There Is a Finity To My Days

Mag Challenge 303

woodman francescaThere is a finity to my days
And ignorance is bliss.
And all around does but distract
Where most I want to look,
At the farthest off horizon
And what lies there beyond.
Live as I might
As though I knew
The tally left was small
Do what I will,
Though strive or not
The final day will find me.
Despite the cosmic echos
And the depths unplumbed beyond
After much consideration
But one path left to go.
Put foot before the other
And lean into the wind
Enjoy the journey while it lasts
Nor pass that way again.


No explanation for this one. The first line just popped into my head this evening and I acted on the impulse to scribble down the odd parade of the rest of it, before one or another of the myriad incarnations of the person from Porlock could derail it. The language is a bit arcane but there it is.  Make of it what you will.

The fact that I’ve been listening to the music of Lucette Bourdin might have something to do with it, or my neurochemical state (which is improving, BTW with the resumption of an evening dose), or with things I know are going to happen in my life, sooner or later, will I, nil I.  I have a theory about how music can entrain your brain, and I wonder about the wisdom of listening to music made by a woman who knew she was dying of cancer, but it’s cosmic stuff and I like it.

For a long time Bourdin was primarily a painter and only started making music in earnest when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which fight she lost in 2011.  I’ve only just now discovered her works through Earth Mantra netlabel, that has a bunch of her stuff and collaborations with other artists up on the Internet Archive site as free downloads.  If you’re into ambient or space music genres, you might check out Earth Mantra.  I found them through internet radio and hearing Palancar and liking his stuff and wanting more.  The interwebs is a strange and marvelous thing.

Books Read in 2016

16.  The Man in the Picture, Hill, Susan
15.  Hexwood, Jones, Diana Wynn
14.  *Imago, Butler, Octavia E.
13.  *Adulthood Rites, Butler, Octavia E.
12.  *Dawn, Butler, Octavia E.
11.  The Sandman: Overture, Gaiman, Neil (graphic novel)
10.  The Golden Rose, Bryan, Kathleen
9.   *Tower of Thorns, Marillier, Juliet
8.   *Three Men in a Boat, Jerome, Jerome K.
7.  The Serpent and the Rose, Bryan, Kathleen
6.   Who Buries the Dead, Harris, C.S. (reread)
5.   Why Kings Confess, Harris, C.S. (reread)
4.   What Darkness Brings, Harris, C.S. (reread)
3.   When Maidens Mourn, Harris, C.S. (reread)
2.   Where Shadows Dance, Harris, C.S. (reread)
1.   What Remains of Heaven, Harris, C.S. (reread)

* Ebook

A Little Free-Hand Signal Boosting

Sharon Lee has asked fans to do a little free hand signal boosting in antici-(see what I did there?)-pation of the new Liaden Universe® book that’s coming out in July, Alliance of Equals.  So, here goes:

As you know, Bob, I am a serious reader.  Serious as in committed to reading as an activity I will devote significant chunks of time to doing because I like doing it.  As you can tell by my “Books Read” posts, one of my favorite übergenres is science fiction. Now, there are those of you (and you know who you are) who say, “Oh, I don’t read science fiction.” Well, why not? You’re missing out on some great reads.

The poet and philospher Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief” in 1817, for crying out loud!  It’s not a new concept.  It’s been around since the dawn of time.  Coleridge just put grown up clothes on it.  It’s what happened when you were a kid and decided to play along with a game of “Let’s pretend.” It happens every time you listen to a story teller, open a book, go to the theater, see a movie, sit down in front of a television. It’s an open acknowledgement that you know what you are experiencing isn’t real, but that you’re willing to pretend it is for the sake of seeing where it goes because it might be fun, interesting, entertaining, instructive, or any or all of the above.

Fiction is about people and situations that aren’t real, but could be, with hardly any stretch of the imagination.  All science fiction asks of you is that you have a stretchier imagination and be willing to play in a much bigger playground.  Don’t let the “science” thing throw you.  The genre got started as a place to speculate about what influences 20th century scientific discoveries and developing technologies might have on human society and how human society might change and evolve to cope with it, but it’s gone way beyond that.  Science fiction allows you to play with some pretty big ideas, and to speculate about what makes human society human,  not just as it is now, but as it could be given certain situations.  Science fiction allows you to look at humanity, not just from the inside, but from the outside.  For example, humans can’t get along with each other; what would happen if they now have to deal with an alien species? (For a cogent and highly enjoyable exploration of that hypothesis, see Foreigner universe.)

