Friday, November 27, 2015

The perversity of machinery, part the umpteenth

My shredder quit working. Yes, it was plugged in. Yes, the head was seated properly on the bin. No, it refused to work when I turned it on.

Sigh.... Off to the store for a replacement. I don't need it often, but I do need it. So Wednesday I got a new one, hauled it upstairs to the office, and left it in its box till after Thanksgiving.

Today I decided to move the dead shredder to the basement pending finding out how to properly dispose of it. I took hold of the cord and began to lift the head....

And the furshlugginer "on" light blinked to life.

Oh, come on -- really? Yes, really; it ate the sheets I fed it. I turned it off; turned it back on; it lit up again.

So I guess I have two shredders now; one old but still functional machine, one sitting in its box awaiting its turn.

Oh, and remember the scanner/printer that stopped printing for a while, then magically healed itself? It stopped printing again. Still worked fine as a scanner so I left it by my downstairs workstation. Then it had to get piled in the recliner seat during the window installation. When I put it back and turned it on, it hummed, buzzed, clanked, whined, made other carriage-moving sounds -- then seized a sheet of paper and began its little in-and-out alignment dance, ending with ... a printed page. And it's been printing ever since. I daresay it will eventually quit on me again, but this time I have A Plan.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ben Enjoys His Thanksgiving Day

Ben is a happy horse today.

He was turned out in his paddock with his lady when I got to the barn, his midweight blanket already off thanks to the warmth of the day. I put him in the indoor ring for some (relatively) wide-open spaces time. As I'd hoped, after puttering around for a while looking for just the right place, he rolled -- in a far corner close to the wall, of course (in the vast expanse of the arena, he always goes to roll there), and he managed to find the one spot, the one sole, solitary spot, in the whole ring with a road apple pile to roll into. I wasn't worried about him getting cast against the wall, since he never, ever, rolls all the way over; no, he folds down onto one side, does his wallowing, heaves himself upright, paws, and drops again to to the other side.

I left him there while I went to pick some of his paddock. There weren't any horses in the stalls that flank the ring, and although he could see some turned-out horses through a window I knew he'd eventually decide he'd been abandoned to the wolves. Sure enough, after several minutes: "NNNNEEEIIIIGGGGHHHH!!!" Pause. "NNNNEEEIIIIGGGGHHHH!!!" I stopped what I was doing in the paddock and walked over to the gate, trying not to laugh (too much) at the long worried face that greeted me. The poor thing was so relieved to get back to his paddock and his tiny herd (Dora his lady, Levi across the fence).

I finished cleaning part of the paddock, then clipped the leadrope onto Ben, led him into the fourstall and put him on the crossties for a long, dusty grooming -- well, dusty over most of him except for the mucky patch on his left shoulder where he'd rolled onto the road apples. He got curried, body-brushed, his forelock and mane brushed out, and a final going over with the soft brush, finishing with his face. Ben adores such pampering; he was totally relaxed and happy by the end. Also very shiny, even in his fuzzy winter coat.

I put him back in his paddock, fed him his last horse cookies, and departed in a miasma of stinky horse dust.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Good Morning!

What a way to start my morning.

So there I was, lying on my side in bed, half-awake as I wait for the alarm buzz. The bedside TV's on and the early news is droning softly but my eyes are shut. Sally's curled into my belly; Pumpkin's doing library-lion on my hip. All is peaceful....

Chaos erupts! Shrieking yowling exploding cats! A frantic hind paw slashes the side of my face as Sally bolts!

I jerk upright. No cats to be seen, not even the sumfabitch (Stan or Schooner, take your pick) who'd made the sudden lunge from the floor that spooked my bedmates into panicked flight.

And I'm bleeding. Oh, not very much, point-source ooze, really, and a quick lurch to the bathroom, cleanup, antibiotic dabs, and Band-Aids take care of it -- even the ding a quarter of an inch from my (shudder) eye.

The alarm goes off while I'm in there working on my face, so I get to listen to its whiny beeps while I repair the damage.

This is not how I'd intended to start my day.

Monday, November 16, 2015

À la recherche du temps perdu

I was visiting a friend living in Paris back a couple of decades ago. It was a time in Europe when some group or other was occasionally carrying out terrorist attacks. We were having lunch outdoors at a cafe somewhere, don't recall where, in the heart of the city, when a sudden BOOM at some small distance jolted us and the diners around us.

People looked around, wondering. There were nervous titters, some neck-craning in the direction of the blast. I exchanged a grimace and shrug with a woman at a nearby table.

Then we all quietly went back to our meals. Because, really, what else was there to do?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Today's Daring Adventure

So what did I do today?

I rode a horse, that's what I did. I rode Finnegan -- Finny to his many friends -- one of Hilly's schoolies. I hadn't thought I'd ever get on another horse after Royal, what with the massive collection of issues I have about riding these days, physical and mental, but Finny has a sterling reputation for safe, safe, SAFE. Plus he's only about 14.1 hands high. In his winter coat. If you don't pick out his hooves first. He's got a red-brown pinto coat complete with long red forelock on a Fjord-style body (but maybe rounder in the barrel, I kid you not). So, not very far to the ground, and he's built round and stumpy-legged and sturdy, well up to my weight, plus my Aussie security-blanket saddle fits him perfectly.

