Saturday, November 30, 2013

Weirdness in the spam folder

Like everyone who blogs, every so often I'll have a comment show up that at first blush appears to be from someone saying something nice about a recent post but is in fact spam. You know, it'll have a line or two complimenting the post and then a "this may interest you" with a link. If you click on the link, you discover you're at a site advertising something you have absolutely no interest in -- male enhancement products, office space in Bangalore -- but usually the spam comment is at least directly linked to something you wrote. Granted, sometimes the post in question is a really, really old one, but you did at least write it.

Well, I got one the other day that was stranger than usual. It referenced a post I'd supposedly done on a topic I vaguely recalled but had done so long ago it might as well have been on a different planet. I've never had a spam comment that reached back 2 or 3 years in time, so that made me curious. I went looking for the original post. I could not find it. The link in the comment that included the post's title was a dead link. Very strange. So then I did several searches of the blog archive using terms that one would think would either be used as labels or would show up in the text. No luck. So then I decided to read my blog backwards. I learned a few things that weren't exactly news -- among other things, I used to have a serious addiction to C-SPAN -- but I never did find a post with the title the commenter had used. Very, very strange.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Not a problem

Turned on the radio this morning and the first thing I heard was a report on the tragedy of the poor suffering store clerks at Target and Walmart actually having to work on Thanksgiving Day. Oh, the humanity. Give me a break. When was the last time you heard someone bemoaning the fate of the poor saps who work at 7-11, Circle K, or any of the other convenience stores/gas stations that are open 24/7 every day of the year? Or sympathy expressed for the nurse aides, orderlies, and janitors in hospitals and nursing homes? Does anyone ever think about the housekeeping staff at hotels, the ticket agents and ramp rats at airports, or any of a long list of other occupations that never shut down? But stores that used to be closed on Thanksgiving Day are now staying open and suddenly it's a problem. Unreal.

I agree it sucks to work on a holiday. Been there, done that. I've worked in nursing homes, hospitals, and hotels. If I think about it, I can recall years when I worked every single holiday, from New Year's Day right through to New Year's Eve. But so did a lot of other people, and, as a rule, we all agreed that working on a holiday and collecting a pay check beat not collecting a pay check. You know, I occasionally see the phrases "first world problem" or "white people's problem" used to describe things that don't really qualify as problems -- they're more annoyances than actual problems. Being homeless would qualify as a problem. Working on a holiday is an annoyance. And for sure bitching about having to run a cash register or stock shelves on Thanksgiving Day is definitely a first world/white people's problem.

On a meta level, the rampant consumerism and excessive focus on material goods in our society are problems, but that's a subject for a different post.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Missouri Road Trip

Small lake at St. Joe State Park, Park Hills, Missouri.
Photos are only tangentially related to the content of the blog post.
The S.O. and I got back a couple days ago from a short trip down to Missouri to visit the Younger Daughter. She got a promotion and a transfer to a different Forest earlier this fall; by early November she'd been in her new digs in Missouri long enough to have unpacked to the point of creating enough space in the guest room for the air mattress. So we went down to check things out.

As usual, we fueled up at the Pines in Baraga before hitting the road. The Pines Convenience Center is owned by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and invariably has the lowest gas prices in what seems to be a several hundred mile radius. People living in Baraga County used to pay some of the highest gas prices in the state; after the Pines opened, suddenly we were paying some of the lowest. I've no doubt the price-gouging owners of the Krist Oil station in L'Anse would cheerfully sell their souls to Satan in exchange for putting the KBIC station out of business. Sadly for them, based on what I've observed over the years about their past business practices, they sold out years ago so don't have anything left that Old Scratch would be interested in.

In any case, we made sure the gas gauge was on full for both tanks on the truck and headed south. The Kid is now living close enough that we could have made the drive in a day -- it is a mere 745 miles from the ranch to Farmington, but we're geezers. If I'm stuck in a car for much over 8 hours a day, I tend to get cranky. So does the S.O. It's amazing how quickly your butt starts to hurt and your legs cramp up once you hit the downhill side of 60. End result? We split the 745 miles into two days of driving, about 5 hours worth on day 1 and 7 hours or so on day 2.