Science fiction is just fiction with a lot more variables.  It allows you to play with ideas in a way you can’t if your playground is limited to the “real world.”  Science fiction is an exercise in imagination.  It requires you to juggle with more balls.  No matter what you’ve been led to believe, you do not have to be a geek to like science fiction. You just have to be willing to suspend your disbelief a bit more than you’re used to and put a little Spandex in your imagination.

Read the Wikipedia article about the Liaden Universe®.  Try it on your imagination for size.  The Liaden books are character-driven action/adventure type stories with suspenseful plots, peopled with well rounded, sympathetic and relatable characters who are more or less human.  They’re engaging characters that draw you in to their interesting culture.  They have cats.

Now, consider this:  You can test the waters of the Liaden Universe® for free.

Agent of Change is the book that began it all, the first Liaden Universe® book. You can get in on the ground floor for free from Amazon in Kindle (.mobi) format or from the Baen Free Library in all formats known to Man.

Fledgling is the story of the daughter of one of the main characters (my favorite character, as it happens).  It is available in Kindle (.mobi) format on Amazon and from the Baen Free Library in all formats known to Man.

Even if you don’t have an ereader, most of the ereaders (including Kindle and Nook) have free downloadable software available that enable you to read their books on your PC or smart phone.

There are 19 books so far in the Liaden Universe®, plus several books of novellas and short stories, so if you are a voracious reader (speaking), you’ve got plenty of fodder here.

The newest book in the series, Alliance of Equals, comes out in July, so you’ve got plenty of time to get up to speed.

Bellwethers and Prognosticators

This has been a strange week. I know what part of the problem is.  About two months ago, I had begun backing off on my dosage of N-acetylcysteine to see how that went (it was costing me $32 a month; I was trying to cut costs) and I’m convinced now I’ve backed off too far.  I’m going to have to start back on the evening dosage and see if I can get by on 1200 mg twice a day (down from 2400 mg twice a day).  I was noticing mood changes and starting last week, I’ve had a bad flare of SED.  SED is genetic and the N-acetylcysteine works better than anything else I’ve tried for it.  Into the bargain is that N-acetylcysteine is not a medication. It’s a supplement — like taking iron for anemia or vitamin D3 for bone health.  It’s only side effect is nausea, which you can get around by taking it with food.  The thing is, you have to pay attention to when you take it, pick your dosage times and stick to them religiously, to keep the levels constant.

What confirmed my suspicions was something my mom said about the cost of boarding “that damn cat.” (This was in reference to our upcoming trip — we will be gone 10 days, and I will have to board the fat (cat) boy at $20 a day. . .)  I figured out a long time ago that my mother doesn’t “get it” about having pets.  I don’t know whether it’s because she grew up on a farm where they raised pigs, cattle and chickens that they would butcher, or what.  But there’s a missed connection in there somewhere.  Her main gripe is that they’re messy — and my mom is your classic Virgo neat freak — and what’s more, they are inconvenient.  Well, yes, they are sometimes. But as near as I can tell,  the benefits of having pets, which far outweigh everything else about them, escape her.  She just doesn’t get it.  Anyway, I bit my tongue on an angry and hurtful retort to her remark, and after I’d gotten off the phone, I couldn’t help thinking about the poor white cat I “lost” in April of last year.

I had to put the grey cat down.  There was no question about it.  She was going into florid kidney failure and there was nothing that could be done except to try to slow down the process, and I couldn’t bear the thought of my poor baby girl suffering.  But the thing is, I could have kept the white cat.  True, he was three months’ shy of 16, but he was still healthy — the vet made me sign a paper that attested that he actually was my cat before they’d put him down.  But the thing is, if I’d kept him, I couldn’t have boarded him.  Never mind the expense, which would have been a significant factor, the white one simply didn’t have the temperament for it.  He was a contrary little cuss.  It would have been so stressful for both of us and he would have eventually bitten someone.  I would have had to presume on my friendship with JT to come and look after the two of them every time I went somewhere with my mom, and I wasn’t going to do that.  It was a tough decision to have to make, but there it is.  Even so, it was very hard.  He was mine for almost 16 years, and I miss the little guy.  I miss both of them.

