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November 11th, 2016

12:46 pm - Boxes.

I have used, perhaps sparingly, the soapbox.
I have been in, if only briefly, the jury box.
I have used the ballot box.
And I have used that one to avoid using that other box.

I hope it's enough. I really do.

Current Mood: pensivepensive

(Leave a comment)

02:40 am - Tired of being lied to, being lied about.

On Tuesday I voted. I did not for, I voted against. I voted against an existential threat. I was not, am not, happy with what that required. I fear I gave a vote to someone who will turn out to be another LBJ (that is NOT a compliment). Unfortunately the alternative was far worse. Did I mention existential threat? Yes, really. No, not overstating it. And I also fear that we didn't avoid the threat, but delayed it - slightly.


I am goddamn tired of being told I and anyone like me is racist.

I am goddamn tired of being told I and anyone like me is sexist.

I am goddamn tired of being told I and anyone like me is homophobic.

I am goddamn tired of being told I and anyone like me is xenophobic.

I am goddamn tired of being told I and anyone like me is uneducated.

I am goddamn tired of all those damned lies, and good many more.

So, yes, I am going to bloody well enjoy a sound message of "FUCK YOU" to damn fools saying such things. I know it won't solve a damn thing, but it's all I have left. And no, I will NOT kiss your ass and make up. I've heard this message, in various forms, for years if not decades now, and e-freaking-nough. You want civility? Try offering some for a change.

Current Mood: pissed offpissed off

Tags: ,

(Leave a comment)

October 2nd, 2016

05:46 am - The State of Solid State (Lighting)

...is a mix of "That's pretty cool" and "Why can't they get it right?"

I recently replaced the last regular incandescent lights in/on the house with LED bulbs. 60W equivalent, on sale for 99 cents each. These are on the front porch and don't see a lot of use, but at 99 cents why not be done and then likely never change those bulbs again? And the yellowish 3000K color temperature doesn't much matter there. Meanwhile back of the garage is an enclosed area that had a CFL but on older LED has replaced that. It's more so that in the Winter, the light comes on rather than glows dimly for a while, which annoys me. Again, the color temperature (the truly atrocious yellow 2700K) isn't very important there. Pretty cool. Well, not too bad.

A few weeks back the office lights were changed. They had been nice 4000K bulbs, but alas they were truly junk electronics (the cheapest Chinese stuff there was, it seems. Not inexpensive, cheap.) and so were replaced by a set of Sylvania bulbs. These are slightly more yellow, but at a tolerable near-white 3500K. And these are 75W equivalent and have fuller emission pattern - the room is brighter and not just in spots, but all over, as it should be. Pretty cool.

The old Wal-mart small LED bulbs in the downstairs bathroom have been swapped out for a couple LED filament-alike tubular bulbs (the fixture was made for a pair of tubulars). The room is yellow anyway, so the color isn't critical, but is brighter and the bulbs look right. And the bulb at the top of the stair well is a four-level thing that can be switch-controlled to select from 60W equivalent down to nightlight (that uses a whopping 0.3 Watts). Pretty cool.

And then there's the vanity in the upstairs bathroom which use six bulbs. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, they will be the old small 70 lumen Wal-mart bulbs rather than big G25 globes that really would look better there. Sure, I can get G25 globes - if I want more than 25W equivalent (SIX bulbs - I neither need nor want anything brighter) or would settle for the atrocious 2700K (or less, ouch). 4000K would be ideal. 3500K would be alright. I might even settle for 3000K if the brand was good and the price was right. Why can't they get it right?

The only incandescent lamps left in the house are appliance and indicator bulbs. There are also a few fluorescent tubes (two linear, one circline) still in service.

Current Mood: pleasedpleased

Tags: ,

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

September 15th, 2016

11:11 am - So I bought a French Press...


Egad, are we turning into coffee snobs?

There is a Caribou Coffee kiosk at a local store, and I stop there often enough that I have their "perks" card (nothing to do with percolators) and a week or two ago it offered a 25% discount on Caribou merchandise. One item I had been considering, but was put off by the price, was a French Press. I'd heard such a thing was good for cold brew, which I was interested in. So I bought - and got a better deal than expected as it'd already been marked down some.

After trying it both hot and cold, jmaynard and I were sold on the system. The result is a very smooth, even creamy, brew that needs no sweetener and no creamer at all. It's wonderfully smooth and complex black. Jay even said it might have spoiled him for regular coffee the way that good beer has spoiled him for macrobrew lager.

Recently I had been looking into dietary changes based on biochemistry ("That stuff grandma said would make you fat? It makes you fat. Here's why...") and one thing was that ANY sweet - even artificial - taste would trigger an insulin release and insulin aids in decrease of blood sugar by triggering its conversion to fat. So I had been cutting out any sweeteners where I could, with rare exception. That meant I switched to coffee (with cream if anything) and tea (with lemon if anything). I'm not sure how much my example had any influence, but I'd been feeling fuller on less and dropped a few pounds with no real effort.

But while that might have generated some interest in having more tea, the French Press needed no dietary argument. The taste spoke for itself. How loudly? Loud enough that Jay bought a small press for at work, and a burr grinder now sits on our counter. The slow cooker that had been there is now stowed - the grinder will see much more use.

We also tried cold brew by another method, but between a non-ideal container and a limited filtering arrangement I utterly refuse to duplicate that experiment without serious modification. It was a heinous painus in the anus. I can see getting a big press for that, but the price is also big. Perhaps that might be our Christmas present to ourselves or something. We shall see. One interesting thing is that while the cold brew doesn't need cream, it stands up to the addition of Irish Cream. The Irish Cream is there alright, but the flavor of coffee is also there and not swamped.

I still use the Keurig as it's fast and every cup is "the first out of the pot." But it's obviously a trade-off for speed and I add cream.

Current Mood: impressedimpressed
Current Music: The Coffee Song - Frank Sinatra

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August 1st, 2016

07:31 pm - Poll: Presidential Election 2016

Poll #2050945 A Tuesday in August?

If the United States presidential election were held today, I would vote for:

Darrell Castle
Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton
Jill Stein
Gary Johnson
Jubilation T. Cornpone
Someone else
Can't vote in that election
Won't to vote in that race.

Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: The Country's in the Very Best of Hands

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

April 4th, 2016

10:25 am - Runaway Oven

Last Thursday I was home and had decided on fish for lunch, so oven was heated to temperature, the fish put in to bake, and a timer set. Well before the timer was to go off, I heard a series of beeps. They then repeated. Uh oh. Something wasn't right. I went to investigate and the oven's display showed an error code rather than a time. I stopped the timer, and pulled the fish from the oven - the edges of the coating were already charred. And the hot-pad stuck a bit to the pan. Things were smoky, too. The oven was much hotter than it should have been. How hot? No idea. I aimed an IR thermometer at the open oven and it simply read 'HI' - too high for it give me a number.

And I tried to turn it off. Nothing. The controls seemed not to work. And the smoke detector (which is not in the kitchen, to avoid excessive alarms from milder cooking issues) went off. So I had that to deal with. I pulled the battery from the detector so it wouldn't annoy me or wake Jay as I dealt with things. I wound up turning the oven off by flipping the breaker. We suspect it might have gone into the cleaning cycle temperature regime, though thankfully without locking the oven door.

Then, with just-barely salvaged lunch, I looked up error codes. Crud. It was "replace logic board" - if it didn't go away. A while later Jay woke up and wondered about the smoky smell. I explained what had happened, and he looked at the paperwork in a bag taped to the rear of the oven (up by the controls, so fairly cool). The code also indicated a runaway condition and the recommendation was: Turn the oven off by cutting power, letting it sit a while, and turning it on again. If the code reappeared, it would time to call for service. If not, then things should be OK.

When I reapplied power, the code didn't show up. I set the clock, and later ran the oven up to the temperature I had set for the fish, and set the timer again. And I stayed in the kitchen to monitor things. The oven stayed at the right temperature, the timer went off, and I shut the oven off. All seemed well, but I am still a bit leery. If something happens once, it can happen again.

We've used it a few times since, and things have gone as they should. Still, I'm a bit leery.

Current Mood: relieved, but wary
Current Music: Common Sense -- Bob Roberts

Tags: ,

(6 comments | Leave a comment)

March 25th, 2016

09:24 am - The Appeal of Old Technologies

Steampunk. Vinyl. Tubes.

All have some popularity, but why do they? Sure steampunk has a neat style - the time setting of it had few if any synthetics, which limited materials, but that seems to come across as classic style. There is no doubt that had there been synthetic materials available they would have been used. We know this because that's precisely what happened in our history. Cellophane, as one example, was a big enough deal it got written into songs:

You're the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
You're the National Gallery
You're Garbo's salary,
You're cellophane.

("You're The Top" - Cole Porter)

But people go to steam (and antique gasoline) shows. And there are records - and even tape - in use. Vacuum tube equipment is rarely seen now, but it's there and some new stuff (kits, generally) is still being made. What's the appeal? It's not just historical fascination.

But it is a fascination, an attraction of interest. And that interest? Sure, some is historical. And some will claim that vinyl records and vacuum tube amplifiers sound better than digital recordings and transistors. But there is something more. Many youtube videos of old tunes don't need to be 'videos' as such and could be a title card or lyrics, but show the phonograph. And that, for me, is a hint. You can see it working, and with only a little knowledge have an idea of how it works. Vibrations made a needle move, that made grooves in a disk (or cylinder) and now a copy of that disk is making a needle move and reproducing the vibrations. It's 19th century technology at its core. A similar idea with movies, at least on film. There are frames. Photos. Rapidly sequenced. And a flip-book can do something close enough to give an "Oh, I get it." feeling.

Tape is more complicated, but you see a medium moving and have encountered magnets, so there is or can be an idea of how it works. Granted, records and (reel to reel) tape might just fun to watch in certain moods or states of mind. For tubes, well, it's not nearly as easy, but it's the idea that this collection of relatively small number of discrete parts is doing that, that you at least have a chance of understanding it.

Compare the modern mp3 player (which for many is now a subset of all the functions of their phones). It's a literal 'black box' that sound comes out of. Other than earphone diaphragms and perhaps pushbuttons there are no moving parts. It might as well be magic, even for those who do have a good idea of how it all works. It's nice, yes, but there might be this vague unease of, well, what else is going on? I wonder how much of the nutty conspiracy type nonsense is fueled or enabled by the unease of being surround by things one doesn't necessarily understand.

The 'magic' is wonderful and modern life wouldn't be modern life without it, but the older technology is comfortable and comforting in a way. To use the terms of Harry Potter, we enjoy having the powers of wizards, but are nervous that overall, we are really muggles.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: You're The Top

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February 15th, 2016

10:47 am - On Star Wars (7)

I was 10 years old when Star Wars (just Star Wars, there wasn't a need to add more name or a number to it then) came out. I did not go see it. I did hear about it, ad nauseum since. By 1978, even not having seen it, I was well and truly sick of it. I did not watch the now infamous Holiday Special, though evidently perhaps it would have been something I'd have enjoyed in a bizarre way. TV shows that parodied it were benefit and relief. Eventually it was shown on commercial TV (with lots and lots of commercials and interminable "Making of" bits. I did watch that, and was disappointed. Maybe the theater experience of 1977 and lack of interruption would have helped, and the effects were great for the time. But the story? "Knight needs to rescue Princess from 'Dragon'..in spaaaaace!" Big deal. Yeah, "there are no new stories" but.. oy. I've heard it was supposed to evoke the sort of thrilling adventure of things like the old Flash Gordon serials - which I was watching around 1977 as a local station was playing them weekday afternoons. So, for me, any gap had already been filled. I found flaws in the serials, too, but they didn't annoy me as much. Or perhaps it was that I wasn't annoyed by a fanbase claiming it was near the best thing ever. Alright, it was elementary school and such, but pre-internet the world tended to be very local.

I've not truly sat down and watched the first three (4, 5, and 6 - how's that numeracy thing doing?) Star Wars films since. I've likely seen them all due to the amount times they were carried on campus cable it was on at UW-Platteville, but it was something I'd come into, or walk out of, it wasn't a thing I "got into" but more... background noise. I have seen the second (first?) three Star Wars movies (1, 2, and 3) in the theater - largely in self-defense so I'd know what folks on IRC were talking about. This wasn't entertainment, it was vaccination. And I've had more pleasant shots.

