A Tweet In Time

Neil Gaiman is a “Person Of Interest” on my radar, and information about him attracts my attention when it enters my ken zone.  Per his own report, at gawdawful o’clock this morning, he was on a plane which was flying widdershins across the Atlantic and had carried a hat onto the plane with him.  Inferring from the evidence given below, hatted is a situation in which he does not often find himself.  Mind you, I’ve never seen a picture of him wearing a hat, which is not to say that he never indulges in hattery, only that I’ve never seen photographic proof of same.  Based on what little I know of him, he does not strike me as a person prone to be hatted in public.  However, by his own admission, he was in possession of a hat on said flight.  That he, himself, finds this an unusual circumstance is supported by the following tweet:

Salted through his Twitter feed for the next 160 minutes were the following:

I find this incident hilarious, amazing, brilliant and bemusing, which is an interesting set of feelings to experience all in a lump.  Not the least of it is having the likes of Will Wheaton, John Scalzi, Chris Kluwe, and Warren Ellis tweeting you from assorted far-flung geographic locations while you are flying across the pond in a plane bound for Blighty to remind you not to deplane hatless.  (He didn’t.)

To add to the interestingness, I learned of this occurrence on Elizabeth Bear‘s Tumblr blog.

Resistance is futile.

The Ballad of WOL and the Windshield Wipers

Wednesday is technically “payday” but I can’t actually use the money until Thursday.    But I work on Thursdays until 2 p.m. So, after work, I showered, put on some “outside*” clothes, pocketed my cellphone, donned my MP3 player and selected an “up-tempo” playlist, got my shopping list off the refrigerator, grabbed my purse and keys, and headed out the door.

First item on the list:  Flu shot.   Being a former zoomie, I am entitled to veteran’s benefits, including medical care, which I obtain at my local VA clinic.  Thursday was one of the two days this year that the VA clinic was giving flu shots, and they were only giving them out from 1 to 6 p.m.  So, off I tootled in that direction.

In my town, the streets are laid out in a grid pattern with those going east-west designated as numbered streets, and those going north-south designated as named avenues in alphabetical order.  In other parts of town, the avenues are named for cities that have a college or university, but in the part of town where the VA clinic is located, the north-south avenues are letters of the alphabet.  To get to the clinic, I travel for some distance down the “funny” section of 66th Street and turn off onto an avenue.  However, instead of going to 66th and P, as my dad did every morning when he worked downtown, I have to go to L. (If you think about it, it’ll come to you. . . )

I figured that the primary care clinic would be supervising the administration of flu shots so instead of parking at the front of the building and entering through the main entrance, I parked on the side and went in the side entrance, which is the entrance closest to that clinic.  Obviously, I wasn’t thinking.  The VA is a government agency and, like every other government agency, no matter what you do, there will be forms to fill out and steps to follow.  So I had to go all the way to the front of the building to the first station and fill out a form.  At some point between the time my dad was in the Marines during WWII, and when I joined the USAF, they stopped issuing serial numbers — as in ‘name, rank and serial number’ — and started using your Social Security number as your serial number.  This is why I had to fill in the form with (among other things) my name and my “last four” —  the last four digits of my Social Security number (which I refer to as my “nicknumber“).

Upon completion of that step, I proceeded to the next station in the process.  One person stuck a thingie in my ear to take my temperature and the other person noted “97.8” on my form, and asked me if I was allergic to eggs (I’m not). Then I could proceed to the next station and the step where I actually got the shot, got a little round Band-Aid put over the injection site, and was allowed to proceed on my merry way.  Unusually, the whole process only took about 10 minutes.  By now it was 3:30.

