Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

I’m wearing my first-ever pair of bifocals now. Well, not right this minute. I’m nearsighted, so I don’t need corrective lenses to see a computer screen that’s right in front of my face. There are times, though, when I have to look at someone else’s computer screen and it gets weird because to get close enough to read it, I have to invade their personal space. Some people don’t mind so much, but some people do.

There are also times when I’d like to be able to read the various dials and readouts on the dashboard of my car. Some readouts I can look at and know what they’re telling me without actually reading them; the speedometer, for instance. I know when it’s pointing at “60” instead of “50.” But sometimes I want to know the name of the song on the radio, or read the map display, and to do that I would have to tip my head way back and peep under the lenses of my old prescription.

I don’t have to do that now, but it’s a bit of a struggle overcoming the muscle memory. I keep peeping under the lenses when all I have to do is dip my eyes to look through the lower half of my new lenses.

bifocals | 6:00 am CST
Category: falling apart, random idiocy, TMI Tuesday
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Monday, February 10th, 2020

For once, he’s not lying.

tremendous fraud

tremendous | 5:19 am CST
Category: current events | Tags:
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Sunday, February 9th, 2020

He purred me to sleep.

Cat Nap

cat nap | 2:42 pm CST
Category: random idiocy | Tags: ,
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Sunday, February 2nd, 2020

Woke up pretty early Saturday morning because I messed up my back shoveling snow last weekend, so I still have a nasty leftover twinge that runs from the middle of my lower back across my right hip and down my thigh. I spent most nights this week trying and failing to find a comfortable position to sleep. So from time to time all through the past week I’ve had to stop what I was doing to practice a little physio/yoga, reaching very carefully for my toes, hanging there in rag doll pose for three to five deep breaths, then very carefully and slowly rising all the way up and leaning back, reaching up with my chest and down with my shoulders, until I can’t comfortably go back any further, holding that pose (not sure what the yogis call that; maybe hyperextended question mark?) for another three to five breaths, and finally straightening up and focusing on my lower back to see if it feels any better. Usually it does, for a while.

There hasn’t been a lot of snow this year and though I’ve broken out the shovel a dozen times, more or less, this season, it’s usually been to clear a few inches off the sidewalk; I don’t even bother clearing the driveway when there’s an inch or less because I can count on the sun to burn it off in a few days. Last week, though, we got a couple four-five inches, and the city plow turned that into a big pile at the end of the drive that I couldn’t just drive over, so I had to fire up the snow blower, then clean up the edges of the drive and clear the sidewalk with the shovel. To make it more complicated than it had to be, as part of the work we’ve been having done on the house there was a big trailer parked in the drive that I had to park behind, which meant I had to do a lot more shoveling in the narrow spaces around them instead of zipping down the driveway with the snow blower. And then there was the heavy, wet snow that fell on the weekend; that’s the stuff that my back really wasn’t prepared for.

Warm weather this weekend has been steadily melting the snow away; thanks, Mother Nature! Could’ve used that a little earlier this week, though.

A contractor from Mike’s Painting named Dave stopped by the house Saturday about ten o’clock to paint the wall in our bedroom where they had to tear out the rotten framing around the window and patch it up with fresh new framing and drywall. The drywallers came by middle of last week to plaster over the patched spot, and Dave, the painter from Mike’s, was there to paint over the plaster. Unfortunately he couldn’t match the paint exactly, so now one wall of the bedroom is a light tan color and the other three walls are a slightly darker, more yellow sand color. But! You wouldn’t otherwise suspect there was a big hole in the wall only two weeks ago; you would only wonder why one wall was a different color, if you wonder about things like that.

We had a couple hours of quiet time in the afternoon after Dave from Mike’s finished and packed up his stuff, so I stretched out on the sofa to read a little and have a short nap before Tim came over. I have a crazy-large collection of anthologies of short stories in the science fiction & fantasy genre; I used to eat this stuff up with a spoon when I was a kid but got away from it later and didn’t read it at all for many, many moons. I rediscovered it after I checked out a copy of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War from the main branch of the Madison Public Library, my favorite spot to spend my lunch hour when I worked downtown. Scalzi writes the kind of science fiction I enjoyed so much as a kid: character-driven with lots of dialogue, fast-paced action, and SHIPS IN SPAAACE! His latest book is due out in April and I’m on tenterhooks waiting for its release. Meantime, I’m gobbling up other authors like Mary Robinette Kowal (The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky), Chuck Wendig (Wanderers), N.K. Jemisin (How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?) and Mary Wells (The Murderbot Diaries).

Just tangentially, and to self-consciously reassert my cred as a “serious reader,” I’m about two-hundred pages into Cyrus Sulzberger’s fascinating memoir, A Long Row of Candles. Sulzberger was a correspondent for the New York Times and, to judge by what I’ve read so far, he was either one of the most adventuresome men on the planet who met the most colorful people who ever lived, or he may have exaggerated his stories a teensy-tiny bit. Dunno which, not sure I care; it’s a fun read either way, but at more than a thousand pages it’s not nearly as portable as my phone, on which I can read Kindle editions of SHIPS IN SPAAACE! So in the fifteen-minute breaks I get from staring at spread sheets at the office I read sci-fi, and when I have an hour or two of quiet time at home I read Sulzberger.

Except yesterday. Yesterday I wanted fantasy in small bites, to have plenty of time for a nap, and I wanted to discover new authors, so I got one of the anthologies down off the shelf and flipped pages until an interesting title caught my eye. Yesterday it was “Because Change Was the Ocean and We Lived by Her Mercy,” by Charlie Jane Anders. I’ll have to read it again because unfortunately I nodded off about halfway through, one of the hazards of reading preparatory to a nap. I finished the story after I woke up, but I think the continuity break messed up my understanding of the story. I’m not sure I could describe it right now if peace on earth hung in the balance.

Tim came over last night for dinner and a game of Spirit Island. Dinner was take-out from Swad, an Indian restaurant up the street. We feasted on lamb kabob, chicken tikka, chilli chicken and, of course, onion bhaji. A bonus of ordering dinner from Swad: everyone had buckets of leftovers to stock up the fridge for breakfast/lunch/dinner the next day. My dish was spicy enough that I think I’ll have to wait until dinner to finish mine off.

After clearing the dishes from the table and listening to the last half of the latest Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! podcast, we broke out the gameboard and set up a game of Spirit Island, an anti-colonizing game Tim introduced us to about a month ago. This time I was Lighting’s Swift Strike, blasting towns and cities off the board, while B defended the forests as A Spread of Rampant Green and Tim swept explorers away as River Surges in Sunlight. We cleared the invading colonials off the board in about two and a half hours last night, quite a lot faster than the five or so hours it took the first time we played; I think B and I may finally be getting the hang of this game.

high points | 9:39 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, January 27th, 2020

People have been taking selfies since the camera was invented. Astronauts are no more immune to the temptation to snap photos of themselves while they’re on the job than the rest of us are. Here’s astronaut Jessica Meir, who is currently orbiting her home planet aboard the International Space Station, as she snapped a photo of herself that should be on the wall of every kid who dreams of becoming an astronaut some day:

Astronaut Jessica Meir

spacewalk selfie | 8:36 am CST
Category: current events, this modern world | Tags: , , ,
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Sunday, January 26th, 2020

Our little red house is completely red once again!

our little red house

All that’s left to do is put up the gutters and downspouts, and they’re coming back to do that next week.

red once again | 11:21 am CST
Category: ch-ch-changes, Our Humble O'Bode
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I went to the eye doctor yesterday afternoon because my prescription seemed a little out of whack and it had been about five years since I’d had my eyes checked last. The office I went to last was in a Shopko that closed last summer, but the office moved to a strip mall about two blocks from our house so I guess even that minor catastrophe had a silver lining.