Sunday night Jay took me to see the newest Star Wars movie (#7, Egad the numbering for this one makes sense! What went wrong?) while it was still in the theater (in Mankato, as it was no longer playing in Fairmont). Well, it's better than the prequels (admittedly a mighty low bar), but even I had moments of "How re-make can you get?" as it followed the general outline of #4 (which was first) and if history didn't repeat itself, it was rhyming pretty hard in many places - so much so that even I was going "How remake can you get?". It did, eventually, drag me in some which is surprising to me. Some things threw me back out, like the scene that if you see it (or have seen it) will recognize as "How Leni Riefenstahl can they get?" Evocative? No. Blatant. There were other times I was quietly giggling for the wrong reason as things were done in a very Star Trek (yes, Trek) like way.

I'd say the actors and characters aged well (as in believably) and that worked. The complaints about the 'sudden' abilities of the new main characters don't hold for me. I will say I still think that Renaissance Sword Theater still has the effect that the laser-swordfights, er, lightsaber battles, are rather dull for me. And if you've seen footage of night fighting in North Africa in WWII, a lot of the other big flashy battles looks mighty familiar. Was it worth seeing in the theater rather than on a disc (or stream)? Surprisingly, to me, yes. Not for the 'group experience' which I generally detest (and the audience was pleasantly thin - only one irksome 'whoop' when it started), nor the big screen, but the sound system likely had a lot to do with emotional manipulation, er, buy-in.

One thing I haven't seen anyone comment on is the use of the term 'oscillator' for something that it didn't make sense for. ("Relax, it's just movie." you say.) I suspect it was "We need a tech-ish term that people might have heard so it doesn't sound too techno-babble." and used that. But it is just possible that it's slightly more. Remember that some of this thing (like the opening text scroll) was from the Flash Gordon serials? In one of the later installments of one of the serials they also (mis)used the term 'oscillator' for something - and even then it threw me. It could be a coincidence, but if they did their research, it might be an echo.

The best line? Out of context it might not make sense, but, "The garbage will do." is perhaps the most memorable line of the movie. The second is the exchange ,"Keep calm, keep calm." "I am keeping calm." "I'm talking to myself." And J.J. Abrahms deserves credit for not having any dialog in the final scene - which sets up #8, but doesn't truly reveal which direction it will take, or at least try to take before doing the obviously-going-to-happen thing.

Current Music: Cantina Band - John Williams

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February 2nd, 2016

03:36 am - Tippy's Birthday

Sometime in the 1970s the family got a dog, a very young puppy at the time. She wound up named Tippy from the white tip on the end of her otherwise black tail. We didn't ask about the exact date of birth (or whelp, if you must, but we never got that specific about it). Given the n-day old puppies and the day of getting her, we figured that 2 February was her birthday, or close enough. So while February second is Groundhog's Day, that was kind of secondary. It was Tippy's birthday. And, to me, it still is - at least a little bit.

Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic

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January 29th, 2016

02:26 am - i(not at all)SuperBlue

Sometime last year I bought a fancy bluetooth-enabled LED bulb (name: iSuperBlue) that could be controlled from a phone. It's one of those good ideas that doesn't quite work, at least not yet. The idea is neat: An LED bulb that be controlled somewhat remotely by a device you're likely to have with you anyway. The color can be changed. The brightness can be changed. By using the phone's microphone, the light can change with sound for some effect. The light can blink or fade on and be used as a visual alarm clock. And it can do that, sort of.

It's a real rascal to get the bulb and the phone to pair up. If the connection lost, by say, walking away with your phone, it can mean needing to cycle power to the bulb and restart the phone. Not a very friendly remote control setup. If I had only my current in-use phone, the bulb would be pretty much useless - turning it on by the main switch has it cycle through some colors, which might be a nice diagnostic, but is lousy for a "light up this area now" bulb.

Fortunately, I had my old (smart)phone and it can do bluetooth. As long as the power stays on, and the old phone remains parked on my nightstand, the pairing holds. The fade-on is nice, but it's a set speed and the final brightness seems to be less than full or the way to set it is not at all obvious. I'd like to slow the fade on and make it more dawn-like, have it come to full brightness, or at maybe even start red or pinkish and change to white - like real dawn does. That would seem a great, slow, easy on the system aid to waking. Since I currently work nights, the simple expedient of opening the blinds won't provide this.

But with the old phone as a dedicated remote, and giving up on a nicer fade-in, things are workable yet still amiss. Sometimes the light fades on and is simply on, as I wish. And sometimes it blinks or fades brighter and dimmer and brighter and dimmer, cycling - something I do not want. Sure, it might wake me up more effectively, but also more annoyingly (and I have a sound alarm, to be sure, anyway) and once awake I want a steady light. As if that wasn't irksome enough, the app for this thing is not just flaky about bluetooth. The alarm [SNOOZE] [DISMISS] buttons are fine and work as expected. The simple "ON/OFF" button is part button, part dial (dial the brightness). But it's not at all easy to just turn the thing on or off without changing the brightness. And the button is a circle.. and somewhere near that circle, but not exactly matching, is the active ON/OFF area of the screen.

I like LED lighting. I like the idea of this bulb. But no matter how much I like the idea, I do not like the lousy way this one "works." I'm keeping it, as I can get it to sort of do what I want, but will NOT buy another of this make, and I suggest nobody else buy any iSuperBlue either. Wait until someone else does it right.

What needs to be done to do it right? Absolutely required:

1. The bluetooth connection needs to resume/reconnect automatically and reliably.[1]
2. The ON/OFF region of the screen should be the same as, or at least within the ON/OFF image on the screen.
3. The brightness control must be 100% independent of the ON/OFF control.1
4. App features that demand a phone MENU button should be moved - not all have this as hardware, alas.
5. Blink off means blink OFF, and it stays off.

Be nice to have:

6. Control of fade-on speed.
7. Control of initial and final color (and brightness) of fade-on.

I expect someone will get this right, eventually. But it's going be a while before I risk more money on a device like this. I'll want to know the thing will work correctly.

