in, so why not?

     Tellya what, I'm just about ready to use this little machine as my primary for blogging and web-browsing.  Within its limits, it's as good as the big machine and considerably less fussy.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Roberta's Birthday (Observed)?

     My Dad was born on Christmas Day.  25 December, only a few years before the Crash of '29, and wasn't that a lousy thing for a kid, to grow up during the Great Depression with the two major gift-receiving childhood holidays falling on the very same day?*

     Me, I didn't have that but for my birthday, there was a big auto race, followed by a day off school for solemn remembrance of Americans who died in our country's military service.  Makes a child feel a bit like a Roman General receiving a triumph, all that wonderfulness and bright gifts...while a slave stands beside them, whispering that all glory is transient and peace is only won by blood and toil.

     Today is Memorial Day.  Take some time to remember those who stood, and fell, the ones who struggled and bled so the likes of us can goof off and grill steaks.

     My actual birthday is tomorrow and I'm reminded that my Mom was a grandmother by the time she was my age.  Me, I've only been a "grandmother" to cats.
* By the time I was noticing the world around me, we would have Christmas presents and breakfast in the morning, and a big Christmas dinner about mid-afternoon, with Dad's birthday presents and cake for dessert.  It seems odd to me not to.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

An Acer Mystery

     Yesterday, I got out my backup laptop, an old Acer running, for reasons not entirely clear to me, Windows 8.

     The hard drive, an 18 GB SSD, is nearly full.  I cannot figure why; the directories don't show anything bloating it up, and yet -- there's less than 2 Gig left.

     Not sure why.  It may be something very ugly, or just a mess left by CCleaner several years ago; it went through a brief spate of hauling along some ugly malware before re-emerging under new ownership as a slightly less effective (and a lot less well-behaved) tool than it had been.

    So I'm looking at other ways of seeing what's happening -- downloading and installing WinDirStat as I write this -- and we'll see what it's got to say.

    In the meantime, my sinuses are so messed up that I've lost vertical!  Either that, or this entire room is about 30 degree off level, which seems unlikely; also, you'd think that would show up in slant of coffee in my cup.

     Edited To Add: Well, that didn't help.  And why do I have a 10 GB recovery partition?

     Further Edited: Freed up three and a half Gig.  Stopping there.  The new power supply for my Surface showed up a couple of hours ago!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Powerless Surfectant

     I was flying a desk at work -- the kind of desk with controls and computers on it, a thing that needs a couple of minutes of full attention out of every fifteen -- and had my Surface parked off to one side, charging, with a story I'm working on up in the text editor.  If I had time to type a line or two, great, and if I didn't, it would be charged up later.

     Turned to it, rested my hands on the keyboard, the phone rang and I pushed the little computer to one side.  Picked up the phone and did the work-type work, thinking, Gee, the side of the Surface felt warm.  Hot, even.

     Finished with the task and reached over to the Surface.  The power connection, an oddball little magnetic thing that's been as trouble-free as anyone could ask, was quite warm.  And the tiny white LED in the end of it was flickering.

     Pulled it free and the face of the connector was loose.  It wasn't holding the little spring-loaded connector pins in contact with their opposite numbers on the side of the Surface.  So it was making poor contact and heating up while trying to charge the computer's battery.

     Microsoft didn't have any Surface Pro-no-number chargers on their site; as far as they're concerned, hardware that old needs to sit quietly in back, an unwanted realtive, as welcome as a week-old bowl of congealed oatmeal.  But aftermarket suppliers still offer them.  Prices were such that I bought a couple different ones, and I'll see which I prefer when they arrive in the next couple of days.

     Meanwhile, I'll transition to a backup, probably the inexpensive little Acer I named "Skinny Brainbox."*    It's on its second battery and I just had it out to update Windows and the web browser.  Fortuitous, hey?
* It's traditional.  In homage to a particularly disturbing H. P. Lovecraft story, my desktops have been named "Brainbox n" for years; the Surface Pro is "Brainbox Junior," the Surface RT is "Baby Brainbox," and so on

Friday, May 24, 2019

Well, That Was An Interesting Mystery...

     Migraines have been stalking my days, hitting hard in the afternoons, leaving me in pain and badly out of it but usually tapering off in time to drive home.  I've been trying to set aside simpler tasks for that part of the day.