Before the doctor did her examination, a tech took me into a side room to check me for glaucoma with that goddamn machine that hit my eyeball with what they always describe as a “puff” of air, and which I describe as being punched in the face by an evil spirit. She had another machine that projected an image on the back of my eye but she didn’t say what that did; and she had a camera that took a picture of the retina of both my eyes. She had to take two photos of my left eye but she didn’t say why.

Once the tech was done with me, the doctor took me to a separate examination room and did the usual examination with the goggles that flip between better and worse, then she got behind a scope that shined a bright light into my eyes so she could examine the retinas live, one at a time, under magnification. She spent a bit longer looking into the left one than the right one before she explained that she was looking for a whitened area on my retina that showed up on the photos. It was probably totally normal, she said, most likely a myelinated nerve fiber layer and probably not A CANCEROUS TUMOR, but the only way she could be sure was to look at it live under magnification. Trouble was, it was in a part of my eye that at such an acute angle to my pupil that she couldn’t see it without dilating my eyes.

Luckily for both of us, I walked to the examination, meaning that driving home with dilated eyes wasn’t even part of the equation. Therefore, yes, please, go ahead and dilate my eyes so we can find out if one of them is full of cancer or it’s only a benignly myelinated nerve. I am only too happy to have this cleared up in exchange for having to squint all the way home.

And it turned out to be the benign thing, whew. So what might have turned out to be a slightly more exciting day than I had planned was instead routine. All I got out of it was a new prescription and a new pair of glasses.

myelinated | 11:17 am CST
Category: falling apart, Life & Death
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Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

Fare the well, Terry Jones, and thank you so much for all the laughs.

Terry Jones | 6:16 am CST
Category: current events
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Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

I fired up the snow blower for the first time last weekend.

I’ll say that again: For the first time this winter, I used my snow blower. In mid-January. It finally snowed enough to get the snow blower out of moth balls. It snowed a couple times before last weekend, but just barely. All but once I didn’t even bother to shovel it off the driveway. It’s been a disappointing year for snow, if you love snow. Which I don’t. I could easily do without it, and it looks increasingly like I’ll be able to do just that.

But not because of climate change, because climate change is a hoax.

Just kidding. Climate change is real and we’re all going to die.

Just kidding. We’re not going to die. It’ll only feel like we’re dying.

Don’t mind me. I just woke up. Haven’t even finished my coffee yet. Go back to sleep.

first blow | 6:18 am CST
Category: current events, random idiocy, weather, yet another rant
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Sunday, January 19th, 2020

I had a hankering this morning for a plate of scrambled eggs, but we didn’t have any eggs in the fridge so I did what I usually do when I’m trying to figure out where to eat: whipped out my phone and began to virtually search the city for a place that looked like it served a satisfyingly big plate of eggs with their usual breakfast.

Google maps is simultaneously very good and very bad for this task. Very good because it knows where a lot of the best places to eat are, drops a pin on them in their map, and provides all the links you need to see their menu, reviews from customers, photos of pretty much everything they serve, and so on. Very bad for much the same reasons. I don’t want to see hundreds of photos of scrambled eggs. Just tell me they have scrambled eggs, thank you. Also, I don’t need to know where McDonald’s is. That should be a setting in Google maps: Chain restaurants on/off.

But on this particular morning, my search reminded me of one of the best breakfast restaurants in the city: Pat O’Malley’s Jet Room, situated right next to the flight line of the Dane County Airport and only a fifteen-minute drive from our little red house. I jumped into the car (after it had been given a fair amount of time to warm up on this fourteen-degree day) and headed north.

One critically important thing I’d forgotten about the Jet Room: How friggin popular it is. The lobby of the Wisconsin Aviation building was crowded with people waiting to get in, which gave me a moment’s pause, but I could almost taste those eggs so I went in anyway to see how long the wait was. Forty-five minutes, it turned out, but only if you don’t answer “yes” to the question “would you be willing to take a seat at the counter?” I was so very willing that I was seated immediately at the number-one spot next to the wait staff’s station — the pole position!

The service was awesome: I got a glass of water and a hot cup of coffee within minutes of sitting down, they took my order not more than five minutes later, and I was digging in to a big plate of eggs (and hash browns, and bacon) no more than ten minutes after I set foot in the place! How do you beat that? I just don’t see how. Bonus points to the wait staff for keeping my coffee mug full. And I don’t know why, but I have to mention how much I love that the mugs and plates have the name of the restaurant on them. I don’t know why that appeals to me so much, but it does.

a big delicious breakfast at the Jet Room

And here’s what my sufficiency looks like after it’s been serensified:

sufficiency serensified

jet setter | 2:08 pm CST
Category: coffee, food & drink, restaurants | Tags: , ,
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Saturday, January 18th, 2020

Driving into town this morning I had to hit the brakes suddenly and all the ice and snow that had piled up on the roof came sliding down the windshield to almost completely block my view, not an idea situation to be in while driving along one of the busiest roads in Madison.

We’ve had quite a lot of snow fall in the past two or three days and because we haven’t been able to park the car in the garage, a layer of ice about half an inch thick built up on the roof, which was later covered by about three inches of snow. I could get most of the snow off when I cleaned off the car this morning, but the ice was too hard and stuck fast to the roof, but apparently the car warmed up enough as we drove it first to breakfast and then into town for the bond between the ice and the rooftop to loosen, leading up to the surprise and near-blinding I got later.

We can’t park our car in the garage because the guys who are installing the new siding on our little red house have parked a dumpster in the driveway where they toss demolished lumber and scraps of siding. Our car has to sit all by its lonesome self at the end of the driveway in the blowing snow.

snowcrash | 3:01 pm CST
Category: story time, weather | Tags:
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I have that funny feeling somebody’s watching me.

someone’s watching | 2:37 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, January 17th, 2020

Our little house is becoming red again!

new siding for our little red house

This is the most completed part of the project so far. I wish they had started on the front of the house instead of the back so the part of the house that was done was a little more appealing. It’s vinyl siding and I’m not especially keen on vinyl; it makes the house look like a big plastic play house. The original cedar siding looked much nicer where it wasn’t rotten and the paint wasn’t peeling away, but it was in fact rotten in several key areas and it needed painting, which was going to cost as much as new siding. Vinyl doesn’t have to be painted; just pressure-wash it every so often and it looks like new. In the end, that’s why we went with vinyl. We’re probably going to live here until the kids ship us off to assisted living, so the biggest plus is we won’t have to get the paint brushes out to get it ready for sale.

reddening | 6:24 am CST
Category: ch-ch-changes, Our Humble O'Bode | Tags:
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Thursday, January 16th, 2020

This is too much fun:

And this is just plain cool:

See more of Laura Kampf’s work here!

beer bike | 6:41 am CST
Category: beer, entertainment, food & drink, play | Tags:
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Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

“I don’t care how flat the box is, I’m getting in it!”

a cat in a box

boxed | 5:58 am CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags: ,
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Sunday, January 12th, 2020

our little naked houseOur little red house is not so red right now! It’s been mostly white for the better part of a week, but was briefly a color best described as cow patty brown, and thank goodness that’s been covered over. I much prefer the industrial look of the plasticized vapor barrier they wrapped it with.

