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.


what do I eat?

As little as possible, as rarely as possible.

That was my sister-in-law's question, and my initial answer, last fall. She was trying to decide what to include in my Christmas food drop.

Today I made a little list.

The things I can be counted on to prepare and eat most of the time: Eggs, dairy, wheat bread, bagels, sausage, peanut butter, jelly or jam, breakfast cereal, pasta with tomato sauce, nuts, sugar, onions, garlic, tomatoes, mayonnaise, yellow mustard, ketchup, hot sauce.

Things I probably won't prepare and eat, even though I don't object to them: rice, dried beans, canned beans, green beans, peas, corn, mushrooms, pad thai (packaged like pasta, but has the taste and texture of chicken noodle soup noodles; nasty with spaghetti sauce).

Things I won't eat under any circumstances: fish, shellfish (anything that lives underwater, basically), liver, artificial sweeteners in any quantity whatsoever, cilantro (tastes like soap).

I just took an inventory and I have 15 cans of Green Giant corn and 12 of green beans. It's unlikely that I'll eat all of this before it goes out of date; in fact, 7 of the cans of corn went out of date last October so I can't even give them to a food drive.

I also have about 10 lbs. each of rice and flour. I don't bake anymore, ever, so I have little use for the flour. I don't like to cook rice because it always comes out sticky or overly juicy, and it is too bland for my tastes anyway. My "meals" are boring enough already.

I feel bad that so much food is going to waste, but as I said at the top of the page, I eat as little as possible, as rarely as possible. I do not buy fresh fruit or vegetables anymore because they end up rotten and in the compost pile.

Without the assistance of cannabis, I rarely have any appetite at all; this week I might get an appetite on Friday, because it is payday and I'll be able to smoke a bit. Today I ate a cinnamon raisin bagel around noon, though I wasn't really hungry. It had been on the shelf for about a week and I thought it might go moldy if I didn't eat it. Other than that, I've had a cup of coffee and about a half-liter of water, and I'm not hungry at all.


palm sunday

In honor of Palm Sunday, I changed the teabags in my sneakers.

Not really. I changed the teabags and then remembered what day it is.

In case you are wondering, I use teabags to eliminate the stench from my sneakers. The shoes are only a few months old, but my feet stunk them up quickly. Dry tea bags, two or three, in each shoe (when I am not wearing them). I tie the strings together up near the tags so I can handle them as a unit. The tea absorbs the odors and I use the same bags for months at a stretch.


I met a nice lady

After almost two and a half years, I think I'm ready for another relationship.

There is a nice little lady - she makes me feel tall, and I'm only 5'6" - who comes into my store around midnight every other Thursday. That's when her paycheck hits the bank, so she comes into get cash from the ATM and do a little shopping.

The first time I saw her I thought she was simply adorable. Over the months we have chatted at the cash register and she has really grown on me. About 5 years my junior, she works as a med tech in the next county, on the second shift, so we both have odd sleep schedules.

A couple of weeks ago I found her on Facebook and send a friend request, after which I avoided Facebook until she came into the store five days later and told me that she had accepted it. I reacted with surprise and joy; she said, "you didn't see it?" and I responded, "I've been scared to look!" She gave a funny laugh that made me think that she might be interested in me too.

Last week she came in and said that her schedule had changed and she would have the next five days off from work. "Any plans?" I asked, and she said no. "Hit me up on Facebook," she said with a smile as she went out the door.

And so I did.

After a couple of Facebook messages, I gave her my phone number so we could be in better contact.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon together at a park in Waynesville. Her son, in his early 20's I suppose, goes there because there is a skate park next door but she has to drive him. I brought Rocko and we just hung out by the creek and talked until dusk. Rocko was, as usual, the best dog in the world, even with all the people going past on the walking trail with their own dogs.

Annette (my new lady friend) had a leaky tire on her car, which we noticed had lost a lot of air while we were talking. I asked if she had a spare, and she said "I sure hope so!" Her car is a Saturn Vue, and the spare is hidden under a couple of panels in the trunk area. I had to dig out the owner's manual to figure out how to liberate it, but we got it out and I changed her tire.

I have to work a bit to avoid comparing Annette to Lisa, at least in her presence, as a gesture of respect, but I can't help seeing parallels and contrasts.

Lisa and I also met in a park for our first date. Both Lisa and Annette are intelligent women (although I'd be unlikely to be with an unintelligent woman). Lisa was the tallest girl in Haywood County, whereas Annette is one of the shortest.

And now I'm done comparing and contrasting.

I hope that this new relationship goes beyond friendship, but I don't want to be pushy. Speaking of pushy, Rocko is telling me that we need to go outside for a while. Always trust the dog, I say.


happy vernal equinox 2015, y'all

At 6:45 PM EDT today we enter the Spring, or vernal, season.

After a rather cold winter, wherein the ground was frozen unusually late, the daffodils have exploded all at once rather than piecemeal as they tend to do here. The mountainsides are gradually acquiring hints of green.

Rocko and I climbed Sam Knob on Wednesday; it is a fairly easy hike and a good way to start the climbing season. There were a lot of people on the mountain that day, which is why I usually head out a lot earlier than we did that day. "Get out there before it gets hot and before the crowds show up" is my hiking motto.


this is a big year for solar system exploration

We will be visiting our best-known dwarf planets, Ceres and Pluto, for the first time this year. (Ed. note: I believe they prefer to be called "little planets".)

The Dawn spacecraft arrived at Ceres today. You can read more at NASA's Dawn Blog. I've added that blog to my Recommended Reading list (in the right-hand sidebar) so it should bubble back up the list as new entries are posted.


the new Chevrolet ... "Bolt"?

Who gives the final OK for automobile model names?

There is an article at GasBuddy.com about Chevrolet's latest electric car. Most of the comments from readers criticized the car's value and range. I didn't read the article; I couldn't get past the headline: "After the Volt...along comes GM's Bolt"

Technical and bang-for-your-buck shortcomings aside, the first image that comes to mind for me when I see or hear the word "bolt" is, well, a bolt, as in the common threaded fastener by that name.

A big rusty bolt.

That's what came to mind when I saw the title of the article, and I thought, "why, oh why would they give a car a lame name like that? Is the article from the Onion? Is it an SNL skit?"

Of course, I'm sure they probably mean to evoke speed and agility, i.e. the verb "to bolt," but what I get is a sensation of weight and possibly a rusty orange hue.

Maybe I'm in the linguistic minority here, but I rarely hear "bolt" used as a verb. Once in a while. But not often. Once in the past year, to be precise, and I can't tell you when I last heard it prior to that.