And Choirs of Presbyterians Sing Thee. . .

My dad sang in their church choir since they joined that church in 1952, until his vision (macular degeneration) got to the point that he couldn’t see the music any more.  Mom still sings in the choir.  The choir practices on Wednesday nights.

While I was at Mom’s this Thursday going round and round with ATT about her bills (which can’t be combined since the internet is U-Verse, and the phone is a land line, and they’re billing her for a second modem because they never received the defective modem which we mailed back to them in July using their return mailing label), she mentioned that last Wednesday, when they got home from Dad’s birthday celebration which we had at Applebee’s Restaurant, there was a message on their phone answering machine.  It was the entire church choir singing “Happy Birthday” to my dad. Yep.  That sort of bear.

As the Last Moments of Wodenstag Dribble Away

Here’s the last paragraph of a story I’m working on.  Not the one about the octopoid alien, alas, but one about a selkie’s daughter, herself a selkie, wherein we learn, among other things, the gristly secret of Wuffa’s harp and that vans that fly get great gas mileage.

She dreamed of swimming beside her mother, surfing the Nahvalr’s bow waves, her front flippers stroking like wings through the lead blue water that slipped between the speckled dark of her fur and the sleek dark of the longship’s hull, of darting aside now and again to suck in a breath, swoop down through a rising shoal of cod or sprat, snatch one away and crunch it between her jaws, the slick oily taste of it sharp and cold on her tongue.  And as she dreamed, the van flew silently on through the dark, snow-swirling air.”

The black cat has been sleeping between my legs, and the white cat was sleeping under the footrest of the recliner.  When I started to sit up, the black cat jumped down, landed on the white one, and hissing happened.  Such is life.

Tomorrow, I have to go to my mom’s and remonstrate with ATT about why she’s getting two bills, and is having to pay for her new modem twice.  After that I’ll shop groceries. I just may go up to Market Street first and get a pound of their luscious brisket and some veggies and stash them at the house before I head to Wally World. Brisket sandwiches. Nom.

Monday, Monday

Just because I love the Mamas and Papa’s harmony so much.

About three weeks ago, I changed up the mast head picture on my blog so that instead of showing just the one picture all the time, it rotates between 7 pictures.  Nobody seems to have noticed.  Sigh.

Was having trouble with my internet cutting out, actually before The Night The Lights Went Out but worse after.  It was more noticeable on my work computer more than my play computer.  I’d be on my web browser doing stuff, and it would just freeze…. then on either computer, I’d be trying to load a page on my browser and the little circle would just go round and round and round and round and round and round and round …..  and then, last week, while I’d be listening to an internet radio station, the feed would just be dropped.  I’d have to stop and restart Winamp playback to get the feed back and it was happening more and more frequently and was getting more and more annoying.  Finally Friday, I called ATT and talked to roboguy, told him “Technical Support” and he asks what I’m having trouble with, and I say “Internet” and he’ll just run a few tests before switching me over to an actual human techistani in India or the Philippines (which my brain is convinced is spelled with two “L’s” and one “P”), and about 10 seconds later, roboguy tells me he’ll schedule a technician to call.  Fastest “cut to the chase” I’ve had with their stupid speech recognition thing in a long time.  Upshot was one of their tech guys was scheduled to come out “between noon and 4 p.m.”

Fast forward to Sunday morning, and I’m desperately trying to finish transcribing this 55 minute sound file which was already almost an hour late because I started it Saturday night and typed until I just couldn’t keep my eyes open and, rather than go to sleep at the keyboard until I woke up, took a “timed” 4-hour nap.  ATT calls and says they can send one of their techs out at 11 o’clock.  ACK! — I had planned to clean up the house a bit and shower, and anyway, I can’t stop until I finish this transcript and get it sent in. They call again, and I patiently explain to the guy that I work from home, I’m working now and I have to get this thing finished. So my ticket goes back in the hopper.  I get the report finished — really an interesting one, too, actually — I get it sent in, and manage to straighten up, dust a bit, snag a shower, and am sitting watching TV when the tech comes.  Upshot of the deal is I get a new modem.  The new modem has a much smaller “footprint.”

The New Modem
The New Modem
The Dead Modem
The Dead Modem

Tested it with my Kindle, I get a WiFi signal from the living room, and I’m a happy camper.  As I have mentioned, one of the downsides of the ATT Uverse deal is that if the modem goes out, not just the internet goes down.  The  phone, which is VoIP, and the TV go down too. The modem is the Achilles heel of the whole shebang. Still, it’s better than using a satellite dish, which tends to lose signal in rain or high wind.

