holy fucking crap, Batman!

I'm typing this with one hand, as the left hand is occupied holding an ice pack to my left ankle.

Rocko and I went down to Camp Hope this evening for a hike in the woods down by the river. It was a beautiful day and the water is quite low, so I did a lot of rock-hopping. It was a good time.

As we reached about the halfway point, I told Rocko which trail we were taking and he headed that way. I hadn't gone too far when Rocko came running back. "No," I said, "Keep going." He turned around and headed down the trail again. A few steps later, my ankle started screaming in pain. It felt like a hornet, and indeed it was. I swatted it away (or so I thought), picked up my walking stick and water bottle that had been thrown when I was stung, and I quickly hobbled back to a place to sit.

Taking off my hiking boot, I saw a small hornet - about the size of a yellow jacket, but white and black - vigorously stinging the tongue of my boot. I knocked it off with a stick and stepped on it.

(A yellow jacket sting hurts like the devil for 15 minutes or so, then the pain eases gradually. This sonofabitch still hurts like the devil an hour later.)

Rocko and I took the short way back to the car from that point, but not until I sat down and waited for the pain to let up. When it didn't, I was thankful for my adjustable-length walking stick. I shortened it to a good length for leaning heavily on it, and slowly made my way back to the car. There are teenage campers there this year, and I had to literally bite my lip to avoid grunting and swearing every couple of steps.

Every once in a while, even now, the sting will suddenly throb once and make me curse or grunt. Like just now. Nggggghhh. Gah!


happy birthday U.S.A.

You feel especially free since the recent SCOTUS decision re: marriage.


berry season

Berries are starting to happen around here, and I just received a flat of strawberry plants.

Around here, individual species will ripen at different times depending upon the location of the individual plant. Sun exposure and altitude both make a great difference, and we have a great variety of sun exposure/altitude combinations in a fairly small area. And so I've been able to eat ripe (and even overripe) elderberries, for example, on a sunny mountaintop a couple of miles from home while the berries at home are still flowers.

Black raspberries are almost over now; the blackberries are pink and won't be ready for a while yet. I did find one scraggly, very ripe blackberry growing out of the rocks in a sunny spot on the river - its bitterness was a shock after feasting on a few sweet black raspberries.

Yesterday Rocko and I went down to Camp Hope late in the afternoon. I had just finished rotating my car's tires, and needed to give it a test drive. Plus, I was hungry and I know where there is a patch of big red raspberries down there. The berries weren't anywhere near ready, but we found a neat new trail that ends at a lovely pool in the Pigeon River. From there, I rock-hopped a good distance upstream (my Merrell hiking boots lived up to their "waterproof" designation) through beautiful trout waters. In fact, that section of the river has Trout Unlimited signs on it.

This morning, I headed down to the store for a pack of smokes and stopped at the swimming hole in "downtown" Cruso. When I got home, there was a voice message on my phone. A month or so ago, I asked my neighbor to save me a few strawberry plants the next time she was thinning her berry patch, but at her Master Gardener class last night, they gave out flats of strawberry plants. She grabbed one for me.

I drove right down to her house and picked them up! There are 18 plants in the flat, and my available planting area is not large, so I'll be planting them in various places around the southeast corner. The ones that are in good spots will thrive and spread. I don't have a lot of sun, but the wood strawberries do OK so I hope these will too.


a pair of good decisions from the SCOTUS

Not only can millions of Americans keep their health insurance (by a 6-3 decision), but same-sex marriage is now the law of the land.

I've not yet jumped back into consuming a breadth of news after my month or so without the Internet. I am continuing to depend upon NPR for most of my news, and am trying to avoid getting hot and bothered about politics.

There must be something going on with our weather, for this afternoon I'm listening to WETS radio out of Knoxville, Tennessee. On my kitchen radio. And it is coming in clearer than WCQS, the Asheville station. I wanted to listen to WEPR out of Greenville, SC on my living room radio, but I couldn't find the station. Then I found a strong, crystal clear NPR broadcast: it was WCQS, which the living room radio rarely receives.

