Monday, September 24, 2018

Going to the library

A few days ago I went to the library to pick up a book I'd requested. When I'd looked it up online, I found it wasn't in my local library's collection, so I searched in the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium's catalog, but it wasn't there either. Not to worry -- the Commonwealth Catalogue links to every library in the entire state of Massachusetts! Sure enough, I found not one but two copies of the book (a collection of stories by Roger Zelazny), requested it, and in a couple days' time got the email notice it was in at my local library waiting for me.

So that day, as I say, I went to the library to get it. Smiled at a little girl in mom's arms leaving as I headed to the front door; chatted a bit with the librarian as I checked out; walked out with a big smile on my face....

And realized, by golly, every time I go to the library it makes me happy. It's my happy place.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Tribute to a Schoolie

Schoolies are the drudges of the horse world. They're the horses folks learn to ride on, treading endless circles around dusty arenas, carrying every level of skill from clueless beginners to intermediates working toward their own private horse. They learn to tune out the leg flopping, rein yanking, unsteady balancing of their passengers; they tolerate bad riding that would goad a higher-strung equine into rebellion; they figure out evasions that test the patience of students while helping to teach them the skills to cope with such tricks; they sort through beginners' conflicting signals yet respond to proper aids; and the best of them can pony-ride-pack a tiny kid patiently yet come alive to the sensitive aids of a rider who knows how to communicate with them. Horses hardly ever start life as a schoolie; usually it's a step down (or many steps down) from whatever career they were bred and raised to pursue.

Drudges, yes -- also the unsung heroes of the horse world. As the modern world moves farther and farther from the past of horses being an integral part of life, they're the first step for ever more folks who want to learn to ride, perhaps eventually to have a horse of their own. They bring delight to the students who ride them -- and yes, at times frustration, but that's part of the education they offer. They become the cherished friends of children (and adults too) who dream of horses and live for trips to the barn, for grooming and treating and hugging and loving their giant equine buddy. They teach more than riding; they teach hard work -- in learning to ride well, in the labor of their care -- and sometimes they teach hard lessons in life's realities.

Finny was a school horse at the barn where my horse Ben boards: a short, round, sturdy red and white pinto with an abundant forelock and mane, an amiable disposition, a trot way bigger than he was, and a calm willingness to tote any rider safely around the ring, from tiny beginners to more or less competent adults. He knew his job and did it well, always with an eye out for treats (of course!), and was adored by all, especially his own pet girl (and every horse, but even more a schoolie, deserves his own pet girl to worship and pamper him).

Finny had to be put down Thursday, when the cancer infesting his sinuses reached the point where it was time to let him go. He passed over the bridge calmly, peacefully, amidst those who loved him.

He will be missed.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Alas, Poor Squash

Poor little Squash. Today was a very not fun morning for him.

Shortly after breakfast I snatched him from his comfortable perch in his cage complex, stuffed him in a carrier, and hauled him off to….

THE VET!!!!!

…for a checkup and claw-clipping. Not only was he mauled and oppressed by the Evil Vet and Evil Vet Tech (with bonus evil visiting vet student!) but then abandoned by his cruel owner! Left with the Evils for a couple of hours to calm down enough to get a usable blood pressure reading.

When I collected him at last he was still clinging to life. Evil Vet informed me that his BP was normal. His weight’s down a pound or so from his last visit but he’s still in good flesh, including a pleasingly plumpish round belly. The urine had a bit of red cells in it but the needle extraction could have nicked a capillary, so he may or may not have a low-grade infection; test results will show what’s up. He had blood drawn and I should be getting those results back tomorrow. His teeth need cleaning but at 16 and with failing kidneys I’m hesitant to have him undergo general anesthesia for it. Bottom line, he’s reasonably healthy for his age and medical status.

So I got the poor guy home, extracted him from the carrier, and inserted him back into his refuge, where he scuttled slowly around for a bit, then settled down and waited for lunch. He seems to have recovered from his harrowing ordeal.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

My failing memory

I’ve just been reminded of an apparently heroic deed I did years ago, and I can’t remember it. Given the drama involved, that’s a bit surprising.

It was maybe fifteen years ago, at the barn where I was boarding my horse. A woman there had a youngish (five or six years old) Thoroughbred gelding, a well-trained, well-mannered, good-minded horse when she bought him. Within a couple of months, through mishandling, crappy riding, and late-night drunken beatings in his stall, she’d turned him into a murderous lunatic.

People tried to help her, tried to save the horse with advice, instruction, admonishments. She refused to listen. She continued to ride him, longe him, and abuse him.