A crew came by first thing last week to tear all the old siding off the house; took them all day Monday and part of the day Tuesday. Tearing off the siding resulted in a plumbing emergency that was a little scary but quickly taken care of. They wrapped almost the entire house in an impermeable plastic that helps insulate the house; now it looks like we live in a box of toilet paper or some other mass-market product.

There’s no plastic wrap on the north wall yet because they found a bunch of rotten wall framing where water got in behind a window frame. They’ll tear out the rot next week and replace it with fresh new framing; that ought to make for an interesting day or two.

Meanwhile, they’ve already begun to put up vinyl siding in the back, so it’s starting to look like a real house again but only if you’re in the back yard and only if you cover half the house with your outstretched hand.

siding update 1 | 9:38 am CST
Category: Our Humble O'Bode | Tags:
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Saturday, January 11th, 2020

I kinda had to do this. It was getting to be too much trouble to take care of. I let it grow out in the first place because I was too lazy to get it cut, so it only follows that I’d get it cut because I’m too lazy to take care of it properly.

time to get those hairs cut

I really had no idea it was so long. I mean, obviously I knew it was long but until I saw the photos my stylist took I didn’t realize just how long it had grown (and how much it made me look like the creepy bald guy in Rocky Horror). I was also pretty clueless about how long it had been since I stopped getting it cut, too. I searched through my camera roll to find a photo of myself with short hair to show to the stylist and had to scroll back more than two years! Honestly, I thought it had been maybe a year, year and a half tops.

The stylist was not sure at all I knew what I was getting myself into when I told her how short I wanted her to cut it and showed her the photos of me before I stopped getting it cut. I had to virtually sign a waiver and pinky swear that I would not hold it against her after she cut it all off. She started by whacking about six inches off just so she would have room to work, issuing little declarative statements like “it’s not going to look pretty,” which made me laugh and evil laugh. “I was just thinking,” I said, “that if I really wanted to be mean right now, I’d start blubbering ‘no, no, stop!'”

Best part of the night: she washed my hair with a special shampoo that apparently had spicy peppers in it — is there nothing they won’t turn into a mole these days? The conditioner she used after the wash was similarly spiked and kept my scalp tingling through the rest of the haircut.

The rest of the cut took about a half hour to forty-five minutes; altogether I was there about an hour and a half, and I have to say it was the best part of my day. I can see why My Darling B likes going there. I’ve already set a reminder in my calendar to go back next month for another wash and cut.

hairs cut | 8:42 am CST
Category: barber, random idiocy | Tags:
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Thursday, January 9th, 2020

We have three cats. The oldest one, Boo, is about 16 years old and couldn’t give much of a shit about what’s going on around her if it doesn’t involved a warm, comfortable place to sleep or, occasionally, food. The one in the middle, Scooter, is six or seven and, just like his age, he’s middle of the road when it comes to attitude. He’s very friendly to most people and attentive to what’s going on around him, by which I mean he sticks his nose into everything, even things he shouldn’t be. Especially things he shouldn’t be.

Then there’s Sparky, the kid of the crew. Sparky’s probably the nicest of the bunch, personality-wise, but he’s kinda jumpy. Might have something to do with him being a feral before we adopted him as a kitten. He’s been in our house for going on three years now, but he still jumps at every creak and clunk and sometimes hunkers down under the sofa until he gets the idea it’s safe to come out again.

When we came home from work on Monday night, after taking care of the broken water pipe and things began to settle down a bit, My Darling B fed the cats while I cleaned up some of the mess, and as I was mopping up the mud around the table in the dining room I noticed Sparky wasn’t in his usual spot, gobbling down the kibble B put out for him.

I looked around the room. No Sparky. Didn’t see him in the living room, either. “Have you seen Sparky since we’ve been home?” I asked B, and that’s when she got the puzzled look on her face, too. “No, I haven’t,” she answered, so we went looking for Sparky. I checked all the rooms, the basement, and then started on round two upstairs again. B wandered around calling his name and shaking a bag of treats, but he didn’t emerge. When she wandered into the hallway, though, she froze. “I heard him,” she said, shaking the bag of treats again and calling his name. “Mew,” he called, distantly. He was hiding in the hall closet behind the vacuum cleaner.

Same thing when we came home on Tuesday night: no Sparky. We went through the same routine of calling to him and shaking the bag of treats, and after five or ten minutes of that he came slinking out from behind the refrigerator, trembling. The contractors must have made a lot of noise tearing off the old siding that day. Wednesday night he was behind the fridge again but came out almost right away when we called his name, and he wasn’t quite so scared. I’m not sure, but I don’t believe the contractors were here all day Wednesday because I didn’t see much work done and frankly didn’t expect it: the high temperature that day was twelve degrees.

in a state | 8:24 am CST
Category: Our Humble O'Bode | Tags: ,
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Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

The house was naked when we got home last night. All the siding had been ripped off it. That was expected. There are no roving gangs of vandals stripping the siding from houses in our neighborhood; we actually hired a contractor to pull all the old siding off, then put new siding on. Nothing to worry about here.

What was worrisome, though, was the sound of running water we heard after we entered the house. It seemed to be coming from the kitchen, so My Darling B went straight to it. She opened the dish washer, thinking maybe I had loaded it up in the morning and it had somehow gotten stuck in the rinse cycle, but she could quickly see that it wasn’t running, so she checked under the sink. No sign of anything amiss under there.

We shared a significant look just then, and I could tell she was thinking of the deluge, too. We had a little accident a couple years back when an overflowing toilet flooded the basement so catastrophically that we had to call in a small army of people to clean it up, and damned if that “running water” sound didn’t sound a lot like this.

As I ran down the stairs to the basement, I could hear the sound of water splashing, gushing, cascading and otherwise doing what would be described using words that would generally denote a more cheerful activity than the one that was happening in our house. It didn’t take long for me to find where the water was coming from, but the leak was behind a panel I would have to tear out to get to it, so I ran back upstairs, changed into grubby clothes, and got to work.

And while I was racing around, I was making several phone calls to the contractors who had ripped the siding off my house, because what had happened apparently was this: There’s a faucet for the garden hose out back of the house. A pipe from the house runs out through a hole in the siding. From what I could tell, when they tore off the siding, they pulled the faucet off, too. Weirdly, they put the faucet back by stuffing the broken pipe back into the hole, as if that would somehow fix things. I conveyed all this information to the contractors, who called a plumber, who arrived at our humble o-bode later that evening, by which time I had shut off the water main and cleaned things up a bit.

The plumber examined the broken pipe, made two quick cuts with a nifty powered tool that removed a two-inch length of pipe so he could get in there with his hand, then fished a small brass cap out of his pocket which he fit over the end of the pipe and pounded it home with the heel of his hand. “You want to turn the water back on?”

“Don’t you at least want to hit that with a hammer?” I asked, because I believed he would at the very least have to solder the cap in place. He insisted it would hold, so I opened the main water valve, expecting to hear the sound of water spraying gaily all over the plumber as he yelled for me to turn it off again. No such thing happened. I stared in wonder at the little brass cap and asked him what the hell it was, because I wanted a couple of them on hand for the next plumbing emergency.