Which brings me to how I know I’ve backed off too far on the N-acetylcysteine dose.  After I hung up the phone I got to thinking about how much I miss both cats.  When I lost Shadow in 2004, I was a basket case for days.  What made it particularly devastating was that it happened so suddenly and without warning.  When I lost Jett in 2009, I saw it coming.  I agonized over it for weeks before I finally faced the fact that his diabetes had taken such a toll on him that it was inhumane to let it go on any longer, and that I had really let it go on too long as it was.  As rapidly as her kidney failure had progressed, it was plain that the grey kitty was not long for this world no matter how you slice it, and I wasn’t going to let her suffer.  But I could have kept the white boy longer.  That set me off on such a crying jag.  I’m crying again now as I type this.  So there’s that.  And I’ve been ruminating about the whole situation for several days now.  So there’s that.

Also, I found myself not wanting to go to knitting group, partly because of the SED flare, but then partly because I just wasn’t in the mood.  (I forced myself to go, and was glad afterwards.)  And I’ve been having a noticeably harder time keeping to a daytime schedule, both of which are isolative behaviors.  And I was getting crabby.

I love my mom, don’t get me wrong, but she’s 91, and I know my time with her is limited, which means I’ve had to make some tough choices and trade offs so I can spend more quality time with her.  I hope I can level out and get settled back down in time for our trip.

The stuff is $16 for a bottle of 60 of the 1200 mg capsules, so lets hope 1200 mg twice a day of N-acetylcysteine is enough to get me back to where I was.  Yeah, I can get antidepressants through the VA for free, but N-acetylcysteine beats antidepressants hands down.

Oh, and I’ve got to find those ear buds that have a longer cord. The shortening of the earbud cord that the change in computers brought about is driving me nuts.  I’ve got an extension cord I might try first though.



Milestones and Stuff

Yesterday when I came home from knitting group, Beetil’s odometer read 5010 miles (8062.8 km) on it.  That mileage includes two trips to Pearland (approximately 2160 miles), two trips to Amarillo (approximately 500 miles), and a trip to Capitan, NM (approximately 490 miles) for a total of 3150 highway miles.  The remaining 1860 miles were driving around town. I bought the car new on 21 November, 2014, with 9 miles on it and I’ve had it 15 months.  That’s an average of 333.4 miles a month if you figure total miles as of last evening divided by 15 months, but a more realistic figure is to use the 1860 city miles, which works out to 124 miles (200 km) a month. Those trips were the exception rather than the rule.  I’ve already taken more road trips in Beetil than I did in all the 27 years I had the Crayola.

When we came back from our last trip to Pearland on 26 October, 2015, I filled my tank with gas at this gas station that’s right where you come off the highway onto Loop 289.  I didn’t get gas again until the 23rd of December.  I could have waited another week or more, but I knew we were going to have a snow storm over that weekend and I didn’t want to have to get out and drive in it. I’ve still got 2/3 of that tank of gas left. Daddy always told me just because I had a car didn’t mean I had to drive the wheels off of it. . . .

In the knitting news, I have the top portion of the red heart baby dress done to the beginning of the waistband, but I need to finish it by the end of January and get it to my little 1st cousin removed x2 so she’ll have it for Valentine’s.  The pattern is written kind of wonky.  The dress part of the pattern is written the typical way, but a row before you have to do a heart motif, they have you set markers on each side of the front chest area where the motif  is going to be located, and then go on with the pattern.  Then, when you knit up to the marker on the next row, you are supposed to skip over to another page and read the relevant line of the particular heart motif that’s being called for, then flip back and continue knitting from the regular part of the pattern. I had to undo the staple, and put the pages side by side and mark both parts with sticky notes.

I’ve got til April on the stuff for the friend’s grand baby.  At least one more dress (probably two), and matching booties and bonnet for each of the two dresses that have them.  Booties take no time at all; you do them two at a time.  A bonnet takes even less time.  What’s going to take the lion’s share of the time is the afghan. It’s a fiddly pattern.  No TV watching while I’m working on it!  I put my internet radio on and listen to ambient music.

I got my BFF’s Kindle sorted and all ready for her.  She should get her computer by next week.  When she gets her internet connected again, I’ll probably go over to get her computer and her Kindle set up so she can get onto her new WiFi network.  I’ve also promised to help her fill out some online applications.  I hope she can find a job that pays better than the one she currently has, and preferably where she can get all her time in during a couple of days and have a couple of whole days off.  Right now she’s working a couple of hours a day right in the middle of the day, five days a week.  If she could work five hours a day four days in a row, or three whole days in a row, and have the several days off at a time, that would be great.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed.  Now that she’s turned 66, though, she has no restrictions on how much money she can earn without them decreasing the amount of Social Security she gets, so she could work 40 hours a week now if she wanted to.   She’s been buying (artist) paint and colored pencils.  She may be working her way back into her art.  I’ve been quietly hopeful.