[1] No, I do NOT want a "wifi" controlled bulb. How do I set a proper password or such, at a minimum? And I'm not about to let things be open to the point where some neighbor or drive-by can control MY light(s).

Current Mood: disappointeddisappointed
Current Music: Perserverence - Stan Freberg

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December 14th, 2015

09:11 am - Some good news, finally.

My auto insurance, though rather minimal (it's an old car - bought it new in Fall of '97) does include glass coverage. I'm not paying any deductible for the replacement. And they'll have someone come out and take care of things tomorrow morning.

Current Mood: still livid
Current Music: 20 Tons of TNT - Flanders and Swann

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07:46 am - Merry F'ing Christmas

Around 1:40 AM Saturday morning two Arschlocher in a red Subaru (as shown in video, which sadly did not get a plate number, damnit) broke the front passenger side window of my car. They ripped out a GPS, an XM receiver, and a control head for an Icom 2820 dual band transceiver - and some of the mounting hardware for some of that.

This was all about speed, and not about knowing what was useful or how. No power cords or antennas were taken, though the radio's microphone was out in the open. They ripped the control cable for the radio head unit out (other connectors simply pulled out, this one had a snap-tab like a phone or network cable.) The XM receiver is useless without its antenna - and a subscription which no longer is going to that radio anyway. The radio control head is utterly useless without the radio itself - which was left. Only the GPS might be of any use stand-alone, but not as effective as it could be with the antenna. Also, it's been years since that GPS was updated. That was on my list of things to do, but I'm glad I hadn't spent the money for that yet now.

The Arschlocher failed to take the mounting stalk for the GPS, but did take the part that goes on the stalk. They also took part of a phone mount, but not the stalk for it. The downside, beyond the damage and loss itself, is that the GPS did have 'home' set, so it could be used as guide. I'll simply say that precautions are being taken, should the Arschlocher get the idea to try to break into the house.

I'll be calling a glass place in town when they open this morning about replacing the window. A "Christmas present" I shouldn't need to have has been ordered to replace the satellite radio receiver. I don't yet know if I can even get a replacement Icom 2820 control head or cable for it. It looks like my phone will do as a GPS, once I work out a new mounting arrangement. I didn't do that before as offline navigation, while it uses good maps, has lousy navigation algorithms. However, since ATT upped the data limit to "Unless you're streaming (lots of) video, don't worry about it." I can use an on-line app that seems to get the navigation right for the addresses I care about most - and the phone comes with me, by default.

I have my doubt these Arschlocher will be caught, but I would dearly love to hear of them spending Christmas in jail. Or in the morgue if they happen to get some meth (I suspect that's what this is about in the end) cut with stuff too nasty to use as rat poison. That would be most satisfying.

Current Mood: pissed offpissed off
Current Music: Kopfschuss - Megaherz

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

November 7th, 2015

10:25 am - So Orvan commented about minotaur good guys, lack thereof...

Orvan and I have been following the According to Hoyt blog of Sarah Hoyt. A few days ago a guest entry was about "The rise of the Self-Insertion fic[tion]" where the reader of this or that group had to have a protaganist of the same group or else things were too conservative, traditional, triggering, whatever. And Orvan made a comment that he could go on about the lack of minotaur "good guys" but "Why waste the effort? There are plenty of good guys (and gals, of various species) out there – why limit myself?" And that had precisely the effect it was not actually asking for. A demonstration point sort of backfired. No less than three different replies mentioned a minotaur character now trying to get into a work, or story ideas involving a minotaur or minotaurs.

One of those replies went thus: What Sarah said, Orvan. I’ve got this mental image of Rada and Zabet trying to negotiate a minor social problem while making a delivery to a minotaur – something about two predators and . . . aw, chuck it. *pulls up blank Word document* ‘Scuze me. It's been a few days and one of the pieces of, fallout, from that comment is Story Bit: Sharp Dealings. It's only few paragraphs, so far, but is a nice little diversion. And the minotaur-ish character isn't a villain - or a hero. He just is this guy... with horns.

The "Old News" section of TXRed's (Alma T.C. Boykin) blog, Cat Rotator's Quarterly has other snippets with Rada and Zabet, so if you want to get some background, you can. And then perhaps you might like to buy a book or a few. See the 'A Cat Among Dragons' link if you are so inclined.

And Orvan points out that he is technically not a minotaur, as the Minotaur had a human body, and he (Orvan) has a tail and stands on hooves - he's moo all the way down. Also, he has never been to Crete. That said, he understands that given his form, he might get called a minotaur and isn't offended by that. Or at least he tries not to show it, if he is.

Current Mood: amusedamused

(Leave a comment)

October 9th, 2015

08:04 am - Aunt Brenda (08 Dec 1964 - 04 Jul 2015)

On the night of July 4, I was at work and quite busy. When I finally got a break, I noticed a missed call (my cell is set to be silent, and have all non-telephone systems off or as power-conserving as I can set them when working) from earlier, but still late in the evening. My mother and a friend who is, shall we say, no spring chicken (or rooster) were in town or had been planning on it. I feared something had happened to him. Naturally, things ran late and the planned breakfast gathering on the morning of the 5th was far later than hoped. When I got home, jmaynard said something like, "I assume you know about your aunt..." and I cut him off, "I do not know what you are talking about." And then I got the first indication things were Not Good as the reply was of the order, "I'll let your mother tell the story." or such.

Aunt Brenda, the youngest of five children of my maternal grandparents was about two and a half years older than me. So we were close in age, which meant I had more opportunity (and perhaps she more tolerance) to talk with her as I was growing up. I won't say we were terribly close, but she was perhaps closer than my other aunts and my uncle. When I found she was doing some work as a clown (kids parties, etc.) I wanted to talk to her about how some people are creeped out by clowns/mimes/mascots/fursuiters. I don't recall if she agreed with my suspicion that such people were heavily reliant on facial expression and nonverbal cues and when denied that channel, panicked - and were perhaps more likely to be taken in by pathological liars. But she did relate how she'd have fun with them, slowly and quietly maneuvering to be nearby and then doing some sort of reveal. It was only much later that I found (I think, else I really did forget) that she used the name Picadilly, as a clown.

