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» Sunday, February 18, 2018Time Travel Without Leaving the Neighborhood
a.k.a. "Anachrocon Ate My Weekend and I Loved It."
Normally we would have been at Anachrocon when it opened on Friday afternoon; however James had an iron infusion scheduled and didn't want to cancel it. So I spent the morning and early afternoon making chicken cacciatore out of a leftover chicken leg quarter and some thighs, and making sandwiches with the bread I'd just run out to get that morning. This will keep us from having to go to the hotel restaurant, if there is one, or out for supper. My sandwiches were plain; I made James' with some cheese and just an hint of pepper or Mrs. Dash.
All this domesticity tired me out—while I have been experimenting with cooking other dishes besides baked chicken and homemade gravy, I'm never going to like the process—and I took a nap until Life360 tweedled at me through my cellphone and I knew James was on his way, then got dressed. I followed his journey on Life360 and the traffic map; there was horrendous traffic as always on Friday. Once he was here, we had to fight our way to the hotel, which thankfully was at Wyndham just beyond Cumberland Mall. All we had to do was get past the traffic sink that's the mall.
It was lightly raining, so we didn't bring the power chair inside. We'd missed all the panels we might have been interested in, so we simply met up with Clay and Maggi, took a brief look around the hotel, and then had supper at the hotel restaurant. Like previous old hotel, this is a restaurant that basically caters to business people, and it's "southern fusion" or something like that which means they charge you out the nose for plain food that has been gussied up with some spices. $20 for meatloaf? Are you kidding me? Maggi and James had chicken gumbo soup and Clay had some shrimp and I had a salad. (James and I ate our sandwiches when we got home.)
We had not attended a convention here for years, from back when it was a Holiday Inn or something like that, mostly because I remember this hotel as being very small and the cons finally outgrew it. Well, even remodeled, it still is. There are some small meeting rooms on one side (where the literature, history, and science panels will be), then the lobby and a restaurant, then two bigger meeting rooms on the other side, and then opened up rooms that are for the dealers (mostly steampunk this year) and main programming. There's also a little side room where the authors are selling their wares.
So they headed for their room and we headed for home; to pop up at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday morning and do all our usual morning ablutions (and terrier attendance) before heading back to the hotel. We did have the hotel breakfast buffet, which is more reasonable than the previous hotel (except for the cook making omelets, it's no better than the buffet Drury Inn, Staybridge Suites or Country Inn and Suites serves). James did avail himself of the omelet guy, who is what my mother would term "a hot sketch."
So I wandered in only a little late for the Battle of Hastings panel. The overall theme this year is Vikings, and there are a lot of Viking crafts and costuming and some panels. This one ties in because the Normans led by William the Conquerer were actually Norsemen way, way back, ones who settled in northern France and who were now French. The battle was described very well and I felt I understood more about what caused the battle and how Harold was outwitted, although his defensive position was well thought out.
Next I went to Lee Martindale's bardcraft panel. Lee talked about some of the duties of a bard; they did not just sing and entertain; they were the oral historians for the region and also resolved conflicts and brought the news from place to place. You apprenticed as a bard for seven to fifteen years, which means it wasn't just memorizing a bunch of songs, but a sense of fair play along with showmanship.
I sat with Caran Wilbanks during the 17th century medicine panel, which was a comparison between Eastern European and Western European disciplines; the Eastern usually had "wise women" and midwives while Western had doctors and barber-surgeons. They used medical methods that we would consider a bit gross, but that are still being used today —leeches and maggots, for instance—but under more sanitary conditions, because they are still the best for the job. The panel kept the dialog amusing so not to gross anyone out too much, and they passed around some cochineal beetles which are still used to make red dye. I was re-reading about them just recently in St. Clair's The Secret Lives of Color.
Jeremiah Mitchell, who did such a good panel about the Kennedy and Lincoln assassinations last year, did the first of four panels next. This was about the Titanic, and it turns out he had a distant family member on the ship, Ann Elizabeth Isham. There is a theory she didn't make it off the ship because she went back for her dog. He talked about the unhappy fate of Charles Lightoller, the Second Officer of Titanic, who survived and was reviled much of his life. I did not know he was one of the small craft owners who went to the aid of the soldiers at Dunkirk.
Next I went to a panel about writing diverse characters. I've been working on a story about a fannish teenager. Now when I was a teenager I grew up in a pretty much Italian Catholic neighborhood and didn't even have a Protestant friend until I was in fifth grade. I know a child today would probably not grow up in that kind of atmosphere, but I want to make sure if I create a character of another race or culture in the story that I am not writing a stereotype. The panel concurred that research was your friend.
The Great Story Shift was a panel by a professor in Humanities who was even more entertaining than the stories she was relating. She talked very fast and was very funny as well as informative, and discussed myths like Jason and the Golden Fleece, Tristan and Isolde, and even Beowulf. (Since I never had to read Beowulf in school, I was interested to hear the story.)
Never could find what I wanted to see next, so I wandered about a bit and then found James half-dozing in the "Microbes in Our Food" (about fermentation) panel because it was so hot in the room. The Science and Literature rooms were overheated most of the weekend while the History room was freezing. We brought flannel shirts with us today and were glad of it when we were in Stratford!
The next panel I went to, "Researching What Never Was," was a bit of a misnomer. It was described as a panel about how to do research for details of the past. However, it turned out to be Stephanie Osborn's discoveries about how they dressed, lived, etc. in the time of Sherlock Holmes as portrayed in her novels. It was still interesting, but not what I expected.