Monday flood | 5:58 am CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, Our Humble O'Bode, random idiocy
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Saturday, January 4th, 2020

I’m having trouble finishing “Marjorie Morningstar.” I found a copy of it in a second-hand store shortly after the author, Herman Wouk, died last summer. So many people said their favorite book by Wouk was “Marjorie Morningstar,” so I looked for it in the book stores I haunted to see if I could snag a copy, and did within weeks of Wouk’s passing. I’m about three-quarters of the way through it, but I’m finding it very difficult to pick it up to read that last quarter because so far most of the book has focused on Marjorie nursing an enduring crush on a songwriter she met while she was acting in summer stock who is such a cad that if she doesn’t stick a steak knife through his heart before the last chapter I will be so pissed off.

I haven’t read a lot of Herman Wouk; just three of his novels, in total: “The Winds of War,” “War and Rememberance,” and “The Caine Muntiny.” I thought the first two were pretty good, but I think “The Caine Mutiny” is one of the best books I have ever read. I didn’t think so the first time I read it. I thought it was pretty bad, to be honest. The biggest part of the book focuses on Willie Keith, a rich kid who tries to use his privilege to squeak out of serving in the second world war by securing a cushy spot in the Navy; he ends up on the titular destroyer Caine where he takes part in a mutiny. I thought the parts of the book describing the mutiny were superb, but I wasn’t much interested in Keith until I picked up the book a second time to re-read the part about the mutiny and even then I was a lot more interested in Maryk, the executive officer of the Caine, so I re-read the parts that dealt with him. Keith was in almost every scene, so naturally enough, I became interested in him. In the end, I re-read the book several times and damned if Wouk doesn’t make Keith out to be a decent guy in spite of his service.

So it’s not unusual for me to dislike what’s going on it a Wouk novel the first time I read through it. I expect that, even if I dislike the way “Marjorie Morningstar” ends, I’ll like it eventually. But I’m having a devil of a time getting to the end.

Marjorie Morningstar | 5:06 pm CST
Category: books, entertainment | Tags: ,
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My morning walk through Turville Park was a little shorter than planned, because the weather was a lot colder and windier than I thought it would be. I checked the temperature after I decided to go and was surprised to learn it was thirty degrees, which wouldn’t have been so bad if the wind had been calm, but it wasn’t. And I wanted to hike the trails out to Turville Point, where the winds off the lake were not slowed down one teensy-tiny little bit by the leafless trees in the park, so when I finally got there, I didn’t linger at all. In fact, by the time I got there I was moving at a pretty good clip just to keep warm, and only stopped maybe twice to get a good look at some trees which had fallen in the water along the shoreline. I paddled my kayak along this shore last summer and it was interesting to see it from this different angle. Interesting, but not engrossing. I finished my morning walk in about thirty minutes.

Because my plans changed from taking a little wander through the park to marching double-time to keep from freezing solid, I didn’t see much else while I was at the park but those fallen trees. I briefly caught sight of a large bird I thought may have been an owl swooping out of the upper branches of an oak tree. It had the impressive wingspan of a small aircraft and a barrel-shaped, thickly-feathered body, but as I got only the briefest glimpse of it as it flew away I can’t be sure what it was. I saw no other wildlife during my hurried visit, not even evidence of wildlife such as the rustling of leaf litter as squirrels hustled by. I didn’t even meet any other people out for an early walk in the chill of the morning. I believe I had the park all to myself.

Turville Point | 11:58 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, January 3rd, 2020

We had a somewhat unexpectedly big day here at our little red house: a small crew of men arrived in the early morning hours to knock the picture window out of the front of the house and replace it with a newer picture window. This was only somewhat unexpected because I actually contracted with a local business to do exactly what they did, but that was months ago, and it has taken so long to finalize the deal and get them to commit to a schedule that I frankly began to wonder if it was ever going to happen in my lifetime. Until yesterday morning.

I noticed I got a call from the contractor when I took my phone out of my pocket after I got to the office yesterday. I called them back right away — this was at about seven-thirty in the morning — and the guy who answered said something like, “I just want to make sure we’re still on for today.” And I answered, “On for today?” in the tone of voice of a person who isn’t sure exactly what he’s being asked to commit to, for the good reason that I wasn’t.

“Didn’t you get my voicemail yesterday?” he asked. “A couple of guys are going to replace your windows this morning.” When I asked what time we could expect a couple of random guys to show up at our house, he said probably between eight-thirty or nine o’clock.

“I wonder if you could hold off until I can make sure my wife is awake?” I asked, this time using the tone of voice of a person who was warning him not to wake my wife if he had any idea what was good for him.

By lucky chance, My Darling B was home from the office yesterday. Lucky, because one of us would have to be at home to let the workmen in so they could knock the old window out and install the new one. Unluckily, however, B took the day off from work so she could relax; you know, hang out in her pajamas with a hot mug of coffee and a book, which was very unlikely now that I knew big burly men were going to be hammering and drilling and tromping around in our living room. Also in our kitchen. They were going to replace the kitchen window, too.

I called B immediately after I got off the phone with the contractor, but she didn’t answer because it was seven-thirty in the morning and she would never be awake that early on a day when she does not have to get out of bed before she just naturally awakens, which normally happens any time after, say, nine o’clock, and sometimes much later. I called her again about ten minutes later and at ten-minute intervals after that until, at about twenty past eight, she finally answered. Before I could tell her much at all, she sleepily informed me a truck just dumped a pile of construction materials in our front yard. She even sent a photo of the pile to me via text message.

I quickly explained to her that several strange men would shortly ring our doorbell and ask to be let in so they could bash out the windows, and that she should probably think about gathering up the cats and sequestering them behind a closed door of one of the rooms in the house, or maybe I suggested that she put on some clothes first and then round up the cats. It’s hard to remember exactly how I conveyed to a very sleepy woman who had anticipated spending the day drinking hot coffee in the cozy comfort of her home would now have to look forward to a day of loud construction in the very rooms where she had hoped to lounge.

She was a little on the grumpy side of unhappy about this change of plans, as she had every right to be, but she managed to corral the cats and pull on some blue jeans and a sweatshirt in the few minutes she had left before the construction crew showed up. She spent most of the day barricaded in one of the bedrooms trying to stay our of their way and keep warm in a house that suddenly had a very large hole in it in the middle of winter. The hole was filled with a new window in just a few short hours, but the construction crew wasn’t done hammering and drilling until about three o’clock in the afternoon, so almost the entirety of B’s day off went down the tubes and she was still a tad grumpy by the time I returned home at five o’clock.

windowless | 6:36 am CST
Category: ch-ch-changes, daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode
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Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

I thought I would have to fire up the snow blower for the first time in 2019 when I woke up in the morning of the very last day of that year to a fresh snowfall. My snow blower’s gasoline engine is reluctant to start after it’s been sitting unused all summer, so I dressed up in my warmest winter coat, knowing I could be out in the subfreezing weather for a while. As it turned out, I didn’t so much as lay a hand on my snow blower. There was less than a half-inch of snow on the driveway; if I had wheeled out the snow blower to remove that, it would have seemed to me at least like the most egregious misuse of a power tool imaginable. It was a preposterously simple matter to clear the driveway in just five minutes using the snow shovel. I wasn’t even winded when I finished. I probably could have used a push broom.