As a child, there was a problem. Her childhood started as normally as any, I suppose, but sometime in the 1970's something went wrong. There was problem with her hip. I am unsure if it was a matter of growth too fast, too slow, or an infection (it was a while ago and I was quite young then). Perhaps it was more correlation than causation, but the only physical incident before this was a cat scratch - and I recall it being dismissed as being relevant, and my father not really believing that. The upshot was that Brenda spent a serious chunk of time in a hospital bed - and then more time not being as active as kid wants to be even at home. There was a lot of reading. And, eventually, swimming as that was something she could do without issues, real or imagined by others.

She eventually became a swim coach, for competitive swimming. She was a coach for "Team Foxjet" in Eden Prairie, MN. And that made the story odd as first relayed, and even stranger later on. Her family went boating every year on the 4th of July holiday. This year was no exception. She and her husband were, for whatever reason, on different boats when Something Happened. There was a wake and a wave or something that resulted in an unusually large wave and the boat she was on rolled enough to throw three of the four people on it into the water. Witness say they saw Brenda swimming - or so was initially relayed. The person operating the boat was in the water, making noise (yelling?) and a kid was floating thanks to the wearing of a life vest. The person not thrown from the boat managed to get control enough to shut things down and call for help. People being attracted to noise, went for the operator first, then the kid when they saw him. And then Brenda was by then not swimming, if she ever had been. I was told that the initial presumption was a heart attack or such from the sudden shock and exertion. After all, she was perhaps the least likely person to drown, unless something else interfered with her ability to swim.

It took a while, and there was a visitation and funeral before the autopsy report was released. And that indicated that there was no heart attack, or any other sign of trauma that might have knocked Brenda out. And that despite what was expected, a capable swimmer did indeed drown in a boating accident. None of the family blames the person operating the boat.

Perhaps the operator got lucky in being able to make sound. The kid was the only one wearing a life preserver[1] - which did its job. I don't know if Brenda would have had a chance if the rescuers had gotten to her earlier or not. I do know I miss her, even if we only saw each rarely of late.

[1] My paternal grandfather had a small boat and nobody got into it without wearing a life preserver. I recall my paternal grandmother seeming to be cautious if not paranoid about many things, but this was his say. His boat, his rules - and safety devices were to be used, period.

Current Mood: sadsad

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September 9th, 2015

12:04 pm - Egad, I'm a gin snob now?

Whilst on vacation I ordered a gin & tonic. It was off. I couldn't say exactly what was amiss about it, but it was Not Right. When I asked the bartender what gin had been used, I was informed it was Fleischmann's. The next G&T had Hendrick's, and it was much, much better. Interestingly, the night before I had also had a gin & tonic, at a different establishment, and I saw that the gin used was Barton's - a brand I'd not encountered before. The result was acceptable.

Later, I checked out a couple stores and saw that while Hendrick's was, as expected, top shelf gin, both Fleischmann's and Barton's were bottom shelf. And I mean that quite literally - they were on the very bottom shelf. There was a slight cost difference, and that difference mattered. The buck or two more for Barton's was clearly worth it. Barton's is inexpensive. Fleischmann's is cheap. And I can taste the difference, even with the quinine of tonic present.

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September 1st, 2015

02:50 pm - It's Over 9...years.

I tend to expect a car battery to last about five years. Maybe a bit more, possibly a bit less. This Monday (31 August 2015) I bought a new car battery. The one it replaced was installed 5 June 2006, so it served for over nine years. I am impressed, and I hope the new one lasts as long.

Current Mood: impressedimpressed

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August 12th, 2015

03:33 am - It Happened One Night...

"If you make an accident after midnight and don't find a drunk, keep looking - you've missed somebody." -- Riley's Rules of EMS

Not the movie. That was fiction. This was real. I have a number of friends and relatives who work or have worked in medical/hospital sorts of fields. I've heard stories - too many. And had one experience where I was up close, though not really all that close. I was close enough or too close as it was. There is damned good reason I wear a seatbelt, automatically - and it's not because of the state laws or federal pressures about them. There is also (the same?) reason that if I expect to be driving, I do not drink and if I do drink, I do not drive. This happened some years ago, but I've just fairly recently had a reason to post this story.

As some may know, jmaynard used to be a volunteer paramedic in League City, TX. He did that for 17 years (and unbuckled three people. Two just too scared to move. One just barely alive, but alive! Wear your seatbelt, damnit.)

One night, I rode along. Most of the night was dull - and that's good. Boredom is the ideal. The best wish you can give to a person in any sort of emergency response position is to wish them an uneventful shift. There were two calls. One was a truly minor thing, a mere 'fender-bender' if even that. An older gentleman was taken by ambulance to a hospital just to be absolutely sure nothing was really wrong. The other call, was sadly more memorable.

If you've ever been in League City, TX (near Houston) you likely know that the idea of going through it, even with lights and siren going, at 70 to 90 mph means things are well-nigh desolate - thus early AM. We arrived to find no patient. What we saw was an overturned, flaming pick-up truck - with no driver. And some ways away, after some curious tracks in the turf, a car with a driver who wouldn't come out or roll the window down. That was a police problem, not ours.

Where's the patient? "People don't look up" isn't just a line from Second Life (scavenger type) hunts. Reality is like that too. We spent time looking up in trees, down in ditches, etc. Only to come to a very unfortunate conclusion: the pickup driver was probably under the truck. Eventually the fire crew had the fire out and the truck was turned over. And I was given instruction to stay back, for which I am grateful. Yes, that's where he was.

The truck driver's one mistake was not wearing a seatbelt. I don't know that it would have saved him here, but I know that without it he didn't even have a chance. What happened? The car driver was not sober. The guy in the truck was simply on his way to work. The car nosed under the bed of the pickup. They both went off the road. Somehow the truck wound up flipping end-over-end (was the assumption). Somewhere in that, the windshield popped out. And the unbelted driver popped out. And the truck landed on him. When did the fire start? Who knows? But result is one dead pickup driver, no matter the order of things. Somehow the car had made it back to the road. And that's all I really know of the events of that night, as that's all I saw or heard about.

The car driver? No idea what happened to that person, but I suspect an up-close experience with the legal system.