What follows is what I was told happened one day; as I say, even after being reminded of the incident I can barely scrape up a few wisps of memory, and they’re mostly of her pigheaded stubbornness and cruelty.

One day she was longeing Dash in the ring, whipping him as usual, when suddenly he charged her, hellbent on murder, and knocked her down. I’m told I raced into the ring, grabbed the longe line near his halter despite his flailing forelegs, and forced him back away from her long enough for her to scramble out of the ring.

How I then got away from him and escaped injury, I don’t recall, nor how I felt afterwards, though no doubt it was the normal adrenalin crash into sick shakiness. Looking back with the cold calmness of distance, I almost regret doing it, since if ever a person deserved what was going to happen it was her. And yet, as the person who reminded me of this said, you don’t think; you just do what has to be done in the moment.

This woman eventually left the barn and took poor Dash with her to her home nearby. (I omit some other awfulness related to her as not germane to this story.) We learned sometime later that she’d ridden him out into the woods and been thrown and badly injured. All I could feel then was satisfaction at her finally paying some price for her cruelty, and pity for the poor horse who would of course be blamed for the consequences of her folly. Knowing how far beyond salvaging he was at that point I could only hope that he was given a merciful release from his suffering and put down.

So, as noted, I remember some of the details surrounding the episode, but the heroic deed itself is basically a blank in my mind still. Lord knows I can recall with annoying clarity so many dumb or embarrassing moments from my past, so why can’t I remember this?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

When it rains, it pours....

My primary laptop, a Dell over ten years old, had begun showing signs of instability, climaxing in a crash. I was able to turn it back on and it worked as usual, but I decided to take it in to my local computer shop, and have them swap out the hard drive -- an almost new solid state drive I'd replaced the original with less than a year ago. Plus swapping it got me a newer machine but with my preferred Windows 7 OS and all my settings preserved.

Fortunately I have a backup laptop, a Gateway. Given I run my business via email and do a lot of proofreading checking of names and terms via Google, plus need to run printers and scanners, redundancy is a no-brainer. So I fired up the backup, and did some websurfing before settling down to work.

Everything was going fine, when suddenly as I was moving the cursor to click on a favorite link.... BAM! I'm hijacked to a "Windows support" page, with a dire warning, on screen and being monotonously repeated by a woman's voice, that I'd been redirected to a pornographic website and had five minutes to call the number on the screen so that a technician could walk me through how to free myself.

I could move the cursor but nothing else worked -- couldn't even get to the shut off button. So I took out the battery. When I put it back in and turned the laptop back on, the same damned screen and voice came up. I debatteried again, put it back in, and tried starting in safe mode. It came up in limited form, but when I tried clicking on the Firefox icon, it opened on a page with a clearly porn URL. Shut it off and hauled out a notebook with Windows 10 on it (which I hate; my working computers are Win7) and used it for whatever work checking I needed to do.

Sigh. Off I went to the computer shop the next morning, where I was able to collect my rehoused primary laptop, and left the prisoner of porn site to be reamed out and restored. That laptop happens to be one I hadn't installed Adblock on since I rarely use it for web browsing, but since I suspect I got the infection from my cursor dragging over an infected ad (I certainly wasn't clicking on any unknown links!) I'll for sure install that when I get the machine back sometime next week.

You don't want to know what this is costing me. And out of an abundance of caution last night I logged onto my desktop (yes, I have three Internet-connected computers, plus two ancient XP machines offline but still functioning) and changed a bunch of passwords, just to be safe -- so now I've had to change them on the returned laptop, and will have to go through all that when I get the Gateway back.

Ah, computers, how much easier they've made our lives....

Saturday, March 3, 2018

After the Storm

So the bomb cyclone that hit my north of Boston town is drawing away at last, leaving havoc and devastation all along the coast of New England (not to mention states farther south). Good riddance, I say!

I lost power midmorning on Friday, got it back a couple of hours later, then lost it for good a little after 7:00 p.m. -- an outage, I learned later, that hammered pretty much the entire eastern half of Essex County. Fortunately it was a rain event rather than snow, so we didn't get buried under a foot of the white stuff; but the wind, oh, the wind! Howling and roaring, gusting massively, trees thrashing wildly, hour after hour after hour....

Luckily for me, I had discovered just a few days ago that my old storm lantern, in which I'd foolishly left the batteries, was ruined and unsalvageable, so I'd bought a new LED lantern just in time for this storm. Also fortunate, I have a gas stove and a box of wooden matches so I could cook and heat water for tea and dishwashing. I put perishable food in a plastic box out on the deck, which provided a great opportunity to do that thorough cleanout and cleaning of the fridge I'd been meaning to get around to -- hey, a silver lining to the storm clouds!