     Yesterday's barely abated and was lingering around well into the evening.

     Walked into the kitchen last night, about 45 minutes 'til bedtime, and there was a quick white flash.  The curtains were open, the kitchen lights were off and outside it was just at that point of twilight where you can't tell if you're holding up a black thread or a white one.

     I blinked, and the streetlight in the alley was on.  I wasn't sure if lighting over the horizon had lit up the overcast, my migraine had decided on a truly impressive visual presentation or the streetlight had just undergone a particularly hard start.  It could even have been a transformer blowing up a couple of streets over, though those are usually more blue and there's a "hummmm-BANG!" leading up to them.

     A quick check of the weather didn't show any storms nearby, though that's not a hundred percent -- sometimes a cloud just gets ticked off and has to let fly.

     At least it's not boring!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Three Nation Fried Rice

     This stuff might be even more international than that; you decide.  Yum, tasty globalism!

     Tam ordered Indian food last night, which meant there'd be a take-out box of nice basmati rice, gently seasoned with a little of this and that, waiting for me in the fridge.

     I had a bag of American frozen vegetables, the good old corn, peas and carrots stuff, and I microwaved about half of it with dried onion and chives while frying a few slices of lightly-peppered, applewood-smoked bacon and then gently browned a couple of slices of sopressata.  Set all that on a plate with paper toweling under it to dry.

     Poured off about three-quarters of the fat, added the rice and once it had warmed, gave it a good sprinkle of shoyu, Japanese soy sauce, and got it nice and toasty.  Added the cooked vegetables and got a lot of moisture off them before pushing it all to the sides and scrambling a couple of eggs over high heat (keep that spatula or chopstick moving!).

     Eggs cooked, I turned the heat way down and snipped the meat into little bits while adding it.  I gave it a good stir, and there you go.  I added cilantro to this batch before plating, but only do that if you're sure you like the stuff!*

     A darned good breakfast.  I'm thinking about taking the leftovers to work for lunch.
* Liking or not liking cilantro isn't a learned taste like olives.  It's genetic; either it tastes strongly soapy to you or pleasantly herbal.  So this isn't a "try it, you might like it," but more of a "find out by taking a small taste of the plain herb before proceeding."

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Allergy Sneezin'

     And worse than the sneezes that sneak up and attack like alarming snipers, are the headaches. I go to sleep with a headache most nights, having just taken a pill; I wake up with a headache and eat a bit of breakfast so I can take more pills.

     The headaches cause dizziness, which doesn't always fade with the pain.  Dizzy, I'm reluctant to move, spend the day working at my desk or a workbench, and then wonder why my knees and feet ache when I do have to get up and move around.

     Solving this should be easy: move around more.  Do more.  Go to bed dog-tired and wake up refreshed.  But it's not easy and two days of chilly rain haven't helped.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Writing Hardware: Filling Pens, Configuring iPads

     Refilling my daily-carry fountain opens this morning.  I carry three, which is self-indulgent but gives me a seriously permanent black for writing checks, a dark brown for documents that need to be obviously signed and not photocopied with a signature and a bold pen for headings and anything that needs to be readable from a distance.  It's a comforting ritual and not without a little risk.

*  *  *
     Last night, I finally learned how to turn off "smart quotes" and other auto-corrected mother-henning on the iPad!  In hindsight, it should have been obvious.  Apple prides themselves on providing a seamless, well-integrated user experience.  Apps have only the bare minimum of settings internal to themselves -- because most of the settings are global, or at least accessed through the "Settings" menu.

     In this case, Settings > General > Keyboard > "Smart Punctuation" OFF.  Done!

     There are a lot of other elbow-jogglings that can be toggled on that menu as well.  This change makes the iPads a lot more useful to me, since I greatly prefer Standard Manuscript Format and it calls for straight quotes.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Writer's Nope

     No writer's group yesterday.  Did all my homework, combed my hair and put on lipstick an' all that, drove over to the venue and....

     Big old "Nope."  Host wasn't even apologetic about it; they had a Game of Thrones event and no event rooms were available.

     I pointed out the room had been reserved in advance.

     He asked who we'd made the reservation with, and I told him.

     "Oh, you people?*  Some woman called and said it was cancelled.  I can maybe seat you over in the bar area."