So, firmly tamping down the usual butterflies, I groomed Finny, tacked him up (let Hilly bridle him since he can be a bit of a pill about that), then took him in the ring and got aboard. He stood politely for mounting (well, Hilly was at his head, but he didn't give her an argument about it) and walked off when requested. I liked his walk; it wasn't Ben's spider-legged big but it was larger than Royal's had been. After a bit I tried some trotting.

Now, I'd been warned that Finny has an amazingly big trot for such a tiny tub, a sort of downsized-Warmblood effect, and he certainly had a lot of energy in it. I found it to be more vertical than forward, though Hilly told me he does tend to dog it in the ring and moves out more on the trail, but I could easily post to it, in fact I found it just as easy to sit to it despite its vigor. He was fun!

After ten or fifteen minutes I asked Hilly if we could ride out, and off we went -- down the driveway, along the road, and up a small side street as far as the driveway up to Yellow House field. Walking all the way, since I was getting a bit tired by then and in any case we were on pavement, but Finny was solid and sensible and clearly wanted to stick right by Hilly's shoulder. Well, as we neared the turn-around point he did try two or three times to see if I'd let him turn for home, but submitted without fuss when I legged him back in line. He also gave me one tiny spook -- one quick head-up step to the side a rank beginner could ride through, then back to placid. He's very good off seat and leg and stops Right. Away. when told "Whoa." I like that in a horse.

By the time we got back I'd been aboard for about 25 minutes, and even at mostly a walk my fat old self had had enough -- but what a delightful ride it was! I definitely want to do this again.

Oh, and Hilly took a couple of photos with her phone of me aboard him but hasn't sent them yet. I'm going to take a camera to the barn tomorrow and try to get a shot or two of him. He's really adorable.

Monday, November 2, 2015

So what did I do with my morning?

I’ve got horse stuff. Lots and lots of horse stuff. Years and years of accumulation cluttering up my basement and garage that’s in fine shape but will never be used by me again. So today I wiped down a bunch of tack, dusted off a bunch of other horsey stuff, and drove it all over to Windrush Farm to donate. To wit:

three English saddle pads
one foam pad
five English bridles with snaffle bits
two Western bridles with snaffle bits
two leather English girths
one pair of stirrup leathers
one plastic tote of summer weight breeches (around eight)
one plastic tote of winter weight breeches (around six)
one pair winter insulated overall pants
one barn jacket
one rain jacket
one fleece vest
one heavy winter horse blanket
two rain sheets
one fleece stable blanket
one fleece cooler sheet
two bucket heaters
one hay bale bag

No partridge in a pear tree – wouldn’t fit in the car.

The woman who helped me unload all this from my car was thrilled. She said a lot of the breeches could be used for their clients who didn’t have/couldn’t afford pants for riding, and most everything else would be useful in their program too. What isn’t can go to an auction to raise money.

And I’ve still got enough stuff that another trip isn’t such a bad idea. It was a lovely drive through lovely New England fall color back country, after all....

Windrush Farm:

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mischief on the Hoof

Ben is a bad boy. Behind that innocent obedient facade lurks mischief.

I visited Ben today, pulled him out of his paddock for a long, relaxing grooming, fed him cookies, and put him back out. Then I sat for a while in my car, doing stuff, when....

Bang. Bang. Not loud, not fast, but bang... bang... from the direction of Ben's paddock.

I looked out the windshield over toward the paddock gate. There was Ben, standing parallel to the fence, pushing his nose in between the gate and gatepost, shoving at the gate. The chain and snap fastener held, though the gatepost wobbled with each shove.

I'm told that Ben makes a habit of testing his gate to see if it's been left unlatched, and has been spotted more than once ambling about the barnyard, nibbling grass or headed for his stall, where he knows there's hay waiting. Apparently (I've never been there to witness it), being an elderly fellow who cares more for fodder than freedom, he doesn't take off running when he's escaped, just goes in search of food.

This behavior is even more clever than you'd at first think, since the gate opens inward and he'd have to figure out how to maneuver it out of his way, rather than just shoving it forward.

I wonder whether Ben bothers when there's snow covering the grass.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

This is getting out of control....

The window man is coming on Thursday to final-measure the windows for manufacturing; I’ll also be able to discuss with him exactly what needs to be cleared away for the installers to work. But why not get a jump on that? I’ve already taken down the blinds, after all. What’s next?

What’s next, yesterday, was hauling out from under the living room windowsill a small three-shelf VCR cartridge storage thingie; plucking out the few tapes I wanted to save; bundling up the rest to chuck out; hauling all the chuck-outs and the shelves to the basement. Then it was on to the tall narrow black bookcase where I kept more VCR tapes. I took them all out and dragged that to the dining area on the front side of the condo.

There I pulled out a three-tier wicker corner shelf from where it nestled next to a three-tier glass-front bookcase; took everything off it, sorted out the keeps/chucks, cleaned it, and found it a new home in a niche next to the china cabinet. (It just fit!) I pushed/pulled the glass-front bookcase and the two-shelf open bookcase next to it (without removing the books) a few inches along the wall, slid the black bookcase into the vacated space, carried all the saved tapes from the living room to the dining area, sorted them into categories, and reloaded the bookcase. Did some dusting and cleaning of every thing and area I’d worked on, and there it was! More prep work done, and the attacked areas looked more open and airy and light.

I looked at the dining table. Hmmmmmmm..... But no. Not right then. Had other things to do and I was tired anyway.