I was able to read reasonably well by daylight and lantern light; I went to bed much earlier than usual last night and slept well; my well-insulated condo, with its newish windows and new front door, sandwiched between flanking townhouses, never dropped below about 57 degrees; and I managed not to fall and kill myself tripping over Peanut. It was annoying and a pain in the butt but nowhere near as awful as a lot of other people suffered.

The power came back on late this afternoon as dusk was gathering, hurrah! I could see to feed the cats; I could see to plate the prepared food that I'd put back in the fridge and nuke it in the microwave; I caught up on email; and oh, the marvelous feeling, I had my first shower since Thursday evening!

Gotta go out tomorrow and shop for a second (hopefully brighter) lantern and a headlamp that isn't so old it's too faint to be worth a damn. After all, there's another storm forecast to come barrelling in midweek....

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Adventures in Blood Donation

Last week I went to give blood and got considerably more than a thank you and a can of cranberry juice.

I’ve donated many times before and this time all the usual things happen – proper predonation food and water intake at lunch, intake assessment all fine (blood pressure a healthy 100/70-ish), no problems with the needle stick, outflow, or post-donation wrapup. So it’s time to get up and go to the table and chairs at the far end of the room for the snack and drink before leaving.

I sit up slowly, dangle my feet for a bit, and carefully slide off the table – I do have mild positional vertigo when I get up from lying down; at age almost 69 I expect it, it’s no big deal. I lean lightly on the table waiting for the short bit of vertigo to go away.

It does not. I lean harder on the table, my forearms braced on it, wondering why it’s taking so long. The attendant watches me closely. Another staffer brings me one of those little cans of cranberry juice and they ask me how I’m feeling. I’m not feeling so good, to tell the truth, but “Just a little positional vertigo, I’m sure it will go away....”

Someone says “Let’s get you a chair.” “Oh, no, I’m sure it’s nothing....”


I’m sitting in the chair, the juice can has vanished, and three people are standing around me bracing me. Now I’m definitely not feeling right, but what the heck...? “Better get a table,” one says, and one leaves and comes back pushing a padded donation table. “I don’t really think I need to....”


I’m lying flat on my back on the floor, knees raised, feeling weak and light-headed. Cold wet compresses lie across my forehead and neck. A staffer is sitting beside me, gently rocking my knees side to side. “Don’t try to get up. Just lie still and take your time.” She continues rocking my knees and watching me. Gradually the out-of-it feeling ebbs away. When she’s satisfied my color is better (apparently I’d gone ghost-white, lips and all), she gets up but tells me to continue lying there for a bit longer.

After a few more minutes I’m definitely feeling better. She and another staffer help me up and the two walk me down to the recovery area, prop me on a padded table with my back against the wall, hand me another can of cranberry juice, and leave me to continue my voyage back to normal (while keeping an eye peeled my way).

Another five or ten minutes later I’m fine – other than the mental anguish, of course, but physically everything’s functioning, so with their approval I put on my jacket and go home – where I discover one of the fun things about passing out that they never show you in the movies:

I’d pissed myself. Yup, it seems that bladder control is one of the things that’s rendered inoperative when you faint. Who knew? Not me, anyway. Good thing I’d peed just before donating, so the flood wasn’t much, and I was wearing dark pants.

I feel a bit dragged out and slowed down but otherwise all right for the rest of the day. I go to bed early and sleep nine and a half hours, and feel okay but tired for the rest of that day. After that I’m totally back to what passes for normal at my age.

So, that was my big adventure in Red Cross Land. I’ve been a donor for many decades and this has never happened to me before. Now I’m spooked, though, and wondering whether I should ever risk donating in the future. I sure don’t want to go through that again.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Another Adventure In Horsekeeping

You know you're a horseperson when:

You watch thick yellow pus streaming out of a hole in the sole of your horse's foot....

And celebrate, celebrate!

Yes, poor Ben has had an abscess in his left front foot for over a week now. Not too bad at first, but very painful since Friday, despite regular soaking and wrapping with drawing agents, so on Saturday I got the vet in (emergency call rate$$$$, sigh), who found a spot, carefully excavated till he got some drainage, then soaked it, rewrapped it, and said if Ben wasn't markedly better by Monday it would be time to do some x-rays to try to pinpoint the abscess.

Monday rolls around, Ben's still very lame, and so it's another vet visit, a set of x-rays (that was fun; we had to get Ben to put both front feet up on blocks; good thing he's so mild-mannered, well trained, and willing) and: ta-daa! There on one shot, a shadow around two sides of the coffin bone, its pointy end heading down toward the sole. The vet excavated carefully, and....