Missouri Mines State HIstoric Site, Park Hills, Missouri
We've done that drive down I-39 into Illinois enough times that we know where there are some decent motels and we know a few to avoid, like a Motel 6 that has definitely seen better days. We've also reached the point were we feel like we've seen it all before, so it wasn't surprising that the S.O. wanted to throw in a deviation -- instead of doing I-39 to I-55 to US-67, he suggested we take Wisconsin 78 west from Portage and cross Lake Wisconsin on the Merrimac ferry.

Had it been June, this would have struck me as a great idea. I've always wanted to ride the Merrimac ferry, a ferry that exists for no useful reason, as far as I can tell, other than to cut a few miles off the drive from one small town (Merrimac) to another (Lodi). I've been feeling the urge to ride the Merrimac ferry since the 1960s, but I never contemplated riding it in November. My favorite channel on local cable when we stop at a motel in the Portage area is Channel 15, the ferry cam, a live feed that showed basically nothing most of the time, just water lapping at the edge of the landing.

As it was, thanks to the combination of the time of year and the fact we had stuff in the back of the truck that we were bringing to the Kid, I had doubts. Strong doubts. Not so much about the ferry part of the proposed route, but what lay on the other side of the lake: WI-188 to WI-60 back to WI-78 and eventually US-151 to Dubuque, Iowa, and then various roads down into Missouri until we were approaching Farmington from the northwest rather than the northeast. I had a hunch that all those twists and turns and picturesque little towns along the way would turn what would be a 7 hour drive on the Interstate system into close to double that using the scenic route. I persuaded the S.O. that it might be better to do that route on the way home when we didn't have a cooler in the back full of frozen strawberries and Vollwerth's hot dogs. His counter argument was that nothing was likely to thaw when even the highs predicted for Missouri were hovering right around freezing, but he did eventually agree taking a new route would make more sense when we wouldn't be risking ruining the ring bologna.
Head frame and mill at Missouri Mines SHS. The site was the St. Joe Lead
 Mine and Mill. It's an impressive place. Unfortunately, they don't do
tours of the grounds, just the museum located in the old powerhouse. 

We stuck with the Interstate and did eventually get to Farmington. As predicted by the S.O., the drive was remarkably boring. After you've seen a few corn fields, you've seen them all. They're boring in the summer when they're green, and they're boring in the fall when they're brown and dead. One nice thing about crossing the Mississippi into Missouri is that suddenly the landscape stops being flat. Say what you want about Missouri, you can't accuse the state's viewscapes of being boring (with the possible exception of the drive straight across on I-70; that's always struck me as being slightly seedy and way overpopulated with adult novelty stores).

I knew more or less where the Kid was living, thanks to a number of trips down US-67 through Missouri. When she said she'd found an apartment in the Farmington area, I figured she had to be close to the car dealer with the pink elephants. Turns out the branch of the dealership I was thinking about is actually a few miles closer to St. Louis, in Bonne Terre, but I had the general area right: Missouri's lead mining district. A huge swath of the state in the Park Hills/Farmington/Desloges area is honeycombed with hundreds of miles of old mining tunnels, shafts, and stopes. The lead mines used the room and pillar method, and some of the rooms were (and probably still are) humongous. The limestone in Missouri must be pretty stable, though, because I've never heard anyone talk about a problem that's common here in the U.P.: caving ground.

Still, those mines must have contributed to one heck of a local death rate because it seemed like every time we turned a corner, there was another big cemetery. I know a lot of the miners in Missouri died young from silicosis, and I've no doubt fatal accidents caused by rock spalling from the roof of a stope were fairly common. Then when you add in the lead dust from the mill, one has to assume the local area is a significant cancer cluster as well as having more than its fair share of kids born with various birth defects and/or mental retardation. In fact, when I mentioned to a friend who lives in central Missouri that the Kid was going to be working in the mineral area, she suggested warning her to look for a place west of her duty station if she had any plans for future pregnancies. Although the St. Joe Mine and Mill closed in the early 1970s, there are still extensive waste rock and tailings dumps, which suggests there's probably still a lot of loose lead kicking around in the environment. The waste rock is supposedly sufficiently lead free that it's okay to process it into agricultural lime, but that strikes me as being one of those convenient fictions businesses and local governments tell to keep the peasants from freaking out. The Kid tells me there are old mining sites on the Mark Twain that are closed to the public due to the possibility of lead exposure; if a smelter that's been an abandoned ruin for decades is too risky for the public to go near, how safe can those mountains of waste rock be?