Mitchell's second panel was one I had particularly wanted to see: the story of the murder of Leo Frank. In 1913, an 11-year-old mill girl named Mary Phagan was raped and murdered at the Atlanta pencil factory where she worked. The factory accountant, Leo Frank, a "Yankee Jew," was accused, tried, and convicted of killing her on the testimony of the janitor. He was sentenced to prison, but was removed from said prison by a bunch of "upstanding citizens" (including a sheriff) and lynched not far from where we live, off Frey's Gin Road near Roswell Road. There used to be a dentist's office there that had a plaque for Leo Frank, but the building was bulldozed to make way for a freeway project. I had read somewhere that when they finish the project, they are intending to put up a memorial, but God only knows when that will be, since we stay in a perpetual state of construction.
(In the 1980s, a man who had been an office boy at the pencil factory said he saw the janitor carrying Phagan's body into the basement, and the janitor threatened to kill him if he said anything, so it is now strongly suspected that the janitor was the real killer. But there is no evidence left to prove it.)
Finally on Saturday night was the panel I was really waiting for. Ever since my teen years I have been crazy about anthropology, from when I read Robert Silverberg's The Morning of Mankind in the Bain library. Anyone who has read anthropology books knows the story of the Neanderthals, the "nasty, brutish" cavemen who were finally overwhelmed by nice intelligent Homo Sapiens (us). Well, things have changed a lot from 1971. New studies have proven that Neanderthal man lived in communities, cared for their elderly and infirm, buried their dead, could speak, and did all this before Homo Sapiens. I remember Jean Auel made quite a stir in Clan of the Cave Bear when she pronounced all these, except for the speech, with her Neanderthal characters raising the human child Ayla, including Ayla having a "half breed" child. One of the things they believed back when I was in school was that Neanderthal and human never had offspring together (or never had offspring that survived). Today they can tell you that almost everyone of European ancestry has a little bit of Neanderthal genes. (The only ones who do not are people whose ancestors are strictly from Africa.) Red hair and blue eyes, in fact, came from the Neanderthal. (Apparently so did Type 2 diabetes.) But they were not stupid and brutish; however, they were strong. Fossil records now show that they had twice as many muscles in some parts of their body along with thicker, stronger bones, so they were much stronger than any human, even today. The speaker, Dr. Dea Mozingo Gorman (who was positively fascinating), recommended this book, which I am definitely going to get! I read Brian Fagan's Cro-Magnon a few years back, which had some of this info, but was disappointed by it.
Anyway, the room was SRO and we loved the pael so much that when the hour was over Dr. Gorman kept going and we stayed on until almost another hour had gone by. Both Phyllis and Oreta, sitting behind me, asked questions. James rolled in, having seen two panels (New Madrid fault and rebuilding after the Apocalypse) in this time, to find us still talking, so we had to make haste to get home to get Tucker "aired."
This morning we also got up at 7:45, even though neither of us had a 10 o'clock panel. We had the buffet again and James tipped the omelet cook as much for his humor as for his cooking. Then we just started wandering about, and as we approached the costuming and fabrication panel rooms, we saw Clay in one of them. It turned out he had come for a panel about female warriors, but it had been cancelled. Instead, they were holding demonstrations of how to do cording to go with a costume. We stayed. I got to do Viking whip cording, which involved four spools of yarn fastened to a vertical pole and another person. You held a spool in each hand, and basically tossed spools to each other, left to left, then right to right, and once you had a rhythm, you could even talk. Clay and Caran, who walked into the room during the spool-tossing, did finger looping (which I'd like to try if I can remember the steps), and then James worked on something called "shoopido" (?) which is the thing they taught you in camp with vinyl cording. It was fun!
Jeremiah Mitchell did a panel at eleven about Eliot Ness and how, despite all the work he did to catch Al Capone, the canny gangster never attached his name to anything and Ness couldn't pin anything on him. As everyone knows, Capone was eventually convicted, but for tax evasion, and only because a careless accountant labeled an account book "Al" and was willing to "sing." Ness himself wasn't perfect, but he was "untouchable" about bribes.
Walked the dealer's room one more time and bought memberships for last year, said goodbye to Clay and Maggi (she wasn't feeling well because she'd been unable to get some medication she needed), then finally went to the rest of the "Mining Urban Legends for Story Ideas" panel.
Finally, James went off to see the escape pod panel and I went to the last of Mitchell's panels, this one about the O.K. Corral. I'd already seen the Time Traveling With Brian Unger about this, so I knew it wasn't this black-and-white good-guys-bad-guys 40s Western movie thing that was commonly portrayed. The Earps weren't knights in white satin and the Clanton "gang" wasn't one, and what started the big trouble was a nervous Ike Clanton misinterpreting something he overheard about the Earps.
And finally it was time for closing ceremonies. This was very short, with the two con chairs thanking everyone; Lee Martindale said she had a swell time as Guest of Honor, and farewells were said. We came home and, tiresomely, had to stop at CVS and Kroger for a couple of things we needed before we could do so. Supper was comfort food, chicken soup with stellini (James had chili), and then it was time to get ready for another week after a nice weekend of time traveling.
I really must get that Neanderthal book; just hoping I can wait till I get another coupon!
» Wednesday, February 14, 2018"Anything Can Happen Day" Rides Again
This morning's mission was easy: Think up something for Valentine's Day dinner and go shopping if I needed anything for it. But it turns out I didn't. I just wanted to get there early because as soon as work ended, I knew, people would be pouring in to buy balloons, candy, and other treats for their significant others.
