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the last 6 weeks or so

I (voted first then) drank bourbon for 6 hours, but still survived the election.  I was one of the weird ones who wasn't entirely surprised by the outcome.  Deeply, deeply disappointed, but not surprised.  I've decided the best response is to try to be a better, kinder person.  I'm not sure I've made much progress yet.

A friend once said "a perceived injustice is still an injustice".  There are people who perceive themselves as being disadvantaged and ignored - and voted accordingly.  Berating them does nothing but add to the discord.  But I'm not sure yet how best to defuse/redirect/repair.  I took vacation the entire week of the election - it's a mixed group of voters, and some are quite vocal, and I wasn't ready yet.

The current big project at work is...too many kinds of messed up to enumerate.  The way things work (for all projects, not just this one) is that the consulting company writes our design, and we hope we are able to correct it before we are expected to implement it.
Meanwhile, our teams had an internal re-org, to try to do something that isn't going to work with the available headcount.  And even if we did have enough people, half the team gets the short end of the stick.  We've already lost one teammate who had all the work he loved best ripped away from him.  For my part - what I do isn't changing much, except there is somehow now even more of it.  Oh, and I got a promotion...and some automated system somewhere disabled all my permissions because of it.

I took in Z's cat - WoolyBear, the tortoiseshell manx that turned up in my yard.  Z needed to move the house rabbits back downstairs, and there just wasn't any way to keep predators and prey separated.  WoolyBear seemed a bit off; we initially thought it was bad teeth, but the eventual conclusion was intestinal cancer.  She was with me for only three weeks; she died Friday evening.  She was a real sweetie - purring and sleeping on my head every night until she was too weak to get to the bed.  Well, even after that, as she would gaze up pleadingly and I'd lift her up and she'd settle in.  Even in the final days she'd painstakingly, politely make her way to the closest litterbox, or as close as she could get - then need a nap before she could travel the six feet back to her fuzzy blanket on the floor.  I gave her pain meds and subcutaneous fluids and petting.  She went quietly at home, spared yet again still another trip to the vet.

I first saw her a year ago, sleeping in a pile of sun-dappled leaves along the edge of the white pines.  That's where and how I buried her.

I'm just now reading through my friends feed for the first time in over a month.  It seems there are plenty of troubles to go around.

But there's good stuff too.  A friend who's been in the hospital for various things most of the year is on track to go home soon.  Friends were over a couple weekends ago for gaming and it was very pleasant.  Z and K came over for a low-key Thanksgiving meal and socializing.  I finished my sword holder.  I've been reading more.


Fermentation Fest


Geez, not only have I not posted in months, it's been nearly as long since I checked my friends feed....

Saturday I did Last Harvest.  Because, you know, "winter is coming".  Some tiny ears of glass gem corn, a nice assortment of winter squash, a bunch of tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers...Thai basil.  One tiny Bateekh Samarra melon.

Sunday Z and I went to the last day of Fermentation Fest.  We drove around and stared at...seriously people, that's craft at best, not art.  But I did get samples of different sauerkrauts, spiced burdock tea, etc.  I got to make&take some fermented hot sauce in a mini-class (well, it needs to sit on my countertop for a few weeks now).  Beautiful scenery around Reedsburg, and a nice sunny day.  We stopped at a barn sale where I found a frog identification audio tape in a "free" box (although tempting, I did not take all the free falconry paraphernalia in the same box).  Z and I listened to the tape, learned a few things, and then sang Michigan J. Frog songs for the rest of the day.

I entered the apple pie contest.  I didn't win, but I had fun buying apples at my new favorite orchard (Lapacek's) and perfecting my recipe.  I got feedback from Peter Reinhart; main criticism was that it wasn't sweet enough.  Which I'm fine with; I find most apple pie to be cloyingly sweet.  I want to actually be able to taste the apples.  I'm very happy with the wheat crust I came up with (wheat flour, sorghum flour, wheat germ, and butter) -flaky and tender.  Per internet, I thin-sliced the apples to avoid a soggy bottom crust - and it worked!

