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Today is the anniversary of both my children's births. They are not twins: theyare eight years apart. Today one of them is in the UK, thousands of miles away. He said he worked, and afterwards and his wife celebrated by taking a walk along Butthole Lane until it turned into fields of some kind of brassica. The other lives close, but she worked today too. She said she celebrated by buying a coyote skull.

I'm spending the day with my ailing, possibly-dying dog, and also moving into my proper bedroom at the top of my house, where I have a view of green layered on green, and the last of the Belle of Portugal roses wilting in the apple tree.

The dog might be okay, but if she isn't, well, she had many years more than we thought she might, and she's been my true companion, and I don't want to go too far in this direction yet, until I know whether she's recovering from this.
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Thursday six in the morning I leave for the hospital. I'm trying to get the house nice and clean so it will be easy to navigate when I get back. I have borrowed a walker from my sister-in-law, which her mother no longer uses, and I hope to ditch it soon after the surgery.

I've had to stop taking my anti-inflammatory medicine for the time being so that I will have less potential for bleeding. I guess I'm grateful for the natural experiment: yes, I do need it. No, the osteoarthritis is not my ownly problem. There is something in my leg muscles that is kept at bay by meloxicam, and after four days of not having it I am back to hardly being able to walk.  Now, meloxicam is "necessary but not sufficient--" I also had to switch statin drugs and have years of physical therapy to keep the muscle pains at bay. But I didn't know until I quit it temporarily, because I mostly don't have very much pain in the normal course of things. It's function that's demanding the surgery, not pain.

Not directly related to surgery, but related to the things surgery is related to: in my trips to visit Frank and Hana in Prague, I always intended to but never managed to rent a bike. So I thought I would take my bike with me.But after talking it over with Zack, my roommate who was once a professional bike racer in Europe, I've realized that it's even more hassle to disassemble and reassemble a normal bike. He has convinced me to get a folding bike. It looks like I can spend about four hundred dollars and get a nice folder that can be adjusted to my height and can take my weight. I'm leaning towards the Citizen Barcelona. If you have any relevant experience or knowledge, let me know!

The idea would be that I would take it to the UK and other places when I travel, or even throw it in the car when I leave town, just in case. It is so much easier to cover a lot of ground on a bike than on foot. It may even become my primary bike, I don't know.

I still don't know when I'm going to visit Frank and Hana. Hana has gotten the job she wanted too, administering a university program for sustainable manufacturing and recycling, so for now they're doing great. I'd love to go in the second half of March, though it's no longer certain that he has ten days off in the middle as they have been re-doing the rota at frequent intervals. I would also love to be there for Eastercon at the beginning of April, but it may not happen. I have been doing a bit of daydreaming about visiting (Ilocating folk clubs, museums, and so on), though I've mostly been thinking about surgery and trying to make sure I get my February writing done. And playing sims.

Also to prepare for surgery I've been eating liver and the dog thinks her share is not enough.
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Of course it's a mixed bag.

Starting with the personal, I rode up PetÅ™in Hill on the funicular railroad in late August and walked down, and in the process came to the revelation that I had only one life to live and it was stupid to live it unable to walk down a hill in a normal fashion. So I concluded that it was time to get a knee replacement or two.So I have been working on that ever since and I have the surgery scheduled for February which is not all that long from now.

I got titanium teeth last spring, so hopefully no more broken ones. I cannot tell you how much better life is with chewing surfaces on my molars instead of ragged holes.

My dog got surgery and now she is a much happier dog. She is thirteen now, which surprises people. They think she looks and acts like a dog who is just beginning to be old, like eight or nine years, but that's because they didn't see her when she was a young, obnoxious, energetic dog.

I did go to Prague for what may be but I hope is not the last time, and I got to listen to an opera while perched on the steep side of a valley in the forest, and to watch a parade of bagpipe players from all over the world many countries in Europe and Asia. It was the wrong time for linden blossoms but it was the right time for new wine, which can only be enjoyed in a small radius of its manufacture because long travel induces explosions.

Next, family: both of my children have acquired the exactly correct jobs. In these times this is a huge, huge thing. Emma had suffered as a theater costume shop seamstress for six years (she had advanced to "first hand," but that made her work even more frustrating), and now she is a full-time, permanent, career zookeeper. She's even getting to design a training program to help the birds keep from going crazy. Frank was in the UK for only a month when he landed a "Senior House Officer" job at Royal Leicester Infirmary, working in the emergency room. I mention the job title because it is silly. It is actually a junior doctor job: it's equivalent to a residency in US hospitals. It is exactly what he needs at this point in his career, and he thought he was going to have to work as a substitute doctor for a year or so to get NHS-specific experience before he could get it. And the setting is what he hoped for (though he would have taken anything)-- a large, urban hospital serving a diverse community.