They were there when I arrived, too, but not in large numbers. I trotted through Publix for twofer deals and also found chicken leg quarters on sale for 99¢/pound, pork for stew (what we call "pork bits") on sale, as well as thin round steaks on sale. Then I went across the street to Sprouts to pick up nice lamb shoulders and beef bits on sale. Tossed all the meats into an insulated bag so I could do a quick recce at Big Lots, then came home, and repackaged most of the meats for the freezer.
I toyed with going out again, but instead decided it was time to tackle the spare room. Since 2005, the futon has been wearing a quilt and pillow shams I bought after my mom died. I picked a mostly yellow and blue pattern because the spare room in the old house was painted yellow. Well, the futon and its cover has been "rode hard." When I'm sick instead of going in our own bed, since the bedroom is a "dog free zone," I lie down on the futon. I remember spending days in there two years ago when I had an allergic reaction to the shingles vaccine. It's our "quiet room" when we have a party. At Christmas we wrap gifts in there. I'll take the odd nap there. So the quilt has been well washed and the shams well snuggled up to. Although the yellow scheme was bright, I didn't quite like it anymore. So I bought a new coverlet (I should have bought a quilt but bought a comforter instead) for our bed and planned to put the bright fall-patterned quilt from the bed on the futon.
Except when I went looking for the quilt's pillow shams to wash (the quilt being done), I couldn't find them. I still can't find them, and I don't understand, because quilts almost always come with two pillow shams. The yellow one did and I thought this one had. But I found nothing but the one thing I'd forgotten: the patchwork quilt I formerly had on the bed, which was a nice pattern of greens and reds with hints of other colors, but not Christmassy looking. That had pillow shams. After looking fruitlessly everywhere for fall-pattern pillow shams (I even still have the pretty matching quilted bag it came in), I gave up. I'm washing the patchwork quilt and shams and will put that on the futon. I've discovered I like our bed better in a solid color, although if I ever do find a decent fall pattern that I can afford, I will probably buy it.
Well, looking for the pillow shams brought me smack up against the master bedroom closet. I watch all these home-hunting shows and laugh when the woman immediately claims most of the master bedroom walk-in closet. James has more clothes than me! He has a dozen or so regular button-down shirts for when the big-bugs come to inspect work, polo shirts for the rest of the time, and more t-shirts (with pockets or with logos) than you can shake a stick at, and at least a dozen and a half jeans/work pants, plus dress pants and his good suit. I have a few t-shirts, a few shirts I wear all the time, nine pairs of regular pants, three pairs of dress pants, two dress tops, a dress skirt, another skirt and blouse, about a dozen seasonal sweatshirts, three "good" sweatpants, three sweat/pants combos, and scrubs pants and odd t-shirts I wear all the time (my "dog-walking" outfit), and most of my stuff lives in drawers or in the stacks of plastic drawers in the closet. That's what I also tackled today; sorting out the "hang around" sweats from the ones I wear out and putting them in plastic drawers which are right now labeled with post-it notes because the chalk markers and chalk labels I could find perfectly well last week have vanished into the maw of the craft room. Once I find them I can label the plastic drawers for good.
I decided to get rid of the yellow-theme quilt and shams even though I'd considered donating them. Really, they had spots and a couple of rips and just looked sad and tired and were verging on pilled. My cousin Janice had passed around a cool idea for Lent via Facebook: discard a bag of junk every day for the forty days of Lent. Not sure I have forty bags of junk to toss or donate, but I'd like to make a stab at that. I dumped the quilt, shams, old sheets, torn pants, and just plain junk garments that I would not consider donating to anyone into a big plastic garbage bag. It weighed a ton when I dragged it out to the trash.
The later afternoon was taken in preparing for Valentine's Day dinner. Since I was home I had a chance to prepare: I made crab ravioli in a butter/white wine sauce I Frankensteined from Kerrygold/ghee/Smart Balance, white wine, Litehouse salad herbs and some extra chives, and a little peach white balsamic vinegar (it didn't come out too bad). Plus we had a cucumber salad, and boxed chocolates from dessert. I gave James the book Viper Pilot and a gift to come tomorrow, and he gave me the book Red, White, and Who: Doctor Who in America. I've been reading it all evening, and Olympic skating has gone by the wayside. (I did watch curling this afternoon.)
[Later: The book was terrific and James liked his other gift, a new stand for his cell phone. I like Amazon Deals of the Day!]
» Tuesday, February 13, 2018Someone Else's Junk
I woke up in the middle of the night for no earthly reason with my right knee aching. I have no idea what caused this; I moved around a lot yesterday, but nothing that should have put the kibosh on my knee.
I wanted to check out a couple of Goodwills today as my friends do; they always find great bargains, but once I got there the idea of going through rows and rows of clothes almost sent me to sleep. I did check out the books and the tchotchkes in the back. The old knicknacks made me kind of sad. Grandma or Mom collected that and it was special to her and now it's on a shelf with ugly vases. There was a little framed rectangle of faded pressed flowers inscribed with a loving phrase. Wonder who that belonged to and why she let it go.
So I didn't buy anything, but went on to Target for a couple of more 60-watt-equivalent LED ceiling fan light bulbs for each of the bedrooms and a 3-pound weight (I only have one). Stopped at Office Max, looked at a couple of "netbooks," came home for lunch and stretched out my knee to rest it and watch curling.
Had some rather insipid chicken and a rice mix for supper. While I was surfing the internet I realized that with the Olympics on we had completely forgotten about Westminster and had already missed the first night! But we are here for Best in Show!
I have been making more lists and am determined to get rid of more stuff!
» Monday, February 12, 2018Just Keepin' Moving!