The next item on the “to do” list was to go to the bank and get a money order in the amount of my rent, which is due the first of the month.  To me, it is worth it to spend the $2 to buy the money order, since money orders do not have your bank account number or the bank’s routing number on them like a check does.  The lobby of “my” branch of the bank closes at 4 p.m.   If I could get there before 4 p.m., I could just go inside, walk up to the counter and buy my money order from the teller, rather than having go around to the drive through windows (which close at 6 p.m.) and conduct my business via pneumatic tube.  The tellers know me on sight (I buy a money order for the same amount ever month — !) and I don’t have to send them my driver’s license through the pneumatic tube capsule.   Luckily, traffic was cooperative and I got there with 10 minutes to spare.  A pleasant chat with the inside teller, money order purchased, and off I trundle.

The next item on the list was to get my car’s yearly state “road-worthiness” inspection and get the state inspection sticker put on the windshield/windscreen as proof of same.  There’s a place near where I live where I’ve traded for years, and we know each other.  They do oil changes, install and rotate tires, put in antifreeze, and perform other such routine maintenance services.   They are also a licensed state inspection station.  By now it’s coming on 4:30 p.m., but they stay open until 6 p.m., so I’ve plenty of time.

My 1987 Toyota “Crayola” has a 5-speed manual transmission and there is a slow leak somewhere in the hydraulic line of the clutch.  If the fluid gets low enough, my clutch won’t “clutch” and I can’t change gears — quite inconvenient if you happen to be out driving around when it happens.  The cheap solution to this problem is to keep a bottle of hydraulic fluid in my trunk.  I can tell when it’s starting to get low and I pop up the hood/bonnet, uncap the reservoir and top it up — which I’d done before I left the house, and a good thing, too.  However, when I backed out of the driveway and turned the wheel to straighten out so I could drive off, it groaned like a soul in purgatory, which is how the Crayola tells me that the power steering fluid was low, too.  So when I pulled into the parking lot to get my car inspected, I asked the guy to check my fluid levels because I thought my steering wheel fluid was low. (It was.)

This place charges $14.99 to do a state inspection, but the windshield wiper blade on the driver’s side had to be replaced before the car would pass inspection.  If you’re replacing one wiper blade, you might as well replace both of them, but the cheapest pair they had that would fit my car was $24 and change.   However, my local Wal-Mart is right behind this place — just down a rather steep little berm, and a short walk across a parking lot.  The inspection guy suggested that I walk over and pick up some less expensive wiper blades, bring them back, and they would put them on for me.  He told me what lengths the book said I needed to buy (an 18-inch and a 20 inch — the driver’s side one is bigger), and that I needed to make sure to get the kind with a bayonet style mount.  So down I hike, and come in through the customer door that leads from the garage where Wal-Mart does their car repairs, and go on around to the automotive section of the store.

Now, as I mention in the previous post, we’d had a right little gully washer the day before and as a consequence, a lot of folks had realized they needed to replace their wiper blades.  Apparently, a lot of cars take a size 20 wiper blade, because none of the brands that cost less than $24 a blade had a size 20.  I could get an 18, a 19, and a 21, but no 20.  So I got a size 18, a size 19 and a size 21 of the el cheapo brand, waited 10 minutes at the cash register while one of the mechanics, and a lady from another section of the store tried to figure out how to get the cash register to do what they wanted it to do (the regular cashier was out sick), finally got checked out, and back I hike.  I clambered up the berm, and explained the situation.  After a good deal of jiggling and poking about, they finally managed to get the “old school” bayonet adapter on the blade and figured out how they attached to the wiper arms.  Turns out, the size 19 fit the driver’s side just fine, but the size 18 was too big to fit the passenger’s side as the tip of the blade hit the rubber gasket at the edge of the windshield/windscreen.  Rather than have me hike back down and get a shorter one, they put the old blade back on the passenger side, as it still functioned adequately, and put the inspection sticker on my windshield/windscreen.