Today, though; today I decided to go ahead and take the central leaf out of the table. After all, it’s just me here, right? It’s not like I’m throwing dinner parties, after all. So I cleared away all the stuff that had accreted on the table (it’s such a convenient place to put stuff down when I come in, after all), wiped it down, then tugged the sections apart and heaved the heavy leaf out. Got it propped next to the closet, then turned back to reassembling my now circular little table; put a judicious selection of stuff back into place; disposed of or rehomed other stuff; and put the two least-damaged chairs back under it.

Ah, yes; least damaged chairs. I inherited the dining set from my mother, who did not have cats. The seats are upholstered, now sadly stained, scratched, and cat-haired; the backs had once had woven wicker inserts, now more or less shredded. Time to replace them! I’ve found an all-wood, hopefully catproof set online at a reasonable price and will be ordering them: Arlington side chairs, black back and legs with a java seat. The veneer on the table is either walnut or dark-brown fruitwood, so they should look okay with it.

So I horsed the two immediate-reject chairs over toward the basement stairs, then turned to put the leaf into the front entry-area closet, opened the door, and....

Half an hour later, the closet floor was swept, the leaf was propped up inside, the Shark vacuum was back in place, and several years’ worth of old plastic UPS delivery-protection bags (you never know when they might come in handy!) were out, either stuffed into one bag for recycling or stuffed with the jackets, scarves, gloves and so forth I’d hauled out of the closet, decided I’d never wear/fit into again, and bundled up for the St. Vincent de Paul collection bins at the church just down the street.

I threw all the bags down the basement stairs, then horsed down the chairs one by one. Now the bags are in the car, the chairs are in the back of the basement waiting for their turn on trash day (only one large item other than the barrel per pickup, so I’ll be doling stuff out for a while), and I am done.

Well, except for tweaking the area rug under the dining table, trying to get rug, table, and chandelier all aligned just right. But other than that, and deciding to wait till tomorrow to vacuum....

Holy guacamole, what a difference in the dining area! So much more room! So much more open and airy and bright it seems! The table looks tiny and I’ll have to get used to that, but it’ll be good discipline to not let stuff accumulate.

Not sure how the cats feel about it, though. Some of them like to perch on top of the china cabinet, and to exit therefrom by leaping down to the table. That’s not going to work so well now – it’s a smaller target and farther from their launching pad. Oh, well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Thank you; I'll do it myself."

I'm going to have seven double-hung windows replaced in my condo, 30+ year old windows that desperately need it. The sale's been made, the installer will be coming out shortly to take final measurements, and then it will be about eight weeks to get them fabricated to be installed in probably mid-December.

Meanwhile, six of the seven are in pairs with blinds that I inherited from the previous owner. Those blinds would need to come down before the new windows can be put in, and the installers don't do that. Given the privacy of my location, sun direction on either side of the building, and so forth, I don't really need them, so might as well take them down now. I kind of dislike them anyhow -- not the bitter hate I have for the old windows, drafty gaps, difficult opening/closing, clumsy metal storms and all, but a casual contempt for their dust-collecting uselessness (the cats have chewed half the cords into oblivion).

Now, taking them down would be a pain in the butt, awkward, and not easy for my fat old self. So I called a contractor who did some minor job for me a few years ago to ask if he'd do it. Sure, he said, but I don't have my appointment book here. I'll get back to you.

Yeh, right. That was several days ago. Screw that. I'm tired of obsessing over it; I'd like to move on to some new target for my OCD, please.

So this morning I hauled the stepstool out of the garage, brushed the cobwebs off it, grabbed a couple of screwdrivers, and DID. IT. MYSELF.

It was indeed an awkward pain in the butt, a strain for my fat old body, I’m sneezing from all the long-neglected dust, I need to change my clothes, my hands are still trembly from the effort – but it’s DONE. The windows are revealed, the hanging plants are back up, and the carcasses are tied up into one long filthy bundle in the basement, awaiting disposal.

I just hope the trash truck will take them away tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

So Very, Very Good

Self-indulgence tonight: I'm treating myself to some aged Gouda. Very aged Gouda. Gouda so aged, it's firm and crumbly when you cut into its intense yet soft orangeness inside the rind; smooth and yet crunchy with crystallization; and the flavor? Deep, rich, complex, worlds beyond any common supermarket Gouda you've ever had, a vintage wine compared to grape juice. I eat it in tiny nibbles, to stretch out the ecstasy as long as possible.

This... is Gouda for the gods.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Miracle Kitten

Two weeks ago this once-feral kitten teetered at death's door: nine weeks old but the size of a kitten half that age, thanks to starvation and the infection burning in the stumps where his lower hind legs should have been -- limbs most probably chewed off at birth by his mother as she bit through the umbilical cord likely wrapped around his feet. He should have died then; he should have died any time in the weeks that followed; but he refused to quit.

He was mere days away from dying when rescued, a feeble, frightened, grubby bag of tiny bones somehow hauling himself through the forest; nursed back to health by his incredibly dedicated fosterer and her equally devoted vet; and now?

Now he's getting pudgy. Now he's bright-eyed and fluffy and playful and throws tiny tantrums when his human mom leaves him. His stumps that oozed pus from skin broken where bone poked through are healed over and he scoots along on his two front feet with pushoffs from his right stump, almost as fast as a normal kitten. He's discovered stair-climbing.

And now he's learning a new skill, thanks to great-hearted well-wishers who made him his very own tiny wheelchair.

And yes, I teared up watching this. I've been following his progress since he was brought in to his foster home, scared, bewildered, in pain, and near-moribund. It still beggars belief that he survived at all, let alone came to thrive. He still has far to go on his recovery, but now I believe he'll make it to a happy, healthy life.