* Emptied dishwasher; started to refill
* Washed kitchen floor
* Washed kitchen counters
* Cleaned out kitchen sink
* Put away some things on coffee table
* Cleaned master bath and hall bath toilets
* Washed master bath and hall bath floors
* Put Mom's records in alphabetical order
* Started bag for Atomicon
* Took a speaker downstairs for use in the library
* Put reusable shopping bags back in my car
* Put the Rollator back where it belongs
* Put three things in the donation box and one in the recycling bin
* Emptied the last few things I had at work out of the Climb Cart and put them and it away
* Listened to three episodes of "The Tech Guy" and recorded things off the BBC
Beef stir fry and rice for supper and now time for Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy before Olympics!
» Saturday, February 10, 2018Sunshine Out of Rain
Compared with yesterday, which was a dead loss of a day because of a severe lack of sleep (nothing serious, just...a pain in the neck), today was sunny within, if not sunny without. It was another day of grey, mist, rain, fog...well, name something wet that doesn't involve snow or ice and we had it today.
James went off to a model contest, and I took advantage of some good coupons. JoAnn had 40 percent off your entire regular price purchase, and I bought little things including laminating sheets and a nice piece of Aida cloth. Since I was at Town Center, Michaels was right next door. They had a 20 percent off even sale items, and a single 40 percent, so I picked up some little things including chalk labels for use in the kitchen.
Next I cut through the back to go to Barnes & Noble. This was a profitable trip because all the clearance items were at 75 percent off, so I was able to pick up some really nice gifts for 3/4 off the price as well as another nice set of Christmas cards. Plus they had the Victoria tie-in book on the remainder shelf and I got it for $7. The only fly in the ointment to the bookstore portion of the day was the inconsiderate lout with the ginormous SUV who parked over the line and so close to me that I had to get in the car via the passenger door and crawl over the steering column to be able to back out.
I had less luck at Publix across from the bookstore: I was picking up Toufeyan wraps and ground meat for James and they had no low-sodium low-carb wraps at all. So I skipped the ground meat as well and went home via the Macland store instead. They had at least three packages of wraps, so I got them and ground turkey, which was the least expensive.
Came home from there and watched a very strange movie called Arthur and Merlin. In this version, Arthur and Merlin meet as boys; Merlin is a strange child who is born with marks on his face that mark him as a member of an ancient race that knows magic. Arthur saves Merlin from being sacrificed by King Vortigern's chief Druid. Fifteen years later Arthur is still fighting for the King, who has become forgetful. While helping a Christian woman avoid becoming a sacrifice, Arthur finds a magic sword which gives him visions. He saves the king because one of these visions, but is banished because he offends the Druid, who is using Dark Magic for his own ends. Another vision shows him the Druid is working against the King, and he realizes he needs magic to fight magic, remembering the Druid was afraid of young Merlin. He goes looking for the boy to find he has grown up in solitude learning magic. Socially Merlin's on the Sheldon Cooper level. Anyway, they do defeat the Druid, but very strange Arthurian story. Its main positive point is that it actually takes place during when the mythical Arthur would have lived, and not in medieval times as so often portrayed. A definite "eh!"
James had arranged a little retirement party at Keegan's tonight, so we left at five, picked up the cake (chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate) from Publix (bagging three more packages of wraps), and proceeded to the restaurant. We had some no-shows due to the miserable weather, but very understandable, and they were missed. The service was a bit iffy tonight, due to one of the waitstaff not being used to a crowd, but we had a good time. James actually found me the sweetest gift at the model show: it's a bracelet with multicolored crystal beads and one single cross bead. Terica also gave me an African violet. Poor thing. I will try to remember to care for it, but plants usually have a hard life with me.
Then came home to watch Olympics: snowboarding, biathalon, women's skating, and finally curling!
» Tuesday, February 06, 2018It's a Mickey Mouse Club Life for Us...
I joked to James at one point that to keep me on the "straight and narrow," so to speak, maybe during my retirement I needed theme days like they used to do on The Mickey Mouse Club. You know, one day would be Laundry Day, Wednesday would be Grocery Shopping Day, etc.
Today could definitely have been classified in Mouse Club terms: Anything Can Happen Day.
It didn't seem unusual at first. James got up before seven, alas unable to sleep late; I followed at eight. It was warm this morning, in the high 40s, and it was, as always, Laundry Day. I started the first load after breakfast, but before walking the dog, and then proceeded to do little things like get the last Xerox paper box out of the way in the garage (we'd sorted all the junk from the old truck into boxes), bringing in the box of garbage bags, taking completed books and magazines downstairs, repairing the buttonholes on the hood of my winter coat and the top of my winter hat, unloading and loading the dishwasher, etc. I also put away the gifts Lawsons gave us for Christmas, quite taken with the Woolrich throw; I thought it was a blanket, but it's more like a loose throw/poncho type thing with an open front. I used it going back and forth into the garage since I was in short sleeves.
Somewhere along the way, around lunchtime, I checked out the weather forecast. Bad news: this warming trend continues! Warm tomorrow when it rains, then high fifties, and then more rain and back into the low 60s for the foreseeable future. While the Northeast would probably be dancing at that forecast, I was dismayed, because here it is February and I still hadn't tackled the bushes in the front yard. They are dormant right now and it's the perfect time to cut them, and I can't seem to get our lawn folks to come back in February to do them for me. Ideally I want them taken back to where they were when we moved in, little individual bushes that can regrow and we can keep them low this time, but I would settle for making them smaller and shorter. The patch that is in front of the porch annoys me most: the firecracker bush is too high and nearly blocks the view of St. Francis, and the two nandina bushes on either side of Francis are too bushy and too high and sending out runners to take over the whole bed.
