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 It's about five hours from Gatwick to Leicester on the bus. Most of this is through the countryside. It was late April, and lots of stuff was blooming I have taken lots of photos since then, but none through the bus window, for which you are very welcome. However, I did get to see lots of hedged fields--the hedges were much lower than I thought they would be. I didn't reach sheep country really, though I saw a few, and some cattle, and a lot of grain fields and some gorgeous yellow canola(rapeseed) fields.  It was immediately obvious that they weren't exactly mustard fields. They were a different yellow, and even farther away the texture was different and I could tell the flowers were bigger and carried a bit farther from the main stem.

The verges were planted to forest trees and a large shrub with abundant small flowers. If you're from the UK, you know what it is. I had my suspicion because I know some songs that talk about how well the may blooms, etc., but I didn't know for a couple of days when I asked Hana and she said her mother called them "hloch" in Czech, which was enough of a clue that I could look it up on slovnik.com, which is a priceless asset if you ask me. It turns out the standard Czech is "hloh," and it means hawthorn or may. So there you have it. 

Hawthorn isn't quite the life-changing revelation that linden was to me, but it's a pretty amazing thing. It apparently will naturally grow in ragged hedges,putting out these great elegantly curving branches covered in earnest lobed (almost palmate) leaves, and for a long time in the spring, these tiny flowers like plum flowers both in shape and scent. And here in Thorpe Acre (a neighborhood of Louhgborough, where Frank and Hana live), you can walk all over town and pass under arches of the stuff several times in the process.

Who else loves hawthorn are the many many loud melodious songbirds. Of thrushes alone (that is, like blackbirds and American robins) there are may species: also finches and corvids. I am lousy at photographing birds, so no dice there either.
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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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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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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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I should be telling you all about the opera we saw on Thursday, or my second trip to the Cross Club on Saturday, or our outing to the Easter Fair in Prague 10 today.  There's a lot to say about all of it, and about Prague itself, and about the experience of  watching your son making out with his girlfriend right there on the metro,  and I feel like it would be best to say these things now while they are fresh.

But Emma's computer is going to run out of charge if I write a long post, so suffice it to say we have walked all over the place and ridden a boat too and now my legs hurt and I have a blister.   I never get blisters.  My legs hurt a lot and a lot.

If I haven't lost three pounds by the time I get to a scale again I will be surprised.  


Mar. 31st, 2011 07:27 am
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I have the hotel -- Hotel Denisa, 50 metres! from the Dejvicka metro stop (the major transportation hub that the airport bus brings you to, and also the spot where Frank's bus stops and also the metro station to take to get to the tourist stuff). I ended up getting an actual hotel with hotel prices.

However, I only seem to have Emma's flight confirmation in my email, so I have to call and make sure I get a copy of mine.

Also, dog and cat.

Then: buy swag for Frank and Hana. Emma says we can't bring Hana too much because it would make her feel weird.

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