Yes! Pus! Lovely yellow pus running out!

The vet expressed as much pus as would emerge, then Ben had another good soak in Epsom salts and betadine, followed by a good slather of drawing salve and rewrapping in the usual fashion -- a pad over the salve, then the absorbent part of a disposable diaper, thoroughly strapped on with vet wrap, and finished off with a duct tape bootie.

Ben's still ouchy, which is to be expected, but he's way more comfortable, more willing to move, and more at ease doing it. He got a gram of bute in his midday beet pulp mash, and will for the next few days of stall rest while we wait for the drainage to finish and the healing to proceed. More soaking and wrapping! When he's finally ready to go out again we'll probably boot him rather than putting his shoe back on, at least for a week or two.

Ben and I are both so relieved!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Here We Go Again....

So the Daylight Savings Time clock shift happens once again, as it does like clockwork (ha!) twice each year. And once again, people howl and yowl in outrage over this terrible, awful, no-good upending of the natural order.

* shrug * Clock time is artificial anyway. The ancient Romans had a 24-hour day, but hours that varied in length depending on the time of year and thus length of daylight. So shifting our own artificial construct one hour this way or that on a regular annual schedule seems rather small beer in comparison, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


How to ruin your day: Realize after a couple of hours of running often to the bathroom that it's not because you drank so much water at lunch, then had coffee....

Nope. You're brewing a UTI, sigh.

And your doctor can't fit you in today, his office says. But....

There's an urgent care walk-in center a couple of towns away. Just a 20 or so minute drive....

So out you go, into the rain and the midafternoon traffic, and find the place with only one wrong turn, hurrah. More hurrah -- there aren't many people waiting, and you get seen in less than half an hour, and the staff are all friendly and competent, and you leave with a prescription phoned in to your hometown pharmacy....

And drive the 20 or so minutes back home in the rain and mid to late afternoon traffic, and only have to wait ten minutes or so at the pharmacy to get your Macrobid antibiotic, plus! the AZO that will ease your symptoms -- well worth the screaming orange pee you'll be pissing. And you throw in some cranberry concentrate pills while you're there, because why not?

And then you go home, eagerly suck down your first AZO dose, decide to wait a couple/three hours to start the Macrobid because it's every 12 hours and you need to time it for your usual get-up time....*

And try to carry on with the day's workload of proofreading, the care and feeding of the cats, and life in general despite what your urinary system is doing to you....

*I have been known, when prescribed a four times per day drug, to take a midnight dose, then set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. for the next dose, then go back to bed and sleep till my normal 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. get-up time. Yes, I am that persnickety.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Busy Busy Busy

Huzzah! My painter finished the last two walls of the living room yesterday! I've been slow-rolling through repainting much of the condo, doing it in stages because of all the books and other crap I have to move for every wall. But now it is DONE and I am happy with the results.

It's been a busy last couple of years for this 30-plus-year-old dwelling (I've been in it since fall 1996). Over the two-decade span I've replaced all major appliances, including the furnace and hot water heater, but so far in this recent two-year stretch I've replaced:

- the windows

- the front door

- the central air conditioning compressor

- the outside electrical outlet for the compressor

- most of the carpeting

- the overhead light fixtures (now all LED)

- the washing machine

- the smoke alarms

- the toilets

- the bathroom cabinet

- the bath and half-bath faucets

- the over-kitchen-sink light fixture

I've also had an additional handrail installed for the first to second floor stairs so now there's continuous rails on both sides all the way up, and had a leaky old garbage disposal removed and plain piping installed, since I now compost food waste. My recliner is scheduled for pickup on Thursday to go be reupholstered.

With the new carpeting and repainting there, plus attractive new shelving, new larger laundry folding table, colorful area rugs pulled from storage, and some pictures hung on the walls, the basement has gone from a, well, basement to a real room.

Oh, and I've had a junk man come and take away some stuff that had been cluttering the place, also gave away a lot of stuff via Freecycle, donation bins, etc.

So what's left for a project-mad homeowner to do? Well, the first and second floor decks desperately need repainting (including power washing and heavy sanding prep), but that's not happening this year; my rehab budget is tapped out. I'm also eyeing one patch of flooring in the entry I'd like to change....

Being a homeowner is so much fun!

Monday, September 4, 2017

A Litter Box Surprise

When you've got indoor cats, you've got litter boxes. When you've got litter boxes, you've got to clean them. When you've got to clean them, you find poop.


How often do you find a poop tower? Not several discrete turdlets piled more or less neatly into a pyramid, no, no. Not even one long turd spiraling up like so much soft-serve ice cream (sorry...).