Hiking in St. Joe State Park
On the other hand, St. Joe State Park has many miles of ORV trails that utilize the tailings dumps from the St. Joe Mine. Would the state develop a trail system through the tailings if it wasn't safe? It's a mystery. . . I just know I have no burning desire to go tearing around on a four-wheeler when the trails are all looping around piles of waste from a lead mine.

St. Joe State Park was one of the other places we checked out. It is a lovely park with nice campgrounds and an extensive trail system. There's a paved trail for hikers and bicyclists, there are unpaved trails for mountain bikers and equestrians, and there are the ORV trails for people who don't mind breathing possible lead dust. The other trails don't go near the mine waste. The S.O. and I have applied to be VIPs in a Missouri state park in 2014; we put St. Joe down as an alternate choice if we're not able to get into the park we'd prefer. The park we'd prefer is more rural, farther away from major highways and close to Ozark National Scenic Riverways.

The other state park the Kid and I checked out was Mastodon State Historic Site. It was on the way to Kohl's so we figured what the heck -- you can see the park entrance gate from I-55 just south of Arnold so it's not very hard to find. Mastodon is an archeological and paleontological site; there's apparently an extensive bone bed with the remains of mega fauna (mastodons, giant ground sloths, dire wolves, etc.). The excavated area has been backfilled, of course, so you have to trust that the site map is accurate and you're not just standing on the concrete slab for an old station when you walk down from the museum to where the bone bed is supposedly located. The site became known for the mega fauna bones; after the bones had been sporadically excavated for decades, researchers found a Clovis point embedded in a mastodon bone. Until recently, the Clovis people were considered to be the earliest Paleo-Indians. Mastodon is interesting, but of course you can't help but wonder what all might have been found if the site's significance had been recognized before the area around it was so extensively developed. Of course, all that suburban development might be why the park was surprisingly busy for a Saturday morning in November; there were a number of families with little kids admiring the mastodon skeleton.

Eventually we decided to do the Kid a favor and get out from underfoot. For the return trip, we did do the scenic route. I could be wrong, but it's probably a bad sign when in order to get to that scenic route you end up driving due west for an hour when your final destination is located to the northeast. Remember the qualms mentioned quite a few paragraphs up? Turned out they were justified. The scenic route was over 100 miles and almost 5 hours longer. I have absolutely no doubt it would be a great drive in June or July, but southeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin really don't look like much once it gets to be after 5 p.m. in November. They're pretty much the same mile after mile: Dark.

About the only highlight of the final four hours came while we were zipping through Madison on US-151 and passed the Octopus ("Many Hands to Serve You") carwash* where many lifetimes ago I labored as a dash waxer. The Octopus was looking good. I quite frankly was amazed it was still there, considering how much has changed around it. A small digression about changing times: when my roommate and I worked at the carwash, we made minimum wage. With that minimum wage, we rented a  nice fully furnished apartment in a good neighborhood and had plenty of money to spare for the various pursuits two young and carefree women indulged in back in the 1960s: clothes shopping, movies, hitting the various nightspots (and Madison, being a college town, had a lot of them). We even bought food without worrying too much about what the total would be when we got to the checkout. We never felt like we were especially deprived or struggling from payday to payday. I doubt that the minimum wage dash waxers at Octopus today are living as well now as Noel and I did back then.

And now we're home. As expected, the snow was not nice enough to melt while were gone. If anything, it got deeper. It looks like the Farmer's Almanac might right: it's going to be a long, cold winter in the upper Midwest. Time to start planning the next road trip, one that aims South toward warmer weather.

[*Fighting the temptation to head over to YouTube and look for a video. . .]

I needed a good laugh

I have vented here before about some of the strange things authors do. Well, I stumbled across another howler last night. I was reading a murder mystery, Boundary Waters, by William Kent Krueger. It's part of a series set in the mythical Minnesota community of Aurora, a town that appears to be somewhere in the general vicinity of the real community of Ely, Minnesota (close to the top of the state and to the east of US-53 in the map provided below). The fictional town is close to the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area and has, like much of northern Minnesota, become popular with tourists, especially since the local Ojibwe opened a casino. There's a lot to like about the Krueger's books: they're fast paced, well-written, and have sufficient plot twists to keep a reader guessing.

I do, however, have a quibble with the author, albeit a minor one. He is really, really lousy when it comes to thinking up names for his characters. Most of the time his efforts are just sort of clunky and unnatural feeling, but a lot of authors have similar problems. I can live with something awkward. But, please, Mr. Krueger, when you're grasping for names don't just look at a state map, spot a town name, and reverse the order. I swear that every time the victim in a cold case murder got mentioned, I started laughing. "Marais Grand." Unbelievable. Oh well, at least he didn't name her "Harbors Two" or "Bay Silver."