One of my neighbors, who owns one of the largest snow blowers I have ever seen, does not have the same reservations about how and when to use it that I had about mine. He’s one of those “I paid a lot of money for this power tool and I’m going to use it” kind of guys. His snow blower is taller than he is, and has a mouth wide enough to clear half his driveway in a single pass. After a heavy snowfall, witnessing it make short work of waist-high drifts of snow is an impressive sight to behold. Seeing him use it to clear a half-inch of snow is another thing entirely. I was at the end of my drive, clearing away the inch-high ridge of snow left behind by the city snow plow crew after they cleared our street, when I heard the roar of his snow blower coming to life. I stopped what I was doing and used my shovel as a prop to rest my arm on while I watched him follow his behemoth to the end of his driveway, maneuver it through a 180-degree turn, then follow it back up to his house, all the while wreathed by the faintest haze of snow thrown into the air as a thin, insubstantial whisp that blew apart in the breeze the moment it exited the chute off the top of his snow blower. He tried to make a bigger production of it by spending some extra time at the end of the driveway making sure he got all the snow left behind by the city plow, but it hardly took him five minutes to do the whole thing. I bet the engine on his snow blower didn’t even get warm.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have even bothered to shovel so little snow off the driveway because I’m pretty lazy when it comes to yard work, to be frank. I should probably hire some of the more enterprising neighborhood teenagers to cut the grass and shovel the driveway, but as well as being lazy I’m also a skinflint, so to this day I still do my own mowing and shoveling and other yard work, but only when I feel I absolutely have to. Yesterday afternoon was one of those times. Our good friends, Becky and John, were coming over later in the afternoon to go out to dinner with us, then come back to our little red house to spend new year’s eve playing games, and I didn’t want them to have to trudge through even as little as a half-inch of snow, because who would do that to their good friends?

We had a very casual dinner at a popular local pizza parlor not far from our house. We figured we’d have a quick dinner there, then return to play games while we noshed on some snacky foods and finally toast the new year, not necessarily at midnight because none of us are spring chickens any more. We ended up spending a bit more time at the pizza parlor than we had planned, about three and a half hours! I can’t account for this. It’s normally a popular place but there didn’t seem to be any more customers than we usually saw; in fact, I spotted empty tables and stools at the bar from time to time, but the wait staff were obviously running their legs off. We didn’t even see our waitress until about fifteen minutes after we were seated when she paused briefly — and I mean very briefly — to apologize for then wait, then add she’d be back in just two more minutes before she dashed away again. She didn’t give us enough time to ask for water. And she wasn’t back in two minutes.

When she did come back, ten minutes later, she stayed only long enough to get our drinks order before rushing off again. We managed to slip in a request for some fried cheese curds, too, but just barely. She swooped in to dive-bomb the table with John’s beer minutes later, explaining his order was easiest to fill because it came in a bottle. Becky got her cocktail about five minutes later, while Barb’s sat at the end of the bar at least ten minutes, for some reason. I got my beer last, many more minutes after B’s cocktail was delivered. If I recall correctly, the cheese curds arrived after we all raised our glasses to toast the new year, but the waitress didn’t take our dinner order until we were burping contentedly after finishing off all of the cheese curds and had nearly made our way to the bottoms of all of our drinks.

So you get the idea: service was slow and the main courses didn’t arrive until well past the time we thought we’d be on our way home. We weren’t in a terribly big hurry, though, so it’s not like we felt like complaining about it, but damned if we wouldn’t make fun of it a little bit.

Back at our little red house, I popped open a bottle of bubbly, poured a glass for everyone and we shared a toast to the new year, again. Then we played a very silly card game that required us to shout out words and phrases that were improbable under any other circumstances that didn’t involve prosecco, and had a pretty good time doing it.

new years eve | 1:01 pm CST
Category: beer, booze, daily drivel, entertainment, food & drink, play, restaurants | Tags: , , , ,
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Monday, December 30th, 2019

The thermometer says it isn’t any colder out now than it was when I left the house at eight-thirty. My butt, on the other hand, says it is. I want to believe the thermometer, but I have to live in the same set of clothes with my butt, so I believe it’s colder.

Actually, I believe it’s the same temperature but I know it feels colder now that the wind has picked up from being nearly dead calm when I left the house, to blowing briskly and mercilessly now. Also, I had to walk home through a headwind, and that’s always good for making the weather feel a lot cooler.

Speaking of a lot cooler, I had to peel out of my coat during yesterday’s walk; it was warm enough to walk the streets in my shirtsleeves, and a lot of other people were doing it, too. The day before that, it was colder than it is today. Winter in Wisconsin; if you don’t like the weather, wait a couple hours.

frozen butt | 11:27 am CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags: ,
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Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Everyone drinks coffee to kickstart their morning, so why doesn’t everyone drink it straight, dark, bitter? I don’t understand why anybody puts stuff in coffee. Milk, sugar, syrup — it all takes the edge off, so what’s the point? If you want a frou-frou drink with frou-frou smells first thing in the morning, drink tea.

coffee vs tea | 9:43 am CST
Category: coffee, food & drink, yet another rant
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Saturday, December 28th, 2019

I didn’t have enough vacation time this year to take last Thursday and Friday off, which a lot of people did, so I was in the office, bleary-eyed and not especially bushy-tailed, before the sun came up on Thursday morning.

The office was silent as a graveyard. I debated with myself over whether or not to make coffee. I myself was going to drink tea that morning, and I figured that the few people who were in to work that morning would be Keurig-users. The people who drink from the pot seem to be mostly management types, and I figured they wouldn’t be around. But, what the heck, I brewed a pot anyway and made it strong, just in case there was anyone in the office who needed a kick in the pants that morning.

Lucky thing, because there was more than one. I went back to the kitchen at about nine-thirty to make myself another cuppa and saw the pot was almost empty. Must have been more than a few people who needed a jolt that morning. Brewed another strong pot that was almost gone before lunch time.

Same thing happened Friday morning. There must have been a lot more people working the in-between days than I thought, and apparently they didn’t get much sleep.

Making coffee at work | 4:48 pm CST
Category: coffee, coworkers, daily drivel, food & drink, office work, work
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Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

melted coffee pot“Do you smell something burning?” My Darling B asked me the other night as I was watching something on television.

I put the program I was watching on pause, because that’s how you smell things better, and sniffed the air.

“No,” I answered, “but then I can’t smell much at all right now.” We’re both getting over headcolds that were so bad they would, in the middle ages, have been characterized as some version of the plague, or at least a witch’s curse.

B went back to doinking around on Facebook and didn’t appear to be too concerned, so I continued watching television for exactly one and a half minutes, stopping when B looked up again, sniffed the air and said, “Something *is* burning.”

I paused the video again and sniffed the air. Nothing. I looked around for signs of smoke, but didn’t see anything like that, either. B waited about ten seconds for me to get up and look around, but my feeling was that if she wasn’t concerned enough about the smell of something burning to get up herself, then I wasn’t too worried, either, particularly when I didn’t smell anything at all.

She went through the dining room into the kitchen. “Oh, SHIT!”

Well. That’s probably not good.

After finally levering my butt off the sofa and joining B in the kitchen, I found that the coffee pot I set on the stove top when cleaning up after dinner was leaning at an angle toward the small burner in the front corner which was, coincidentally, still switched on at a very low setting but still hot enough, evidently, to melt the plastic base of the coffee pot. We have a stove with one of those flat black ceramic tops that heats up pots and pans by way of magic. We frequently use it as extra counter space because our kitchen is so small, even though we know that’s probably not a good idea, for obvious reasons. I rescued what was left of the coffee pot, then fetched a putty knife from the garage and scraped as much of the melted plastic as I could off the stove top.

We were still going to need the coffee pot in the morning, so I whittled down a cork from a wine bottle and hot-glued it into the gap melted out of the bottom of the pot, giving it a pirate’s peg-leg so it could stand upright on the countertop in the morning. It’ll serve until its replacement arrives in the mail sometime after the holidays.