Nope. I'm talking vertical turditude. One solid giant excremental deposit, at least three inches long, nearly an inch wide at its base and tapering only slightly to its blunt-cone tip, lodged an inch deep in the level expanse of litter, standing up straight and proud.

I gazed at the collection of possible culprits gathered around me for breakfast, eyebrow raised in inquiry. They ignored the eyebrow and continued insisting they were about to expire RIGHT NOW of starvation and neglect, then waddled joyfully after me as I sighed and went on to the kitchen.

I never did find out whodunit.

P.S. Yes, I did think of photographing it and sharing its glory, but TMI, folks....

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Modest Proposal

Massachusetts approved recreational marijuana use by referendum last fall, and since then the legislature has been struggling over how to rewrite the law to suit a lot of factions -- the hike the referendum tax rate side, the make it easier for towns to block retailers side, the make it so screwed up it can't work at all side, even some the people decided so stop trying to derail it side.

Anyway, the lege finally came out with a rewrite today. I haven't checked it out yet, so I don't know how thoroughly they've mucked it up, other than I'm pretty sure they jacked up the tax rate -- way to go, guys and gals, way to make illegal sales more attractive!

Anyway, while all this was pending, I was listening to WGBH's radio show Boston Public Radio where they were discussing this. Co-host Margery Eagan had a wonderful idea: So certain cities and towns want the right to block pot retailers from opening up shop within their pristine limits? Fine -- but don't distribute a penny of the tax proceeds to them. Let all the revenue go to the municipalities that do allow pot shops. After all, if marijuana is going to have all those horrible no good scary dreadful EEK!!! effects, then they should get all the millions of dollars the evil weed brings in.

Works for me!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What the...?

I have a small gardening mystery, a volunteer flowering plant that’s popped up in two planter boxes out on my deck.

I have four planter boxes on my deck railings and a round container on a plant stand. I used to put annuals in them, but over the years I noticed that moss was self-planting and decided to let it stay. Eventually I decided to let nature take its course, so that now the three long boxes have long-ago-planted sedum (three varieties) that have spread to fill them over the moss, the short box and the round planter have mostly moss with a few stray other plants that somehow found a home – a clump of strappy grass stems, a bit of fern in the round and a bit of evergreen in the short – and a tiny little shamrock-looking plant pokes its head up here and there in small clusters. It’s basically a sprinkling of random weeds among the sedum and moss, but I like it. Plus, everything survives the winter, no matter how bitter, without any special care, ditto for harsh dry summers.

Now, though, I have a new arrival, a bizarre-looking stem with a cluster of pink starry flowers on top. What on earth could it be?

Update: Found them! They're sedum flowers. Apparently one of the varieties I have will decide to fling up a stem of blossoms now and then.

Update two: But wait! These may not be sedum flowers after all -- further Googling leads me to believe they're hen and chick (sempervivum), another succulent plant I have a few of scattered among the boxes. Alas, once the blooming is over, that plant, its purpose fulfilled, will die. More:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book Report

I’m currently reading a delightful book by Am Stewart called “The Drunken Botanist”, all about the wonderful, wildly diverse ways in which plants and humans together have created alcoholic beverages. The Amazon listing gives a good description:

I highly recommend going for the hardcover edition, not only for the illustrations but also because it’s a gem of the bookbinder’s art. I have two other of Amy Stewart’s books – “Wicked Bugs” and “Wicked Plants” – that are equally good, in presentation and content.

Not only is “The Drunken Botanist” fascinating and illuminating – I never knew that…! – it’s also often funny. Here’s just one bit:

“The science of fermentation is wonderfully simple. Yeast eat sugar. They leave behind two waste products, ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. If we were being honest, we would admit that what a liquor store sells is, chemically speaking, little more than the litter boxes of millions of domesticated yeast organisms, wrapped up in pretty bottles with fancy price tags.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It All Comes Down To This

So, this is what untold millions, nay, billions of dollars and lifetimes of intense scientific and technical endeavors went into creating: A Facebook page devoted entirely to pictures of sleeping cats.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Obsolete? I Think Not

On a blog I frequent the topic of obsolete jobs arose, in the context of coal mining dying despite what anybody says about reviving it. One person observed:


The problem with this example is that welders can still get work. Their skills are still in some demand.

The problem is that many traditional livelihoods being pined after (e.g., coal miner) are more comparable to blacksmithing, and many mourned enterprises are better compared to livery stables.



To which I replied:


Actually, I'd say that blacksmithing has more of a future, in its own niche, than coal mining. Between economically extractable resource exhaustion, automation, and declining demand, coal is going down. The need for farriers to shoe working, sport and pleasure horses, however, continues.