Next item on the list:  Groceries.  Off I go back to Wal-Mart, this time by car, as this is where I buy my groceries.  The way Wal-Mart is laid out, the left end of the building is where they keep the groceries including such non-food items like paper goods (paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, paper napkins/serviettes, paper plates, etc), food storage items (aluminum foil, waxed paper, plastic wrap, resealable plastic bags, etc.) cleaning supplies for kitchen and bathroom (dish washing soap, spray cleaners, disinfectants, sponges, brooms, mops, etc.), laundry items (detergent, bleach, fabric softener, etc.), trash bags, and bug sprays.  Toiletries (shampoo, tooth paste, tooth brushes, shaving soap, shaving lotion, razors, combs, brushes, hair elastics and pins, hair color, hand lotions, people washing soap, makeup, “feminine hygiene” products, etc.) are on the other side of the store past the check out lines, the pharmacy area and the section for over-the counter medications like aspirin and antacids, vitamins, nutritional supplements, bandages, antiseptics, etc.  Typically, milk, eggs and butter/margarine are located at the rear of the grocery section so that en route, you will have a chance to pick up all those other food items you didn’t realize you needed until you saw them.  (Untypically and illogically, bread is at the front of the store. It should be at the back of the store with the other items you need to stop by to pick up on your way home from work because you’ve run out, i.e., milk, eggs, and butter/margarine.)

Usually, everything I need “grocery” wise is on the left end of the store.  However, this time, I needed a new aerator thingie for my kitchen sink faucet, which is in the “plumbing” section (beyond toiletries), and I needed to get that 17-inch wiper blade, which is in the same “row” as plumbing supplies but almost at the back of the store.  Also, I needed to go to “customer service” to return for refund the two wiper blades I couldn’t use, which is located at the front of the store, in front of the check out lanes that are between toiletries and groceries.  I had to do this first, as they won’t let you any further into the store with items you bring in from outside the store, whether you have a receipt for them or not.

Now, when shopping, you should map out your route through the store so that you pick up the cold and frozen items last so they don’t warm up before you can get them home.  Alas, if you shop at Wal-Mart, this entails a lot of walking.  I start on the aisle that is next to the farthest aisle from the front of the store, work my way forward to the aisle that’s just before the frozen food aisles, go back around to the aisle at the back of the store where the milk, butte,r yogurt and eggs are kept, then come up the side where the cheese, lunch meat and bacon are kept, then hit the frozen food aisles, and head straight to the cashier.  However, this time, as I needed several toiletry items, a sink sprayer, and that 17-inch wiper blade for my car, I swung on around from customer service and got those first, as well as a bottle of melatonin to see if that would help me sleep better, then hiked halfway across the store to groceries.

I finished my shopping, got home, and had to unload the three 5-gallon bottles of drinking water (which weigh 40 lbs/18.1 kg each) that are in the little red wagon I keep in my entry way, so I could wheel it out to my car, load it up with my groceries and wheel the whole lot back into my house and into the kitchen, effectively unloading the car in one trip. Once I got my groceries put away, I had to put the water bottles back into the wagon (the only place I have room to store them until needed).  By then I was exhausted.  I ate my hamburger and fries, watched TV for a while, then hit the hay.

I’m happy to say, it is still rainy today.  This is what our Doppler radar looks like at the moment — green is rain, and there’s a big wad of green over my town right now.

And every time I’ve gone past the back door, I’ve noted that the sidewalk to the alley is wet, so it’s been raining slowly but steadily all day, which is the way I like it best — it gets a chance to soak in and do some good.  It’s supposed to rain again tomorrow.  I hope so.  I have nowhere to go but to my office to work, and that’s just across the hall from my bedroom.

*In the summertime, this would be more clothes than I wear inside.  One does not traipse about in public in a tee shirt, a pair of unmentionables, and barefooted.  If you did, the local constabulary would likely be summoned to explain to you why you shouldn’t.  They would then remove you to your domicile and write you a ticket by way of pecuniary encouragement to mend your ways.

Biscuits, Birthdays, and Singing in the Rain

This past Sunday was my mom’s birthday.  Usually I get her a dozen roses, but since payday isn’t until tomorrow, she got biscuits instead.  My dad used to make biscuits of a Saturday morning for them to have with breakfast, but as his vision deteriorated (macular degeneration), he had to give up cooking.