     Where loud-ish music plays, right.  I said I'd see if anyone else showed up, took a seat in the waiting area and checked e-mail on my phone.  A flurry of last-minute individual cancellations -- two dropped out with various  non-trivial issues and it snowballed.  Okay, life happens.

     I went home and e-mailed the reservations people.  There's a bit of a flutter about it in my in-box this morning but it seems there's a disconnect between Corporate and the particular venue, and the venue people had grabbed all the rooms for the GoT thing without checking; so we'd been cancelled before we cancelled, if that makes sense.

     Looks like we're going to reschedule the writer's group -- elsewhere.
* Sheesh, I hate being a "You people."  I thought we'd tipped better than that last time.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Vim, Vigor And Being My Age

     Or, what the dickens, being a bit younger.

     In our last exciting installment, Tamara and I got the yard mowed.  After that we bicycled a few miles for dinner and back home.

     We had plans to hit the five and dime and drugstore for various things, but I wanted to rest up.  I wenrt to my room and laid down, thinking I might look at televis...

     Out like a light.

     Woke up thirsty about an hour later, with Rannie Wu the cat curled up at my feet, using one of my ankles for a pillow.  Had a drink of water, thought I'd lay back down and maybe look at a little tele...

     Asleep before I even knew it.

     Woke up an hour and a half later.  Rannie was curled up next to me.  It was just about full dark.

     Not much else was going to get done.  Certainly no shopping.  I went to the office and finished up the writer's group stuff, puttering around with this and that until it was time to go to bed for the night.

     The exercise was good; I need to do more of it.  And when the energy's used up, there's no reserve.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Left-Over Chicken; Lawn Work

      Tam mowed the front yard this morning.  It turns out out that if you feed her well enough, The Tamara is all kinds of useful.

     Last night's supper was all manner of "enough."  I'd bought a whole baked chicken (garlic and herb butter) Thursday, along with good, old-fashioned vinegar/pepper coleslaw and elote corn salad.  We each had a drumstick and a little white meat, but there was plenty left; I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge.

     Friday, I picked up a box (oh, this modern packaging) of chicken-mushroom bone broth and a can of French vegetable soup on the way home from work.

     Got home, poured the broth into a saucepan to simmer, and cut up the chicken into it, skin and all, with special attention to all the hard-to-get-at meat.  Brought that up almost to a boil and added the corn salad, then the can of soup.

     I was wonderful!  There's just a little heat to the corn salad that helped out the soup; the broth was very rich and full of flavor (and meat!).  I think a little lemongrass might have made it even better but as it was, it was very good indeed.  Tam had a big bowl and a little more.  So did I.

     Full of vim and vigor (after sleeping in until 8:30 this morning!), I took a weed-eater to the back yard.  With the recent rain, it had gotten well beyond what the mower could handle.  It should be just fine for the mower by next weekend.  

Friday, May 17, 2019

No Hamvention This Year

     I had planned to be in Dayton -- well, Xenia -- for the Hamvention today.  As the date approached, my car was having issues; the air-conditioning isn't working and the last time it was in for service, they told me the water pump might fail soon.

     That was Strike One.

     Strike Two was the bill for my cardiac tress test.  My part of it came to over $2500!  I kind of have it, if I make only the minimum credit-card payment, watch my expenses and carry a kind of ugly balance for a few months, but I hadn't planned on it and Hamvention's not much fun if you're broke.  Plus, if my car did act up on the trip, that would push my finances right over the edge.

     Strike Three: Last year, the drive to and from and/or a minor slip while walking hurt my right knee badly enough that I was using a cane for a long time and had to have a couple of months of physical therapy, which took time and money I would have preferred to apply to other things.

     So, no Hamvention this year.  Maybe next year.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

"...Completely Predictable Machines..."

     If only we knew all the variables.  Maybe.  "Indistinguishable from magic," Arthur C. Clarke wrote of sufficiently advanced technology, and I've been thinking he meant the wonderfulness of it, producing marvels from thin air before our eyes -- but it can just as easily be taken to refer to the ill-understood incantations and rituals, the unpredictable results and the sometimes cruel or ironic misreading of commands one finds in stories about magic.  Possibly my chalk circle around the desktop had a gap in it.