So even though 2014 had some trying times for both of them, and for their spouses, they're fine now. Well, not just trying: Emma's husband Jason was very nearly killed by a confused action on the part of his sweet but clearly deranged rescue dog. Jason has a pretty remarkable scar but he is otherwise okay. Frank's wife Hana got hit by a virus as soon as they landed in the UK, and hasn't found a job, but I feel that after she worked so hard while Frank was finishing med school and getting his papers together for the UK, she can take her time and find a job she likes. She doesn't quite agree, but I find that the younger generation is understandably anxious about work and money and home.

Speaking of work: I have had two books published this year, a shortish novel and a novella, and a romantic (do you call them novellettes when they are  just shy of novella length?) story in an anthology. I also wrote another novella that was rejected, a short story that was rejected twice and is now in the limbo of long, long, long response times at that publisher that need not be named, a story that's in submission at another place, several stories that didn't go anywhere, and two stories that are almost finished and will be submitted before the first of the year. And another novelette that was accepted and paid for, for another anthology. And another one that was for a just for fun anthology.

The things that were published this year I wrote last year but I spent an inordinate amount of time editing them. There has to be a more efficient way, and I suspect if the publisher was paying a living wage to the editors they'd find it.

Notice what is missing from the work list: not-Poland. I felt it was a year to focus on getting a bunch of easy things published for immediate small payments, and that next year will be the year to finish and submit not-Poland. Among other things. I do need to work faster and harder.
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Frank had to go to the UK for administrative details linked to getting the right to practise medicine there. So it was just Hana and me for four days, one of which was the Strakonice trip for me. Since then we just kind of hung around, with me writing a lot and Hana working on getting ready to move. We have gone for pleasant walks in Centralni Park (pictures in the future), done grocery shopping, and talked a lot. Yesterday we went to the Botanical Park because we thought Frank wasn't coming home today, but we had to cut our trip short because he did come home.
creamy and delicious )
On the writing front: finished this new version of The Conduit though I had a flash that I want to alter the ending somewhat, and wrote almost half of the other thing I want to submit before the end of the month (I think I am calling it "Tree-Hugger").  I was having severe doubts about how it was coming together, but I'm feeling somewhat better now. At least the market I'm writing it for is pretty likely to accept it if it is okay. Also figured out the dedication for Outside, which was surprisingly hard ("for the children of my accidental family"--accidental family being a term within the story).
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Successful mission: go out on my own, find bankomat, get money, buy maple syrup for Frank and Hana at the DM Drogerie. A drogerie is a store that sells shampoo, body oil, shower gel, suntan lotion, very small packages of tampons, deodorant, inexpensive and hygeinic cosmetics, baby food, and a wall of "natural foods." Drugs are bought at the Lekarna, which was closed. I wanted to get glucosamine because my fingernails started crumbling again, and a non-drolwsy antihistamine because I lost my bet with the universe so I'm allergic to the guinea pigs. Oh well, I thought it migfht happen, because my rat allergy extended to mice already. It's not nearly as bad with the guinea pigs as the rats. If it had been pet rats I would have walked in the door and been hit by a wave of toxicity. With the pigs oit tookm a half-hour of cuddling before the reaction set in.

Also had my first two typical linguistic interactions. Did I mention that even though I drag my dictionary and declension book with me everywhere I basically have given up on actually learfning Czech? I just get along and it's all fine.

First liguistic interaction type was in the Drogerie. I explaimned that I don't speak Czech, I speak English, and the young woman switches right over with a solicitous air. Czechs know they have a difficult language and they are often very gentle with foreigners.

The other typical interaction was on my way back. I was taking pictures of a plant that I think is related to gooseberries and currants or maybe to heather. It has those pitcher shaped little flowers and the berries are a plausible shape. A Czech woman of about my age came up and told me a lo about the plant, happily acknowledging and then ignoring my apology for not speaking Czech. She used the word for currants, rybiz, but she alspo stepped on two berries while saying something pointed, so I think she was telling me that they l.ook like currants but they aren;t edible. Finally she asked me if I was Russian.

As I say, this is two of the more typlical linguistic interactions I get in Prague. I am not complaining. Nobody has ever endangered or even inconvenced me by refusing to believe I don't understand them, and I think it's hilarious that so many people here think I am Russian (or Portuguese).

I am having lethal connectivity issues that we don't understand. I think it's a compatibility issue, but I can't be more specific. What happens is that most of the time my computer is unable to use the wireless network here, and for several hours today it couldn't even see it. We tried hooking the computer up to the modem with a wire, but apparently the computer doesn't have the capability of using a wired connection? For anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of hours, though, I can get online just fine. I usually forget what task I set out to do with that when it happens, though.

It doesn't matter too much, though. I can use Frank's computer when I need to send things in.

I finished reading the galleys for Outside suspiciously quickly and now I am sure I did it wrong. I only found one typographical error and one continuity error that was totally my fault and easy to fix. But I'm just going to give it a cross-eyed glance again on Tuesday and send it back and hope for the best.