Stats are hard to come by since the US Dept. of Agriculture stopped tracking the number of horses and mules nationwide (around 26,000,000 in 1915) but there's still an estimated 9.3 million of them out there today, with about 3.9 million used for pleasure riding. Others race, compete in other equestrian sports, herd cattle, carry police and other public service personnel, pull tourist buggies, and yes, even serve instead of tractors in farming and logging. (Also -- like my own horse -- serve as large expensive useless pets, often retired from work, but still decorating their paddock.) And most of them need to be shod about every six weeks. Even horses that go barefoot usually need to have their hooves trimmed on a regular basis, another service that farriers provide.

So, yes, there's plenty of work still out there for those who (after a suitable apprenticeship) want to be their own boss and set their own schedule with a steady stream of work from repeat customers. And who are willing to drive multiple miles per day to bring their forge truck, with its multitude of blank shoe stock sizes, multitude of tools, hundreds of nails, portable anvil, portable furnace, and other accoutrements they must invest in up front to their clients' scattered farms and stables and backyards, with more or less convenient areas to work in, at all times of year, in all kinds of weather, getting up close and personal with the often dirt and manure bedecked, powerful legs and sharp-edged hooves of large animals whose attitude toward shoeing ranges from "I'll just doze off here" through "Do I hafta?" through "OMG what was that I must JUMP!" to "Touch my foot and I will kill you", for clients who pay (a) right then, cash, (b) by mailing a check in a day or two, (c) when they think of it, (d) screw you, there's always another farrier. And there's a lot of heavy lifting.

So, yes, there's work to be had, now and into the foreseeable future, for those willing to go through all that. Oh, and be skillful enough, with farriery itself and the handling of their four- and two-footed clientele, to build and retain their business.

At least until their bodies give out.

Addendum: I posted this on Facebook and a friend replied thus:


Gretchen Frevele: Don't forget, beyond the demanding skills required at the forge itself, farrier work means you spend a very significant part of your life bent over. Not the most comfortable position. So yes, that last line is very significant. I have a mini horse. 32" tall at the withers. Absolutely NOT ergonomic to work on.

(My 6'4" vet showed me how to keep him trimmed while he was laid out flat, snoozing off his meds after said vet had just gelded him. It takes two people--one to pet his neck somewhat forcefully to keep him laying down--but that's really the easiest way to work on his feet. If he's up, he's somewhere between "Do I hafta?" and "Oh Hail Naw!")

But in the larger sense, it's a very skilled job. Not something you can pick up in a couple of weeks. And while I don't want to imply that coal mining is JUST digging in the dirt with a shovel, many of the lost jobs are not being replaced with jobs that their people are set up to take on. Either they don't have the money to get the training for them, or perhaps they don't have the right personality. (If you're the sort who "needs" to be moving around, a desk job at a call center is likely to be highly stressful, as one example.) Too often when that "door closes" there is little or no support to help people find the "windows opening" nearby, if such "windows" exist at all. Or it's likely to be perhaps a little more literal. The door represented the size of the paycheck earned, and so did the window. Sure, for the same amount of labor, roughly, one could break one's back mining coal or being a hotel room maid, but which job pays more? (Before you jump at that comparison, my mother worked at several hotels when I was younger. It may not be filthy, but it's real work. And it pays beans.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Confronting a Moral Dilemma

On a walk with a friend a couple of days ago, I happened to glance down at the pavement of the quiet back road we were on and spotted a small gray rectangle -- a gift card, it proved to be when I picked it up. A Visa card from, no denomination indicated on it; just the usual numbers, expiration date, and security code that you'd find on any credit card.

What to do? My friend and I discussed the morality of just pocketing it; a couple walking by with their dog said it wasn't theirs and recommended keeping it; surely, if it had been a fiver or a twenty dollar bill lying there, I'd have kept it without a second thought -- but a gift card? Who knows how much money it might be? Somehow it didn't feel the same. Somehow, pocketing it almost felt like theft. But leave it there for its owner to come back and find? Bloody unlikely, for sure.

So I took it home with me, and left it on the dining table. Picked it up this morning and saw on the back a website URL where one could check the card's balance. What the heck? Might as well. So I went to the site, entered all the information, and....

Thirty bucks. All gone. Probably fell out of someone's trash.

So much for all that moral agonizing.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Making The Change

By now you folks who use Verizon as your email provider have probably received the dread (welcome?) news – they’re getting out of the email provider business and offering transition to either AOL or another provider of your choice. Going to AOL lets you keep your Verizon address and all your contacts, etc., are ported along with that. Choosing someone else comes with no such perks. Just follow a few easy steps and voila!