     My Surface and the inexpensive Acer laptop that is its backup took the update fine, even though it was a pretty large pile of stuff.  The Surface actually did a stealth-update on me between uses at work!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

So, That Windows Update?

     It updated.  Got home from work and my desktop was still hung.  Hit the ol' "developer switch" and when it came back up, it was happy.  Update all loaded, running okay. 

     So I'll give 'em a glitch.  Now to see about updating my Surface.

Thanks, Windows

     I'm on the "toy computer" (a Raspberry Pi B+) this morning, because at shutdown last night, my desktop offered "Update and shut down," "...and restart" and "...later" as options.  I'd read earlier that there are apparently some big, sneaky holes in the system architecture and Microsoft is frantic to patch them.

     Okay, then.  Has to be done.  But after this morning's boot-up, my desktop has spent the last ten minutes with the Window 10 "blue window" logo and a spinning wheel of dots on the screen.  It's lovely, Microsoft, but why didn't you do that last night?

     The Surface is probably going to want to do this today and unless the update has bricked my machine, I'll park it on a corner of my desk at work and let it get down with itself; and likewise my other backup, a skinny (and now outdated) Acer laptop that I picked up cheap a few years ago.

     If I didn't have the Pi and the very used MacBook,* this would be a lot more annoying!  As it is, well, Microsoft is going to make a Linux user out of me yet, and/or drive me into the arms of Big Brother Apple.

     ...And we're now at fifteen minutes of "I'm thinking about it" from the desktop -- if only it was as amusing as Milton Berle!
* I'd include the iPad, but I still haven't knuckled under and subscribed to Word for IOS.  You can't just buy it, as far as I know, and the monthly fee is slightly non-trivial.  Being able to hand off documents between platforms and edit them easily is a large part of the usefulness of my computers, though.  Like my desktop -- presently at the twenty minute mark without ETA! -- I'm still thinking about it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Various Items

     - I'm pretty sure by the time of the 2020 conventions, every Democrat politician will have offered themselves up for their party's nomination.  Do they figure it will be a cakewalk for their side, or is it that Mr. Trump is so dire a menace that each and every one of them sees him- or herself as the One True Knight who is the only person who can vanquish the dragon?  Or is it just the old Will Rogers principle, "I don't belong to an organized political party.  I'm a Democrat," yet again?  I do think their convention's going to be interesting.  Possibly as in split-in-the-party interesting.

     - Don't count the GOP out for surprises in 2020, either.  Sure, it looks like a sure thing for the incumbent now, but you have to wonder who's waiting in the wings, waiting to swoop down and land with a thud.

     - Does it even matter what the Libertarians will be doing in 2020?  I'll probably vote for their candidate anyway. When the choices are Coke or Pepsi, I prefer Dr. Pepper.

     - Guess who didn't take her allergy medicine last night?  It was so cold and rainy, after all....  Yeah, that didn't make any difference and by this morning, I had to take it.

     - I had no idea we had done underground nuclear testing on a tectonically unstable Alaskan island, most recently in 1971.  It survived.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Oh, Monday

     My old nemesis!  Started out to write one thing, ran into Firefox slowness due to cookie overload, and had to clear up that before proceeding -- and ran out of time.

     It was a fairly moot rant anyway; the deal is all but done and downtown will be losing more parking -- in an expansion of facilities at the Fieldhouse intended to draw more people to downtown!  They say the project will include a plaza "bigger than Rockefeller Square."  You know what Manhattan has that Indianapolis doesn't?  An effective, extensively interconnected and widely-used public transit system! 

     The city's part of the deal will be paid for with an extension of the "innkeeper's tax," a few more pennies on the dollars that pay for hotel rooms.  'Cos what're visitors going to do if room rates go up, use some online service that presently doesn't pay that tax...?  Oh, that's right, they might just do that.  Better yet, local news sources are claiming "it won;t cost taxpayers a dime;" taxpayers who vote in Marion County, that is.

     They'll get their plaza -- with ice-skating in the winter, just like we used to have at the Soldiers and Sailors monument.  And I'm sure it will be a great triumph, just like the Union Station revamping into chic shops and the Circle Center Mall -- the one now an occasionally rented-out venue and the other fading like last decade's newspaper.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Corned Beef Hash, Semi-Homemade

     I think I have the canned corned beef and fresh potatoes version figured out.