And I'm also making slow but steady progress on the all-new Conduit (written from scratch with a different presentation and predicted to be novella length).

I did take some pictures today but I'll probably upload them the day after tomorrow. I'm going to Strakonice for the day tomorrow to listen to bagpipes. I will keep trying to get Hana to go with me but I think she is not as enamored of bagpipes as I am. Frank is flying to the UK to get registered for work at temporary doctor agencies, and to pick up a car they have bought there. Things are starting to move fast on that front after sitting still for way too long.

In Prague

Aug. 22nd, 2014 05:20 am
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No chance for pictures yet.

So nice to be here again, with family, and so familiar. And bitttersweet, as it is probably my last trip. Frank and Hana are mostly involved with geting ready to move to the UK. But that's nice too, because it means their lives are moving forward after a year in limbo.

I sat next to Norwegians on the flight over. I didn't know for sre they were Norwegians till we started talking in the last hour of the flight. Before tha, all I was sre of was that their language sounded as alian as Simlish, and not at all like the Norwegian of the announcements or my memory (the flight was on Norwegian). She was from "the valley" as she called it -- Hallingdal I think.

I saved a lot of money by flying on Norwegian but I also sufered more -- the seats were not especially narow, but they were hugely uncomfortabe.
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We all know that I am not a language peever, but I reserve the right to hate the word meme anyhow.

So anyway, this week's game is to grab the book nearest you and read the first sentence on page 45: it is supposed to explain your love life. I did it yesterday and the nearest book was 400 Czech Verbs and the first sentence was some damned thing about the accusative case or something and I forgot. But today I was reminded again and the nearest book was the Czech dictionary (don't get me wrong, I've totally been slacking on studying Czech all year, it's altogether unusual for these books to be anywhere near me). On page 45 there are actual sentences, in a sidebar about distinguishing "breast" from "chest." The first sentence is

The pain spread across the chest.


Being that we are in fact fifteen days from the 6th anniversary of the nice fellow's death, it's actually kind of apposite.

Though I tend to feel it in my head (my physical head, not my abstract mind), not my chest.

.........

How to rescue this post from the abjectly emotional? natter on about my living family.

I think I have convinced Hana and Frank to go to Chemnitz with me. Hana has quit her jobs in preparation for following Frank to the UK whenever his paperwork gets approved, so she's available. At any moment Fank may have to duck out and go to the UK for a last-minute job posting, but I don't mind the uncertainty. He's the reason I have developed a habit of flying to Prague, but he is not the only thing in Prague. I'm flying Norwegian Air from Oakland on the 20th of August, which is a strange day for me but it's good to be busy on it.

Emma has gotten a job with Happy Hollow Zoo as a "temporary" relief zookeeper. It puts a limit on her hours and benefits, but it doesn't preclude her applying for a permanent position, of which there are one or two coming up. She's as happy as she has ever been, her husband Jason said yesterday.

This is after a tragedy: their sweet doofus rescue bulldog got her wires crossed and leaped at Jason's throat, nearly killing him in the process. She had to be killed: and grief for her was almost as strong as the terror around Jason's brush with death.
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Passed his very last test this morning.

Is resting in the arms of his sweetie before tackling the next steps, which are 1) passing the USMLE (test for placement in North American resident programs) and 2) finding relevant temporary work until he gets placed at the end of next year.
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De Bange is the real name of a French cannon designer.

I have actually found the information I need.  Well, a minimal version of it anyway.  At least I know how many strokes Yanek has to beat between firings. And I know what actions the gunners are going through.

Meanwhile, Hana and Frank send me postcards from castles in Central European mountains.  Frank's postcard goes on and on about zombie attacks and has a very disturbing picture on it. Hana's has a pciture of the castle on it.

On the survival front. One of my big worries is the flood insurance is due this month, and the insurance carrier won't do an installment plan.  I was going to barely squeak by with that before I lost my job. So I was frantic, thinking what will happen to my mortgage if I'm not paid up? So I called the credit union, which has my mortgage.  What will happen? Well, see, there's this thing called a "force payment."  It's . . .  an installment plan, stuck on to my mortgage.The insurance company does it.

I had a hard time comprehending this.  The insurance company won't do an installment plan for me when I ask for it, but the punishment for not paying the big lump sum when I'm supposed to is the installment plan I needed to not screw up in the first place? Whatever, I'll take it.

It may not come to that anyway.  The nice man says they don't move on it for a few months, and by that time I may be able to just plain pay it. And he started the modification process, which I was surprised at because it's a little loan to begin with. But lower interest is always nice. Oh, and I was paying extra, so I stopped doing that for now.