And for the foreseeable future I guess I’ll have to jump whenever B asks if I smell something burning.

sniffing the air | 10:47 am CST
Category: fun with electricity, housekeeping, random idiocy
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Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

I am so sick of being sick. I feel like if I don’t stop coughing soon my sides will cramp up so hard I’ll never be able to relax my muscles again and I’ll walk around bent over like an ambulatory question mark for the rest of my life.

cramp | 1:19 pm CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags:
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Friday, December 20th, 2019

And once again I’m home doing my best to recover from an attack of the coughing crud. I’m not sure if I’ve had a relapse of the old coughing crud I thought I’d gotten over, or this is a different strain of coughing crud that I was fortunate enough to collect right after the first run of crud. So far, I’ve got the complete set! Yay me!

I’ve been coughing and crudding since Monday night, forcing myself to go back to work and tough it out every day because I was working on a huge project that I finished yesterday. Then this morning when my alarm went off I hit snooze for the first time in years, and when I finally did roll out of bed and shamble towards the bathroom, I got about halfway there before I thought to myself, screw it, there’s no way I’m going to work today.

So I called in, fed the cats, and made a pot of coffee, in that order, then settled in for a long day of hacking and coughing and blowing my nose a lot. Managed to do just a little light housework, too, so I could justify staying home all day, because I’ve been a guilt-ridden neurotic since the day I was born so I feel I have to justify taking a day off even when the microbial world is conspiring to murder me.

home alone | 2:38 pm CST
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Monday, December 16th, 2019

We spent most of our second day in Chicago at the Museum of Science and Industry, but before that we had to find a place to get some breakfast, which I thought would be relatively easy because there is no shortage of places to eat in Chicago if you’re okay with waiting for an hour or more. We ended up at the counter of the Pittsfield Cafe, not the trendiest of places but even so more popular than the chic tea shop next door. We had to wait in a long line that thankfully moved very quickly, and we were seated in under twenty minutes. The food was hot and delicious and they served mimosas, so quite a successful breakfast after all.

An MTA double-decker commuter train whisked us south to 57th Street where we walked a couple blocks to get to the museum, where My Darling B was looking forward to seeing exhibits of Christmas around the world, mostly dozens of Christmas trees decorated with ornaments they said were most popular in each of the represented countries. B liked the tree representing Japan the best. I was there for the scienc-y stuff, so while she snapped photos of the ornaments, I ducked into the exhibit halls to watch avalanches form and pendulums swing and, while she was resting her feet near the end of our visit, I took a quick side trip to the space center to say hi to Apollo 8, the first crewed spacecraft to leave earth and fly to the moon. The gumdrop-shaped command module sits behind a high wall of plexiglass but I managed to snap a few photos over the top of the wall without dropping my phone. Might have been embarrassing.

Back in Chicago we stopped at the Adams Street Brewery for some cold suds and a pretzel before heading to a comedy show. I unreservedly recommend the Imperial Stout they brew on the premises.

Chicago day two | 10:12 pm CST
Category: vacation | Tags: , , ,
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Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Got back this afternoon from a weekend trip to The Windy City with My Darling B. We’ve been talking for years about visiting the Christmas market they have there every year, and this year we finally stopped talking and did it. B did all the hard work of planning the trip and booking the rooms; I did the easy part: driving. We drove down Friday morning, arriving around one o’clock to check in at our hotel, and left at about eleven o’clock this morning. Short trip, but we got a lot done.

First thing we did after checking in at the hotel was walk down to Daley Plaza where the Christmas market takes place. It was not exactly like the Christmas markets we remembered from Berlin, but it was pretty close. The vendors sold a lot of the same ornaments and other Christmas trinkets, they served the spiced wine known as gluhwein, and there were so many people jammed into the market it was almost impossible to move.

Wandered around at the market for an hour or so before walking a few blocks north to see the sights along the Magnificent Mile. The idea is we would walk from store to store, taking in the Christmas sights and maybe doing a little shopping. Spoiler: It’s all high-end shopping. Macy’s. Saks. Tiffany’s. Not the kind of places we would be stopping to pick up a stocking-stuffer. So we finished our walk up the Magnificent Mile a lot sooner than we thought we would.

We were supposed to join up with a guided tour of the Christmas lights but it wasn’t scheduled to depart until five-thirty so to avoid getting there very early we backtracked just a bit and ended up at an Irish pub called Pippin’s where we could grab a beer while we passed the time until we could meet the bus. It was one of those buses that’s made to look like a trolley and it went out to Wrigleyville where there was another Christmas market we wandered around in for about a half-hour, then looped back to stop at Lincoln Zoo where they had draped the trees and wrapped the bushes in lots and lots of colored lights, and they gave us special glasses that made us see elves and reindeer floating around the lights like some trippy holiday hallucination.

We didn’t get to bed until ten-thirty that night. I must have been beat because I slept until seven-thirty the next morning.

windy city | 6:59 pm CST
Category: My Darling B, travel | Tags: ,
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Friday, December 13th, 2019

Boo-BooBoo had a follow-up visit with the vet on Wednesday to see how she was recovering from last week’s surgery and to give her an injection of antibiotics. We stopped by after work to pick her up and as soon as the vet tech said the doctor wanted to talk with us I had the feeling it wouldn’t be entirely good news.

When the vet sewed up her mouth after pulling her teeth she noticed the bone was spongy, so she sent a sample of it to the lab. Tests showed that Boo has a kind of bone cancer that’s especially aggressive; without treatment, the prognosis is that she has weeks, maybe months to live, but options for treatment don’t give her much more time and won’t do much to improve her quality of life, so we’ve decided to do what we can to keep her as comfortable as we can until it’s no longer possible.

Right now, she appears to be fine. She has recovered well after surgery and she has a ravenous appetite, a very good sign. Her main interest is getting as much lap time as possible and when a lap isn’t available, she curls up under a blanket and naps, not at all unusual for a 16-year-old cat. We started feeding shredded tuna to her after they yanked most of her teeth out and now she gets it every day, making her one very happy cat.

to the bone | 7:29 am CST
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Monday, December 9th, 2019

I called mom last night and one of the topics of conversation was my upcoming 60th birthday, which is in fact a year and three days from now but I didn’t correct her because, you know, 59, 60, what’s the difference?

She brings it up the topic of my age more often than she used to because she can’t get her head around the idea that the child she gave birth to seems to be as old as she is. “You can’t be 60,” she said. “I’m 60!” I totally get what she means. I usually feel like I’m about thirty years old, until I throw my back out bending over to pick up a cat toy, or stop to catch my breath as I’m scrubbing the bathtub. Being 59 (or 60, whatever) feels like that shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Fifty nine | 6:04 am CST
Category: falling apart, Life & Death
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Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Boo’s face puffed out on her left so much that her eye was shut most of the time, so we took her to the vet who said she had an abscess caused by some rotten teeth. Poor Boo! The vet ended up keeping her overnight so they could yank five of her teeth the next morning.

We took her home in the evening after her surgery and put her in a room by herself because she was still a little loopy from the anesthetic. I went in to see her after dinner and she wouldn’t come to me, which I expected because she holds a grudge for a while after we take her to the vet. She usually finds a spot close enough to us that we can’t ignore her but she sits facing away from us. This time, though, she kept pacing back and forth, crying and rubbing against my knee each time she went past. I couldn’t get her to stop.