I've dug up some pepper plants, to try "bonchi".  Could be cool.  And if not...well, the plants were going to die over winter anyway.

sword

I used to hang out with a group in Michigan, where - among other things - I studied western European swordsmanship.
The group had their issues, but a cautious person could learn a great deal there.  As with any martial art (at least for me), it's the love of the study that motivates me.  The weapon becomes an extension of one's arm; the motions become beautiful, you become calm and focused....
I fell out with my main link to the group (for reasons outside the group).  It was an ugly, devastating situation that threw me into a walking depression for years (I kept my job and paid my bills while I just...waited it out).

About five years ago, I went to the MN ren fest with my sister, my niece, and Mom.
I stopped at the Badger Blades booth, and became very enamored of a sword there.
But I couldn't justify spending $$$ on a sword that day.  Plus, I didn't feel ready yet - I hadn't yet recovered from Michigan.
After I left the booth, Mom said "you should buy it".  Which is not something I expected Mom to ever say about a sword.

A few weeks ago, I went back to the ren fest, to get...well not the same sword, but the same style (bastard sword).  It's a five-hour drive, but one does not buy a sword by mail.  I turned it into a long weekend; Z and I had a fine scenic drive along the Mississippi, I saw my sister and niece, and I saw eldest brother.  We were at the ren fest just long enough to get the sword, then went to the really big candy store, then to the very nice sushi restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.  The next day, we did the Minnesota zoo.  I got to see the Amur leopard.  I'm in two minds about zoos, but I like the way this one is organized.  Z was enamored of the prairie dogs.  On the drive back, we did a quick turn through Trempeleau NWR.

This is not a sword for show.  It is a tool.  Cutting trees, refrigerators, cars...is considered "normal use".
The sword oil has a touch of clove oil in it, and smells divine.

Getting the sword is symbolic for me, because it means I am finally Ready, to learn the new form of all the parts of my life that halted years ago.



I have plumbed

Kitchen faucet finally replaced; undersink RO system finally installed.
Which isn't all that big a deal, but as is often the case with plumbing repairs, the tricky bit is the prep.
One drain was leaking, so I had to fix that first - definitely the easy part of the process.

Next step was to install the missing undersink shutoff valves, so I didn't have to go downstairs and shut off water to the entire house every time I wanted to do anything.  Since one's hands are supposed to be relatively clean when installing a filtration system, it seemed a good idea to be able to wash them somewhere in the house.

For some reason, the baseplate on the old faucet was all but welded in place (partially by time and hard water deposits, but the overzealous previous owner definitely helped).  I had to cut a bolt in 4 places with the dremel before it could be pried off.

Most sinks have 2, 3 or 4 holes.  Mine had 4.5 - apparently the previous owner had drilled a special tiny hole for the old filtration spigot.  After some pondering, I offset my new faucet on the double sink, in the leftmost hole, with the handle attached on the left (and the intake hoses switched, so cold is still foward and hot is still back).  Center hole got a hole cover, next hole is where I put the spigot - also left-handed handle, so as to not be crowded up against the dishwasher thingy,  Ex spigot-hole got another hole cover.  After using this setup for a week, i"m pretty happy with it.  New faucet is one of those tall sprayer-in-faucet models - it easily reaches both sinks, and accommodates every stockpot.

The instructions for the RO system looked reasonable, but the steps were in a very unfortunate order.  Step 1 should not be "drill a hole in the drain pipe", because if you do that and later find some reason that you must stop...you can't turn the water on until you repalce the pipe.  Based on evidence, step 1 should be "identify what pieces you need from the hardware store to install this other piece in your cold water line".  It should have been very standard, since it was to go in between the new shutoff valve I'd just installed and the new faucet line.  It wasn't.

Step 9 references "step 6"...which is actually step 7.  One of the first steps is to install the tank so as to block all subsequent steps.  And so forth.

Thankfully, the undersink area had a lot of room.  Still awkward of course (bruises and a twinge-y back when I was done), but I can't complain.  Except that there weren't any solid bits of wood within reach, for installing the set of filters.  For solidity and access, I installed them on the cabinet door.  Which is great...except that Z tells me that cutting the one piece of wood I did cut is against code.  Well, I'll shore it up just in case it does serve some purpose.

RO system is to be sanitized with 3ml of bleach at end.  It assumes regular-strength bleach, but most store-bought bleach these days is "concentrated", so either you do the math or you do a second round of flushing to get rid of the bleachy taste.