Because he doesn't know he's handicapped. He just knows he's fed, sheltered, loved, and having lots of kitten fun.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Adventures in Cookery!

I haven’t done much cooking in many years, preferring to subsist on salads and the superb prepared foods I can get at the Ipswich Shellfish market, and I was but an indifferent cook when I did do my own meal prep, but lately I’ve ventured into something so simple even I could do it: frittatas.

Armed with “The Good Egg” cookbook, a previous impulse purchase that had been gathering dust for some time, I made my first attempt in an old Joyce Chen pan that was supposed to be nonstick. It wasn’t, alas, at this stage in its life, and I ended up with something far more akin to scrambled eggs, but tasty, filling, and surprisingly easy other than the stuck-on residue. I did not, needless to say, try flipping my frittata, just scavenged a lid from some old pot to cover the pan for finishing.

(Why, yes. Yes, I do have quite an assortment of kitchen stuff – after all, I’ve had decades to accumulate cookbooks and gear for my random spasms of cheffing.)

So – fast, easy prep, fast easy cooking, and good to eat, but that pan just wasn’t doing the job. I needed something better. Once again, Google was my friend, Amazon was my connection, and today I received my prize: a Cuisinart frittata pan set, two interlocking nonstick pans to make cooking and flipping your frittata a snap!

The pans:

And a heck of a good buy they were, too, less than half of list price. I’d used a wooden spoon so far but that was clumsy and not the right tool, so with the pans I bought an Oxo omelet turner:

And so, geared up properly at last, I set about making a frittata to my own recipe: chopped scallions, chopped mushrooms, matchstick carrots, diced sun-dried tomatoes in oil, and a small chicken sausage, also chopped, sautéed together in a bit of olive oil, then covered with the beaten eggs and gently cooked.

And it worked! Nothing stuck! The Oxo omelet turner had just the right flexibility to slide along the curve of the pan’s side under the hardening egg, just the right stiffness to manipulate it, to let liquid egg flow out from the center under the raised edge. Shortly before the frittata was ready to flip I sprinkled it with grated Parmesan and some chopped avocado, cooked it another minute or so, then fitted the second pan on, flipped the whole thing over, and voila! The frittata spiked the landing. A bit more time on the fire, and it was done.

And it was PERFECT. Also delicious. And the pans cleaned up in a jiffy.

That “Good Egg” cookbook has quite a few frittata recipes to explore. Why, armed with my magical Oxo flipper, I might even try making an omelet!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Yes, I Laughed

Oh, Peanut! You poor thing!

He was lying on top of Ted's cage annex with Squash, stretched out on his side, oozing, oozing over the edge....

And fell with a massive THUD flat on his massive side.

And lay there looking stunned for a bit. Then rolled onto his back ("I meant to do that"), then sat up, and has just leaped back up to snuggle into his buddy, purring loudly.

Some few but sufficient inches from the edge.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Welcome to my world!

This is my living room proofreading setup, established in the months leading up to my hip replacement in early 2013, when sitting in a task chair for hours in my upstairs office became too painful. It began with one laptop and one printer/scanner and has grown to this -- all of which gets used; it's not just OCD spare-hoarding. That's Schooner in the recliner, right where he insists on burrowing even when I'm in there, though with me he prefers lying on his back, the better to snag my arm for attention. That blue cylinder next to him is the pillow he reposes on when I'm hogging most of the seat.

My lapdesk and the pillow it rests on sit atop my proofing draft pile (not much in this photo) on the old revolving bookcase scavenged from a family attic many years ago. The rear laptop runs the printers/scanners and sends/receives jobs; the front laptop handles the Google research, backs up email, does photo editing, and in general is surf city. It can also run the printers/scanners if necessary.

The printer/scanner in this June photo's foreground is the infamous Epson, so prone to scanner failure and eventual demise, now banished upstairs to mere rarely-used backup printer existence. Its replacement is the Lexmark it traded places with, yes, the very machine whose printer function died, then mysteriously revived sua sponte. Why, yes -- yes I do have a lot of hardware. Well, why not? If it needs replacing but is still useful for something, why throw it out? This is why I still have an XP desktop in the upstairs office, vintage 2004, no longer online but still faithfully performing a handful of tasks.

In the lower left corner is a corner of Ted's cage complex. And yes, that's a TV remote on the chair arm; my television sits opposite me, and the kitchen is only steps away. It's true I still find it uncomfortable, even now, to sit for long in the upstairs office, and the afternoon sun streaming in through its west-facing windows makes it hot in summertime, but that's not the only reason why I continue to do most of my work here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The More Things Change....

You'd have to be of a certain age to remember this -- in-ground garbage pails. We had one by the back door of the house I spent most of my childhood in, and used it until eventually installing what my grandmother called "the pig in the sink" -- a garbage disposal.

Now, after decades of using a disposal, I save all my food scraps in a countertop collector for the town's compost program, scraps which join the litterbox gleanings in a wheeled bin to be picked up weekly, and am loving it -- but it does amuse me to think on how retro it all is, in essence.

Here's a neat short description and image of garbage pails I found online:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Upgrading to Windows 10

Windows 10: Should you accept the free upgrade of your current OS?