The weather is fixing to change.  It’s already starting to get blustery. A front is supposed to be coming through on Thursday and we’ll have really gusty winds and about a 10-degree F drop in temps. It was up in the 60’s F (15+ C) yesterday, and Sunday’s high is forecast to be 66F (18.8C).  Our lows have actually been above freezing for a couple of nights this week.  Me and the fat boy (cat) have been sneezing from all the dust that’s been kicked up.  I’d prefer a long spring and autumn and a short, not quite so hot summer, please, if any of the weather gods are listening. . .

And So It Goes

My new RAM chip came in and CK came over and we put it in and wiped my old computer drive (everything on it had already been cloned to the 1 TB drive), so I now have two hard disks which combined give me over 1 TB of free disk space.  That’s 1 terabyte of free disk space. I remember when I thought a 500 GB drive was all the hard drive I’d ever need.  Plus ça change . . .

I’ve already read eleven books this year and I’m knee deep in another that’s the first book in a trilogy, and I’m two-thirds of the way through another trilogy.  I’ve ordered the third book from Amazon, but it hasn’t gotten here yet.  I’m about to start my Foreigner reread (16 books) for the new book that comes out in April.  I’ve already finished my Sebastian St. Cyr reread for the new book that comes out in March. I should have started it in February, but I was desperate for something to read.  Plus ça change . . .

My mom and I are planning a trip to Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC in late spring.  It’s a tour, and we’ll be gone 10 days.  That’s the longest I’ve ever left the fat boy (cat) at the Pet Hotel.  Poor little guy.  At least they play with him, and he is very outgoing.

After talking with CK, I discovered that my BFF could not get her 17-inch screen size laptop replaced for what she could afford, and would be limited to a 15-inch screen.  So I got the model number of her computer and started looking for replacement screens, found out you can get one for around $80-$100(£50-70), called around to computer shops locally, and found a reputable place that would replace her screen for around $200(£140).  In the meantime, I hooked one of my monitors to her laptop and discovered that the computer otherwise is functional, so yesterday we took her laptop over to get it fixed.  Turns out fixing her laptop would be more cost effective than buying her a new computer after all, so there’s that.

My BFF has the same problem I have.  She can’t live on what she gets from Social Security, and she can’t find a part-time job that pays her enough to take up the slack.  As a cost-cutting measure, she wants to discontinue her land line which is costing her around $40(£28) a month, and get a cell phone, which would cost her $18(£13) a month – plus she’d have to buy a cellphone. The cheapest of their phones is around $40(£28).  She would then have to spend another $40(£28) a month for internet service, which she really needs to have — there’s no point in having a computer if you don’t have internet service and all the places where she’s applied for a job want you to have email, which you can’t have unless you have internet service, or access to it.  Of course, she could get a free G-mail email account and use the internet and/or computer at the public library, but that’s a PITA*.

What I think she should do is get one of those Magic Jack things.  You get the gizmo plus a year’s phone service for $59.95(£42).  The phone service is VOIP, (which is what she has now through Suddenlink) so she’d have to have internet service in order to use it, but the actual phone service is only $29.95(£21) a year compared to $216(£152) a year for cellphone service.    She’s coming over later today, and I’ll talk to her about it.

I’ve been listening a lot to Moonphase Radio while I do stuff on the ‘puter.  It has three different streams:  high bitrate and low bitrate feeds and a feed for android phones.  They say they play “ambient” but they evidently have a very wide interpretation of the genre.  They play very little “space music.” What they play is more structured, melodic, but unobtrusive instrumental music. Very easy listening.  They play a lot of Palancar, whose music I like.

I’ve discovered the Internet Archive, which has a lot of Darrell Burgan’s (AKA Palancar, et. al.) music on it.  I’m going to have to explore it and see what else I can find there.  It’s all free download stuff.  I may be “kid in the candy store”-ing on that site for a while now that I’ve got all this free space on my hard disks . . . .

In the knitting news, I’ve started a little red dress with “lacework” in the form of inset hearts.  It’s for my little 1st cousin removedx2 in Galveston. Perfect for Valentine’s day.  I’m trying to finish it before the beginning of February.

*acute neuralgia of the gluteus maximus.