There's a moral to this: do your business with a credit union, not a bank.
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So apparently I am exploring all the different ways a person can have a magical affinity for trees. The latest story has a couple of guys constructed from willow twigs in order to be servants of black magicians. I have an unfinished one about a person who is more or less a dryad. And there is not-Poland, in which the sister is a botanist with extra tree senses (also the tendency to be a seer, but she says much more cryptic and less-detailed things when the subject is human than when it is tree), and the brother has an uncomfortable attachment to the wooded wetland, and will eventually be rather like the lorax, with respect to the urban forest. And I have written a couple of other stories about zelniks which do not highlight their tree affinity but still.

So I don't know. Most of these are pretty urban stories. The big novel starts out utterly rural but ends up urban. So I could call the arc Trees and the City?

on another front, the degree verification finally came. So as soon as the Dean coughs up Frank's letter, his application to Malta is complete: Ireland is next.

and on yet another front: I heard scrabbling in the walls so I think I have to call on Emma and Jason for help with the rat traps again. I am already cleaning in slow motion, so I better pick up the pace.
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Yesterday I gave blood: went to the teacher's recycled junk store in Santa Clara: had a Filipino lunch that I chose badly for (Emma and I were too hungry to choose well and we both chose things that we wouldn't have ever liked, go figure): tagged along as Emma got silk embroidery ribbon: and went to Ranch 99 and stocked up on Japanese vinegar, kabocha squash, bean curd noodle (not bean thread), and macupuno (mutant coconut).

Today I finshed a draft of as creepy a story as I could have written while still having a kind of happy ending. And I have cleaned some of the fridge and I have tried to buy new drawers for it. The drawers are broken in front -- they are flimsy and I have bad door closure habits -- but they cost sixty dollars before tax and shipping from the manufacturer.  I did find them for 45.  But how can a badly made piece of plastic be so expensive?

There's something terribly wrong with my fridge anyway.  I have it set almost all the way to the coldest setting and it's still dripping water all the time and developing mold on the ceiling. I was happy with it till recently, though the door needs encouragement (maybe that's what's wrong with it).

Also I cooked: a massive baby bok choy and tofu stir fry with bean sprouts, mushrooms and bell pepper: a "kugel" of broccoli and onion (it's maybe more like a Persian kookoo), and I cooked the butternut squash that came from the food bank and I roasted strawberries, which was a mistake but I hope to make it all right.  Yeah, you;re going to say "roasted strawberries? What were you thinking? That couldn't end well." But twenty-nine million food blogs insisted that there was nothing better on this planet to do with extra strawberries so I tried it.  The strawberries were those huge blandish wet ones from Driscoll to begin with, but there were two pounds of them from the food bank and I made fine dried strawberries and jam from that kind in the past and they taste good plain with yogurt or whatever so I had some hopes. I'm gong to run them through the blendr and hope they make a decent sauce to eat with macupuno and almonds.

If you're wondering why I go to a faraway ethnic grocery store when I am also depending on a food bank, let me point out that I mostly only buy things there that are very inexpensive and I can't get here, and I only go there when I am running other errands on that side of the hill (like giving blood and getting things for work).

Also from the food bank: a pile of pears, which I am letting ripen for a bit and then I will dry them.

Also, I have not found Frank's UCSC diploma or transcripts, which I thought I gave to him ages ago but can't remember the occasion at all, but I did find a pile of other things useful for his application to foundation years (residency), and I scanned them and sent them to him.

He's applying to Malta and to Ireland, because their deadlines are now and  for various reasons having to do with bureaucratic failures he's more likely to get in there. I should be rooting for Ireland, but I'm kind of in favor of Malta. It's more exciting.  And Hana used to have a Maltese terrier.
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The reasons that I haven't been posting in the last month are two: one is lovely and the other is hideous.  The lovely reason: Frank and Hana are here from Prague!  It's lovely having them in the house.  For a couple of weeks there actually I had a house of seven people.  I really liked it.  This is funny because I do not seek out the company of other people that much and I don't feel lonely when I am alone.  But when there are other people in the house I am more alive, or something.

The other reason is that I am having intractable issues with leg pain and allied difficulties.  I have been whinign all over the universe, so forgive me if I spare you most of the details - I bore myself -- but I will tell you that the physical therapist sent me back to the doctor to talk about the possibility of torn meniscuses in both knees and the doctor said "Well, I thought so all along," and promptly kicked me upstairs and now I have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon (a conservative one, he said, who is not overly likely to cut any time soon), and I have already met with the neurologist for some of the allied symptoms and he's going on a grand fishing expedition -- he did a conductivity test (ow, hurt worse than I remember the one on my arms thirty-five years ago), and EMG (ow), and I am also having a battery of blood tests including one for syphilis (that's what it said when I looked up the little letters on the referral) as well as thyroid, b12-folate, iron, and rheumatoid factor, and also an MRI on Friday.

Sounds very heavy, doesn't it?  And it takes a lot of my time and thought to do all these things.  But in all honesty, I can't tell how heavy it is in real life.  It's a lot of pain and disability at the moment, which exercise and pain meds doesn't reliably take care of (again, no details at the moment because I keep talking about it all the time and I am tired of myself). But at other moments it seems like it's no big thing and I am being a wuss to even care about it.