Not wanting to listen to classical music (which is what WCQS was preparing to spend two hours playing), I went to the kitchen and played with the tuner on that radio. Amy Goodman's voice came from the speaker and I knew that I had found WETS. And that made me happy, because on Friday afternoon WETS plays two hours of Science Friday. I can never get WETS on any radio inside my house, but I wasn't about to argue.

On the home front, I have been working six days most weeks lately, so I stay around the house. This year, the south side of the house has been my hangout. It is shady and cool over there, even on the hottest days. Cool air comes down the wooded mountain across the street and crosses my yard as it goes back into the woods on the downhill side of my house.

Speaking of the wooded mountainside across the street, logging has commenced. They say that they are only interested in the tulip poplars (tuliptrees). I don't know what the place will look like when they are done, but they have made an access road that should make hiking up into the Shining Rock Wilderness a much easier.


it's alive!

My Internet service, that is.

Last week I told my landlord about my Internet access problem, and that I thought the weeping cherry tree in the yard was the likely offender. He said he'd check into getting it taken care of, and to remind him if he didn't do so.

A few days ago I sent him an email, from my remote access point at the Cruso Community Center, to remind him and fill him in on some neighborhood news; today he showed up to cut the grass. He called a fellow he referred to as a "squirrel" who climbed the tree and trimmed some limbs with a chainsaw tied to his waist.

At first, he was taking out limbs too low on the tree to have any effect. I stood by the door with my laptop, browser open to the modem's status page, updating the page repeatedly. After a while I went out to the dish and did a line-of-sight check; I showed him which limbs I had been suspecting all along. He cut them, and the modem eventually came most of the way up. Signal strength was triple what it had been, and all red flags on the status page had been cleared. Signal-to-noise ratios rose to satisfactory levels.

The only remaining problem was the modem's Turbo function, which was not functioning. It wasn't red-flagged, but was "idle".

I rebooted my computer and. when it came back up, my Internet was fully functional. No, not like Commander Data! Get your mind out of the gutter. But I did have full and uninterrupted access.

Suddenly I am connected to the world again. It's been a quiet month or so, but I've been working a lot anyway. 50 hours each for the last two weeks, and they both come in one check. I'll be broke again just as quickly but I'll be closer to caught up.


I'm alive, but my internet has a tree problem

As the leaves began to fill out this spring, my satellite connection began to degrade.

Being stubborn as a donkey, I didn't call my ISP to try to address the problem; I didn't know if it was a satellite issue or a tree issue. The connection could be down for minutes or hours, then it would come back up without warning and be unusually fast. For a while. And then it may or may not go down again.

Somewhere around a week ago it went entirely black. Rebooting the modem didn't help because often it could not establish a good enough connection to complete the boot process.

My landlord showed up to cut the grass this afternoon, just as I was preparing to roll down the river to the Cruso Community Center - where we play music on Tuesday nights - because my neighbor told me that there is free and fast, real cable, internet access. I explained the situation to my landlord and suggested that a little judicious pruning could restore my connection. He said he'd get it taken care of, and to remind him if he took more than a couple of days.

And so here I sit, down at the old schoolhouse that has been repurposed into a community center. There is a thrift store and a library, a large kitchen, and I am sitting in the old cafeteria. This is the room where we have our bi-weekly jam sessions. Retirees, a.k.a. snowbirds, spend their winters in Florida and come up here for the summer. They stay in the campground across the street and serve as our audience when we play. When I came in here today, one of the regulars asked where I was last night. "We had seats right up at the front, and nobody showed up!" Of course, he was only kidding. He knew that it was our week off.

Ah well. I am scheduled for 50 hours of work this week, since we are in transition trying to find decent replacements for the good person we recently lost and for the really lousy ones who keep rotating in and out. Last week we had a 30-year-old woman who could not count money. She constantly gave people the wrong change, and usually in the customer's favor. Not only that, she evidently had a bad case of body odor. She was told not to come back this week.

We do have a competent core of people, but poor employees make the rest of us work harder. On the bright side, all of the competent people have been getting overtime lately. A raise would be nice too.


dark humour for dark times

Various news outlets to which I pay attention have said that ISIS has taken Palmyra.

"Next we take Cumorah!" their spokesperson did not say.



I'm back

My pancreas is responding to diet and rest. My internet connection seems to be responding to technical intervention.