Which is why I abandoned anything else to be done (except the laundry), got into old clothes, found my work gloves, pulled out the hedge clipper and the heavy-duty extension cord and got to work. Now, I had a bad habit previously of not watching where my electrical cord was and chopping it eventually with the hedge clipper, but in the last five years I've tried to be mindful of it and I've kept the latest one for a while. Alas, it met its end today; I was trimming a corner, pivoted without looking, and !zap! went the cord with an acrid smell of ozone and scorching. Thankfully I had pretty much finished the two nandina bushes and the firecracker bush in front of St. Francis and only had to drag out the loppers and the secateur to finish up, and then rake up all the waste. Sadly, I did not get to the bushes to the left of the front steps (as you leave the house). I have had problems trimming them anyway, as the yard slopes on the other side of them, so I can never shorten them as much as I like, but I sure would have liked to try.
Tomorrow it is going to pour rain; I don't know if I'll ever get to the store for a new power cord and get to do it. Bother. James helped me clean up the waste later on so it won't get drenched in the wet weather.
Anyway, at around 2 p.m. or slightly thereafter, I was sans hedge clipper and raking up clipped branches—I really did hate to cut off those pretty red nandina berries!—when I heard some kind of odd noise coming from the south. As it got closer I thought it was geese, but it wasn't honking, more a sort of gurgling noise. I paused, looked over the back of the house, and saw an utterly ginormous flock of large birds flying overhead, and indeed they were not in the traditional Vee of the goose, nor had I ever seen such a large flock of geese before. We've had big flocks overhead, but only about fifty or sixty at the most. I watched the two separate groups that approached meet, cross each other, intertwine and turn, just like a big ballet.
Then I remembered I had James' little camera in the pocket of my coat and dashed inside to grab it. They were flying right around the area of the sun, so I basically had to point and shoot because all I could see in the LED screen was my reflection, but I did get a few pictures. They swerved and soared and crossed and rearranged for another five minutes—there were at least one hundred, if not two hundred or more. I did get one close up picture that showed they were some type of crane or heron! (On Facebook later Jerry said they looked like herons; looking at my photos enlarged I think they were blue herons.) Finally it was if they had rearranged themselves sufficiently and the two groups, still separate, but still following each other, disappeared toward the northern horizon. It was so very cool, and maybe it was providential that I cut the extension cord, because I wouldn't have been able to hear them over the hedge clipper. (Click on images below to enlarge.)
Well, that certainly means spring is coming, dammit!
Did not notice until I brought the dog in (my bad) tonight that Mom's lamp in the foyer was out. I figured the bulb had just burned out, but when I replaced it, it still didn't work. Oh, no! Then I noticed the lighted snowman we have as part of the winter decorations was not on, either, so I went into the garage. Sure enough the breaker had been tripped. I turned it back on, and the lamp came on. The snowman did not, but the timer on it had presumably been stopped. Sure enough, stopped at 2 p.m., which, of course, was the moment I zapped the electrical cord outside. Wait a minute, you mean the foyer plug and the heavy-duty porch plug are on the same breaker? And why didn't the GFI switch on the porch plug work instead of triggering the breaker? Odd.
Anyway, finished up the evening with PBS's American Experience and "The Gilded Age." Interesting story about Henry George and more information about Coxey's Army.
» Sunday, February 04, 2018...and Then There's the Day You Want to Do Nothing
Cloudy, gloomy, raining...perfect day to stay in bed. So I did. But James couldn't sleep and ended up plunking the carcass of "Monty" the Thanksgiving turkey with carrots, celery, a bay leaf, and some spices into the stock pot to simmer. (It did all afternoon and so we had turkey soup for supper.)
But we still had to go to the store. We only had to get a few things, so we just went to Publix, but for meat we went to Nam Dae Mun. Why pay $5.99 (at least) a pound for beef when you can get it for $2.99? We found thin steaks, beef chopped into small bits for tacos, nice pork chops, and lamb steaks. Surprisingly, could not find any ghee. I'm sure they have some and we just couldn't find it, but no one knew where it might be. Maybe the other store on Spring Road has it; they do have different products.
Then we came home. The clouds and chill and grey are just making us sleepy and dull. I put some John Denver CDs on as the smell of turkey soup cooking wafted through the house. Finally James picked out the carcass a little after four, and we cleaned up and reloaded the dishwasher and put most of the soup in a container but left out some for ourselves. Completely forgot the Puppy Bowl was on, watched the repeat at six, then went on to America's Funniest Home Videos and Victoria. Found sad posts on Facebook of people who had to miss the latter for the Stupid Bowl. [shakes head] No accounting for taste!
Note to self: I don't have to wake up at 5:45 tomorrow! (Would you believe I was having nightmares about work last night? Apparently I couldn't retire before I did a big pile of closeout files—not the easier automatic closeouts, but the awful ones where you have to call the vendor to make sure they are not going to bill you again, and then have to do a modification deobligating remaining funds and do a whole bunch of paperwork involving dates that I never understood. Boy, did I wake myself up fast! [shudder])
» Saturday, February 03, 2018When Things Get Done...
Urgh. Since we couldn't make Gordy Tire last week, it was up early (eight o'clock) to go today (after breakfast and perambulation of the pooch, of course). However, we needn't have taken the car; Jason (the guy who fixed the door) was able to fix the sound in the left speaker of the truck in about twenty minutes; he'd just forgotten to refasten a wire, which is what we figured. So we took Twilight home and went on to Walmart.