I bought a lower-end ASUS notebook on deep discount with 8.1 on it, just to test it out before potentially borking any of my Win7 workhorses. Good idea. I learned a lot, including:

1. I hate Windows 8.1. I had a helluva time finding anything, I couldn't get email to work at all, the supposedly prepaid year of Office 365 refused to recognize it was allowed. No preloaded antivirus showed up when I started using it, so I downloaded and installed AVG -- and then, finally McAfee (it had to be McAfee, of course) showed up and started nagging me. Getting anything configured the way I wanted it was a tedious struggle. I put Classic Shell on it, which helped, but it was still a pain to use. After a while I was able to get Windows Livemail working, so there was email, and I did get a Kindle reader and my e-library downloaded to it, at least all the unread volumes.

2. So after a few days of picking away at the thing, I tried downloading and installing Win10. And failed twice because there wasn't enough free memory (9 gigs!) to do it. So I toddled off to Staples to get a thumbdrive -- 16 gigs for 12 bucks, such a deal -- plugged it in, and tried again.

3. Success! Well, eventually. The process took so long that I got an apologetic "This is taking a bit longer than normal, but..." message after a while, but eventually it finished. I turned it on, to a much handsomer welcome screen than before, logged in, and started checking it out.

Stuff worked. Classic Shell came up immediately when I logged in instead of the execrable Start screen with all those excitingly asymmetrical icons. I played with it for a bit, then turned it off and unplugged the thumbdrive; turned it back on....

And it would not function. "Internal log-in failed" or some such message appeared on the Black Screen of Doom. I tried variations of with/without thumbdrive, turning on and off, got the error message a second time, then even worse -- a BSofD with a frozen cursor that would not go away when I pressed the on/off button. Just sat there staring blankly back at me, thumbing its useless thumbdrive at me.

I called Staples tech support, since that's who I bought it from, and after a while got a real live tech to unburden myself to. As we talked, I tried yet again to turn it off -- and off it went! I turned it back on, and there it all was, functioning just fine, thankyouverymuch. The tech and I agreed it probably will have to live forever with the thumbdrive stuck in it since its factory-born memory just hadn't been enough.

4. So now it's cruising nicely. When I log on I'm taken right to Classic Shell. Livemail works fine. Firefox works fine -- although I still have some issues with bookmarks and toolbars, but nothing I can't live with. If I get around to hooking up Sync that could solve them, in fact.

Just one little problem: I turned on the upstairs desktop this morning for the first time since before noodling with the notebook yesterday... and discovered a number of emails I should have received didn't arrive. I knew I'd gotten them on my laptops, so why?

Turns out, when I dug deep into the notebook Livemail settings, that the box for "Remove emails from server after deleting" was checked -- and the missing emails had indeed been deleted from the notebook inbox after I'd checked that Livemail worked. So I unchecked that box, made all same-same as the laptop I was checking settings against, and forwarded what I needed to so that the desktop could receive them. Hopefully it's all good now -- and I don't plan to do email on the notebook any time soon, just in case.

So, bottom line, after all that? I will be noodling around some more in Win10, see how I like it, but barring any more nasty surprises, it seems to work well. Still, I don't think I'll be upgrading my Win7 machines any time soon; they suit me just fine as is, and I'm not sure they'd have enough free memory to do it without adding thumbdrives to them, too.

Monday, July 27, 2015

...and a miracle occurred.

I have a Lexmark S515 printer/scanner, pretty good at the scanning part though it does occasionally eat a page, an ink hog, as most inkjets are, but a decent printer otherwise -- or it was, till I started getting error messages that there was something wrong with the printhead, and that function quit working.

I looked up the error message and followed the manual's cleaning instructions. Nope. I Googled and discovered this model has had a widespread problem with its printhead. The recommended solution was to download and install a firmware fix. Downloaded, installed. Nope. Same error message, but at least I could hit the "OK" button to dismiss it and the scanning function would still work.

In desperation, I looked for a replacement printhead. None available from Lexmark since this model has been discontinued, but I did find some aftermarket parts online. I knew even as I ordered a new printhead that this would probably end in tears, but dammit! I had, of course, just bought several new ink cartridges for the thing just before it went wonky on me, so what the hell.

The replacement printhead arrived. I transferred the ink cartridges to it, noting that they seemed somewhat looser in their wee slots than in the original, then installed the printhead.

Yikes! Never mind getting an error message that there's a problem, see instructions; now, with a despairing screek, the printhead carriage jammed in place and I got a new message that the printhead can't move at all. Well, duh, I noticed that. Not to mention, now the whole thing seized up and nothing on the machine would function. Sigh. I took out the dud, stuck the cartridges back in the old printhead, and reinstalled it. Still got the first error message, but at least I could dismiss it with an "OK" and the scanner would work again.

So we went on, my scanner/not-printer and I, turning it on each day, getting and dismissing the same error message and scanning with it -- until today. Today, as it warmed up, it made a lot of unfamiliar noises that went on and on beyond the usual warmup time. And what's this message? "Aligning the printhead - paper may move in and out - do not turn off printer"? Wait, what? And! Paper fed into it. And!! It did indeed move in and out. And!!! It printed. It printed! All those little rows of boxes, in black, in color!

Well, in fact, it cycled twice through its alignment dance, then rested, done. Could it be? Could it have healed itself? I set up a draft and asked it to print one page -- just one page, baby, can you do it? YES! I told it to print the other 107 pages, and away it went. The print was a bit defective for the first 40 or so pages, then it paused, made odd noises (cleaning its nozzles, perhaps?), and when it resumed the print was perfect.