Although making biscuits with Bisquick is practically foolproof, it makes a mess, and you have to get your hands into the dough (which is really high on my mom’s icky list — she hates to do anything that gets her hands icky).  So, my mom does not make biscuits and never has, to my knowledge.   However, it was her birthday, and I had the fixin’s so yrs trly made her a batch of biscuits.

Just to give you an idea of how ridiculously easy it is to make biscuits with Bisquick,  preheat the oven to 450° F (232°C),  measure out a cup and a half of Bisquick and add half a cup of milk to it.  You mix the ingredients until a dough forms, use some of the dried mix to flour your hands and a flat surface where you can work with the dough.  Then you knead the dough 8 or 10 times and either roll it out, or press it flat with your hands if you wish.  I have a collection of Arizona Pomegranate Green Tea glass bottles that I have accumulated. (The company also makes instant packets, which I buy and mix in the dish-washer washable bottles.)  And, since one was handy, I used it in lieu of a rolling pin (which I don’t have).

Once you’ve got the dough rolled out to about half an inch in thickness, you cut the biscuits out with a biscuit cutter and lay them on an ungreased baking sheet.  The amount given above makes about 5 biscuits.  Since my motives for making biscuits were not entirely altruistic, I doubled the recipe and made 10.

Then you pop them in the oven and bake them at 450 ° F (232°C) for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown and put them on a rack to cool.  When you make biscuits with Bisquick, they do turn out with more of a cake texture than scratch biscuits, but I have no problem at all with that.  I made one batch with nonfat milk and the other batch with almond milk, which works just fine, although the biscuits do have a slightly sweet taste to them.  So, if you cannot tolerate dairy, or you are vegan, you can still use Bisquick, which uses all vegetable shortening, and substitute almond milk  or soy milk instead of dairy milk.   Two batches of biscuits later, I had a mess to clean up, although  not a big one.  I have a “cutting board” of tempered glass which I keep out all the time for food preparation because in the first place, my counter tops are 40 years old, and in the second place, you can wash the glass cutting board in soap and scalding water.  With my oven, a batch of biscuits takes 9 minutes to bake, and I almost had the mess cleaned up before the second batch of biscuits was finished baking.  Because only the glass cutting board got messy, and not the counter top, that simplified cleanup greatly.  I love these glass cutting boards — Not only can you chop things on them, you can set a hot pot or dish down on them, too.  I have a small one to the left of my stove, another small one to the right of the sink, and this large one to the left of the sink for food prep.   Needless to say, my mom was a little nonplussed when I showed up at the door last Friday afternoon with a freezer back full of half a dozen fresh biscuits for her to have with breakfast Saturday morning.

So far, I’ve had a pretty busy week — Lunch with my folks on Sunday for my mom’s birthday.  Then Monday, I got up at 3:30 a.m. to be at my mom’s by 4:25, so she could catch her 6 a.m. flight to Houston to attend her brother’s funeral.  I “daddy-sat” all day with my dad, managed to get him to eat a little lunch and more dinner, and crocheted snowflakes, and finished reading my book, and otherwise made sure all was well.  I slept in Tuesday, and Tuesday evening, my BFF and I stayed up til midnight catching up on this season’s episodes so far of Warehouse 13, on which Houston native Brent Spiner (Data on Star Trek TNG) has had a recurring guest star role in the season finale from last season and every episode so far of this season, and Jeri Ryan ( Seven of Nine on Star Trek Voyager) has had guest star roles on two episodes (as Agent Pete Lattimer’s ex-wife).  Then we watched the season’s premiere of Haven.

The season premiere of NCIS has also happened, and I’ve recorded it, but I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet to see if Ducky survives his heart attack and who got killed in the bombing of NCIS headquaters in DC!  (Since David McCallum recently renegotiated his contract to allow him to work past the age of 80 (!), I suspect he does. . .)(Illya Kuryakin is 80?!?!?)