People complain about Walmart, saying it's a corporate monster, you shouldn't shop there, blah-and-blah. But when I am looking for something, where does it invariably turn up? Where was the only place I found soy isoflavones (at a reasonable price; I'm not talking about the Vitamin Shoppe)? Walmart. Where is the only place they stock James' favorite scent of deodorant? Not Publix, Kroger, Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid—it's Walmart.
And when a friend mentioned she loved a certain kind of low calorie yogurt, and I found they carried it in chocolate and coffee flavors, guess who only stocked the chocolate and coffee flavors? You got it, Walmart. (The supermarkets have only those disgusting fake-fruit tasting flavors.) And when Cooks Illustrated tested jarred spaghetti sauce and recommended a reasonably-priced brand named Victoria which, miracle of miracles, has no damn sugar in it, guess what was the only place that sold it? Publix? Nope. Kroger? Nope. Ingles? Nope. Food Depot? Nope. Walmart.
(We found both of them. I had to stand on tiptoe to reach the Victoria and sadly, the coffee flavor yogurt is as bitter as all the other brands I've tried. Oh, Yoplait, why did you quit making the café au lait?)
We also returned a console organizer we bought for the truck (too big) and gathered toiletries to make a Christmas gift for Aaron Lawson—a project I hadn't finished since our gift exchange with the Lawsons got delayed—since he's going away to Pharmacological college in the fall. After a quick stop at Lowes, we finally arrived home. I was still dead sleepy from this morning, so when I finished making Aaron a keychain, I set a timer for an hour and fell asleep for an hour. When it rang I reset the timer for another hour and fell back to sleep, and only woke up because I realized it was almost time to go!
We had a swell time at the Lawsons. They had spiral ham and turkey, we brought chips and cookies, there were veggies for salad and veggie dip, and Melinda brought homemade gingerbread and a strawberry Jello salad. David and Juanita showed up in a new, bright blue pickup truck (they needed one for their camper) and aside from a jolly gift opening—Jerry and Aaron had brought back all sorts of funny things from the Duluth Trading Company on their travels between Aaron's university interviews, from soap to gadgets, and there was a lighthouse book and a soft blanket (I told everyone we'd probably have to fight Tucker for it), too—we had a riot of a time playing games like Autonia and Smart Ass. I laughed so hard I got a sore throat, but it was worth it.
Funny. When we got home I found Fiver—the little resin rabbit who sits near the bush next to our sidewalk and "greets" visitors—on the sidewalk, facing the lawn. It wasn't like that when I took Tucker on his walk before we left. Someone had been messing with the phone lines they're supposed to be burying, too, so maybe it was the phone guys, or a solicitor, or even one of the little kids across the street, although they are usually very respectful and just bike up and down the street. It was just very strange.
» Friday, February 02, 2018"And Then It Hit Me..."
It actually hit me today. I was a bit cross because I had a sinus headache and I was trying to get through bouncing from store to store looking for a new comforter. I looked at the time and grumbled "Look at that! It's after noon and I still haven't done everything and then it's going to be Saturday and then Sunday, and then the weekend will be over and I'll have to stop..."
I won't. Wow.
Anyway, today's bullet list:
After dinner we drove to MicroCenter where I got a retirement gift for myself. I learned to type on a typwriter, and a manual one at that. Computer keyboards generally don't have the feedback you get from a typewriter keyboard. I had a clicky computer keyboard way back until it broke. To get another one I had to buy a gaming keyboard, but it was on sale. From the articles I thought I would have to get Cherry MX Blue switches, but I preferred the Green switches.
» Thursday, February 01, 2018Shutting One Door and Opening Another
And, astonishingly, it's over.
I made it to work and back yesterday without the traffic accident I've been fearing for years. Traffic has changed so much since I began at CDC. In 1988, after I left work for the day, I used to go exploring. I would drive up to places as far as Haynes Bridge Road (I was living in Brookhaven, just north of downtown, at the time) to check out an interesting store—this is back in the days when Atlanta was dotted with needlework and non-chain craft shops (alas all gone) and new small restaurants—unmindful of the other traffic. Now you need a whip and a chair to get me out there some days. People drive quickly and they drive crazy, using the HOV lanes and turn lanes to pass, skittering across five lanes of traffic to get to the exit they forgot, caught at intersections with a cell phone attached to their ear. (I love my smartphone, but can't understand for the life of me why some folks must have the damn things seemingly surgically attached to them.) The accidents shown on the news are enough to make your hair turn white overnight: crushed engines, crumpled-in trunks, rolled-over SUVs, vehicles with their tops or sides peeled away with a nightmare can opener. And I discover that in the last few years that it is harder and harder for me to drive in the dark due to the glare of the headlights. Since most of my morning commute, except for about six weeks around the summer solstice, is taken in the dark, this is a problem more serious by the day.
On Wednesday morning I printed out and assembled in its little brown folder the Very Last Purchase Order I finished yesterday and left it on Puli's desk for signature. I distributed the thank you cards I wrote out Tuesday afternoon for the gift cards I received at my little party, and wrote a thank you note to Will who helped Puli set up the party. I copied off the party photos from Puli's e-mails and some other photos I'd forgotten, then I deleted all my e-mail folders, and, before I left, emptied out the deleted box. I used the bathroom several times, and had my breakfast and then washed the bowl and spoon for the last time and tucked it into the cart I'd brought with me, and drank my water. I had to go downstairs to ask Portia—I have to leave my laptop and cord with her—just what the heck I was supposed to do. Talked to Gary and Kris and several other people congratulating me.