I was, and still am, gobsmacked. Machines just don't get better on their own. But this one did! Delayed-onset firmware fix? A kindly gremlin passing by? Dunno, but I'll take my miracles where I can find them, you betcha.

Of course, now I'm afraid to turn it off.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

So proud American patriots are taking up arms to stand guard outside recruiting offices, defending them against dastardly attacks. What could possibly go wrong?


Methinks if somebody's looking to light up another recruiting office and sees one of these guys out front, that'll be his first target, taken by surprise and most likely blown out of the way before Our Hero can react heroically, adrenaline jag spurting through him as he pumps bullets in the general direction of the attacker.

Not that these guys are going to last more than a handful of weeks before the waning adulation/attention of passerbys and growing boredom of it all thins their ranks to oblivion. For damn sure ain't nobody gonna be out there in the north in January.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Still More Fun With Technology

Getting used to...

New monitor on my elderly XP. Its original monitor, a Samsung, had begun developing a tiny black patch in the upper left of the screen -- just a few pixels' worth at first, but it slowly kept sending out tendrils of oblivion.

Now, I don't use that computer for much these days, not since Microsoft stopped supporting XP and I took it offline, but it does still serve a few functions I prefer to do on it rather than the Win7 desktop or laptops. So I looked around for a reasonably inexpensive but still reliable monitor, found an Acer, and bought it.

The installation of the new monitor went about as well as could be expected -- minimal instructions (in 2-point type) didn't mention loading the setup disk BEFORE connecting things and turning on the tower -- and after some invective-laced moments I got the mouse to work ("Why aren't you working? Why isn't the cursor moving? What the ^U*&%R&*Y&&*^$ is wrong with..." [turns over wireless mouse; looks at on/off switch] "Oh." *click*) and there it was, all my usual icons, the usual photo for the background.

All stretched waaaaaaaaaaaaaay sideways. And teensy tiny icons.

Well, yeh -- the XP is vintage 2004 and the old monitor had the classic CRT aspect ratio. This new one is way wider. Some fumbling about in the Control Panel adjusted the size of icons, but what about the photo? I tried a different one -- same result. I tried editing it, unlocking the aspect ratio and saving it compressed -- still didn't look right. Finally I yanked the screen resolution slider indicator from its old place near the left all the way over to the right -- and voila! Now the same uncompressed photo looked okay. (Just cropped a new photo for the wider aspect ratio, and it too looks fine. Wonderful clarity, color and detail, in fact.)

And then, of course, I had to reset font size for the icons again. And every document I open needs tweaking. Some differences I'll just have to get used to. But it sure is bright and crisp-looking.

And no more little black spider of oblivion creeping out of the upper left corner.

Here, by the way, is the new desktop photo for the new monitor:

Sunday, July 5, 2015


My sister sent me an old, old photo, from back before I was born, way back from 1939. It’s a group of people sitting in front of the lakeside end of a small vacation cabin in Lake Shore Park on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Out of the picture, a dozen or so feet in front of them, would be a hardpacked dirt road running along the shoreline, the bed of a railroad that used to run there in the 19th century. To their left would be a sandy parking area that would hold maybe five cars; just beyond that, and among the pine trees on the land sloping gently upwards behind the cabin, would be scattered more campsites, with tiny two-room cabins and platforms for tents. The other photo gives you a good idea of what the park in general would have looked like in that era – small rental cabins interspersed with cabins and tents owned by folks who rented the plots from the park’s owners. Water was piped to campsites but there were no sewer facilities; everybody used centrally located outhouse blocks. There was a central Pavilion with a small general store and a dance hall, sandy beaches to swim from, big granite boulders to dive off of, woods behind the campsites for children to explore, a tremendous view across the broadest part of the lake to the White Mountains towering over the farther shore. People came back year after year; they sent the wives and children up from Massachusetts to stay for the summer and the husbands would come up for weekends and their two weeks of vacation in July or August. It was a helluva drive in the days before the interstate highways, but it was worth it.

That’s pretty much how it still was when I was a kid growing up in the ‘50’s – maybe some upgrades to infrastructure, permanent people buying what had been daily/weekly rental cabins, more cabins and fewer tents, even in the Tent City part of the park, but still those central outhouses (with plumbing, not pits, by then, though), still a close-knit community, and still a low-key paradise for kids to run wild in.

The man on the far left is my Grampa Graf; Gramma is in the middle; the man second from the right is my father, though that’s not my mother leaning against him; that’s dad’s “date of the week”, we’re told. Observe the little path paralleling the cabin where their feet rest; it plays a role in the story here.

My parents would go up to the lake every summer with us kids in the traditional fashion I’ve described above. Eventually they were able to buy the cabin directly behind this one for our own family, but in the early years we stayed with Grampa and Gramma, somehow cramming four adults and, over time, four children into a two-room cabin with an alcove-sized room for my grandparents’ bedroom. There were two sets of bunk beds in the rear room where we kids were deposited; in the summer I’m thinking of now, my sister, the baby of the family, was an infant, and her crib was placed against the front wall of the cabin, under that big picture window.

Good weather days at the lake were glorious, but thunderstorms that roared across the width of the lake from the mountains could be terrifying in their power by the time they slammed into the park. One such monster struck one night after we’d all gone to bed.

It was a furious storm with lots of lightning strikes. One bolt hit a towering old pine tree close to a cabin down the shore road from us, Pavilion-direction, just past the parking area. The people inside managed to get out just before the pine toppled over and smashed down through the middle of their cabin, destroying it, on an arc of doom toward the Graf cabin.