B came in a little later and Boo wouldn’t sit sit still for her, either. By then it was about half-past seven, late enough that we could give her something to eat, so I went to the kitchen and fixed up a bowl of food for her. Turned out, that’s what she was crying about. She gobbled it up in the blink of an eye and cried for more. I waited about fifteen minutes before fixing up another bowl of food for her, just to make sure she wasn’t going to barf up the first bowlful, but I didn’t have to worry about that. She wolfed her second helping and was crying for more about a half-hour later. I haven’t seen her eat like that in years.

Boo bump | 6:42 pm CST
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Saturday, December 7th, 2019

We still have the plague here. B thought it skipped her but she started feeling sick maybe three or four days ago and yesterday her boss sent her home from work. She’s got the same symptoms I had, stuffy head and hacking up gobbets of gross gunk.

I keep saying I’m on the upswing now and mostly that seems to be true, but I still have episodes when I can feel a pocket of something deep in the back of my head give way and the next few sloppy minutes will be me continually blowing hard through my nose into yards and yards of toilet paper, sooo gross.

plague update | 6:38 am CST
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Boo let me know it was time to get up and feed her by jumping on my bladder, walking across my stomach and clawing at the box spring after jumping to the floor as noisily as a five-pound cat can. It was quarter to four in the morning. So I got up and fed her, as you do. Six hours of sleep it enough, right?

She was sleeping with us because she’s in recovery after we had to take her to the vet who drained an abscess in her face. Boo’s face, not the vet’s. The vet had to yank five of Boo’s teeth out, too, probably making the whole deal a fairly traumatic experience, so we let her into the bedroom to cuddle up with us while she’s recovering.

We stopped letting the cats sleep with us when they learned that I really hate it when they walk on my face. After they acquired that knowledge, they did it all the time. If you’ve never wanted to strangle a cat with your bare hands, you’ve never had one walk on your face while you’re sound asleep.

They walk on my face because I’m the one who feeds them (somehow that ended up as part of my job description; I need a better union rep) and they know that I’ll get up and feed them if only to stop them from walking on my face. Locking them out of the bedroom restored regular feeding hours. I also got more sleep, which didn’t suck.

After losing most of her molars and one of her fangs, Boo has officially crossed the line into the soft-food phase of her life, and she’s enjoying it. Tiki Cat three times a day! Scooter and Sparky are insane with jealousy.

solid six | 5:46 am CST
Category: Boo, sleeplessness | Tags:
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Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

I am so sick of breathing through my mouth.

And coughing. I could do without coughing for a while.

gasp | 6:35 am CST
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Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

So now it’s day seven of the monster death head cold. I thought I was on the upswing but now I’m not so sure. I spent about half the night breathing through my mouth which means I spent half the night not sleeping because I can’t sleep when I have to breathe through my mouth, pretty much a replay of the night before. Thank goodness for coffee. I’ll be drinking gallons of that stuff all day.

gasp cough snort | 6:14 am CST
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Saturday, November 30th, 2019

And today is day four of the death monster head cold from beyond the stars, which means I’ve reached the point in my illness when I’m so frustrated about having to breathe through my mouth all the time that I fantasize about going down to the work bench looking for power tools to relieve the congestion. Or even a toilet plunger. I imagine it would be so easy to suck all the gunk out of my nose it almost makes me cry. If I thought I could get one to fit tightly over my face, I wouldn’t even stop to rinse it off.

I woke up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom and while I was there, the thick curtain of mucus blocking my sinuses parted just long enough for me to grab a couple quick breaths through my nose. Seizing the moment, I snatched a yard or two of toilet paper from the roller and blew with all my might, relieving my nasal passages of gallons of the stickiest goo ever conceived of. There was so much goo I had to grab another handful of toilet paper and blow, and when that didn’t get the job done I grabbed more, wondering how much there could possibly be.

Turned out my nose was bleeding, which happens to me commonly in the dry weather of winter, and especially when I’m sick, so I tipped my head back and pinched my nostrils together until the bleeding stopped. On the way out the thought struck me I should turn on the lights to see if I needed to clean up at all and HOLY CRAP IT LOOKED LIKE I’D BEEN SLAUGHTERING PIGS IN THERE! Spent five minutes with a damp cloth mopping up the blood I sprayed on the tub, tiles, wall and rug.

In spite of not being able to breathe all that easily, I managed to sleep until about six-thirty this morning, almost eight hours, before I gave up and started a pot boiling for coffee. A little java in the morning clears the clotted grunge from my throat like a shot of Drano, so I choke down half a cup even though it makes my head pound. After coffee, it’s green tea all day long. It seems to soothe my throat or at least I imagine it does. The steam rising from the cup feels good, too.

Synonym for stuffed | 11:04 am CST
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Friday, November 29th, 2019

It’s about quarter to nine on Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, and my sinuses are still stuffed full of whatever nasty goop sinuses fill up with when they’re infected by whatever nasty bug I got infected by. I got a pretty solid six, maybe seven hours of sleep last night before I couldn’t breath through my nose any longer; I can’t sleep when I’m forced to breath through my mouth, so I passed a half-hour or so rolling from one side to the other, loosening up the gunk that was plugging my head. When it was finally ready to harvest, I rolled out of bed, toddled off to the bathroom, yanked a couple yards of toilet paper off the roll and blew and blew and blew and blew and blew and I still didn’t get all the gunk out. It’s going to be an all-day project.

stuffed | 8:55 am CST
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Thursday, November 28th, 2019

It’s about twelve-thirty as I type these words and I should be about halfway to Arkansas right now. My Darling B and I had plans to travel to my mom’s house, where we would stay for three nights over the holiday weekend. For a while earlier this week it looked as though the weather might derail our plans but that turned out not to be the case. Instead, I fell victim to a virus that’s been going around. It started with a scratchy throat on Tuesday, blew up into congestion that filled my sinuses from top to bottom with goo more powerfully sticky than anything Gorilla Glue makes, and which left me weak and sleepy and worn-out as a bald tire. I got a solid eight hours of sleep last night with the help of a shot of Nyquil before bed, so I almost feel as though I’m starting to come back from the worst of the congested sinuses and cruddy throat. If I can get a nap and another solid night’s sleep, I just might come back from this by Saturday or Sunday, and that would be a very good thing. Nothing worse than staring into a computer screen all day Monday with a head cold pounding away at my skull.

over the river | 12:36 pm CST
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Sunday, November 24th, 2019

I think a shower couldn’t possibly feel better than right after I’ve been cleaning the toilet, unless it’s after cleaning the toilet and dredging great big greasy blobs of hair out of the drain in the bathtub.

Our Little Red House is sixty-four years old, which means I’ve been through some pretty gnarly adventures in plumbing because sixty-five-year-old plumbing gives a house a lot of personality. The bathtub, for instance, drains into a drum trap, which means it tends to fill up with hair spiders and gobbets of grease. A drum trap has a lid you can remove to clean it out, but I’m not doing that because yuck, and also because the trap is above a finished ceiling I’m not going to cut a hole in just because some hair balled up in the bathtub drain. What I do instead is run water down the tub’s vent while I use a toilet plunger to plunge the drain. The scary-looking crap that come up out of the drain after I vigorously plunge it a dozen or so times would make you scream for your mama.