Sounds simple, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, actually – nothing! So far, anyway. I just did it and ZAP! New AOL account, emails sent and received in a snap, including forwards from my two Gmail addresses, all my inboxful of mail that had been sitting in the Verizon online inbox popping up in the new AOL one.

Phew! Although I shall continue to watch for any signs of problems cropping up, while adjusting to the new world order.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bibliophilia Run Amok

So I finished reading a novel I know I'll never pick up again; it was okay but far from that author's best work, and I won't spend the time on it again. It had sat on the shelf for years, decades, even, unread; it will never come into my hands for reading again. I can always use the shelf space.

So now I should throw the aged, yellowed paperback out. Put it in a donation bin? It'll go straight to the pulp pile.

I should. I really should just chuck the thing.

*little voice in my head* What? Throw away a BOOK?!? How DARE you?!? Heretic!!!!! Barbarian!!!!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Democracy In Action


Just got home a little while ago from town meeting and am struggling to recover from four hot hours crammed into a tiny auditorium seat between a friend and a big burly guy with massive arms, no supper before I left home for it, no food or drink with me, listening to droning town officials reading endless financial details; elderly gadflies niggling over tiny details and demanding "No" votes on essential funding articles; speakers who can't figure out how to use the microphone to be heard; speakers who ramble on incomprehensibly, hopelessly muddling their arguments; speakers who couldn't buy a clue if you fronted them the cash; a moderator who wouldn't rein in speakers to the allotted three minutes, who bollixed up explaining procedural aspects and pending motions -- admittedly, when the question before the meeting is whether to vote to close discussion to vote on an amendment to the motion pending before the meeting, which is worded differently from the article in the warrant, it does get confusing -- in short, town democracy in action in all its messy, boring, frustrating, chaotic glory.

But I did finally get to vote on the issue that brought me there -- the preferred location for a new elementary school -- and my side (don't build it at Bialek Park, the only public open space in town, and next to where I live, build it at Doyon where there's helluva better room!) came out ahead.

In a nonbinding advisory vote after lots of argufying and procedural struggles, essentially meaningless legally but which hopefully will give pause to the school building committee, which is hellbent on Bialek but which needs (among other things) to get a two-thirds approval vote in next October's town meeting to go ahead. The vote was 326 for Doyon to 201 for Bialek, not even close.

The meeting adjourned -- well, I'm sure it adjourned after 11:00, but I and my friend bailed out about 11:00 while the fight over whether to establish a non-civil-service deputy fire chief position still raged. Since less than half the articles on the warrant got dealt with, there'll be another session tomorrow night. There are a couple of articles I'd really like to vote on, but my friend likely is all town-meetinged-out and I don't know if I can take another round.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

More Vet Bills For Ben

Ben's been on a daily dose of phenylbutazone ("bute") for several years to relieve arthritis, primarily in his hocks -- a not-uncommon problem in ageing horses. An unfortunate side-effect of this NSAID given long term can be gastric problems like ulcers, and for several months Ben's had runny fecal discharge soiling his hind end. Other remedies for this having failed, I discontinued his bute a couple of weeks ago, and sure enough, the discharge has dwindled away to almost nothing. He's seemed comfortable without the bute, too, in terms of idling around his paddock.

So far so good, eh? But Hilly has noticed a little stiffness lately, and when I had Ben's long-time vet out to assess his soundness yesterday, his flexion tests went badly. The underlying arthritis, while not overtly crippling him, hasn't gone away, and while he can move around reasonably freely, the vet worries about his ability to get up from lying down -- a real problem he had previously, before his last round of hock injections (analgesic and steroid) and some management changes relieved that.

So what to do? We could do another round of hock injections (his last set were in 2015), which would be good for some number of months but eventually the effect wears off. He could go back on the bute, which does a good job of controlling the arthritis but clearly is doing harm to his digestive system.

Or we can switch him to a new pain control medication, which is the course we're trying. He's being put on an NSAID called meloxicam, which as the linked article explains is less likely to cause gastric upset. The downsides are (a) his dose is 18 pills twice a day, more of a pain in the butt to dispense than one scoop of powdered bute, and (b) it's also more costly -- the several bottles of the pills I picked up at the vet's office today are enough for 15 or 16 days and cost me 50 bucks. On the other hand, hock injections would run me several hundred dollars.

So we'll see how this new med works, and hopefully it will keep him moving freely without chewing up his gut.

A study of meloxicam versus bute:

A good summary of flexion tests:

An excellent article on hock injections:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

And then what happened?

So, two bullets dodged, it appears, in the last week. One you already know about, the purported cardiac scare, which most likely was something else -- perhaps esophageal spasms, said my primary, whom I saw yesterday for a followup. Makes sense, since intermittently I suffer from GERD. I'll be seeing the cardiologist on Thursday, and hope he'll concur.