Boundary Waters does have a real blooper in it, but it's one of those things most people won't notice or care about. The main character's ex-wife is described as being a military brat, the daughter of a woman who was single and a captain. Well, the book is set in the late 1990s, the ex-wife is somewhere around 40, so it would be impossible for her to have a mother who was career military. Getting pregnant used to be an automatic out regardless of rank or marital status. Up until the late 1970s, women could get married and stay in, but they couldn't have kids. Krueger tosses in the supposed military background as part of fleshing out the ex-wife's backstory. It would probably bother me more if I thought the ex-wife's background was going to turn into a major plot element in the series, but given that the sample chapter of the next book implied he's killing the wife off soon -- it looks like she's going to die in a plane crash -- I figure it's irrelevant. Just another small example of no matter how much research authors do, there's always going to be something they screw up.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The new get out of jail free card?

When did being a drunk become a reason to excuse other excesses? First we've got the mayor of Toronto using being in a drunken stupor as an explanation for why he smoked crack cocaine, and now we're being treated to the sight of a Republican Congressman blaming his alcoholism for his cocaine use. When did Jack Daniels become the gateway drug for coke heads?

The Republican congressman in question, Trey Radel, is -- no surprises here -- the typical hypocrite, the usual lying weasel who claims to be a respectable family man complete with photogenic wife and toddler and who purportedly was fervently anti-drug and pro family values. Naturally, as a number of news reports made clear, Radel has supported drug testing for welfare recipients. Once again, we're seeing an example of why the first group of people we should be drug testing are the ones making the laws. Interestingly enough, one of the news readers on Headline News actually said that yesterday. Maybe if enough people say it out loud, it could happen, although I doubt that Congress will ever get serious about doing to itself what it wants done to other people.

Quite a few years ago, the S.O. wrote to our Congressman about this issue. At the time, we were represented by Bart Stupak. Mr. Stupak responded that he agreed that Congress should drug test its members and that Congress had authorized random testing in 1997. The relevant rule says the Speaker can order any member tested at any time, but of course no Speaker, either Democrat or Republican, has ever actually followed up on the authorization.

Weasels. They're all weasels.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Advantages of geezerhood

I read an article on Salon recently that made me realize (again) just how lucky my generation was. The article, "How not to make love like a porn star," described some of the perils of living in a time when porn is everywhere. Some people can watch porn and recognize it for what it is: pure fantasy. Other people apparently view porn and think they're watching a reality show. This can have some strange and depressing consequences, like young men being foolish enough to believe that what they see on the screen is what women actually want in the bedroom.

The author of the article points out some of the bizarre behavior that is common in porn, such as the man grabbing his hardened penis and beating it on the woman's body, an exercise that serves no discernible purpose (as far as this disinterested commentator can tell) other than to show the world that, yes, the male actor's dick is indeed hard enough to cut diamonds and that it is also large enough to be a serviceable substitute should someone require a baseball bat. This is the type of behavior that from a woman's perspective elicits baffled looks and exclamations of  "What the hell? Are you deranged?"

That, however, is not primarily why I say we aging baby boomers are lucky.  No, we're lucky because we geezers who are now in our 60s and 70s hit adulthood just in time to enjoy a decade or two of relatively carefree hedonism minus today's unrealistic expectations about body types and athletic abilities. There was porn, i.e., explicit photos and stag films, but when smut started going mainstream, films like "Deep Throat" and "Behind the Green Door" featured actors who looked like ordinary human beings. Both men and women still had body hair, men did not look like they spent endless hours at the gym, and women were not expected to have identical genitalia. The word "labioplasty" was unknown.

If someone had told me 40 years ago that vaginal cosmetic surgery would someday become relatively common I wouldn't have believed it. In fact, I'm not sure I'd believe it now if I were a little less well-read. Apparently just as men are being indoctrinated by bad porn into believing they should wield their penises like wiffle bats, thanks to the pornification of society young women increasingly believe that the labia minora should never be visible, i.e., women are all supposed to have a crotch similar to that of a Barbie doll. This goes beyond bizarre -- feminists and human rights advocates are campaigning globally to end female genital mutilation in third world countries while at the same time supposedly well-educated middle class women in the United States are paying to have their genitalia mutilated. And, just like any other genital mutilation, they're experiencing the same risks: infection, loss of sensitivity, and months or years of pain. If it's barbaric when a young woman has her labia minora removed in Ethiopia for quasi-religious reasons, isn't it equally barbaric when a young woman has her labia minora trimmed because she thinks that men expect all women to look like a Mattel product? Why no feminist outrage and/or protest marches outside the cosmetic surgery clinics in Beverly Hills or Manhattan?