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August 11th, 2015

05:33 am - Poll: Going nuclear

As you've likely seen on the news or news sites, 70 years ago this month two nuclear weapons were used in warfare. There have been nuclear shots since - all tests. And wars since, too. But since August 1945 no war has gone nuclear. It would be nice to be able to say that that will remain the case with certainty. That certainty does not exist and a nuclear strike is not outside the realm of possibility. Thus, once again, this poll.

Poll #2019296 Not the tiny toy from World War One

Who will break the nuclear peace, such as it is? That is, who will fire the *first* nuclear shot?

United States
United Kingdom
North Korea
Saudi Arabia
Another country
A terrorist organization

The delivery system will be:

a ballistic missile.
a cruise missile.
a manned aircraft.
a drone aircraft.
a ship or submarine leaving a bomb in or near a port.
a truck parked and left.
a suicide bomber.
something else.

The result will be:

A rapid nuclear escalation to the end of the world.
A rather large, but still limited, nuclear exchange.
A dozen or so nukes will be popped.
A nuke for a nuke, and it will end with 6 or fewer.
Just one nuke will be popped.
Just one nuke, and it will be a fizzle (still several tons yield).
Just one nuke, but it will be a very embarrassing complete dud.
Nothing, as nobody will start popping nukes.

Continent on which the first big mushroom will grow:

North America
South America
Ocean burst - above, on, or in
Not gonna happen.

The nuclear shot(s) will be...

The FIRST shot(s) fired in a conflict.
The LAST shot(s) fired in a conflict.
Both FIRST and LAST shots.
An escalation.
An escalation followed by a de-escalation, but still a hot conflict.
Crazy Harry playing the Bass Explodaphone.
Vakkotaur mucking about with Hell knows what.

Vakkotaur will be mixed up in all this...

exactly not all.
as a downwinder sheltering from fallout.
close enough to hear a rumble or see a mushroom cloud.
as part of the fallout.
accidentally gave away the key to making the nuke work.
...that was no accident.
as the one who didn't tell them how to make it "much bigger."
He's got this huge marshmallow and a really big stick...
He will check his stockpile to make sure nothing is missing.
Build spaceships faster! I hear Dueling Bass Explodaphones!

Current Mood: curiouscurious
Current Music: Love That Bomb - D. Strangelove and the Fallouts

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August 1st, 2015

10:23 am - Fixing LJ Breakage

My last post was about my main page, which was contaminated with a stupid NavBar (or something carefully not called that despite being exactly that). Looking through recent LJ news posts, there was a link to the option to be rid of the thing - at least while logged it. Evidently it still looks stupid when someone else looks at. Great going, LJ. You're NOT HELPING. All you are doing is either looking stupid or making me look stupid. I do not appreciate that. Cut that out.

While I was looking for a way to be rid of the craptacular NavBar that was wasting space and covering useful links, I wound up tripping the new 'feed' option. Did I mention craptacular? The feed option sure is! It defaults to a style I loathe - and can't change except in insignificant ways. Is LJ taking lessons from OS X in horrid UI design inflexibility? Sure feels like it.

Fortunately the problem has a work-around. The 'feed' (more like the stuff that comes out of the G-I tract than what goes in, I say) messes up the Friends link and instead of the link going to /friends, it now goes to /feed - and there's no way I can see to switch it back. But there is the personal links list, and one can duplicate the provided links list and make corrections. I have now done that, so the list of link might look silly as it appears to duplicate standard, provided links. But the Friends link I set up myself goes to /friends (which displays the way I desire, at least to me, rather than the horrid /feed URL. I've duplicated other links that are seemingly not affected as a preemptive measure against future LJ idiocies of trying to fix what ain't broke.

Sadly, I might need to duplicate this on IJ, not because of anything IJ does (squeaky is too smart to do the stupid stuff LJ does) so that I get in the habit of only ever using my links and thus avoid further LJ idiocies.

Current Mood: still annoyed

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July 27th, 2015

08:02 am - Why do web sites keep reinventing Crap ideas?

Behold a nice, clean design, a journal site set up to *my* liking: http://vakkotaur.insanejournal.com/

LiveJournal used to have a similar look, but some bright spark (ha!) had to go and "improve" it so there's that stupid top-bar covering up *my* links and wasting valuable screen-space. And is there is a clear, obvious way to be rid of the useless thing? Seemingly not. Is LJ trying to drive users away?

It seems this bad idea of a top extra navbar of crap one can't change gets resurrected. It's the Bad Idea that refuses to die. Enough! I had this set up to MY liking for years - don't mess it up. Or at the very least, give me a simple way to get what I want back.

Current Mood: annoyedannoyed

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July 19th, 2015

12:17 pm - Important PSA. Yes, read the link.

This might have become sadly relevant to me & my relatives this month. Read it. And then read it again, just to be sure. Any more detailed explanation WILL wait. But for now: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.

Current Mood: sadsad

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June 20th, 2015

10:44 am - The Jasmine: Grapefruit flavor, without the nastiness of it.

For some time I've been trying various cocktails. Some time ago it was at bars, but that is generally expensive and means a certain loss of control of the ingredients. It also means being limited to what the bar has in stock and what the bartender knows or is willing to look up (or deal with). So I started acquiring spirits and liqueurs so I could mix things myself. This has grown to the point I suspect I can mix a good many things not to be found anywhere else in (this rather small) town. Granted, that's easy when the local VFW lacks Galliano and thus can't even make a simple Harvey Wallbanger.

For a while, I've been a bit hesitant about the Jasmine. Supposedly it tastes "just like" grapefruit. I held off, as I can't stand grapefruit. There's some chemical in it that I can taste (and evidently jmaynard cannot) that is irredeemably nasty. It's bitter to the point of evil.

But today I decided to risk it, if only to clear the recipe page off of my browser's open tabs.
So I mixed this thing:

• 1 1/2 ounces gin (I used Broker's. I suspect most any decent gin will do.[1])
• 3/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice (I went with store-bought bottled. I had it.)
• 1/4 ounce Campari
• 1/4 ounce Cointreau

And I omitted the garnish. And, to me... it tasted sort of like grapefruit, only without the nasty bitter note. I had Jay try it. He pronounced it identical in flavor to grapefruit. So now I know what people who don't taste the nasty bitter note taste: something that actually isn't bad.