     Cubed the potatoes and piled up the cubes in a bowl of cold water with some rosemary and parsley.  Poured off about half the water and warmed it in a big skillet until it was boiling; took away a little more water, added some freeze-dried onion and let it simmer while I cubed up the canned corned beef.

     The meat was Kroger's house brand.  It's all South American canned corned beef, in those trapezoidal cans, and the price was good.  (It also had an expiration date over four years in the future, so I'll be stocking a few cans of that stuff for rainy days.)

    Added the meat, mixed everything together, smoothed it with the back of the spoon and let it cook uncovered until it was about as dry as I wanted; covered it and let it cook awhile longer (and made myself a fried egg for on top, in a separate one-egg pan).  Cooked it uncovered just a bit more, so it would brown some on the bottom, then served it up.

     It was good.  Not too salty, which is always a concern with canned corned beef.  The potatoes did brown a little and they were well-cooked.

     So there's the trick.  Cook the potatoes by boiling first, don't add salt.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Almost Missed A Day

     Okay, look, I slept all day.  Some sort of awfulness has been making the rounds; Tam had it badly earlier in the week and I kind of just pushed through the same thing on Thursday and Friday. 

     Today was a day of recovering.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Plants Are Goin' At It

     This year's pollen season is proving painful for me.  Sadly, when the plants are doing their thing outside your bedroom window, throwing a bucket of water on them doesn't stop them; quite the opposite, as the Spring rains are demonstrating.

     Three out of the last four mornings, I have woken up with intense sinus pain; the fourth morning was the same, only not as strong. And this despite over-the-counter allergy pills.  After the second time, I tried a sinus rinse.  That worked, at least it took the wosrt edge off -- and used up the last of the distilled water.  Tam picked up more yesterday, which I'm looking forward to using this morning.

     It might hurt, but at least the grass is green and lush, the trees are leafing out and there are flowers everywhere!  And no snow.  Yeah, kind of worth the tradeoff.  Maybe.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Racing A Deadline

     It's no less a deadline for being self-imposed: manuscripts for the writer's group I'm in are due today.  I'm not quite a quarter of the way done with my project.  Finally -- barely! -- above the minimum word count but I'd like to hand the group a completed story. 

     It may not be possible.  Still, there's time left and I hope to make progress.

     If I can get this done, if it's not too clumsy, if I can slog through the formatting, I may try to release it via Amazon's "Kindle Direct Publishing." 

Wednesday, May 08, 2019


     Remember when "Russian agent in Washington D.C." meant something like the deep-cover covert illegals on the TV series The Americans, skulking about and doing skullduggerous things?

     Now they've got their own radio station! WZHF AM and a "translator" on 105.5 FM carry "Radio Sputnik," and whatever you think about the various English-language voices on it, most of them U. S. citizens, the programming is run by the government of Russia.  Oh, Senator, tune to a different station, quick!

     At least they're not sneaking around, right?

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

A New C. J. Cherryh Alliance-Union Novel

     A couple of days ago, I mentioned C. J. Cherryh, and specifically one of her fictional settings that I enjoy, the "Alliance-Union" universe.  At the time, it struck me that we'd probably seen as much of it as there was going to be; in 2009, she'd wrapped up several loose ends in Regenesis, and most of her work in recent years has been on another (and possibly loosely-linked) series that follows human/alien interaction down a very different track.

     Turns out there's at least one more, novel Alliance Rising: The Hinder Stars.  Listed as a collaboration with Jane Fancher, the tone and style match the earlier books well.  It's set at a critical juncture in the overall arc of fictional history.  Like Downbelow Station, it uses several viewpoints to tell the story.

     It's enjoyable so far, and the task is no small one: the Alliance-Union novels are set all throughout the history of the development of a star-spanning civilization with three centers of power and the development of at least four technologies with substantial cultural effects.  Any new novel has to fit into the previously-established timeline.  At this point, that means a lot of cross-checking!  In a character-focused set of novels covering a couple of centuries or more, some discrepancies can be waved away as the distortions of history and personal recollection; but you can't bend it too far.