Fetching Up Against a Fact of Life

You know how it is.  Change one thing and you end up having to rearrange everything.  You shift this thing to accommodate that new thing, and that messes up this other thing . . .

As I mentioned, the new computer is bigger than the old computer, so you have to shift the cable modem to the floor and switch out the plug strip for the battery backup thingie, and because the new computer is bigger, the left-hand screen has to be pushed forward to accommodate it, which cuts into the space where my plate goes when I’m dining at the ‘puter.  And if I could find two pieces of something that were both 3/4 of an inch tall, I could put them under the computer to raise it up high enough that I could slide the base of the left-hand screen back underneath it .

And then there’s the earbuds. I like to listen to Rhapsody or else use Winamp to listen to one of my internet radio stations while I’m at the computer.   The audio jack on the old computer was at the base of the tower. The audio jack on the new one is near the top, which means the cord of the ear buds I was using with the old computer is now too short. I’m pretty sure I’ve got a pair with a longer cord here somewhere.  But the ones I’m using are by Skullcandy and they’re good.  Grumble.

The apartment maintenance man fixed my garbage disposal, and what’s more, he gave me one of those Allen wrench thingies that comes with it that you use to fix the blade when it gets bound down, which is what the problem was.

e886e-9-2007beingallboyI’m concerned about the fat (cat) boy.  He seems to have a cold.  He periodically gets these sneezing fits.  I’m applying a judicious amount of tincture of time* to see what happens.  It’s cheaper than hauling him over to the vet’s and having them tell me to do what I’m already doing, and a whole lot less traumatic.

Since I brought him home as a kitten (see left) almost 9 years ago, he has lost Jett — he was less than 2b307-hpim0986two when that happened — and then in April he lost the white cat, and then in May, he lost the grey cat and he became an only cat.  Then in July, I took him to a strange place and left him there for four days.  And then in October,  I took him back to that place and left him there for six days.

He’s a cat.  He has no way of knowing if I’m going to go off and leave him forever like his companion cats did.  (And I have no way to tell him that’s not going to happen if I have any say in the matter.) When I put him in the crate and take him to the car, he has no way of knowing what’s going to happen next, whether he’s about to be left somewhere for a long lonely time.  Yesterday I was gone from 10 o’clock in the morning to past 7 o’clock at night, and he was here by himself.  Understandably he’s gotten rather clingy and has separation anxiety.  Poor little guy.  If he’s just got a cold, those are self-limiting and he’ll get over it, but if he doesn’t get better in the next couple of days, we may be going to the vet.

It’s supposed to get cold again over the weekend, down into the 40’s F (4’s C) with nighttime temperatures down into the low 20’s F (-5 C).  Sigh.

*medical term for watchfully waiting to see if something will resolve on its own without the need for treatment.


Teething Problems

So, the “new” computer (a reconditioned Dell) came home tonight sort of set up like it will be eventually.  It came with a 250 GB hard drive which was replaced with a 1 TB hard drive, and came with a Read/Write DVD drive and two RAM slots containing one 4 MB RAM chip (the other one was empty).  We cannibalized the Read/Write DVD drive from the computer this one is replacing, as well as its 500 GB hard drive and put them in, so now the newbie has two R/W DVD drives and  technically has 1500 GB of hard drive, except we cloned my “old” 500GB drive onto the 1 TB drive and have temporarily turned the smaller drive off.   My old computer had two RAM slots with a 2 GB chip in each one, so we have had to order another 4 GB RAM chip to bring the new computer’s total RAM to 8 MB.  In the meantime, I’m “limping along” with the 4 GB I’ve had since I got the computer this one replaces.  The one whose graphics card is slowly but surely going gaga.

The new tower is half again bigger than the old one and in order to make everything fit on my desk, I had to move the internet modem and the other thingie that has to be attached to three or four different cables so that I get TiVo.  They used to be on my desk, too, but there’s now no room for them.   I stood on my head under my desk for half an hour putting the other UPS down behind the filing cabinet, plugging in plugs, untangling cords and otherwise sorting things out.  Then I connected everything to the tower and booted the computer up.  This kind of activity is known colloquially as “wrestling the octopus.”  (Sometimes the octopus wins. . .)

The tower booted up just like it was supposed to, but wasn’t communicating with the mouse. (What mouse?)  I finally got the mouse and computer engaged in dialogue, and tried the keyboard.  The keyboard and computer were not speaking either.  Switched out the USB plug of the keyboard with the USB plug of the foot pedal (which I haven’t tested yet), and they were talking again.  I plugged in my Western Digital Passport, which I use as a data backup and the computer was like, “Oh, Hai!”