Anyway, I was going to tackle the jungle in the back yard which I STILL haven’t done, and I wimped out again today.  See the ATT repair tech in the second picture for scale.

Compare the above picture taken yesterday with this one taken July 24, and you’ll get an idea of how fast these durn “Tree of Heaven” abominations grow.
2013_07_24-3Unfortunately, it’s getting a little too close to fall for the one treatment to be effective, and I’ll probably have to treat them again in the spring.  The grass hasn’t been cut this year yet, but I’m not complaining.  Most “professional” lawn services cut it too short anyway.  If I can get rid of these seedlings I might can get a thick enough stand of Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) going that I’ll actually get some good coverage.  A “weed and feed” in the spring will help, too.  I’ve got to cut them high enough that the feral cats can’t rub their cheeks on the cut end to scent mark them (and get herbicide on their cheeks), or else cut them flush with the ground.  I’ll need to cut the stem on the diagonal, too, to expose the most surface area to the herbicide.  I’ve got a sponge stick I plan to use as an applicator.

I just had to share this wonderful drawing by Mattias Adolfsson who makes amazing and wryly humorous art.  This one will take you a minute to “get” but then you’ll be able to wander off into the details  You can follow this man’s intricately detailed artwork on his Tumblr blog here.  

Drawing © 2013 by Mattias Adolfsson
Drawing © 2013 by Mattias Adolfsson

This week’s earworm is brought to you by that one of a kind, Stevie Nicks, by way of Fleetwood Mac.

There was a YouTube post straight from the album (Rumors) which had better sound quality, but if you’re going to treat yourself to the Stevieness of Stevie, treat your eyes as well as your ears, no?

Thunder only happens when it’s raining.
Players only love you when they’re playing . . .

And this video (remember when MTV was brand new and amazing?) is just so classic and classy and classic Stevie.

And this one was my favorite of Mac’s MTV golden age videos . . .

Well, that was fun, but hark! Is that a Marie Callender pork chop and gravy dinner I hear calling my name? I’d better go see  . . .

We Need More …

… peaceful coexistence (and beautiful music).

Brad Lenear National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
© 2012 Brad Lenear/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

… courage to pursue our dreams.

Graham McGeorgeNational Geographic Traveler Photo Contest
© 2012 Graham McGeorge/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

… places where we fit in.  Gilad Guy National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

© Gilad Guy/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

… Warm fuzzies.

Surfing Dolphins… Friends to hang out and have fun with.

Echidna photographer… Hobbies.

Tiger Love… Hugs.

I see a little silhouetto of a manSing alongs.

Sleeping leopard…Naps.

tumblr_mr74282UPz1qgwkoxo1_500 … wry humor.  Any kind of humor, come to that …Forest waterfall… green places.

Photo © 2012 Jackie Morris
Photo © 2011 Jackie Morris

… Adventures.

tumblr_mgl1x2hNik1rpri2zo1_500… beautiful embellishments.

tumblr_mjyq7gSCFL1rt8jooo1_1280… compassion, especially for the children.

Of Cereal, Milk, Jar Lids and Flashlights

Things in sequence. The order of events. How the world works.  What sent me off on this tangent was a line in a short story I was reading: “…somewhere between turning on the shower and stepping in, perhaps, or pouring the milk and adding the cereal, …”  Did your brain snag at the same place mine did?  Do people pour the milk first and then add the cereal? I don’t.  I pour into a bowl the amount of cereal I plan to eat and then add what I consider to be enough milk.  Then I got to thinking, is this something I just figured out because I knew enough about how the world works?  Or was I shown it?  I’m sure that when my level of competence at using a spoon had reached a certain point, I was given cold cereal to eat, and it would have been prepared. if not directly in front of me, at least where I could see it.  Which provoked another thought:  Is it more efficient to use a spoon overhand or underhand? When did I make the switch?

Another thought occurred to me:  If you put the milk in first, then the cereal, would you eat less cereal? Think about it.  Most cereal that comes in small bits like flakes, spheres, or donut shapes will float, at least initially.  If you put the cereal in first, the weight of the cereal keeps all but the topmost layer from floating, so up to a point, the milk is just filling in the spaces and what’s in the bowl is mostly cereal.   When the milk is just about level with the top of the cereal is when I stop pouring.  But if you added milk past that point, the top layer of cereal would float.  However, if you put the milk in first, then added the cereal, the first cereal you pour will tend to float, and will keep floating unless it’s pushed down by cereal landing on top of it.  Based on the amount of floating cereal, you might be fooled into thinking you had poured more in that you actually had and stop pouring sooner.  (I may have to test this theory  — this is now called “doing science”)

Of course, I’m a fine one to talk.  Sometimes when I’m opening a jar, I turn the jar instead of the lid.  And you’d think, seeing as how I’m mostly right-handed, I’d open a recalcitrant jar lid with my right hand, but I don’t.  I usually have more luck opening a jar that doesn’t want to open by holding the lid steady in my left hand and turning the jar with my right.  Oh, and gently tapping the side of a jar lid on the edge of a counter actually does help get it open.  I couldn’t tell you the science behind it, but I have empirical proof that it works.