In short, thanks to what is aptly termed the pornification of popular culture, we have increasing numbers of men and women making themselves miserable and falling for sales pitches for "male enhancement" products or unnecessary surgery because what they see on the screen does not match up with what they're seeing in the bedroom. I am so happy I am old.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

When we pulled into the parking lot for Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site the other day, it seemed like there were a lot of cars. I was thinking, wow, pretty good visitation for a weekday in November. Turned out that initial assessment was a little off: everyone in the visitor center was either staff or a volunteer, and, going by the signatures in the guest book, the park hadn't exactly been mobbed in recent weeks. I have a hunch a fair number of the cars in the parking lot belonged to people who were jogging or walking Grant's Trail immediately adjacent to the park.
Ulysses S. Grant NHS as seen from Grant's Trail. The large yellow building is the Park headquarters and visitor center; the long brown one is a horse barn built by President Grant. It is now a museum.
If that was true, I hope at least a few of the joggers and bikers do stop by the park itself at least once. It's an interesting site. Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th president of the United States, from 1869-1877, and is a really nice example of how you never know what life is going to throw at you. In 1859 Grant probably thought his life was pretty much of a failure: he left the Army to try farming with his father-in-law, but within a few years he had washed out as a farmer and was struggling financially while working as a bill collector. Ten years later he was President of the United States. The country's bad luck -- the Civil War -- turned out to be a godsend for Grant.
Ulysses S. Grant NHS is a fairly new site within the National Park system. George H. W. Bush signed the enabling legislation for the park in 1989; formal establishment occurred the following year. At the time, the property had been out of the Grant family for over 100 years. It is moderately amazing that the house and a number of original outbuildings survived, although all required extensive rehabilitation. The masonry building shown to the left in the photo above, for example, housed the summer kitchen and laundry. At one point one long exterior wall had been demolished along with the interior wall separating the two halves and the building used as a garage. NPS reconstructed the building to bring it back to its original appearance so visitors today see the building the way it would have looked in the 1850s.
Wall exposed to show construction details.  
The slightly less than 10 acres that today comprise the historic site are all that's left of what once was an 850 farm belonging to Julia Dent Grant's family. The Dents purchased the land in 1820, and it's where Grant met his wife, Julia Dent. Grant and Julia's brother Frederic had been West Point classmates. After Grant was assigned to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, he visited the Dent farm frequently. After a long engagement, Julia and Grant married in 1848. According to the interpretive material at the park, both families opposed the marriage. Julia's father was unhappy about Grant being in the military; he knew promotions were slow and the life of an officer's wife meant moving from garrison to garrison. Grant's father was opposed because the Dents were slave owners and Hiram Grant was an abolitionist. Grant's parents refused to attend the wedding because the Dents owned slaves.

Slavery is in fact one of the major interpretive themes at the park. The issue of slavery was a source of tension between Grant and the Dents, although Grant did acquiesce in its use while he was living in Missouri. The Dents relied on slave labor to operate their farm, and Julia Dent Grant's memoirs and other records do mention various slaves by name. The interpretive signage does a good job of contrasting the lives of the Dents' slaves with the lives of the Dents themselves. I had some quibbles about some of it -- at times it felt like they were laying it on a little too thick, like when the interpretive material asserted that the slaves working in the kitchen didn't get to eat until after the owners had been served and then they got what were basically table scraps. Pshaw. I've worked in restaurants. I also had a brief adventure as a paid domestic servant. Anyone that thinks that kitchen staff, whether they're doing it because they're forced to through slavery or they're working for wages, is going to wait to eat breakfast until after the master is served is living in a fantasy world. Yes, slavery sucked. In fact, it sucked enough that there's no reason to indulge in exaggeration. The bare facts are bad enough.