The tree trunk hammered into the ground directly in front of our cabin, straight into that clear area where those people in the photo have their feet, perfectly perpendicular to the wall. It missed hitting the cabin front by inches. The whole structure leaped off its supports from the shock of the impact (the tree was at least two feet in diameter!) and woke everybody up. Neighbors from other cabins rushed through the wind and torrenting rain to see if everybody was okay, took in the folks whose cabin was destroyed and offered to take us in too, even though our cabin was still standing. I can’t recall whether we went with them or whether the Graf adults, after checking the cabin’s structural stability, decided it was safe to stay there.

The scene the next morning was appalling: The broken stump of the great pine, the crushed cabin it fell through, its end walls sagging inward over the havoc, and the massive trunk lying from the ruins beeline to and across the front of our cabin, its heavy branches ramming into the underbrush a short way beyond. I shudder to think what would have happened to our cabin if the trunk hadn’t been bare of branches for the first 50 or so feet.

I’m 66 years old now, and must have been about five or six when it happened. I still get that “Holy cow!” feeling whenever I’m reminded of this – reminded, say, by an old photo of happy people sitting with their feet in the path of future near-doom.


Sent a somewhat shorter version of the story off to my siblings and got this response from my older brother, whose memory is probably better than mine where the stories conflict:

Great story and told much better than this but here is how I recall those events. I am adding the Penny’s back into this string as I will add some “history” as I recall that goes to their story and questions.

First the pic shows the camp basically unpainted, the many years later when we started, as kids, going it was painted and there was a bit of a wood deck on front where the folks were sitting. As I recall the story Laura told it was during the week as no Dads were there, many left for work during the week to return on weekends. I think it was Grandma, Mom and the 4 of us. No one could have slept through that storm, perhaps the most impressive T storm of my life. We ran about the cabin looking out the windows. A lightning bolt hit a very large tall tree that was just to the far side of the camp directly across from the Graf camp. Then great commotion as many adults ran about yelling, it was decided that that camp had to be abandoned as the tree would surely fall damaging the camp. But there were many that thought it would fall in another direction towards the parking area so all cars had to be moved. Keep in mind time is passing rapidly but the tree was still standing. Someone came to get Mom to come move her car and she ran out with the keys leaving us with Grandma.

Here comes a side note of history related to the Penny’s note. At that time there was no parking between Graf camp and this other camp (can’t remember their name) it was a badminton court with rows of raspberry bush’s down both sides. No one could park there because under the sandy court was actually the septic field for the old outhouse up behind the camps. It was surrounded by several well carved and painted totem poles. These were all made by our uncle Harris (the dentist) and grandpas Chris Craft boat was also called the totem and had a miniature totem pole carved by Harris that would be displayed in the boats rear flag holder when out for a ride. I don’t know which came first the totem poles or the boat name.

So the cars were parked much further away than now, about the area of the road going up to Railroad.

Mom left and shortly after much yelling and screaming as we were looking out the windows, the tree was coming down right for us! Grandma yelled and pushed, I mean pushed all of us into the back of camp bed room. Much crash and bag sounds and yes the camp did jump. We came from the back to get out with folks rushing towards the camp we meet as we came out the door including a Mom that was a bit upset. No injuries to anyone.

My picture of what happened - the tree more like three feet in dia. and perhaps 600 feet tall fell through the camp next door, in the first ten feet of the cabin and all commented on right through the door almost as it had planned to open the door, across the space between the camps and brushed down the front of the Graf camp. I recall branches all over the front to the point you almost could not see out the windows and it broke the eves off the front but no other damage. A great story either way.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The perversity of cats, part 2,644.782.37

Right after breakfast, Peanut wants, nay, demands fresh water in a clean bowl. Lately Pumpkin has also developed a desire for same. Since I'm maintaining water for six felines loose in the house (plus Teddy's little bowl in his cage kingdom) I keep two big dog-size bowls in the kitchen and tend to them right after I clean the breakfast food bowls. Peanut waits impatiently a yard or two away; Pumpkin lurks just beyond him.

Finally! I put the bowls down -- both at once rather than one then the other, since there are two thirsty little souls to satisfy. They pad to the bowls, sniff to be sure it's to their liking, then....

Two bowls, boys! TWO! What are you...?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Just a few more pages....

So yesterday was busy, workwise. Bookwork and billing consumed the morning. The afternoon and evening I spent proofreading the usual more or less dreary sludge of deposition transcripts. They were all short-deadline stuff and I completed the last one around 1:30 a.m. -- a bit of a late night even for this night owl.

Then thought: But before I go to bed, let me just read for half an hour just for pleasure. I'm well into Lois McMaster Bujold's "Memory"; let's do it.

...and I finished the book at quarter of 5:00.

Now I have one 160-pager I need to get out by early/midafternoon. Then I should take a nap.

Or start the next book in the series.

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's a Wonderful Day

From the groundbreaking case of Goodridge v. DPH, 400 Mass. 309 (2003), the pioneering decision of Massachusetts' highest court that opened the way for gay marriage to become legal; the key passage by Chief Justice Margaret Marshall:


Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. “It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.” Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a “civil right.”

Without the right to marry – or more properly, the right to choose to marry – one is excluded from the full range of human experience and denied full protection of the laws for one’s “avowed commitment to an intimate and lasting human relationship.” Because civil marriage is central to the lives of individuals and the welfare of the community, our laws assiduously protect the individual’s right to marry against undue government incursion.