Then I was down to nothing. I unplugged my fan, packed it into the cart with the spoon and the bowl and the box of Kleenex, all that remained in my cubicle of the seasonal photos and decorations, the Cup-a-Soups and the crackers, the magnets and the old calendars, that kept me company over the years. I tucked the laptop and the cord under my arm and took it to Portia (good thing I did it then, too, because she was going off to a class in a few minutes) and she signed off on my checklist, and then I went back upstairs and rolled the cart downstairs and put it in the car.
Without the laptop, nothing left. I asked Vivian to sign my request for a retiree badge (I needed a branch chief) and I took my bag, and as Juanita suggested, took a photo of the empty cubicle and then walked out without looking back, still smiling at Vivian saying that she always liked to get my purchase order folders; they were so nice and neat! (Thank you, I tried. I abhorred messy folders when I inherited them!) On the way to the car, I took a photo of myself reflected in the front of the building. I looked so small and it was all so big.
Then I went to the Williams Building and swapped out an active badge for a rather homely retiree badge, and Twi and I came home. Poor car needs retirement himself. And all the way I home I sang my mantra:
"I know where I need to be ‘cause I know where I've been--
Found a better road to walk and I'm ready to begin.
Time, it takes you into change, and time, it teaches you;
Gotta another chance this time and I know just what I'll do:
Gonna take my life, give it to me, gonna become what I came here to be,
Gonna change my life, gonna be strong, now I know where I belong.
Now I know where I belong.
See the sun climb up the sky to light another day--
Gonna let it shine on me, let it take me on my way.
I know where I need to be ‘cause I know where I've been;
Found another road to walk and I'm ready to begin.
Gonna take my life, give it to me, gonna become what I came here to be.
Gonna change my life, gonna be strong, now I know where I belong.
Now I know where I belong.
Now I know where I belong."
You know, I don't think I imagined how I would feel on my last day. The guy in the badge office said that a lot of people just tossed their badge at him and stalked out. I almost sort of imagined I'd go out grinning like mad or skipping. I almost didn't feel anything, even though I was singing going home. It was almost like it wasn't real yet.
Today it was real. But then today ended up being a little odd, too.
I've been planning a lot of things for retirement. People have sort of jokingly ribbed me about doing nothing about living it up, but one of the things I know about myself is that I can be abominably lazy when I let myself. So while I'm not completely discarding being spontaneous or taking it easy once in a while, I know I have to be on some type of schedule. Just because I'm free of "work" doesn't mean I'm free of work. Clothes still have to be washed weekly, the trash done, the kitchen tidied, the carpet vacuumed, the floors swept, the bathrooms cleaned. And there are things I have been dying to do—and, conversely, things I don't have to do anymore. I have tantalized myself for months with my list of "the things I don't have to buy after I retire": Those Damn Bananas, Kroger buns, lunchmeat, chicken spread, Reeboks, granola bars (oh, how sick I am of those granola bars!), Chex Mix, Reeboks, cookie trays, tuna, an extra calendar, a desk pad. Or things I don't have to do anymore: get up before six a.m., drive on the freeway with crazy people during rush hour, sit in that awful uncomfortable ergonomic chair all day.
I've also been making lists of things I wanted to do around the house. My motto is "Declutter! Declutter! Declutter!" I am tired to death of dodging, stepping around, and pickup up. One of the projects has been to repurpose locations which had been formerly "work only." For instance, since we've been in this house, I've hung up my work clothes on hooks behind the bathroom door, and gotten dressed in the bathroom because I have always gotten up either at the same time as or before James. Once I got home Wednesday I cleared off those hooks and they will now be used for "knocking around" clothes.
Someone asked me what I was going to do on my first day of retirement, and I flippantly said "Sleep late and eat at Tin Drum." Frankly, what I was aiming for was simply eight hours of sleep, and I was happy when I went right back to sleep when James got up. Alas, Nature screamed about 7:10. Since this is about the time my phone tweedles to tell me James has left for work, I was wondering if I missed it when I looked toward the bedroom door and saw a bright light. Yes, the living room light was on, and James' laptop was set up in the living room. Wait...what?
Quick rewind: you remember the car accident, the truck being totalled, and the chair lift being damaged beyond repair. The chair, which was tossed into a ditch at the side of the street, seemed to have faired best. Covered in scratches and with a bent shock absorber and a cracked plastic cowling, it still worked, although we found out it still needed some adjusting. We used it minimally over the weekend because it rained, but James took it back and forth to work Monday and Tuesday with no problem.
Wednesday he got it off the ramp and it locked up flat. He finally had to put it into neutral and struggle to roll it on the lift and limp into work. He got an appointment at the chair place a few hours later, but the chair started normally at the mobility place and the technician could find nothing wrong. He tightened a bunch of things and ordered the new shock. James came home and finished up the day teleworking.
This morning he got it as far as the driveway and it stopped dead, and the little LED screen is showing a blinking maintenance symbol. He had to put it back into neutral to get it back into the garage and it was a bear to heave it over the lip. Then he had to call up his boss and tell him he was once again transportationless. The chair place only called back at lunchtime. Since the chair won't turn on at all now, James told them there was no way he could get it uphill on the driveway and on the lift. They can't come our way to fetch it until Wednesday. So either we struggle to try to get it there tomorrow and James loses another afternoon of work, or he can telework and wait for the chair place to mosey over our way. His boss told him to telework.