The other thing I hadn't spoken of here yet. It's this: On the Thursday evening following my hospital overnighter, I was getting out of my recliner (powered by weight shift, not motor), and felt a stab of pain in my left groin. The same kind of pain I'd felt leading up to my left hip replacement. Walking off felt... wrong. Over the next day or two, I continued to have frequent pain in that area, as well as on the outside of the hip and down the thigh, especially after even relatively short bouts of walking, and I noticed that I was toeing my left foot in and swinging the leg oddly inward.

Yikes! Had my fake hip flaked out? Would I need revision surgery? Crap! Nooooooo!!

It was somewhat encouraging that the pain wasn't overwhelming, and that other than the gait oddity and the discomfort the joint appeared to be functioning normally -- I could walk, take stairs, bend over, and so forth. Also, as the days passed, the discomfort seemed to be lessening, and in the last day or two the in-toeing seems to have dwindled away.

I brought this up to my primary yesterday. He said if a replacement goes bad it's normally either right afterward or many years down the line; also that, as I'd thought, if apparatus or bone had broken down I should be in a heckuva lot more pain. He did a couple of manipulations that didn't trouble me other than minor discomfort at the extreme of moving my bent knee inward. I should have been way more hurting if the hip had gone kerblooey, he said.

His take was that it's likely to have been something like an adductor spasm. This is normally a product of overuse but could be a consequence of prolonged sitting, which I've been doing a lot of in recent days, for work and other reasons. In any case, I'll be seeing the orthopedist who did the replacement tomorrow morning; I want the hip x-rayed just to be sure there's nothing more serious going on. But the gradual but real improvement makes me hopeful.

Now, let's hope the old "troubles come in threes" thing is malarkey!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Then this happened

So, not how I'd planned to spend Tuesday.

I spent yesterday afternoon, evening, and overnight in Beverly Hospital hooked up to monitors, to see if my chest and back discomfort were from a heart attack.

Apparently not, as I am a free woman again.

At least the food was remarkably good, and the hospital staff were likewise.

The cats survived my absence thanks to my friend Jean's care. Peanut was the only one in the evening who dared to come out of hiding; Sally also dared for breakfast; so I suspect much of what Jean set out for the others was gobbled up by (as Jean called him) Tyrannosaurus Peanut. Perhaps that's why today he's having a bit of potty woes and vomiting. I expect his intestines will settle down now that I'm home and he's back to his usual feeding routine. Stanley's being more clingy than the others now that I've returned.

And so it goes.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

More Home Improvement!

My townhouse condo has a garage underneath. The original design of these units had the garage portion of the basement going all the way back to the rear wall, leaving one side with just stairs to the first floor and a narrow corridor running beside the garage divider wall, leading to the washer/dryer hookups, furnace, and water heater. The people I bought it from had closed off the rear part of the garage to make a small room the width of the unit and maybe a dozen feet deep from the garage end wall to the back wall, with finished sheetrocked walls hiding the concrete. They put down carpet on the stairs, corridor, and little room.

This added room makes doing laundry a lot easier since I have space for a card table to dump the laundry bag onto and to pile the laundry on when it comes out of the dryer. The room itself is good for storage, and of course has accumulated stuff, including four shelving units, over the years. Meanwhile, the carpet -- a dull maroon with rows of little gray lozenges -- has gotten shabbier and shabbier, as have the boring linen white walls and trim.

A while ago I had the stairway and most of the corridor repainted in basic white with caramel-brown trim. The room was so full of stuff, though, that I left it undone. The redone area looked a lot better, though the carpet didn't go well with the new scheme. The carpet, in fact, looked downright ugly.

So I'm having it replaced, with a tough new carpet in dark brown/black with caramel flakes. It should look great with the white walls and caramel trim. And of course, since I have to move all that stuff to clear the area for the new carpet, I might as well get the rest of the basement repainted -- right?

So over the last week or so I've been moving things to the garage -- which, of course, required moving stuff out of the garage, rearranging stuff staying the in the garage, and in general upending both areas. There've been two trips to the transfer station so far to recycle as much as I can; one big item going out in today's trash, with two more slated to go in the next two weeks; a big bag of chuckouts in today's regular trash bin; and in general a redding up and reconfiguration that both spaces desperately needed. The garage itself wanted sweeping out, and got it today.

The job isn't finished yet; I'm pacing myself, doing an hour here, a half hour there; but this morning I made a huge dent in the project, and looking at the fruits of my labor afterwards was sooooo satisfying.