I also haven’t seen this past week’s episode of Perception, which stars Eric McCormack, late of Will & Grace, as “Dr. Daniel Pierce, an eccentric professor of neuroscience struggling with schizophrenia” who acts as a consultant to the FBI.  Since he doesn’t take his medications like he’s supposed to (because he does not like their side effects), Dr. Pierce not infrequently hallucinates people and interacts with them, frequently leading him to make connections that help him solve cases.  Part of what makes the show fascinating to watch is that you can’t always tell when a character is real or is one of Dr. Pierce’s hallucinations.   Another aspect of the show I like is that the plots of the stories frequently involve different aspects of neuroscience such as glioblastomas (highly malignant brain tumors), temporal lobe epilepsy, subdural hematomas (brain hemorrhages) and prosopagnosia (“face blindness” — the inability to recognize people’s faces).  And because Dr. Pierce is a high functioning schizophrenic, we get a lot of insight into this illness as well.

This afternoon, my BFF had to go out to get her money back on the printer she bought, which was defective, and she came by to pick me up so I could drop off my old printer to have it disposed of properly.  The weather was kind of grey and glowering, and it was already sprinkling rain when she picked me up.  By the time we got out to the store, it was pouring down, with brilliant flashes of lightening and terrific cracks of thunder.  She pulled up to the door so I could get the stuff out of the car and into the store quickly, then she went to park the car.  I got a little wet, but when she came in she was soaked!  We concluded our business, and decided to wander around the store until the rain let up, but before it did, the store lost power! — naturally, they had safety lights, so it wasn’t totally dark, but they herded all the customers up to the front of the store.  Finally, the rain let up enough that we made a mad dash for the car.  As frequently happens here, a lot of rain came down in a very short amount of time, and any low place quickly collected a lot of water.  Driving home, we splashed through puddles, and got splashed by “rooster tails” of water generated by other cars roaring through the puddles.  One road was so flooded that we had to drive in single file between the two lanes because the water was so deep along the curbs/kerbs.  At one point, she started singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” because we were having to go so slow to make it through a stretch of really deep water, so I just started singing to make it a round.  We only got one verse out before we cracked up laughing.  When we did get back home, I was pleased to see that it had also been raining on our house quite a bit while I was gone.  We needed every drop of it.

Tomorrow will also be another busy day.  After I get done with work, I have to go get a flu shot, go by the bank, get my car inspected, and get groceries.  Ooops! I hear beeping off in the other room — Earlier I dumped a bunch of ingredients in the bread machine and got it going, and the beeping is letting me know that bread has happened.

Wait, What?!?

As I mentioned in the previous post, my mom got a new TV and a new refrigerator last Friday.  They were delivered this past Monday.  They had set up the delivery for between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM.  I got suited up and went over to help out, and got there at 5 past 3:00 and they were just leaving!  I stayed a while to help mom put the food into the new refrigerator, and played a while with the TV, and then headed on back home.

When I go home from my folks house, I take the “Loop” (289) since it allows me to avoid a large intersection.  As I pulled up to the stop sign where I would turn onto the access road, I looked left to check for on-coming cars,  — and started laughing.  There, tootling up the access road toward me, just as big as life, was – – –

– – A model T Ford (!) that looked a lot like this one.   And I don’t mean somebody was pulling one on a trailer.  The guy was driving it.   It was beautifully restored and, since it had a license plate on it, it was evidently street-legal.  At the light, the lane it was in had fewer cars than the lane I was in, but it was only a car ahead of me, and as I got onto the loop, I could see it heading on down the access road at a good 40 mph.  I laughed all the way home, and I’ve been smiling about it all week.  A real blast from the past.

And Then There Were Three

My mom called yesterday afternoon to tell me that her youngest brother had died.  His health had been declining, and he had reached the point where he didn’t know anyone and couldn’t make sense when he talked.  She was the youngest child, and he was second youngest and, due to the way their birthdays fell, they went through school together.  That means that three of the four girls and six of the eight boys (yes, 12 children) have now passed.