Where else has my brain been recently? Want Ad:  Adult human female character and alien intelligent octopoid character seek partnership type story.  It’s floating out there just out of reach. Maybe if I’m really still, it will come close enough to let me pet it. . .

In other news, a comment on a recent post about my life in the dark mentioned having battery powered Coleman lanterns for hurricane season.  A perusal of what was on offer at Amazon prompted me to buy this which is cuter than a bug.  It’s small but puts out a surprising amount of light.  It has a loop for hanging and a reflector that slides up to allow it to be used in “flashlight” mode.  My big flashlight lantern thingie has what is known in these parts as a “bub” (bulb) and uses a bunch of D-cell batteries.  IMG_1014This little gizmo has LED’s and uses 3 AA batteries.

IMG_1015As a size reference, the glass is somewhat deceiving.  It’s a “Texas tumbler” size and holds 22 oz.  It’s small enough to go in the drawer of my nightstand.  I like it so much, I may get one more to keep in my office.

Thinking about her “new-fangled” Coleman lanterns, I remembered we had a white gas fueled, enameled green Coleman lantern that we used for camping when I was growing up.  We had a tent, folding cots, air mattresses, sleeping bags, a little white gas Coleman stove, and a nesting camping cook set exactly like this (except it had four sets of silverware). Both the stove and the lantern had to be pumped before they could be used. The lantern had mantles, and it hissed when it burned.  We had a grey metal Thermos jug with a red spigot that rode on the transmission hump of our baby blue battleship-class 1957 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 sedan that had a trunk the size of Dallas.

I’ve been listening to Interstellar Radio Station, an internet radio station which the Tunein website alleges to be in Brazil and the Online Radio website alleges to be in Boston.  Where ever it is, I like it.  I’ve been listening for about 18 hours now and nary a commercial or station ident, just music, music, music!  Here’s a sample of what they’ve been playing.  If you click on it, the pix will enlarge to enable reading.

Interstellar Radio Station Playlist


Three Things Make a Post

ilaithi 114.  That was my word verification thingie when I commented on a blog.  Just putting it where I can find it again.  The verification “words” are sometimes strange and arcane.  This one could be a name, or a place, or a people.  If I did use it, though, I’d spell it with a “Y”– ylaithi — as in most fonts, capital “I” and lower case “L” look very similar, especially in the sans serif fonts.

tumblr_mn4k97proy1r3gb3zo1_400This is a gif.  You’ll have to click on it to watch it, but it’s just so amazing to watch. There’s a reason they’re called rapt-ors.

I’ve got to turn the computers off now and go tackle the back yard.  I’ve put it off and put it off, and I can’t put it off any longer.  But first, I have to change the bag in the kitties’ poop box.  Wish me luck.

And Now For A Shameless Plug

Jane Fancher is the third member of Closed Circle Publications along with noted author C.J.Cherryh and author/editor Lynn Abbey.  I got to know of her through C.J.’s blog and later through her own blog.  I knew she was a talented artist, since she’s been doing cover art for C.J.’s self published ebooks on Closed Circle, but then I found out she is also an author, having written two series of books.

nw-omniforkindleI’d just gotten my first Kindle (Keyboard), and I needed some books to read on it, but at that time, her Dance of the Rings series (Ring of Lightening, Ring of Intrigue, and Ring of Destiny) was only available in “dead tree” format; however, she had another 3-book series, Netwalkers, that was in ebook format, so I downloaded them:  GroundTies, Uplink, and Harmonies of the Net.  I ended up reading all three, one right after the other, in one great marathon read over a three day period. Simply could not put them down.

wildcardsforkindleWhat artist, of any media, is ever satisfied with their work?  It’s just not in the nature of the beast.   Hindsight being 20/20, an artist inevitably sees things in a (supposedly) finished piece they wish they could have done differently, done better, not done, or should have done, and every work is part of the never-ending learning process that is what art, and life, is all about. With Closed Circle Publications, both C.J. and Jane have gotten the opportunity to get a “do-over,” to rework some of their books that they were less than pleased with.  C.J. has substantially rewritten the three books of her Rusalka trilogy, Rusalka, Chernevog and Yvgenie.