I launched  Winamp to listen to some internet radio and discovered almost immediately that


I was actually glad to have had to turn down the sound volume as much as I did in order for it not to rattle my root canals.

So far, so good.  Next week, the RAM chip should be coming in.  I’ll install it. We’ll know by then if the cloned drive is playing nicely with everything.  Stay tuned.

Tea For Three

Mag Challenge 300

rain Wolfgang Suschitzky - Charing Cross Road, London, 1937Tea For Three

27 October, 1937 was rainy and cold.  Clivenden had taken refuge from the weather in a tearoom off Charing Cross Road.  He had finished the list of errands Smithers had handed him but was unwilling to return to the office just yet.

They were both attractive women in a patrician sort of way.  The hostess had shown them to the table behind him.  Neither was in the first blush of youth, but neither looked to be beyond thirty, either, Clivenden though.  He had heard them tell the hostess they were waiting for their sister and, watching them surreptitiously by way of their reflection in the tearoom window, he could see the resemblance between them.

Both had dark copper hair shot through with red gold highlights, and quite a lot of it if the thick coronet of braid that crowned their heads was home grown and not a hair piece.  They both had long oval faces, high cheekbones, brows arching high over cat-tilted eyes, and dimple bracketed mouths.

He was not normally an eavesdropper, but as the hostess had led them past him, the one now sitting on his right in the reflection had stopped beside his table long enough that he had looked up at her, and had found her practically staring at him with a pair of the greenest eyes he had ever seen.  Strange, fey eyes. Then, with a slight smile, she had continued on her way, leaving him startled and unsettled.

They were wearing matching black wool suits with mandarin collars, but the green eyed one who had all but accosted him had a silver pin in the shape of a rearing horse on her right shoulder.  The other had a silver pin in the shape of an acorn and oak leaf in the same location.

Acorn Pin told the waitress, “Just bring us a pot and three cups.  We’ll order after our sister gets here.,” Then, after the waitress had left, she said to her sister, “What was that about?” She nodded in Clivenden’s direction.

“I’ll remember why in a minute,” Green Eyes replied, fished some knitting out of her handbag and began to knit.   She was murmuring something to herself as she worked the needles.

“Ah.” Her sister gazed idly out into the tearoom.  It had started to rain again, a slow, steady, relentless rain. The waitress quickly returned with their pot of tea and three cups and saucers.  Acorn Pin poured first into her sister’s cup and then into her own.  Green Eyes took a sip from her cup and made a face.

“Oh, I beg your pardon,” Acorn Pin replied, making a graceful waving gesture with her hand over both cups and the pot.  “Is Mother serious about having it at Salsbury?”

Green Eyes took another sip, nodded and smiled. “Where else?  We’ve got to strengthen the South, and that is the southern nexis.  We’re going to lose so much of London as it is, and there doesn’t seem to be a way we can keep from losing St. Michael’s in Coventry.  All those beautiful windows.”  She frowned. “I’m going to hate the next ten years quite thoroughly.”

“Nasty, hateful man,” Acorn Pin curled her lip in disgust. She set her handbag in her lap, opened it and took out her own knitting. “Ridiculous little square mustache.”

Green Eyes shook her head.  “They always seem to have the most unbelievable talent for self delusion.  Remember Napoleon and his little comb over.”

“Oh, please.  It was all I could do to keep a straight face around the wretched little man.”  They knitted in silence a while.

Clivenden’s attention was caught by a woman in a black wool suit with a mandarin collar sprinting across the street between the passing cars, heading straight for the door of the tearoom. “This will be the sister they’re waiting for,” he thought.  Even though this one slipped loose her white silk scarf to reveal jet black hair, it was done in the same up-swept manner crowned with a braid. She had a circular silver pin on her right shoulder with the silhouette of a raven cut out of the edge of it.  She spoke with the hostess and pointed to where her sisters sat, but as she passed his table, she took a step back and paused to take a good look at him, shot him the tiniest smile, then continued on to her table.  Clivenden was startled to note that her eyes were as black as her hair.

As Black Hair settled into her chair, she looked over at Green Eyes.  They both said, “Daphne” at the same time and nodded as though that settled something.  The mention of the name made him start.  Were they acquaintances of Daphne’s who had seen him with her somewhere?  How could they know he was here trying to talk himself out of his silly infatuation with Daphne and work up the nerve to propose to Eleanor?