I just got off my not-Poland hiatus, in other news, and I reread the first seventeen chapters and made bitsy revisions because apparently I do not have the imagination to see what's really wrong with it.  I've started actively writing again, and discovered that, once again, the goal post of this section of writing has been moved back another chapter.  But the good side of that is that some of the work that I was afraid I might have to do in "while we were out of touch, these things happened" kind of dialog, I am being able to do now, which is more organic.

My teenage Duke is behaving really immaturely and acting a complete spoiled, lovesick, entitled brat, while Yanek on the other hand is a rabbit paralyzed by fear of impending disaster.  Oh well, the disaster will impend, and then it will happen, and then Yanek will be liberated by the fact that the worst has already happened and that for many purposes, he might as well already be dead, and perhaps that is the point of the story after all. And here I thought it was just a melodrama for my savoring.

In one of Pynchon's books -- probably the one with the banana breakfasts -- there's a part during the Boer War, where a group of people are surrounded (in a fort? a village?) by an enemy that will most certainly kill them all before too long.  I might be remembering the rest of this description all wrong, so forgive me if that's the case: you can pretend I've made up a completely fictional composite of a thing that shows up here and there in literature instead of calling on a particular story. So they figure they are already dead and nothing matters, really, there are no rules, and they celebrate this revelation by behaving very badly and being all decadent and nasty.  But I've always thought it was the other way around: if your fate is sealed, and you're already dead, there's no reason to do other than your best because this is all you've got. If you plotz out and behave badly you aren't going to get a chance to make it up later.  And also, there's an assumption in the Pynchon bit that what we really want to do, down at the bone and in general and without restraint, is nasty things. 

Which makes little sense to me as a final pronouncement for all we are.  Of course I think that all we are is in fact all we are: every good thing, every bad thing, every beautiful thing, every nasty thing.  But I'm pretty sure that unless that (fort?) was entirely full of sociopaths, the end times there wouldn't really be nothing but nasty.

Of course, there is the Donner Party as a real-life example, but when you read the primary accounts, it's pretty clear they were at least led by sociopaths in the first place.

To come back to not-Poland, let me assure you that Yanek and the other drummers on the battlefield are not sociopaths, so though they consider themselves to be already dead, the things they do themselves are not decadent orhorrific (there will be no chains of ears in this story).
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(In case you are one of the people who might benefit from this information)

Arriving late on the night of the 24th of July
Returning to Prague on the 19th of September
so if you wanted to meet the one or see the other again, you have almost two months to manage it.

Meanwhile I am very far behind in readying the house and attempting to write a bit of a thig for the day of porn, except it appears to be shaping up as a "mysterious appearing and disappearing curiosity shop, bookstore variety" fantasy, and maybe the porn isn't going to be the action but the Mysterious Item.  I believe the action will be fluff.. .  it's not as if my starting point was less ridiculous: I had imagined another zelenik story, which I think it still is, but I'm sure writing a lot of things about a fantasy "race" (more of a "population") that nobody else has ever heard of or cares about . . .  yet.

I had my eye on these madrone berries around the corner, once I discovered that they are delicious, but I saw these very young folks out there picking them, andthey said their aunt was going to use them but I should ask another time.  I will give it a week or so to let another round ripen (they are quite prolific), and then ask.

Meanwhile I collected about a liter and a half or two liters of pretty maroon crabapples which I was debating how to use (dry them to use like dried cranberries? They might or might not be nice like that, it's a risk . . . Sweet-pickle them the way people used to do? -- but I hated that crabapple ring garnish that used to show up on your plate all the time at certain types of restaurants when I was a kid! -- or jelly? But plain crabapple jelly is a bit boring . . .), but I have figured it out! Of course! Pepper jelly. At the store I saw no habaneros, which would have been Frank's pick, but I don't like them anyway, so the choice was serranos or jalapenos.  Serranos would have pleased Frank as they are hotter, but the jalapenos were pretty and the serranos weren't, so I went with the jalapenos, especially after I smelled them and they smelled very nice and green.  The jelly will be very red, and it will have a really complex flavor, as the crabapples have a bit of a bitter undertone and together they may taste a bit smoky.

Also, Zack loves beet greens, better than chard (they are a bit earthier and wilder tasting), but he doesn't care about beets that much, so -- I made borscht! It was lovely and I ate a lot of it.  I had a lot of radishes from Grey Bears and no turnips (which I remedied later because I'm going to do a thing with the Grey Bears cauliflower and the turnip, one of three or four different things I have to decide about), so I put radishes into the borscht and that was fine.  Radishes are more fiddly than turnips because they are smaller, but modern radishes aren't even sharp, so they sub in very well. I think old fashioned sharp radishes would sub in very well also, but the only way to test that is to grow an old fashioned variety yourself and my garden isn't back yet.
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First:
This is from here. I saw it here.