[1] The exception is that this is probably NOT a good drink for Hendrick's gin. The cucumber of Hendrick's would be rather out of place here.

Current Mood: surprisedsurprised

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June 18th, 2015

11:26 am - Over the sink and through the... What IMBECILE did THAT?!

The main light in the kitchen is in the center of the ceiling and if you are at the sink and there is no light from the window, such as at night, you cast a shadow right on the area you are using. Thus there is a light over the sink. This was a fluorescent tube, which was nice as it was lower power and lower maintenance than the incandescent that was originally the central light source. That central incandescent bulb was replaced some time ago, first by CFL, then by LED.

The light over the sink would sometimes start almost as soon as the switch for it was flipped. More often there was a noticeable lag. And increasingly it was enough to make me wonder "Did I flip that switch or not? If I did, shouldn't the light be on by now?" A while ago I had finally had enough and ordered a replacement tube. This tube was LED and not of the new 'direct replacement' variety, so I had to redo the fixture wiring to eliminate the ballast and starter. A simple matter of wiring...

Except whoever committed the installation was, how shall we say... oh yes, an imbecile. There were already several junctions and patches, it seemed. The mounting to the ceiling was (and alas, remains rather) dubious. And to add the cherry to dubious cake, he put the switch on the neutral wire. For those unfamiliar with US household wiring: That's bad. It means even when 'off' the light was 'live'. This might not seem important for a light up in or near the ceiling, but it's bad practice and shoddy workmanship. It also has me wondering what else is screwed up in this place.

It took longer than I cared for, but the fixture has been rewired, with the 'live' or 'hot' line switched (so when the lamp is off, it should all be effectively at ground level voltage: 0). and the LED 'tube' installed. I like that it seems to be easier to specify color temperature for fluorescent tubes and their replacements. I didn't have to hunt through seemingly endless 2700K (yellow) and 5000K (blue) and 6500K (very blue) options to find the 4000K (white) option I actually wanted. There is still a slight delay between flipping the switch and getting light, but it's reliably under a second.

Current Mood: illuminated
Current Music: Johny Mercer - Sweet Georgia Brown

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June 13th, 2015

10:21 am - Photo-obsolescence

On my desk are were four light bulbs. They are not classic incandescents, nor the slightly more efficient (less inefficient) halogen bulbs. These are compact fluorescent bulbs, and there is nothing actually wrong with them. They work. They do have the issue of slow-start and taking a bit of time to come up to full brightness, indicating they are now some rather early models. The fixture they were in now has LED bulbs which if they do not turn on instantly, the delay is so minor as to be readily ignored.

A local hardware store had a good sale on LED bulbs in a tolerable color temperature (3000K, not ideal but certainly better than the ugly yellow of 2700K) so I got a few of those and with various swappings, wound up with a few 'spares'. Eventually the CFL start delay of the dining room fixture bothered jmaynard and I replaced the CFLs there with the LEDs.

Now there are, I think, no actual incandescent bulbs in use in the house, aside from small appliance and indicator lamps. Even closets have CFL or LED. There are some incandescent bulbs outside the house, but they see minutes of use per year so there is no urgency in swapping them out. Even a straight tube fluorescent lamp above the sink has been replaced by LED. There is a torcherie halogen lamp - which I would love to change to LED, but the replacements for that aren't quite ready yet, as it's a 300W version and last I checked, LEDs weren't up to that. But I suspect it won't be long before replacements are affordably available.

We now have quite a number of spare CFLs - and not just the four that had been on my desk. They work. They're reasonably efficient. They give a good light. But LEDs are better, thus these join the collection of incandescents (we also have a box or two of those) as obsolete. It's a bit of a weird feeling, as these are not actually defective - they work. But, there is no useful place for them now. And these are the 'fancy' CFLs with the external A19 envelope to mask the spiral and look 'right' in exposed fixtures, too.

Current Mood: blahblah

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June 12th, 2015

10:06 am - Siouxland Renaissance Festival 2015

This year things went better from before the beginning as I had Friday night off and so jmaynard and I could go to Sioux Falls on Friday evening, I could get some sleep, and have a chance of being truly awake for things. After checking into the motel (great location, not so great design) we had supper at HuHot and then visited a comic & games shop I used to deal with much more. This time it was surgical strike shopping for an upcoming ACME delivery.

We also stopped in at a Hy-Vee liquor store to see what they had. I wasn't really expecting much but I wound up getting a few things. The most interesting was a bottle of Chartreuse. We were clearly "not in Minnesota anymore" as behind the checkout counter were taps - you could get a growler filled beer if you wanted. I asked about one brew and was given a tiny sample.

Saturday I had hoped to set up a bit with the mead vendor, but they were doing things different and a key bit wouldn't be available, so I bailed on that idea - and though I had had a fairly large breakfast, did not partake. I found Minos and company and confirmed the centaur bit. It went better this year, though I wound up laying down again, this time I made it to the prep. tent first. I had a water bottle (which looks like a wine bottle) which helped, but not quite enough. To my disappointment the soft drink folks did not have Gatorade there this year. I had been planning to fill the bottle with that, rather than plain water. I do think it would have helped.

There were a few folks that were there not as mythical creatures (though one might have been, but he was simply too big to be the 'baby' dragon). One was a fellow in 'pirate' dress that... well, seemed to me to be from The Department of Not Getting It. He had some great costume ideas - for a convention, not a faire, not even the extension that is the Mythical Garden. But he saw them as faire ideas. Zilch might speak of him someday should any come to pass.

It felt slow, but much was that there were genuine acts going on (I saw Topsy Turvy from 'behind' due to layout). It did pick up with time. When our 'crier' tossed his bell down as we finished and changed back to (renfest) normal I said, "One ringy-dingy" and Minos had some reply I forgot. Later as we were about done with the costume change(s) the crier asked, "Tomorrow, same bat-time, same bat-channel?" to which Minos replied, "You bet your bippy" and I commented, "How 1960s can we get?" "Yeah, I think we pegged the needle on the geek-o-meter."