For the last couple of weeks, in addition to pancreatic inflammation, I've had badly intermittent internet connectivity. While it never comes close to the advertised speed (and never has), it has been going from a decent connection to suddenly timing out on four browser tabs at once.

This was annoying at first but as it became the norm I got more upset. It would be down for an hour or more, several times a day, even after doing a hard reboot of the modem by disconnecting the power supply,

I took my cute little 4" Crescent wrench - ideal for cable connectors - and checked all of the connections, starting at the modem, then at the splitter outside the house, and finally at the satellite dish. A few connectors were finger-tight but loose to the wrench; I tightened them. None of this improved the connection problem.

A tree next to my driveway could cause interference, but that would not explain sudden changes to connectivity when the wind is calm and the tree is not moving.

Yesterday I opened my browser and went to the modem's home page. A soft reset did not help, but after a hard reset via the web page, the modem spent a long, long time running diagnostics and updating its software. Once it finally came back up, it worked fine, and has done so ever since.

On the health front, my gut feels a lot better. Last week I was able to have a two-night weekend for the first time in three weeks; the rest helped a lot. I've resumed eating, but no meat whatsoever right now. No mayonnaise, no ice cream. Yesterday I threw out some milk that I hadn't touched for a week and bought a pint at the nearest store. That sat well with my guts, so today I bought a loaf of bread and a half-gallon of 2% milk. I should have 1% or fat-free, but I take what I can get. My lymph nodes are still noticeably swollen but I feel much better.

When I saw my shrink last week, she told me that I need to do a few things. One of those things is getting a lesion looked at; I'm pretty sure it's a basal cell carcinoma. She asked me to promise to get it looked at, for her sake, because I obviously haven't done so for my own sake. It has been there since about 2008 and didn't change for years. Since Lisa died, it has been changing in size and configuration, though it is still quite small. What really makes this odd is, basal cell carcinoma is generally associated with sun exposure, but the lesion is below my belt on a patch of skin that has almost never seen the sun: above the pubic arch but below the belt.

Oh well. I'm not afraid of death but don't wish to court it either. Especially slow and painful varieties of death. That's why I worry about my pancreas. A heart attack could be quick, but the pancreas always takes its painful time killing you.


the bug that wasn't

It turns out that my gastrointestinal bug is actually an old nemesis, come back to haunt me.

The signs are all there: swollen glands in my neck, a dull pain in the upper abdomen, a sudden appetite (I've been eating fairly well for the past week or so, even without artificial aid), and nausea after I satisfy the uncharacteristic hunger.

It is my pancreas, reminding me once again that I abused it badly for many years. Leave it to me to have an unscathed liver, yet have an obscure and oddly named organ damaged.

This isn't the first time it has flared up on me. It happened a couple of times while Lisa was alive, in addition to the first two incidents (which required hospitalization). Both incidents cleared up with a light diet and rest.

I am supposed to avoid fatty foods, but that is what I love the best. I figured out a few months ago that I can no longer eat pizza - it caused a similar flareup - and now I suppose I have to give up my beloved pork products.

I'm taking it easy, trying not to eat much while trying to stay adequately hydrated. I don't want to have to be hospitalized, especially since I canceled that health insurance last year. All they'd probably do is give me an IV to keep me hydrated.


alimentary, my dear Watson

A stomach bug has been doing its bugging thing within my body for several days, but I made it to my weekend. Still feel like crap but at least I don't have to go to work for a couple of nights.

At least I think it's a stomach bug. My stomach feels tight, I've had headaches, my head gets light easily, and I am physically more aware of much of my gastrointestinal tract than I usually am.

My allergies are contributing, to be sure, with lots of trees blooming along with the seasonal advent of flowers and weeds. I've been sneezing and my eyes feel gritty. The allergic reaction to pollen and dust, in particular, upsets my stomach during the best of times. With a little bug on top of it, I'm feeling quite crappy, thank you very much.

Still, it is a pretty day outside; my weekend started six hours ago and I've already had a three-hour nap; our little Tuesday jam session should be happening tomorrow night and I'm going to try to get Annette to attend, even if I have to drive into town to get her.

Between now and tomorrow evening, I have to remember to rest. The queasy sensations let up now and then and I get up to do things, only to tire quickly. Must rest. Must heal. Ommmmmmm.


woo hoo, it's Saturday!