The horse barn at the farm, which Grant built, has been renovated to serve as a small museum. Part of the building is configured as it would have been as a barn with a box stall for a horse and a carriage and farm wagon on display. The remainder of the building is more typical museum with exhibits on the Civil War, the Grant family, and other topics. I'll confess I didn't see much of the museum. I had mentioned to the park guide that I had worked in the Midwest Region Office in Omaha; after we finished our tour of the house, she must have mentioned that to an architect working at the park that I sort of knew. He came into the museum and we had a good time talking shop while the S.O. and the younger daughter wandered around being tourists.

I liked Grant; we'll probably go there again. I'd like to see it during a different season, and I'd also like to take a closer look at the museum exhibits. If you're going to be in the St. Louis area, seek out the park. It's worth visiting.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thoughts while traveling

When the coffee urns in the breakfast area of a motel are labeled Regular, Regular, and Double Strength, odds are the parking lot provides plenty of space for semis.

Okay, so that's only one thought, but who's counting?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Latest quilting project

A week or so ago Yellowdog Granny mentioned she would really like to make sure some nursing home residents had a decent Christmas. They had been living at West Rest Haven in West, Texas, and had their lives thoroughly disrupted when the fertilizer plant there blew up in April of this year. The nursing home was destroyed: windows blown out, ceilings collapsed. Amazingly, no one at Rest Haven was killed.

My first thought was to take the easy route: the next time we went to Marquette we'd stop at the Tourist Trap in Ishpeming and pick up something uniquely Yooper to send. But that seemed too easy, too facile. I've been to West, it's a nice little city, and shopping seemed a little too mindless. These old people went through an unbelievably traumatic experience, and it seemed like if I was going to do anything for them I should put a little effort into it. Then it hit me: the fabric stash. I've worked in nursing homes. I know one thing that residents can always use: lap robes. Making lap robes is like making crib quilts -- they're even the same size.

I've mentioned the fabric stash before. Thanks to my aunt Thelma's love of fabric sales, I'm never going to run out of yard goods. The stash includes everything from what appears to be an entire bolt of some fabrics to remnants of a yard or less. The one thing most of the fabrics have in common is they're prints that would have been popular in the 1950s, '60s, and maybe early '70s. There was also some odd stuff, like a stack of upholstery fabric samples. It's always kind of a challenge figuring out just what to do with some of it.

Well, the upholstery samples went into this one. I had been trying for a long time to figure out what to do with them (I'm too much of a fabric hoarder to ever throw anything away) because there weren't enough for anything big, but they weren't appropriate for the typical small quilts I make, which are almost always crib quilts. Combined with the corduroy sashing, the end result is a nicely masculine lap robe.

This little project barely made a dent in the fabric stash, so maybe over the winter I'll make a few more lap robes to donate locally. After all, they do say charity begins at home.

If anyone's interested in the technical details, the lap quilts consist of the usual front, back, and a batting. They were machine pieced and assembled without a binding: front and back were placed right sides together, the batting laid on top, and the quilt sandwich sewn on three sides and then turned right side out. They were ticked using crewel yarn and then the remaining open end was sewn shut. Here's what they look like on the flip side:

And, yes, we really do have that much snow (about six inches) on the ground now. I don't think it's going anywhere until maybe next May.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lake Effect and Its Consequences

The S.O. and I have been planning a short trip out of town for some time. The Younger Daughter has relocated to Missouri, we're curious about her new digs and her new duty station, and we have a couple pieces of furniture she's said she'd like to have. The Plan called for us to load up the truck and hit the road several days ago. So what's the snag? Lake effect snow. The damn stuff won't stop falling. We can't leave until we've got our new carport kit completely assembled and the boats parked under it, but that lake effect snow is turning what should have been a fast and easy project into one that's taking forever to complete.

The carport is one of those adult tinker toy sets, a VersaTube "pre-engineered DIY building with slip-fit connections." We got the frame up on Tuesday afternoon in less than an hour. It really did work as neatly as the advertisements all claim. Then came the fun part: the roofing. We picked up the sheet metal on Wednesday. It was snowing, but the forecast claimed things would be better the following day. Pshaw. It was snowing on Thursday, too. Still, we managed to get about half the metal up before it started getting too dark to see what we were doing. We were sure we'd be able to finish it on Friday. Again, pshaw. There was a break in the snow -- we actually got to see some blue sky for awhile -- but we got only two pieces of roofing up. It is positively amazing just how many screws one piece of 14' x 39" sheet metal requires to hold it in place and just how time consuming it can be to put those screws in when you have to keep repositioning ladders. So we tried again yesterday. One piece in place and the batteries on the drills went dead. They drain fast when it's cold outside. Of course, considering that precipitation at the time consisted of a nasty mix of rain and snow, we weren't moving real fast anyway. It's easy to walk away from a project when you're feeling frozen and half drowned.