Secondly:
I am now a mother-in-law twice over. Frank had to get deportation proceedings started against him in order to get married. Because, you see, when they start deportation proceedings against you, you have 30 days before you have to leave the country, which meant that the foreign police could sign off that he had a legal status to be in the country on the day of his wedding. And now that he's married, he gets to appeal the deportation on the grounds that he is married to a citizen of the EU.

If you want to see way too many pictures of the happy event, you can go here. Notice, especially, the glass balcony on which the fairytale princess and her consort are standing, in the room full of low arches like unto a salt cave, within the Staremestko Town Hall (next door to the astronomical clock, of which of course there are pictures). Frank is not wearing an orange sateen tuxedo with matching pork pie hat, he is wearing a good dark suit of the type apparently most fashionable in Communist times,along with an orange shirt and tie. Hana is wearing an absolute fairy princess dress and elbow-length gloves and is having the time of her life, apparently. I invite you also to notice the tesselated sidewalks.

Meanwhile, my younger offspring has not been idle. She got her scuba certification, and would have her advanced certification also, but they had to cancel some of the dives for that because of rough water and poor visibility. The weekend her brother was tying the knot 9000 miles away, she was exploring the microbreweries of the north coast. In general she's living as exciting a life as one can in Santa Cruz without doing unwise things.

And I got to be the trick or treat lady at the Agave Agape tequila tasting fundraiser for the Women's Center, by which I mean that I handed little tasting glasses to the people when they came in and I handed them little goody bags when they left. In between I ran around and did whatever needed done. I was far from the busiest person there, but I was plenty tired after.

And I am almost finished with the hundred-years-after story, which is way topical for some reason, and I have figured out so many things I am ready to go back to the beginning of the not-Poland book and revise the feathers off it and then forge ahead and finish it.

I'm thinking that the sister needs her own story, but while I believe she is an interesting person who does interesting things and who has interesting thigns happen to her, I don't have a particular story in mind for her yet. Maybe it's her daughter who gets her own story, I don't know. It will come to me eventually. probably.

Also, I have been studying Czech for almost an hour every day again. I spent time in bed in the morning with the dictionary and the verb book, rying to memorize things and to compose simple sentences with what I'm learning. Then at my break at work I use this online vocabulary quiz thing to try to memorize more words. I figure that just knowing a lot of words would be better than having all the declensions memorized (though I do intend to memorize the declensions!), because it's better to be able to say a thing incorrectly than not to be able to say it at all.
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Here is a link to some of that hypnotic Hungarian string music.  The video is an hour and a half long.
edit: have another one -- a whole raft of violinists paying tribute to one who just died.  Catch the cute kid with a stick and pretend bow at the beginning.

On another front, I have total laryngitis -- no voice at all, and no real warning: I was suddenly hoarse in the afternoon yesterday, but not extremely, and then I woke up with nothing. I can't really work with no voice, so here I have been all day, messing around with an embarrassing little Sims project -- trying to make the art nouveaulicious build set not suck.  It is clearly not finished: the edges are much rougher than EA's artists usually do, and the texture is nothing at all.  Obviously, it was a concept sketch and when EA decided they were done with the SIms 2, they yanked the project away from the people who were working on it and slapped the thing on the store page and people paid good money for it.  It's promising.  I don't have the skills to smooth out the mesh but I can retexture the things so they actually look like more than a jigsaw stencil.  maybe.  If you could see my desktop now, you would see this garish rectangle of awkward swirls of lime green, magenta, periwinkle blue, red, and ashes of roses -- justfive colors that would be distinct enough that I could use the magic wand selection tool and always get the right field.  This is a template for a layer that will have different colors of inlaid woods or paints, depending.  I traced the general outline from the object texture, but that was not immediately successful as the original texture had very little actual molding or shading to it.  It was like a flat piece of plywood, really.  Which means that the swirlies I put into the texture will look like crap if I don't figure out how to sculpt it all.  I think I have a trick to do that, involving the find-edges thing and then using the edges to make highlights and shadows on a different layer from the color part of the texture. But I also think there will be a lot of intermediate stages of suck.
For one thing, I can't smooth the blobs of color for the template, so therefore the curves are really difficult and tend to be hideous.  And not in the good way. 

Another thing is that there are five pieces to this: one-tile door and arch, two-tile door and arch, and a one-tile window.  I have started with the one-tile door. They do not share a common texture, and the swrily bits behave differently on each piece, so they will be happy if they go together at all by the time they are finished.

Also, the young doctor's go-to-city-hall marriage has turned into a Disney princess wedding with oranges.  Prague has a way of doing that to you, I guess.  At least the young folk are having fun.
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No writing done yesterday: I went to the center and moved boxes and furniture and then I was in too much pain. But this morning I am better. I only wrote 1300 words, which barely puts me at 50K, but that's all right, because I figured out how to accomplish a lot of things in those words. Those new characters that interloped on Saturday are earning their keep, so that's all right. And anyway, they will keep me from having to introduce other characters lter, since they have replaced them all.