That same-sex couples are willing to embrace marriage’s solemn obligations of exclusivity, mutual support, and commitment to one another is a testament to the enduring place of marriage in our laws and in the human spirit.


We led the way; today we celebrate a victory for all Americans! Hurrah!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

More Fun With Computers

As posted on Facebook, my diary of descent into computer hell:

June 16: I'd mentioned in email to a friend I was having computer issues. She commiserated with me and I took the opportunity to unload all my frustrations:

The computer thing is more than glitches. My primary Win7 desktop had been getting increasingly erratic, so I brought it in yesterday to the shop for a checkup, which revealed it was riddled with malware, despite my antivirus software and best efforts to be cautious. It’s still there, being tidied up. That left me with two backup desktops, old XPs that I no longer connect to the Internet since Microsoft stopped supporting that OS, just use for certain offline tasks, plus the Win7 laptop I’m using now.

I decided to buy a slightly used Win7 laptop at the shop for a backup just in case. I’d already made two trips to the shop, the original dropoff and a second to bring in the backup external hard drive of the desktop for checkup. Third trip was to put a deposit on the second laptop and provide some info for initializing it. Even though the shop is only a few minutes’ drive from home, you can imagine how much of yesterday got chewed up by all that.

Today was another trip to the shop, to pick up the “new” laptop, pay the balance, and check on desktop progress – won’t be done till tomorrow sometime. I’ve tried not to spend much time on the new laptop but of course couldn’t resist rearranging the furniture and hanging new wallpaper to suit me, also uploaded a bunch of My Documents files I’d copied to a thumbdrive from my older laptop; imported all my bookmarks, then had to get the appropriate ones into the toolbar; tried to import a file of my contacts into Outlook – and somehow managed to bork Outlook so thoroughly in the process that not only did I not fill the address book, I managed to disable Outlook entirely. It took a good hour of struggle, including a desperation system restore, to get Outlook functioning again.

I still have to install two printer/scanners and manually input my entire address book, but that will have to wait till tomorrow; I am done for now.


June 17: Got the main computer back and running fine. Now the old laptop is in to be virus-scanned and cleaned.

And because I had both laptops running and online to email at the same time (so I could go through the old one's Outlook address book to manually input contacts into the new laptop) I had to leave the new one in the shop also so it, too, could be scanned for any uglies that might have leapt onto it during that brief window of opportunity.

Hopefully I'll get the new one back late this afternoon; if not, then tomorrow. The old laptop may take two days to ream out.



Later yesterday: Got the new machine back, clean of any problems, no charge -- just as well, considering what I'm getting soaked for to fix the other two. Installed the two scanner/printers, no problem, just some customization tweaks to trudge through. Still getting used to this new keyboard. Still have to assemble the new mobile cart that got shipped to me today; then I can figure out how to reconfigure the side-table setup around my recliner to fit in a second laptop along with the first plus the two printers, all within easy arm's reach of the controls from where I sit.

Why, yes. Yes, I am rather obsessive about my technology array.


This morning: *YAWN* -- was up till 3:00 a.m. getting out proofreading that had slid up to/past its delivery date while I wrestled with technological hell. Woke up at 9:00, lay there for a while gathering wits scattered to hell and gone, then at the cats' insistence lurched into my day. Feel like molasses in November heading into December.

Still, I appear to be in the home stretch at this point -- just have to get back the primary laptop from the shop if it's done today (and pay the last installment on the grand-plus this has cost me), also assemble the new mobile cart and rearrange the setup around my downstairs recliner office, with laptop(s) to my right hand and printer/scanners to my left, since it's still uncomfortable for me to work long stretches upstairs in my office. Also have two rush/expedites to get out today, plus whatever regular delivery work I can manage to slog through.

At this point my electronic collection encompasses two offline elderly XP tower desktops, one just out of the shop Win7 all-in-one desktop, two Win7 laptops, five, count 'em five inkjet printer/scanners of varying utility, a photo-quality color inkjet printer, a B&W laser draft printer, and a low-end inkjet for printing checks. Gateway, Dell, Canon, Lexmark, HP, and Epson all own a piece of my soul.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fun With Computers

Had to bring my main desktop computer from the upstairs office to the computer shop for virus removal and general tuneup today. The laptop I use downstairs will probably have to be next. Decided to buy a slightly used backup Win7 laptop while I was in the shop, just in case. All in all this has been a very expensive day, considering this is going to set me back over 700 bucks when it's all said and done.

I got an email in late afternoon telling me the laptop is ready for pickup with what I wanted installed -- just too late to go get it today. I'll pick it up tomorrow. Also, after much tedious searching, ordered online a small wheeled printer cart with two top shelves that will do nicely to maintain both new and old laptops next to my recliner, with a third, bottom shelf for holding paper reams. And while I was browsing to pick that out I found my favorite paper (Domtar Earthchoice) on sale at half price so I grabbed a couple of cases of that, too. Should get all that delivered Wednesday.

I'll still have to get the new laptop passworded into my router, of course, and install a couple of printer/scanners, upload a number of files, my bookmarks, and my email contacts from the thumbdrive I copied them to, get various settings set the way I like them, get certain shortcut icons on the desktop, etc. Then, when it's all operational, I can take the laptop I'm using now into the shop to check for viruses. And then, when the office desktop computer comes back clean of malware, I can zoom around changing all my critical passwords. Such fun!