So now we've got three pieces left to go and theoretically we're done. Sort of. The S.O. will still have to move the Crestliner, which is going to be a real joy to do when the snow is now about 8 inches deep and super slushy, and then we'll tarp the sides of the carport. Maybe I should tell the kid to buy a turkey because at the rate we're progressing, it's going to be Thanksgiving before we get there.

You know, this is one of those projects that would have taken the S.O. and I maybe half a day to complete thirty years ago. It's truly depressing how much slower everything goes once a person achieves geezerhood.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Squatlo proved right. Again.

When I saw the tease for this article this morning -- Two Admirals Face Probe in Navy Bribery Scheme -- two things hit me. More proof that the U.S. is sliding rapidly into banana republic/third world nation status, because the lower down the global scale a nation is the more rampant the problems with corruption in government, and once again Squatlo has been proven right. He's done numerous posts on the subject, all illustrating the numerous ways in which lust triumphs over intelligence. Once again, as it has many times in the past, all it took was someone else paying for the hookers and men who really should have known better let their dicks do their thinking.

The investigation into this particular scandal has apparently been going on for awhile, but as usual the mainstream media hasn't been paying much attention to actual news. Also as usual, the investigation started at a much lower level in the Navy, no doubt with the hope that they'd be able to stop at a few junior grade officers. Unfortunately, it's apparently turned into something that resembles an "NCIS" plot, complete with foreign nationals, corrupt admirals, and national security data possibly being compromised. The stupid, it burns.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Local wildlife

Pine marten in an apple tree
I did not know martens were omnivores, but when I first spotted this guy, the wee beastie was digging windfall apples out of the snow under one of the other trees. Photo taken through the office window about 10 a.m. this morning.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Spare some pity for the S.O.

The S.O. and I are generally pretty well matched. We're both pretty laid back most of the time and in general have no problem with procrastination. There is a project list, but as long as the stuff on it gets done eventually neither of us stresses about it much. Or at least that's the way it used to be.

Spare some pity for the S.O. It turns out one reason I wasn't the most ambitious person on the planet was hypothyroidism. When I went for the annual physical in early summer and had lab work done for the usual wide range of stuff doctors like to test for, the TSH results fell, as we medical editors like to say, "outside the reference range." (Why use two words - "not normal" - when you can use four instead?) My body wasn't producing enough of whatever it's supposed to produce, which resulted in a slowed metabolism. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, stiff joints, fatigue, weak muscles, and a whole host of other things that the average person files under "Fuck. I'm getting old." Blood work gets repeated; results still show Not Normal. So my primary care physician prescribes levothyroxine sodium, aka Synthroid. Being a cautious person, one of those rare physicians who believes most allopaths tend to over-prescribe drugs, she starts me off at an extremely low dose.

Thirty days later, blood work shows the TSH is back within the reference range. That low dosage is apparently sufficient. All is good, although I still feel (as far as I can tell) exactly the same. Both my PCP and the nurses ask if I'm feeling more energetic. Nope. Still as lazy as ever. I step on the scale. Everyone is expecting me to have lost weight because that's usually the first and most noticeable effect of taking Synthroid (there is a minor black market in the stuff because some people want to use it as a weight loss drug). I've gained three pounds. Everyone kind of shakes their head. Obviously, I'm not the typical patient.

Well, it took another month or two, but the increased energy has kicked in. I'm sleeping less, I'm feeling more ambitious, and generally, as the old saying goes, am full of piss and vinegar. Only one problem: the more ambitious I feel, the longer the honey do list grows. I have lots and lots of ideas and projects I want to tackle and almost all of them require the S.O.'s participation. We need to fill the second woodshed before serious snow gets here! Guess who has to man the chainsaw? We need to clean out the barn loft! Guess who has to be on the ground receiving whatever gets handed down? And so it goes. . . even my sewing projects somehow end up with the S.O. getting dragged in. I'm feeling great, getting up at oh dark thirty and baking pies. The S.O. is beginning to look just a tad frazzled. Not that we've actually done most of the stuff on the list yet, but I think he's worried that we actually will.