It has been quite a while since I was surprised by a Saturday.

Saturday is not a weekend day for me, strictly speaking, because I work from Wednesday to Sunday, but I like the Saturday lineup on my local public radio stations.

I listen to WCQS out of Asheville, North Carolina on a small clock radio in the kitchen from the time I get home until noon. Then I go to the living room and turn on that room's radio, which is tuned to WEPR out of Greenville, South Carolina. WEPR plays Whad'ya Know with Michael Feldman from noon until 1 PM, which is when I turn that radio back off and go turn the kitchen radio back on to continue with WQCS's programming.

Fortunately for me, my house is very small and both radios can be heard easily from anywhere in the house.

The reason I have radios in different rooms tuned to different stations is, WCQS only comes in clearly if the radio is in the kitchen. WEPR only comes in clearly if the radio is in the living room. Rather than unplugging the radio from the wall every time I want to switch stations, I just use two radios.

Now I have a headache and need to stop looking at a computer screen. Time to take Rocko out for a bit and then I'll take a nap. Only two more nights until my weekend!


150 years ago this morning: Abraham Lincoln died of his wounds

John Wilkes Booth shot the President in the head on the night of 14 April 1865 at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC.

Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln were at the theater to see the English play, "Our American Cousin", which centers around an English family visited by a long-lost American cousin. Culture clash and hilarity ensue!

John Wilkes Booth was an actor and knew when, in the course of the production, the biggest laugh would come from the audience. He planned to use that commotion to mask his derringer's report.

I commemorate the death of a great President, Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of these United States of America, and cannot help but wonder how the South's fortunes might have been different had he lived out his second term as President.

Surely the racism would still have been there, it remains today; the KKK would have risen just as it did, founded by former Confederate officers. Jim Crow and lynchings still would have occurred during the early 20th century.

But I like to think that things would have been a bit better had Lincoln survived. Andrew Johnson, the drunken buffoon, made things worse in the short term.



This video shows flies getting zapped by bug zappers, in slow motion.

I'd like to see a video of a bug zapper at night.

Thirty-some years ago, my folks had a bug zapper. At that time we lived in a low, wet area with swampy woods just outside the yard. There was a slow-moving creek in the woods that fed a pond. In other words, we lived in a mosquito's paradise. Much of the county was likewise wet and buggy. In the end, my dad deduced correctly that the UV light was bringing in more mosquitoes and other insects than we would already have had (which was more than plenty, thank you very much).

Many times, in many places, I have heard people complain about how bad the mosquitoes are wherever we may be, and of course they tout how large their mosquitoes are, but a few years in Gananda, NY gives you perspective. I've never experienced such dense swarms of such large mosquitoes anywhere else that I've lived. I know that they are worse in Canada. Cold-climate skeeters have a short season to work with so they have to be big and bad.

Fortunately we did not have black flies in Gananda because there was no water around that moved quickly enough to support their larval and pupal stages. I've been fortunate, so far in my life, in that I have never lived where black flies were noticeably present.

In other news, I fixed and renamed the link for NOAA's space weather website on the sidebar to the right of this page.

Radio reception at my house, and even in my car, has been exceptionally poor for the last few days. So much so that I just shut the radio off and listen to podcasts. About a half-hour ago I remembered that I had a space weather link and fired up my web browser. There was no link saved in my browser but I knew that I had put a link to it on the Council of Lemurs sidebar.

Alas, a 404 error was the response to my click, though it was a custom one with an explanation that the website had been rejiggered (sorry about the technobabble). I found the correct link using Google and fixed the sidebar.


150 years - the Union is preserved!

Today is the 150th anniversary of General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Once Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia, most of the other Confederate commanders across the South did the same without much delay.

The Union was preserved, slavery was abolished, and that is as it should be. The aftermath, well, that ended up in the hands of Andrew Johnson and it did not go as well as it should have, but the Union survived and slavery did not return.

Anybody who tells you that slavery was not a significant reason for the South's secession should read the Articles of Secession for each of the several Confederate states. They all make slavery a primary cause for secession.

at this moment, 150 years ago today

General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was fighting its final battle.