Anyway, I got several things checked off my list, although I neither slept late or ate well. I've been keeping my work bag in our bedroom on a little teak table James inherited. In the interim all the books I've been hoarding from coupons, library book sales, bookstore closings (::sob!:: Borders!) and the like have been piling up around this table. Since the bag doesn't need to be there anymore, I unstacked the books and dusted them off, removed the table (it's now under a window in the living room with the CD player on it), and then restacked them in a more orderly fashion. I also had to do an intervention on a double stack of fiction books near the bed, which were threatening to tip over, and almost did when I started fiddling with them. It worked out, I vacuumed, and that was that. I also re-positioned another table, James now has the lunchbox shelf in the kitchen to himself, and my work shoes are now my everyday shoes, and not a minute too soon: my weekend shoes have little tread left and list alarmingly to the outside edge of each of my feet. I will box them up for dirty work in the yard. I also uninstalled Citrix from my computer and erased any work files off my computer.
It was a busy morning's work, but I was satisfied and rewarded myself this afternoon by listening to my John Denver "Complete RCA Albums" set. I'd been thinking of running to Stein Mart this morning to look at bed quilts, but since I had to wait for TruGreen (I couldn't risk that James would be on the phone when they showed up), I did this work instead and am glad I did. Also collected the trash early.
We had to go to Kaiser to pick up James' prescriptions, so we stopped at Zaxby's for supper. Again, probably bad idea. Too many calories and it made me queasy. Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon on the box, and then a goofy Puppy Bowl special that quickly became tiresome. Yeah, we get it, they're building a new "stadium" in the shape of a bone. As Addie Mills would say, "That's corny."
Just a funny feeling today; I had to keep catching myself thinking "Well, I'll have to get back to work tomorrow," just as if I were on vacation that's just ending. It was very strange to think I could actually continue a project tomorrow without having to worry about going back to purchase orders.
Oh, and another thing I'll never have to do again: an 8(a) contract. Thanks so very much!
» Tuesday, January 30, 2018Just Like That...
Today I did my very last purchase order, got it signed, distributed it, and had it electronically awarded.
es ist fertig
» Monday, January 29, 2018Countdown
Now that the time is close, the enormity of the whole situation has struck me. Does everyone, I wonder, feel like this even when they retire voluntarily? Wanting to do it, but realizing what a change it will be in your life? I've been working full time since 1977, except for spotty employment from being laid off in 1981 through 1984. And I've been making lists for this day for a while: things I will no longer have to buy (Those Damn Bananas, Kroger sandwich buns, granola bars, Reeboks...), things I can now reuse for different purposes (the hooks behind the bathroom door, the shelf in the kitchen, the table in the bedroom...), things I want to do (declutter! declutter! declutter!, learn more about photography, get back to my writing, make things easier on James at dinnertime...), and things I don't want to ever do again (get up before six, drive in the dark surrounded by a bunch of speed-mad demons, wangle with project officers...) Still...
Today I worked on my very last purchase order and tried to make sense out of all the things I need to do on Wednesday to sign out. One form is very long and very bizarre, asking me about all sorts of things like other income—apparently they have mistaken me for someone who has money. 😀
I tried to take a nap in the car, but I am out of practice because I haven't done it for months. I find I no longer can; my knees hurt too much.
And then was the little reception I wanted: not a big party, but just co-workers down in the old computer room, and a table spread with homey things, grapes and strawberries and cheese, a home-made cake along with a sheet cake, and two kinds of cookies, and friends who came along: Caran Wilbanks and John and Betty Bouler and Juanita Gibson and her daughter Jessica and my old boss Ed Schultz and last but not at all least Tamera Murphy, my co-worker for so long (I cried when I saw her), and her little granddaughter Trinity, who is adorable. I received a funny portrait—the building as seen from the rear-view mirror of a car—with signatures all around and some gifts, and came home with my car full of gold star-shaped balloons. (I left them in the foyer so they wouldn't scare the daylights out of Snowy.)
Two more days...one more trip...
» Sunday, January 28, 2018Yes...Sunday!
So it was Sunday and the rest of the shopping had to be done. So we ended up at Kroger, only to have to go back to Publix because we needed mandarins and they are still cheaper at Publix. Later, we stopped at CVS to use a coupon, and briefly visited Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Nice quiet day. Washed towels, and we had half of the chicken legs we bought at Kroger for dinner as cacciatore.
And more Victoria!
» Saturday, January 27, 2018Sick Saturday
At 4:30 a.m. I was talking to a nice advice nurse named Alan at Kaiser for what to do about my problem, which had rudely awakened me a half-hour earlier after plaguing me all evening. He said to watch for dehydration and definitely call back if I had a high fever, but that both vomiting and diarrhea are basically intended to cleanse your body of some poison or irritant that has invaded it. It was best to let nature take its course, but if I wasn't any better by noon I should take Immodium as directed on the box.
I slept in until eight and sent James off to Hair Day by himself. I was still not feeling well when he left, but as the morning wore on I improved bit by bit, so I washed our new sheets to get the sizing off them, and washed the bedclothes. Also neatened up, put up a few Valentine's Day decorations in the dining room (I'm so late putting up the rest of the winter decorations that I figured why bother, and I haven't put any Valentine things up in a few years because once I have the winter things up I don't want to take them down just for Valentine stuff), swept the stairs and shook out the rug in the foyer, put away the rest of the groceries I bought yesterday, and also managed to watch Bing Crosby: Revisited, an "American Masters" segment. Later I started listening to the John Denver CD collection I bought so long ago and have hardly played.
When James came home, he helped me put the bed back together and we also installed the new toilet seat.
I was kind to my abused tummy and had rice with soup; James had his own soup, and we watched a doubleheader: Galaxy Quest and Spaceballs.