     Cherryh has a knack for the "lived-in future;" her stories read as if they're being told by someone who has Been There and Done That.  I can see where some of it may come from, but that takes nothing away from the end result.  If you liked the first season of The Expanse, you've already seen an SF setting that owes a huge debt to C. J. Cherryh; Heavy Time (1991) and Hellburner (1992), very early in the Alliance-Union timeline, will be familiar territory.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Scooter At Last -- Lawnmowing, Too Soon

     It wasn't really too soon to mow the yard.  The little white flowers had passed their peak, the violets are flourishing, and the dandelions--  The dandelions have much too good a foothold.

     Sunday, the weather was nice: not overcast, not rainy, not chilly.  It wasn't even very windy.  After Meet The Press, Tam had range work (followed by her weekly appointment with ribs at Fat Dan's Deli) and I had a nice long soak in warm water.  By the time she back, I was ready for the day.

     Tam had loaded the dishwasher before she left.  I started a load of laundry, checked the lawnmower batteries and put the low on on the charger, and went to work finishing up the new battery in my scooter.

     One of the cell covers had been misplaced and once I had the old battery off, I borrowed one from it.  With the new battery in place -- which is only awkward, the rubber strap that holds it in place is tricky to fasten -- I tried a rubber stopper for the open cell in the old battery.  Too big!  I managed to whittle it down to fit and packed the battery away in the box the new one had come in, with a little baking soda for luck.  I had looked and looked for missing stopper all the previous week without finding it.

     I kick-started the scooter without too much trouble (but that's why the year's first start isn't electric; you can run a new battery flat that way) and let it idle until it was happy while I checked and refilled the tires, checked the lights, and realized with a sinking heart that I hadn't updated the sticker on the plates -- and I had no idea where the paperwork had got to after my desktop water spill last month.

     Went in, babysat the washer though a spin cycle (it tends to get out of balance) and went back to the garage to get the mower out.  Naturally, there were snow shovels and snow-sweeping brooms piled atop it; by the time I had the thing out, it was time to watch the second spin cycle and then load the dryer.

     Meanwhile, the lawn care crew for our neighbor to the north had been and gone and our new neighbor to the south had finished her mowing -- and the vegetation in the front yard of Roseholme Cottage was standing high and wild between them, starting to look like a set for Tarzan-of-the-Chipmunks in contrast!

     Time to fix that.  The grass was high enough -- and still damp from the week of off and on rain we'd just had -- that I set the mower to its highest setting.  The strip between the sidewalk and house went fast enough, and I had the front yard about two-thirds done before I needed to empty the clippings.  The rest of the front and the narrow side yards filled up the clipping bags again and I'd started on another before it was done. Gave the back yard nearest the house a quick pass just for luck, before I put the lawnmower away.

     Inside, to get cleaned up a little and see if Tam was interested in dinner (she was not; a nice rack of falling-off-the-bone ribs is a substantial meal), and see if maybe, just maybe I would find the 2020 stcker for the scooter plates.  It turned out to be right about where I'd hoped it would be!

      So I gathered helmet, gloves, riding jacket (it appears to have shrunk since 2006!), put on boots and clomped out to the garage.  In short order, I was zooming up the block, free as a bird.

     The scooter's feeling pretty good so far this year, at least for a few trips around the block.  So I took it for a quick grocery store run: minute steak, Brussels sprouts, baking potato, sandwich fixings for work, Cajun snack mix for Tam, what was I forgetting? Something. 

     Back home, it takes some maneuvering to line the scooter up to back it into the garage.  A couple of feet away from the apron, I happened to look down and there was something black amid the pale gravel -- a squirrel-gnawed walnut hull?  Dead leaf?  Hey, is that--

     It was the missing battery cell cap.  I stowed it, parked the scooter, rinsed it off  and had it in place on the old battery before I took the groceries inside.

     So the old battery is ready to go back, the scooter's back in service -- and I'd forgotten to pick up sugar.  Oh well, the confectioners 10X sugar needs used up anyway.

Sunday, May 05, 2019


     Or trying to write, anyway.  I have a short story, maybe even a novelette, written in first person.  It's not bad but there's a lot of background to impart, which will work better if it's written in "close third person," looking over the character's shoulder, knowing what she thinks, but able to take in a wider world than only what she sees.

     That's tricky.  It tends to veer off into first person or omniscient viewpoint.  The first is, well, lazy; you can tell great stories that way (Raymond Chandler uses it for his "Philip Marlowe" yarns) but it's a little like training wheels or a clip-on necktie.  The second is old-fashioned; I've read a lot of classic fiction written just that way, but modern readers find it dull.