The funeral will be held in a town just south of Houston, Texas (over 600 miles away from where we live at the top end of Texas). Fortunately, they are having it on Monday, and mom was able to get the flights she needed to get there in time for the funeral and then fly back that evening.  (Getting a weekend flight that has to go through Dallas on just a day’s notice is practically impossible.)   She’ll fly into Hobby, and one of her nieces will meet her.

My dad cannot be left alone for more than 2 hours at a time, never mind the whole day, so I’ll be getting up at ye-gods o’clock in the morning (probably around 3:30), so I can get over there in time for her to drive to the airport (which is on the other side of town) and catch her 6 AM outbound flight.  If her inbound flight is on time, it’ll be well after 10 o’clock when she gets back.  It’ll be a long, sad day.

I have already gotten her set up for WiFi, so I can take my Kindle, and I’ll probably take my latest crochet project as well (making a set of 15 crocheted snowflake ornaments for CJ). I’ve finished 3 and almost finished a 4th, which leaves 11 more to go.

My mom’s birthday is this Sunday and last Friday, she’d decided she’d had it with that hulking behemoth of a TV of theirs (about 3 x 3 x 3 feet and 500 lbs worth of cathode ray tube).  It had gotten to the point that you had to turn it on and off and on and off repeatedly for ten or fifteen minutes to get it to actually turn on.  The day before, it had refused to turn on at all, so she and I went down to the same local store where she’d bought it and bought a new flat screen. (She likes that store because they deliver and set up the new one and haul the old one off at no charge, and they do their own repairs either on-site or in-store.) While she was there, she also bought a new refrigerator (she was having to kick the door shut on the old one to get it to seal properly).  The old one was a two-door side by side (freezer on the left side, refrigerator on the right) and she wasn’t in love with the design.  The new one has the freezer on top, and the refrigerator on the bottom.  It’s the same height, but is narrower and deeper.  It’s also black to match her “new” oven.  It was her birthday present from her to her.  It was also on sale.

Their house was new construction with new appliances when they moved into it in 1962.  She’s already had to replace the original oven, and has already replaced at least one burner on the original electric cook top; recently she had another one go out.  (Wouldn’t you know they’ve quit making burners that will fit it.  I mean, she’s only had the thing for 50 years!). They brought a refrigerator with them when they moved, and she replaced it with the one she had to kick to get the door to shut.

This afternoon, I’m going to make her some biscuits and take them over so she can have them for Saturday morning breakfast.  She loves home made biscuits, but dad always made them.   The only kind of biscuits she makes are the ones that come out of a can. The recipe I have makes 5.  I think I’ll double it and keep half of them.  I have some left over chicken gravy in the fridge.  Biscuits and gravy.   Yes’m.  That’ll work just fine.

Walking on Mars

I met my BFF in 8th grade.  We moved to the house where my folks still live in the middle of my 7th grade year. I finished out the school year in the old neighborhood junior high and started 8th grade in the new neighborhood’s junior high.  My BFF lived in the same block I did but on the next street over.   I’d grown up here (Texas), her family had recently moved here from Des Plaines, Illinois (just north of Chicago).  We were in the same grade at school.  I was 7 months older and half a head shorter. She thought I talked funny, I thought she talked funny, but we quickly became fast friends.  We never spent much time at each other’s houses, but we spent a fair amount of time talking on the phone, and a lot of time walking around the neighborhood and talking.

Silverleaf nightshade, (Solanum elaeagnifolium)

As we entered our high school years, one of the things we talked about on our endless walks was Mars.  I was already thinking about and trying to write “science fiction” and had had a story idea about a Martian colonist finding a round rock that when it came in contact with water, grew out a body and became a Martian, a rather simple, unsophisticated, somewhat intelligent creature who played a flute.  The dried leafless stalks of a local weed, the silverleaf nightshade, with its yellow-orange berries, became transmuted by imagination into Martian plants.  I can never look at one without remembering that story.