Afterwards, I went looking for food. Breakfast was big, but it had been some time ago, and I had expended some effort in those hoof-shoes. Despite arrangements Minos had made, I could not actually sit, nor even lean back a bit, so it was quite tiring. W

To my (and Jay's, I found out later) disappointment, Rowdy Hog was not there. We found out later that they had planned to be, but wound up too short on help. They were missed.

Wandering the site, I found a few shops of interest and made a couple small purchases, and mental notes for Sunday. I think the only act I truly sat down and watched was Zilch, and considering what all I got, I started wondering how many references I might be missing.

We bailed a bit early and made our way to a (the?) Indian restaurant, where Jay mused it had been some time since we were there without having to explain things to someone in our party. Since jay was driving, I went and had the Flying Horse Royal Lager which I was very glad to find was only 4.7 ABV since it was a 655 mL bottle. Not my usual style, but works well with the medium spicy (for the restaurant...) dishes. While one person can have that lager all to oneself, with a meal, there is quite enough that sharing it is not at all unreasonable. Somewhere in there was a quick stop at a store for naproxen and sports-drink powder.

Sleep came quickly, but between the hoof-shoe time and the motel mattress (way too soft, I think) I was sore enough I tried sleeping on the floor for a while once when I woke up in the night. That didn't work much better, alas.

After getting ready for the day and final packing, we checked out of the motel and headed out to Cracker Barrel for breakfast again (the motel offering left much to be desired). I wandered a bit and did a bit of preparation, acquiring a bottle of Gatorade from a source I shall not mention here, and filling my 'wine' bottle with a double dose of drink powder and then water. I purposely delayed my appearance at the Mythical Garden some as I didn't want to be standing longer than I really had to.

That, and a delay in setup, helped. I made to the end of the allotted time, but just barely. I need to be in better shape for this and prepare even more with the water and electrolytes. The pirate was there again, now with a newly acquired eyepatch. A couple that had visited the day before asked how he lost his eye and were told, "Taking a ship." "What was the name of the ship?" asked the man. The pirate didn't have a ready answer and I quietly said to the lady, "I believe it was the Lollipop. It was a Good Ship." and she got it. The pirate... did not. To my amusement, when someone else asked about the eyepatch, the lady said it was the Lollipop. The next thing that came up was, why was a pirate ("Pirates are not mythical.") at the Mythical Garden. Our pirate no explanation for that, so I invented a bit more backstory: He was there to assist us, and if he did well enough, we'd see about recovering his eye. It seems I can readily invent backstory - as long as it's not my own.

Once again, part of post-Mythical recovery was a meal. One of the women from the mead vendor asked if or why I wasn't drinking. "You saw where and what I was. Drinking before that is a Bad Idea. After that, I have not eaten for some time, and it is bad to drink on an empty stomach. However, I have now just finished lunch. So..." and I made my selection and paid for it. She poured - into the standard plastic cup for measurement. I was about to pour that into my mug when she grabbed the cup and mug away from me, poured the cup into the mug herself, and then took my mug back to the taps and added a bit more. "You did not have to do that." Reply: *wink*. Well, I wasn't arguing with it.

One bit of street performance was a couple gals as Pose-A-Peasant. This is a risky bit as holding a pose for any time can get tiring. They had been left in crouching positions and one had all but begged to be shifted to releive her back (something I quite understood!). Someone set them up with a prop to recreate the scene of American Gothic (Gothic Gothic?). While that was going on, I had An Idea... and borrowed the colorful sidewalk chalk nearby and drew a few sets of colored circles on the ground. "I am worried about what is going on behind us. Oh no. I think I know what this is." Yes, I left them with a crudely drawn version of Twister.

The last memorable event at the faire was at a soap vendor I (or we) saw last year, not only at Siouxland, but also at Sioux City Riverssance. The gal there was utterly stunned that there was a soap scent we agreed on in a positive way. Generally we do agree, or at least tolerate most selections. We both reject a few (especially patchouli.. eww) but there are some more floral scents that I rather like (honeysuckle, lilac) that Jay considers too flowery. However we both really liked the new 'butter rum' soap they had.

I told the story of very stimulating peppermint glycerin soap a different vendor had and how it could be a bit much. It was fine if lathered up and fairly quickly rinsed off. Let it linger and it could have noticeable effect. And some parts of the anatomy are more sensitive than others. A line from a certain Rock'n'Roll tune could sum up the initial discovery, "Goodness, gracious, great..." "I knew that was where that was going." And I had mentioned this to the other vendor (years ago now) was told, "That's why we don't have cinnamon. It'd be more potent yet." I ventured how a cinnamon-peppermint combination might be excessive. "I could make that." "What, and sell it to the BDSM crowd as..." and suggested a name for it. "I might have to make that now, just to use that name!"

We were told that they would not be at Riverssance this year as they managed to get into the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. Asked if we'd been there, we replied that we had not and with the same owner as the Minnesota Renaissance Festival the idea wasn't that appealing to us. We gave up on MNRF years ago, as we had more fun, overall, just about anywhere else. The acts are good, but the feel is.. off. We were then told that while the ownership was the same, the direct management was very different - and that if we decided to go, they would see we got tickets. While the tickets would be a minor expense of a KCRF visit, it is very kind offer and one which we are at least considering.

It was another very good day, and I truly zonked out on the way home. I barely recall us merging onto I-90 from I-29 if I made it that far awake, and didn't wake up until the exit for Fairmont. Only once we were home was it discovered or remembered that one item had been left behind. A phone call or two and that was sorted out, and Tuesday's mail had the item back where it belonged.

Did I see everything? No. I doubt anyone really can see it all in a weekend, even having free time to roam or see acts from open to close both days. Did I miss something? Almost certainly. But I had a very good time, and that's what really matters.

For a while I thought I might have been missing out on things by participating in the Garden, but the past several years I spent most of the same time visiting the Garden so it really wasn't much different. I just had a very different perspective. This year's lessons are not for the faire, but more for me. I need to be in better shape (less weight, more endurance) for this. I need to apply sunscreen anywhere that might get exposed, even my own garb normally covers that area - I have a bit of mild sunburn on my right arm where I missed a bit.

Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
Current Music: Shirley Temple - On The Good Ship Lollipop

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