Found while trying to get some terminology straight: Lamber Simnel, who sounds rather like the outline for a boy's-love story in which the protagonist eventually finds love and peace of mind with a falconer's apprentice.

Going in early because my coworker has a sick kid.

And lastly, the Prague contingent has determined that they're going to marry at some point in the discernible future, which will apparently involve taking out a license there and eventually throwing parties wherever necessary. As Frank says: it's an excuse for a pie.

And I say: good enough. One big wedding was enough for me.
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A few months ago I heard a sound in the Cost Plus store over by the credit union: it was muscial, but not really music, eaxactly: somebody was tinking around on an accordion.  It actually sounded sort of pleasant.  So I wandered over in that direction and found a toy accordion, one octave and two chords in the ket of C, twenty-five dollars! and, like I said, sounding surprisingly pleasant.


Still, I couldn't bring myself to buy it.


But a couple of days ago I did.  I bought me a red-white-and-blue child's toy plastic-and-paper one-octave, two-chord accordion.  And tonight I have been playing it for two and a half hours.  I am still getting the hang  of the mechanics of the thing so I haven't really begun picking out tunes but a little bit -- the first half of "Jambalaya" came out of its own accord, and something else I don't even remember now -- but I can usually pick out a tune by ear if I give it enough time, so that's not a real concern.  I still have to get the scale under control.  The push-pull relationship reverses halfway up the octave for reasons I don't understand (each reed has a push tone and a pull tone, a half-step apart) -- is it to create the place in the octave where there's a half-step between whole notes (I can hardly believe I once took a music theory class -- I have no access to terminology to express myself at the moment, I can only hope that I'm making any sense at all)?  In that case, why aren't there two of those places?


I don't seem to be bothering Frank very much with it.  Of course, he has been shoving earphones in and having at his new games so as to pass the time till he gets back to his darling (she is, actually).



Also: Loch Lomond on a paddle boat, today.
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One of our teachers (whose position is assistant teacher) is going to take a regular teacher position at another school. It sounds to me like she'll be taking a net loss in her income and benefits, since the new position is part time, but she wants that teacher title.

I'm taking the assistant teacher position that she's leaving, which entails a drop in pay over what I was making before the layoff (but not what I was making during the independent contractor period). Also, part of the desperate attempt to stay afloat after Even Start was defunded was that everybody got cut from 8 hours to six and a half, which means, altogether, when you add the cut in hours and the cut in hourly together, I'm taking about an eighteen percent pay cut. But I'll get my benefits back in a while (I have to go through the whole rehire thing with the ninety days till benefits thing, I think). There's some program with the state called "workshare" which allows unemployment benefits for people who work at places where everyone's hours are cut, which I am not eligible for because at the time that the program was set up for the employees at our center, I was not on the payroll, being an independent contractor at the time.

The overall cut in hours doesn't bother me as much for myself as for everybody -- because I personally do not like eight hour days and will cut my own hours whenever we're low in numbers and I don't have a big project to do. So I shouldn't complain about that part. And the cut in hours was done to avoid a complete loss of health coverage. Well, it wasn't billed as a complete loss. There was some fiddle-faddle about a health care account, into which the center would put a minuscule amount of money and the employees could put whatever they wanted on top of that, and that would be expected to cover all your health costs. Right. Fortunately, my boss's boss told the board that was unacceptable. Our insurance is going to erode a lot, but that's mostly from the insurance companies, which are raising the costs and cutting the coverages across the board. We're changing over to some HMO that makes my boss grimace to name it, but even though I haven't seen the details I know it could be a lot worse.

The smallest cut that any of our workers is taking is a ten percent cut in wages. If you ask me, this constitutes a raise in taxes -- since our wages are public money, paid for out of our own pockets, and it has been taken away from us to fund wars, torture, giveaways to wealthy criminals, and luxuries for their mouthpieces.

I read that the sticking point for the republicans in the house of representatives in voting for John Boehner's vindictive mess was that there was money in it for Pell grants. Pell grants are the thing that allows poor kids to go to college. It's just breathtakingly mean to object to them. But every single dog-damned detail of the whole mess, from the Tea Party ravvings to the Koch Brothers to Obama, is breathtakingly mean and evil Avedon Carol said something a while back -- I wish I remember her exact words, but she said that all this hardship and degradation isn't an accidental byproduct: it's what they want us to have.

When it wasn't so wildly flagrant, when it wasn't so maniacally destructive of everything of any use or beauty in western civilization, you might have been able to say it was because they hadn't learned anything about economics or politics in the last two centuries and they sincerely thought they were going to improve their profits this way. But they've gone so far beyond what could improve profits in any sustainable way that I am forced to conclude that they really don't believe they will be here in ten years and it doesn't matter how bad it gets because the obscene inflation of their wealth at the expense of the rest of us is all there is.