The next block over from our residential block was a large commercial tract of land that was four streets* wide and a block long.  All the previous structures had been razed, a long, narrow playa lake (part of the city’s system of storm drain runoff catchments) had been dug from side to side three-fourths of the way back from the main street front, and the dirt from it spread over the rest of the lot and graded smooth in preparation for the building of a large K-Mart.  There was almost two years’ delay between the preparation of the site and the building of the K-Mart and, during that time, there was this entire block of table-top level, bare dirt.  The soil had a distinctive reddish cast, and because of the story, it became “Mars.”  She and I “walked on Mars” a lot during that time.

At some point during that period, I got a pair of what were called “desert boots.”  I put a lot of the mileage on those desert boots walking on Mars.  Jeans, desert boots and some kind of cotton top — it was just before T shirts became mainstream — was the after school uniform of the day.  I loved those desert boots.  You wore  them with socks and they were deliciously comfortable.  That was back in the days when girls never wore slacks to school unless the weather was really bad and there was snow on the ground — which was not all that often.  (Where I live is at the same latitude as Casablanca, Morocco, so that should tell you what the climate is like.)   It didn’t become acceptable for girls to wear slacks to school until after I graduated from university in the mid 1970’s.  From first grade til I was a sophomore in University, I had to wear dresses or skirts, and low heeled shoes (“flats”) to school, which I hated.  I am definitely a jeans and T shirt girl.  (I was so glad when hippies happened and I could wear jeans and tees all the time!)

I loved everything about those desert boots — the wide flange of sole that stuck out around the uppers, the sueded sandy-brown leather, the thick rubber soles, how perfectly comfortable they were.   Sitting up on something high enough that my feet couldn’t reach the ground, sliding off and landing flat-footed on those shoes.   Those were the shoes I wore when I walked on Mars.

She and I were talking about that the other day, about walking on Mars, about desert boots and how much we loved them, and how delighted and not very surprised we were to see the photographs of Mars taken by the Viking landers in the late 1970’s, and how eerily they looked like the bald, burnt sienna dirt of that vacant lot.  I still remember those two page spreads of Viking’s color photographs of Mars in the National Geographic and Life Magazine.

For me, the images from the Martian rovers Spirit (2003-2010), Opportunity (2004 and still up and running after 8 years on Mars!), and now Curiosity,  show me a landscape that is strangely familiar.  It’s a place I knew in a previous century, where my BFF and I walked and talked of inner space and the vast realms of the imagination.

They eventually built the K-Mart, and a little strip mall beside it that had a 4-plex cinema on the other end.  My folks knew the people who owned the 4-plex (who from time to time would bring them a big plastic bag full of left-over popcorn from the popcorn machine at the concession stand).  The K-Mart and strip mall only took up the front half of the lot. The playa lake was behind and parallel to the buildings and the city built a little park on the other side of the lake, between the lake and the street that separated our block from it.  About 8 or 9 years later, K-Mart decided to build a Super Center somewhere else and sold their building to “the birthday cake church.” (We called it that because they hold worship services in a large round auditorium with a conical, flat-topped roof that has two concentric circles of lights on it, one around the eaves, and one halfway up, which at night reminded us of lit candles.) They turned the old K-Mart building into a Christian high school.  The church eventually bought up the whole strip mall and added a junior high, a “teen club” and, just this year, an elementary school.  Of course, the kids who attend it have no idea their school was built on Mars.

*The south side of one street, both sides of the next three streets, and the north side of the next street, with a row of houses with front and back yards, an alley, and another row of houses with front and back yards in between each street.  The tract is essentially square in shape, and is a sizable chunk of real estate.

As The Wheel Turns

Our high today was around 55F/13C and it has rained several times since last night, when a terrific crack of thunder rattled the windows.  The ground was still wet this afternoon, which was a delightful change.  Today was downright chilly.  I’ve been comfortable wearing long pants made from thin cotton, which last week would have been too hot, and a thin cotton short sleeved tee.  However, a while ago, I actually got up and put on some socks, a sign that it’s getting too cool to go barefoot any more. I haven’t heard the AC kick in all day.