     SF writer C. J. Cherryh has a real knack for close third person; many of her stories of people caught up in the interstellar struggle between Earth, Union and the Merchanter's Alliance are told that way -- Merchanter's Luck, Finity's End, Tripoint and Rimrunners are all good examples of this.*  The last on the list does an exceptionally good job of maintaining the distinctive voice of Elizabeth Yeager, the main character, while not leaving the reader stuck in her skull (it begins with a different character's view of her, and then moves to follow her).  So I pulled the book from my shelf to use as a reference, and once again, I'm drawn into the story!

     Still learning from it, but I'm re-reading the novel for the I don't know how-manyth time.  There's a lot to be gleaned from her work: Cherryh's characters live in a complicated, high-tech world and she's quite happy to leave you to work out the details on your own.

     Now I need to get back to work on that story.
* All of these novels share a common theme, too, of outcasts finding a place where they fit in, though not after considerable uncertainty and struggle.  You can find them all in hardcopy, new or used; presently, I find only one available for Kindle: Merchanter's Luck forms half of the compilation Alliance Space, with the interesting Forty Thousand In Gehenna as the other half.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Slept In Again

     Friday was....not a great day.  Had a lot to do, got most of it done,. some stuff went wrong. 

     Today, I slept late, napped in the afternoon, and I'm off to bed now.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Late Start

     Sleeping in was a wonderful treat today, thanks to work schedules being rearranged for a special event this weekend.  Oh, I'll have to work late, too, but I've been staying up pretty late this week and that should help.

     Slept with a window open, too.  Look, if I'm going to have to take allergy medicine anyway, I might as well enjoy the fresh (if pollen-laden) air.  The cats enjoy it; even Tamara's cat, as determinedly indoor a cat as you will meet, spent some time sitting in the window and gazing out at the yard.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Another Sure Sign Of Spring

     This morning, I made myself a nice cup of steaming-hot coffee -- cream, sugar, one teaspoon of each -- stirred it and three ants floated to the top, all deader than a nail or a pop star past his prime.  (Now that's good coffee!)

     Checking, yes, the Sugar In The Raw, with its handy (but hardly hermetic) metal pour spout, was thoroughly infested with tiny ants.

     The coffee area next to the stove is a new place for them to show up; in previous years, they have preferred the sink and microwave side of the long, narrow kitchen here at Roseholme Cottage.  But I shouldn't have been surprised; after all, sugar, ants.

     I have backup sugar, because of course I do; usually there's a box of sugar and a jar of coffee creamer warming up on the sidelines.  It just so happens that I hadn't picked up the next box of sugar yet but I always have a box of 10X confectioner's sugar in the cupboard and usually one of brown sugar, too.  That's just how it's done.  (Thanks, Mom!)  I went with the confectioner's for this morning.

     Time to rig the kitchen for summer.  It's a good excuse to go through it and straighten things up.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Cauliflower Rice?

     "Cauliflower rice," consisting of that brassica chopped fine, turns out to be something I should only consume in moderation.

     Made a big wokful of "fried rice" using the substitute last night: steak tips, mushrooms, carrot, onion and celery with a nice sesame-ginger sauce.

     I like rice.  A big old steaming bowl of rice with some veggies and meat in it is one of my favorite ways to make a meal, anything from Thai-spiced tuna and steamed soybeans over microwave brown rice* to good old Sino-American fried rice to Hoppin' John.  So when big packages of "cauliflower rice" started showing up in the produce section at the grocery, I knew it was only a matter of time until I was going to try it.  After all,  Tam's avoiding carbs, I like rice dishes, what's not to love?

     The next day's effects, is what.  Oh, nothing dire; but I had a plate and a half of the stuff and that translates into a lot of walks down the hall to the porcelain office.  It tends to get in the way of accomplishing one's work.

     I'll stick to real rice in the future, thank you all the same.
* This is a fancy-looking one-bowl meal you can make with some deli "edamame salad" or microwaveable shucked green soybeans, Bumblebee or Starkist spiced tuna in tiny cans, and one of those little nukable plastic rice cups.  Set the skinny red pepper to one side unless you like it hot.