It's a pyramid scheme on a global scale, is what it is. We're all paying everything back to the tip of the pyramid: even our great-grandchildren are.

But, anyway, as of August 15, dog willing and the creek don't rise, I will have a regular job again. It will be in the toddler room instead of the infant room, which has its advantages and disadvantages.

And next week Emma's working fifteen hour days for six days straight, last I heard: and Frank is coming on Wednesday to spend most of August here. So life goes on.
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So Saturday I had to drive over the hill -- in the entirely unseasonable rain -- to the San Jose airport to show my credit card (debit card) to a Delta ticket agent. Nobody I've talked to has ever had to do this, but apparently Accra is one of those places that has substantial fraud associated with it, and this is some kind of extra assurance that the card is real and so am I.

Lately I've had a problem reading the map: this is because the major north-south freeways have east-west patches in Silicon Valley and I've been looking at small map patches on Google maps and they're all weird at those places so I keep getting the wrong idea about which side I need to get off the freeway on. I need to invest in a new set of actual paper road maps for the car. So I hada small but extremely frustrating detour. Other than that it went pretty smoothly except . . .

There were several ticket agents standing around doing not much when I arrived. Good, this meant that my small mission would be quickly accomplished. But no. Only one of the ticket agents got what I was talking about, and he was all over that and smugly efficient until . . .

This fellow showed up with a weird story. He had gotten a call from Delta telling him that his flight was delayed, but when he got to the airport, he found that it was not delayed, it had already left. First they sent him to the next door airline that actually flew his flight, but they sent him back because he had ticketed through Delta and the false delay message had come through Delta. They had no problem agreeing that he was entitled to a re-ticket or a refund, but it took six Delta agents, including the one who was processing my car, and two Horizon agents, to work out the logistics. For some reason. So the officious but competent-seeming little nerdy guy in the black turtleneck who had apparently forty or so fields to enter things into to register the fact that my card had a physical reality kept leaving the screen that he was working on my problem with to look at other screen relevant to the other person's problem and I was standing there with a very impatient bladder and an expensive parking place (well, expensive by my standards, I don't think it's all that expensive in the grand scheme of things)for much longer than I expected or intended.

My issue went without a hitch, eventually, and I got to pee and to get out of there in less than an hour, and I got to Ranch 99 and I got back over the hill and picked Emma up at the fabric store and returned her to her house and I have Gelatinous Mutant Coconut Strings! And Frank is good to go to Ghana, despite the fact that he's forgotten his bank password and the kindly Czech bank won't tell him his password or allow him to reset it (what?).

In the course of listening to this drama next to me -- the guy had a really complicated itinerary involving flying to LA for one day, flying up to San Francisco for another day, and then flying to Florida -- I learned that in fact, a lot of passengers had been getting random false messages that their flights had been delayed. Nobody knew where in the system the problem was -- was it the airport? was it Delta? was it in the computer system? where? The moral of that one is: if they tell you your flight is delayed, go at the original time anyway and take an extra snack and an extra puzzle book.

But really, eight ticket agents to solve that? When all they actually had to do was to check if there was a flight to get him to Los Angeles that evening? (there was, and there was exactly one seat left on it)

On another front, mutant coconut on top of roasted pumpkin makes a really nice desert.
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I have to go to the airport, and I am not going anywhere. I have to show the Delta ticket counter my credit card so that they can verufy that it is an actual physical card. This is because I have bought a ticket to go to Accra, where apparently people pull frauds or something. I am not going to Accra. Frank is going to Accra. He will be working in the traumatology department of the hospital there, for a month. He is stoked. I am a little squeamish. But this is what he wants out of life.

It is cheaper to fly to Accra from Brussels than anywhere else in Europe. I don't know why. I especially do not know why it is five hundred dollars cheaper to fly from Brussels to Amsterdam to Accra than it is to fly from Amsterdam to Accra. Yes, it costs five hundred dollars more to take one less flight and not go out of your way. It makes no sense.

On another front, it was cold and rainy this afternoon after it was hot and sunny in the morning. I don't believe anything any more.

Phenological observations: along the Arroyo Seco Canyon Trail at the edge of the University Terrace park, blackberries are in full bloom, and poison oak berries are bigger than allspice berries, but mostly still green. Also, birds. Oh my dog, the birds. So much birdsong: more than I remember almost any other place or time. Currently I am really only going to this spot because I am not up to dealing with bog of the dogs on leashes and the other offleash all the time park is gooshy still from the rain. But sometimes I don't have the car, so I should just make up my mind to walk the dogs on leash in the neighborhood. They're good dogs. I can deal with it if I decide to.

Emma made me a new purse! This one has a cell phone pocket because I liked the one in one of her purses. Now I have three purses, though I wore the first one pretty much out.

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