The weather is beginning to get cooler generally, with night time lows down from the 60’sF/16+C into the 50’sF/10+C and daytime highs in the 80’sF/27+C  The grey kitteh actually wanted to snuggle between my legs this afternoon, but she had a hard time settling, and finally gave up.  (I was reclined in the recliner, didn’t have a lap robe on, and where she was trying to lie has about a 4-inch gap in the middle of it between the seat and the foot rest proper.  Apparently, she minded the gap.)  Kitties wanting to snuggle is a sure sign that Fall is coming.  It’s been so hot this summer that none of them were even remotely interested, except the black one, who always wants to snuggle — which is fine, because I was not really interested in having a hot furry body against me either.

My 90-year-old dad is to the point now that my mom does not want to leave him alone for more than an hour or two as he is effectively blind from macular degeneration, has fallen several times, and cannot get up again once he does.  Yesterday, she had to be out from 10 o’clock until after 3, so I went over to stay with him.  My dad has difficulty hearing even with his hearing aid in, and most of the time he either sleeps on the couch or in his recliner.  I brought my crocheting with, and crocheted one and a half snowflakes while I was there.  I’m making a set of fifteen crocheted snowflake ornaments as a Christmas present for my friend CJ.  Since both 3 and 5 are felicitous numbers,  making 15 a doubly felicitous number, the plan is to make three snowflakes apiece from five different patterns.  I’ve done the three from the first pattern, and have started on the first one from the second pattern.  I promise to do a “how-to” post with pictures when I get to a point where I can show the whole process.

I have cable internet and my modem has both wired and wireless capacity, but my folks have DSL, and this dinky little DSL modem.  Since I know I’ll be “daddy-sitting” on an ongoing basis, I took the opportunity yesterday to install a little Belkin wireless router I got from Amazon so that I could use my Kindle while I was over there.  The only problem I had installing it was that there wasn’t an empty plug on their plug strip, so I had to wait til my mom came home to find out if they had another plug strip or if I’d need to go get an extra one I have. Other than that, it was a piece of cake.  The router plugs into the modem, the computer plugs into the router, you run the CD to install the drivers, and there you are.  I also had a problem getting my Kindle to talk to the router because I apparently had the dumb and could not brain.  I use my Kindle in landscape orientation because the cover I got for it bends into a little prop to hold it up like a picture frame for hands free reading.  I forgot that in landscape orientation, when you access the keyboard to enter the wireless password, the keyboard covers up the little “connect” button that you click on to tell it to connect. (DUH!) I don’t actually need WiFi to read books on the Kindle, but I like listening to music while I read, and my Kindle Rhapsody and Soma FM internet radio apps do need to connect to the internet in order to work.

One day here soon, I need to unlimber my sewing machine and fix the lap robe I use in my office so I can run it through the washer.  It is down filled and quilted, and some of the quilting stitching has come unsewn.  If I don’t fix the quilting, when it goes through the washer, the down fill will get all catty-wompus and be lumpy.  I’ll need to dry it in the dryer with some tennis balls.

I also need to be on the lookout for a king size microfiber blanket in either navy blue or black to make my dad another “blankie.”  He likes to have a blanket to cover him from toes to chin when he sits in the recliner or lies on the couch, but twin-size blankets (66 x 96 inches/168 x 244 cm) are too big and regular lap robes are not long enough.  I made him one about 6 years ago, but it’s beginning to succumb to the ravages of time and washing, and it has some food stains that my mom can’t get out. (The stains make it look “unsightly” and my mom won’t let him use it when company comes.  His “company” one was made by someone else and it’s too thin.)  A king size blanket (90 x 102 inches/228 x 259 cm) is long enough to cover the subject, and wide enough that I can fold it in two width-wise, cut it in half along the fold, stack the two halves and sew them together around the edges, turn it inside out and run a second seam about an inch in from the edge, for a final dimension of approximately 50 x 89 (127 x 226 cm).  This gives it some weight so it stays put better and makes it easier for him to handle.  I can make one in less than an hour.  A quick google reveals Wal-Mart has one on line that comes in black.  I’ve bookmarked the page.