nexusforkindleJane got the “If I’d known then what I know now” opportunity to rework the Netwalkers trilogy —  as she notes, “Why new versions? Because after writing NetWalkers, [a prequel to the original trilogy] I realized I only knew the tip of the iceberg when I wrote GroundTies. These new editions are richer, more vibrant…and clearer than the original books. (I’ve learned a bit about writing in the last twenty years.) These are all at least 30% longer than the original series, and there’s not a page left unedited.”

coldfusionforkindleNow they’re the Netwalkers quartet, and they are all up for grabs here on Closed Circle: Netwalkers Omnibus, Wildcards, Nexus and Cold Fusion.   A word of explanation:  Netwalkers (Omnibus) was too long to publish as a single dead tree edition, so it was split into two books, Partners: Netwalkers Part One and Mentors and Mimetrons: Netwalkers Part Two.  If you’re buying the quartet in ebook format, Netwalkers Omnibus is the one you wantI’ve finally gotten the last two and come Monday …

Also, if you’re like me and are running out of shelf space, Jane’s Ring Dancers trilogy: Ring of Lightning, Ring of Intrigue and Ring of Destiny, is now available in ebook format here.

All of Closed Circle‘s ebooks come in your choice of mini, mobi (Kindle) or epub (Nook) formats, and all are DRM free, which is why you should buy them from Closed Circle and not from Amazon or somebody else.  They also accept PayPal.

*All Cover Artwork © 2012-2013 by Jane Fancher.

Internet Radio Redux

In addition to Internet Radio Stations website, two more good places to look for internet radio stations either by name or genre are Radio Tuna and Shoutcast. Both websites have in-browser players, encourage you to set up a free user account and give you the ability to mark and list your favorite stations.  Both allow you to search by station name and genre.  If a station plays more than one genre, Radio Tuna shows you a little bar graph that shows the proportion of each genre is in the mix. Shoutcast just shows you the genre tags.  Radio Tuna  offers a little “Desktop online player” as a free download, but Shoutcast has an iPhone app.

If you don’t want to listen in browser, you can use Windows Media Player to listen to internet radio stations (View, Online Stores, Media Guide, then chose Internet Radio), but most of the stations listed through WMP are pretty mainstream.

I prefer to use the free download version of the Winamp player, which does everything I need.  If you open Winamp’s media library, you will see that it has a menu option “Online Services” — one of which is Shoutcast.  Stations that you “bookmark” on the Shoutcast option are displayed in the “Bookmarks” menu option.  Here are some likely Shoutcast stations I bookmarked in Winamp that play a lot of Ambient genre music.   If you’re obsessive like I am, you can alphabetize the list by dragging and dropping highlighted lines

Winamp bookmark list 3What I did was used Radio Tuna to hunt down likely stations:

Radio tunaAs you will note above, when you locate a station on Radio Tuna, it gives you a little graph that shows you the the stations top three most-played genres and what proportion each one is of the total mix. It also gives you the URL of the station’s website underneath the name of the station.  When I found a likely station on Radio Tuna, I then searched for it in the Shoutcast service in Winamp.  If Shoutcast had it, I bookmarked it.

However, if Shoutcast did not have it, I copied the station’s URL into my browser.  Most internet radio websites have a link button which you click to start streaming. if you right click on this button and select “Save Link As” you can save the link to a folder on your desktop.  Then rename the link with the name of the radio station.  Most of these links will have either .pls or .asx or .m3u file extensions.  Then you can open your desktop folder and click on a link to listen to that station.   If you plan to use Winamp, rather than Windows Media Player (WMP), you will want to make Winamp the default program for these file extensions (Control Panel, Default Programs, Associate a file type with a program).

Also, if you use Firefox  as your browser, and you plan to use Winamp as your default player, you will need to open Firefox, go to Tools, Options, Applications, and make sure these file extensions (.pls, .asx, .m3u) are associated with Winamp.  Typically, Firefox associates these extensions with WMP.  If you change them to Winamp in Windows, but don’t change them in Firefox and you try to listen in-browser to a radio station that streams using a file extension Windows associates with Winamp, WMP will try to load and then error out.  I learned this one the hard way.  Drove me crazy until I figured out why this was happening.

To my continuing dismay, my most favorite internet radio stations, Blue Mars is still down, and Blue Mars’ website is broken.  Hopefully, this is just because the websites are being overhauled. Blue Mars’ Cryosleep channel was my most favorite internet radio stream ever.  Radio Ultimae, however, is back up. It can be found on Shoutcast.