Compared to the grunginess I feel after plunging out the tub’s drain, cleaning the toilet is relatively benign, but it’s still a toilet and the brush still sprays my arms and sometimes my face as I scrub out the bowl. I would pay so much money for a toilet brush that didn’t spray, but what I’d really like to spend so much money on (and I know I’m sounding like a broken record about this subject) is a toilet that cleans itself. Landing on the moon is cool and all, but a self-cleaning toilet is what I would consider the epitome of technological advancement.

So after covering myself in the grunge from the bathtub drain and getting sprayed with toilet water, I took an almost indecently long, scalding hot shower and enjoyed every second of it like I’ve enjoyed only a handful of showers in my life.

most enjoyable shower | 2:36 pm CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode, random idiocy, scrub-a-dub-dub, yet another rant
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Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

We were wondering the other day if there’s a word or phrase to describe songs you’re done with. I mean, other than the phrase I just used. I was thinking maybe there’s an already-established phrase, or one of those mile-long Latin words. That’s what we were wondering about. But “songs you’re done with” will work just fine, too.

I don’t remember which song came on the radio to make us think about this, but for instance: “Another One Bites The Dust” is a song I’m done with. I still think it’s a perfectly good song and I’m not suggesting it should be banned from the airwaves or anything like that; all I’m saying is that I’ve heard it approximately forty-two million times, so I’m done hearing it. If I’m flipping through radio stations and I hear it, I don’t even pause. There is no desire to stop. I’m done hearing it. The audio teleomere in my brain that marked the number of times I would ever want to hear that song (among others) has been set to zero.

Oh, I remember the song that started this conversation: Frank Sinatra’s recording of “My Way.” In a story on NPR yesterday morning they claimed that this was the most-requested song at karaoke bars and funerals, just one more good reason to avoid both, in my opinion.

songs you’re done with | 6:05 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, random idiocy
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Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

I spent the weekend with My Darling B doing pretty much nothing, and apparently we needed a weekend just like that because we slept like bears in hibernation.

We didn’t do exactly nothing. We did, in fact, travel to Lake Mills, Wisconsin, to attend the twentieth anniversary party of the Tyranena Brewery (long may they continue to brew the most delicious beer in Jefferson County!), an event where we mostly sat quietly sampling various wonderful brews and noshing on noshies. Low-impact events are our lifestyle now.

The beers that Tyranena makes, though, tend to be very boozy, so we didn’t drink very many of them before we had to lie down go night-night.

We spent all day Sunday just reading or watching TV, and were both in bed by eight. Lights-out for me was eight-thirty or nine, and I slept like the dead until four o’clock Monday morning, at which point my brain said AWAKEN, so I had no choice but to go make a pot of coffee and bimble about the house.

not much how about you | 6:14 am CST
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, play, sleeplessness, travel
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Saturday, November 9th, 2019

I slept until five o’clock yesterday morning and believed I had successfully readjusted after we moved the clocks back. I was wrong.

reset to zero | 3:25 am CST
Category: sleeplessness | Tags:
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Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

In a recent Twitter post, Matt Haig asked: “What is the most controversial opinion you strongly hold, and could bet your life on, and don’t mind people knowing? Mine is: astrology isn’t real.” He almost immediately followed that post with, “I regret this tweet,” which I thought was the funniest thing I read on Twitter all day.

My most controversial opinions, in no particular order, are:

Milk chocolate is an abomination. This opinion is controversial only in the fact that almost no one I know will pass up milk chocolate for dark chocolate. Dark chocolate forever! That I ever ate milk chocolate is a shame I can never erase from myself.

Vaccinations should be mandatory. Also, they should be free. That vaccines have become controversial truly saddens me. My wife has a smallpox scar on her arm; I don’t, because smallpox was wiped out by vaccines. Same with polio. I don’t understand how people do not see that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Organ donation should be mandatory, too.

People aren’t heroes just because they served in the military, and the way the general public seems to worship anyone in military uniforms is truly creepy.

And I also believe that astrology is about as real as alchemy or phrenology.

most controversial | 5:28 am CST
Category: random idiocy, yet another rant
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Monday, November 4th, 2019

Wide awake at three this morning, dozed on and off until I gave up & rolled out of bed at four. It’s not insomnia, it’s my internal clock failing to adjust to the tick-tock clocks falling back. It used to be I was wide awake at four, dozed until five. It’ll take my internal clock at least a month to completely transition to this new time frame.

I thought we got all the tick-tock clocks reset yesterday — B even managed to reset the clock in the car, and it took her less than a minute to do it! — but I missed the one in the thermostat, which is timed to turn down the heat at ten o’clock in the evening, then crank it up again at five o’clock in the morning. And that’s why my head asploded when I woke up at three, figured out why I was awake an hour early, rolled out of bed at four to take a shower, then heard the furnace and whiplashed temporally back into daylight savings time for a few minutes until I figured out why the house was warming up an hour earlier than it should have been.

Have I mentioned yet how much I hate daylight savings time?

lagged | 5:16 am CST
Category: random idiocy, sleeplessness, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, November 3rd, 2019

The dream I was having this morning right before I woke up: Copying the names of all the people who had been turned into zombies and pasting them into a spreadsheet.

We watched “Zombieland” last night before lights out. After I go to bed I usually dream about work, which often involves trawling through spreadsheet after spreadsheet, so this must have been a mash-up of the two.

copypaste | 3:14 pm CST
Category: movies, work
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Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

I am never going to eat fried food again. And when I say “never,” I mean that I will, on occasion, eat certain fried foods, because there are some worth suffering for, like the tater tots they serve at the Vintage Brewing Company over on Whitney Way. I don’t know how they do it, but their tots are exactly the right kind of crispy-crunchy I will always say “yes” to.

But other than a few special exceptions like those tots, I have unfortunately advanced to the age where my gastrointestinal mechanism no longer produces whatever chemicals or enzymes it used to make to deal with deep-fat-fryer grease. I used to be able to eat all the french fries. Really, *all* of them. Now that I’m apparently becoming a decrepit old geezer, I can safely eat only about half a dozen without any ill effects; any more and I feel as though I’m carrying around a bowling-ball-sized lump of lard in my belly for the next twenty-four hours. It’s not a good feeling, particularly when I make the mistake of ordering a side of fries with my dinner, thinking “It’ll be all right, I haven’t had fries in a week,” and then I have to try to sleep with that bowling ball in my stomach. Doesn’t happen. Easier to sleep with a pile of bricks on top of me.

No fried foods means that most of the food at the brewpubs we like to visit is off limits to me: it’s not just fries that bloat me up, the chicken tenders that I love at most places do the same, and I’ll probably never enjoy another Friday night fish fry, although a Friday afternoon fish fry isn’t entirely out of the question; so long as I have time to walk it off, I’m good. But other than that I’ll be eating lots of wraps and salads from here on in. So long, french fries, and thanks for the fun times!

fried | 1:22 pm CST
Category: falling apart, food & drink
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Been looking at a lot of fake automobile titles lately. The first couple fake titles I saw made me wonder, Why would anyone accept a title that looked as fake as that? But I know what fake titles look like because I’ve seen hundreds of them and looked at them under magnification. It also helps that I used to be a photographer and worked in the publishing business, so I know what high-quality printing looks like.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for spotting a fake car title: It should look and feel like a fairly new twenty-dollar bill. If it’s filthy or covered in coffee stains, if it’s badly worn, if it’s faded, if it seems to be printed on card paper, ask the owners to go to the DMV with you to get a replacement title. Tell them you’ll pay for it; they don’t cost much. If they won’t do it, look for another car, no matter how good a deal you think you’re getting.

fake | 7:08 am CST
Category: work
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