But Black Hair was saying, “Sorry I was late.  Cliodna walked in just as I was heading out the door.”

“Cakes now?” Acorn Pin asked.

Black Hair shook her head.  “We haven’t time.  The train to Salsbury leaves in about 45 minutes. Mr. Black is arranging taxis.”

Acorn Pin divided the remainder of the pot between their cups and they sipped in silence a moment.  Then knitting was put away and silver coins were counted out of change purses and stacked into two neat little stacks.

Then with a perfectly straight face, Acorn Pin asked, “When shall we three meet again?  In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”

To which Black Hair, with an equally straight face replied,  “When the hurlyburly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.”

And Green Eyes added,  “That will be ere the set of sun.”

They looked at each other, then broke out laughing.

“I don’t care how educated he was.  James Stuart was a grubby, smelly little man,” muttered Green Eyes making a face.

Then they gathered their things up and made ready to depart.  The waitress came up then, saw the twin piles of silver coinage, and murmured a delighted “thank you.”

As they passed Clivenden’s table, they stopped and Black Hair and Green Eyes turned to face him.  “Do yourself a favor.  Forget Eleanor and marry Daphne.” Black Hair counseled him seriously.

“But only if you want a long happy marriage and children,” Green Eyes added, equally seriously.

“There’s the taxis,”  Acorn Pin interjected. They paused only long enough to smile sweetly at him, then turned and trooped out the door where three taxis had pulled up in front of the tearoom.

Thunderstruck, Clivenden watched in astonishment as each got into one of the three taxis which promptly pulled into traffic and sped away.

Happy New Year!

2015_04_01-09Because the streets are still snow covered and footing treacherous, both mom and I stayed in our respective homes and welcomed in the New Year safely and sanely, she watching bowl games, I lying in my nice warm bed reading while the fat boy (see left) crammed his bulk into my armpit in a state of quivering alertness because of the brief fusillade of fireworks.

Starting tomorrow the highs are supposed to be up in the 40’s F (4-8 C) and hopefully most of the snow will melt before it snows again on Tuesday (!).  There during last week when it was so bitterly cold I turned my thermostat up to 67F (19.4C) but I turned it back down  to 65F (18.3C) Thursday once the nighttime temperatures got back up into the 20’sF (-6-4 C). My electric bill is going to be higher than giraffe’s ears.

We got off light here in the Flatlands during Winter Storm Goliath.  The news videos of the flooding and tornado damage are heartbreaking.  My mom and I have been confined to our homes by the snow and freezing weather.  Our minor inconvenience stacks up as miniscule potatoes compared to what millions of Americans are going through right now.  At least we have a roof over our heads and heat.  Thousands of people here in the US have lost pretty much everything, including loved ones, to either tornadoes or flooding or a combination of the two. Hundreds have lost their lives. We’re at the edge of Tornado Alley here, and when I look at the scenes of tornado damage in Garland and across the deep south, I can’t help but think how easily it could have been me and mine with our lives in pieces.

2015_12_28-02Snow is still shin to knee deep in places.  Nobody has done any shoveling.  In the picture at right, there are steps down to the sidewalk under there somewhere.  CJ and Jane got 10 inches of snow up in Spokane, WA.  My cousin JP and his wife live in New Mexico.  They’ve had snow, but then they’re used to it and have the equipment to deal with it.  His daughter and her husband and daughter are living in Tacoma, WA, at the moment, and they’ve gotten snow. We’ve not had any power outages here, but there have been some in other places. We don’t really have the equipment here to deal with this much snow, and the drivers here are idiots who don’t even know how to drive in rain, never mind snow.  I will have to get out Monday to get the money order to pay my rent.  Getting out of the apartment complex area may be problematic, but I’m not that far from main roads and they should be pretty clear.

2015_12_31-04 2015_12_31-03In the knitting news, I haven’t done much.  Still have half a dress to finish, and haven’t even started the booties and bonnet that go with.  I do have an afghan started in a white and pale lavender variegated yarn, but no pics of it since I’ve only gotten about an inch done.  The buttons at the waistline of the dress are just laid on top for now.  It has three buttons up the back which will be flat buttons, as these daisy buttons, although they are cuter than all get out,  have shanks and it would be very uncomfortable for the baby to have to lie on them.  I will put one on the bonnet to fasten the bonnet chinstrap.

At left is my fan and feather neck scarf.  It works the same way as this one that I gave to my mom, except it’s done in a variation of fan and feather stitch. I think this one is going to my cousin EYJ.

If it’s going to snow Tuesday, I think I’ll stay home from knitting group — assuming they even have it.  A fair percentage of the ladies in the group are in their late 60’s or older, several of them have mobility issues and/or are rather frail and have no business getting out in such weather.

Mostly what I’ve been doing in the last couple of days is reading.  I’m well into a reread of C. S. HarrisSebastian St. Cyr books (there are 10 out so far).  They are murder mysteries set in Regency England. Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie. She has a Ph.D. in European history and she’s done her homework to make the books very period acurate as well as being really good reads.  The newest book in the series comes out March 1. Her characters are complex and well-rounded. People who like Regency romances would like them, as well as historical murder mystery fans, but they’re accessible enough that anybody who enjoys a good read could pick one up and get hooked on them.

A new Foreigner book comes out in April.  That’ll be the next reread (18 books).  A new Liaden book also comes out this spring.  In the meantime, I’m pretty into the Vorkosigan books of Lois McMaster Bujold. There’s a bunch of them, and I’ve only read a couple of them.  I’m a fairly voracious reader.  The total for 2015 stands at 151 books, new and rereads.  I’ve already got one book on 2016’s list, although it was started Thursday, and I’m about halfway into another one.

2015_12_31-01-As I’ve mentioned, budgetary constraints mean I usually acquire my reading fodder as used books through  I’ve found some interesting bookmarks in these “preowned” books: Actual bookmarks, scraps of paper with doodles or writing, and in the last Sebastian St. Cyr book I read, a blank customs declaration.  I’ve quite a little collection  I need to make some more paper bookmarks.  I like to do them on desktop publishing software, print them out on card stock and then “laminate” them with clear packing tape. They hold up pretty good.  I like to put writing on them, like:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”  ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline.


There are two important things to remember about surrealism: Frogs, power tools and the Lincoln Memorial


Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape.

and that wonderful Emily Dickinson quote:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

I need to do a batch of book markers and then mail them to friends and family.  Most of my friends and family need book marks.  That’s a comforting thought.  What this world needs is more readers.  That’s one of the reasons I send books to my little (she’s 12!) first cousin twice removed (FCTR) who lives in Tacoma (see above).  She loves to read and I love to egg her on.

I never send her anything I haven’t already read. (Alas, some of my most favorite are not age-appropriate for a 12-year-old either because they get a bit too juicy, or because they deal with ideas and concepts that need more life experience than a 12-year-old can come up with, or because they deal with stuff that’s a little too dark, too intense or too close to the bone.)  However, I have been making a conscious effort to send her age-appropriate books which have female protagonists who have agency.

All the books I read growing up had male protagonists and reinforced “mainstream” gender stereotypes because that’s all there was to read. I didn’t care for the sorts of books women and girls were supposed to like (mostly because they were usually pretty silly, girly — reinforced gender stereotypes — and mostly the heroines had no real agency), but the only people who wrote the kind of stuff I liked to read, with only one exception, were middle-aged white heterosexual men (until Samuel Delaney came along), and all the protagonists were male, because only boys were supposed to like science fiction and fantasy, and they wouldn’t buy books with female protagonists.  It wasn’t until I was an adult and encountered C. J. Cherryh‘s, Tanith Lee’s and Anne McCaffrey’s works that I encountered female protagonists with agency.  (I can’t wait until my little FCTR is old enough for some of Cherryh’s and McCaffrey’s stuff.)

There’s a lot more gender diversity around now than there was even in the 1980’s. In fact there’s a lot more diversity of all kinds now — gender, race and sexuality, which is good.  Science fiction and fantasy make up a really big “what if” sandbox, one that has plenty of room to speculate, extrapolate, and explore ideas and concepts that cannot be addressed in “mainstream” fiction.  If any sandbox has room enough for everybody to play in, it’s this one.

Abrupt change of topic.  Just now, the fat boy, who is sleeping between my knees, stirred briefly to do a little foot grooming.  There is a lot of static electricity about because of the dry heat of the furnace, and cat hair got static-clung on his nose.  He snuffed and snorked and shook his head (and banged it on the underside of the desk), and tried to rub it off, and made it worse.  Poor guy.  I had to grab a tissue, grab his head, and “manually” remove it. Regular programming has now resumed and he is back in napland — but not for long.  Someone has been drinking hot tea all afternoon and needs to get up.