Final indignity:  while inspecting the RO setup, I snapped off the tiny protuding bit on the RO filter.  $60 down the drain, and yet again still another trip to the hardware store.

good food days

Garden is currently producing beans, cukes, bitter melon, sanditas, tomatoes, chiles, tomatillos, okra, and ground cherries.
Also Chinese cutting celery, parsley, basil, fennel, fenugreek, nasturtiums, and papalo.  I have most of the team at work hooked on sanditas.

Potatoes and shallots need to be harvested.

Some very promising winter squash sizing up.  Glass gem corn...well,we'll see if it sizes up before winter, and avoids raccoons.

As usual, I only have about 5 carrots.  And I can't grow a zucchini to save my life.  it's embarrassing to buy zucchini at farmer's market - luckily, I can often find abandoned overflow zucchini in the breakroom.  I can also live happily without any zucchini.

If I wanted to do a market stand, most of what I'd be selling is very different from the other offerings.  I don't even see all that many multicolored cherry tomato mixed boxes - just a ton of sungolds, at least for now.

I'll have elderberries if I can beat the wildlife to them. Wild-ish plums soon.

Pepicha was a no-go:  I can't recognize it well enough to avoid pulling it as a grassy weed.  Not a problem; papalo is all the cilantro-like herb I will ever need, and then some.

The "blue cream berries" tomatoes are pretty, but are prone to cracking.  And not as tasty as I'd hoped.
The "chestnut chocolate" tomatoes have an adorable red star at the top, where the skin is shaded by the...sepals?  And they're tasty.  A keeper.
The "sunrise bumblebee" tomatoes are super pretty, but...none of the bumblebee line seems all that tasty to me.

The next "moon maid" bitter melon that ripens, I'm leaving it on the vine for mature seed; I can't seem to find the seed anymore.  This year's plants are from three-year-old seed, but I'm pretty much out.

The anellino bean experiment was educational.  The green, yellow, and speckled ones all start producing at different times, so if I wanted a multicolored harvest I should have adjusted the planting accordingly.  Which I knew, but I was lazy.  The vines are taller than anything else in the garden but don't seem all that productive, at least not yet.  Kinda hard to locate the beans too (which could be influencing my impression that they're not productive).  After all that, not any tastier than other beans anyway.  So, rattlesnake pole beans will continue to be the main crop, with a side of long beans.  And maybe some wax beans for an early harvest; they were Mom's favorite.

ticks and things

Keeping up with the garden, more or less.  So, since I'm not floundering, I'm considering expanding the garden.  Yep.
Drip irrigation was all set up a few weeks ago, and delivering water and nutrients.  Peas mostly done, beans starting to come in.  Tomatoes, peppers, cukes, bitter melon, potatoes, etc., all look good.  Basils are slow (not surprising, and not a problem).  Glass Gem corn looks good, but we'll see what happens when the raccoons notice.  Hope to pull peas today and re-plant with a few more of those fancy Indian carrots from Baker Creek.

Z volunteers at the Aldo Leopold shack.  I brought a picnic Saturday, and got to see the inside of the shack.  Then got water at the spigot in Rock Springs, then off to Flower Factory to meet up with K.  K's new knee is filling her with joy and energy, so she bought new plants for the front yard.  Then we had a pleasant dinner at Curry in the Box.

Picnic included mulberries and black caps from the yard, one ground cherry, salads made from a combination of yard and farmer's markets (one basil-and-garlic themed, one sort of a roasted veg slaw, where I should have stuck with just the panch puran seasoning and left out the caraway - live and learn).  And some landjaeger and happy hippo candy from the cheese chalet.

Yesterday, yardwork.  Much hacking away of underbrush.  One deer tick (and a few very thorough checks for others).

Today...there will be a brief yardwork.  Mainly getting chores done and girding loins for what will be a laden week.  Workwise, early meeting tomorrow, all-day meetings the next two days (at least one involving a drive to Chicago), for a project I'm not supposed to be on, to cover tasks that are way outside my listed role.

Also tomorrow, a pee&bleed to test my kidneys before I will entertain the idea of using contrast for Friday's MRI.  Although the incidence of issues from MRI contrast is very low, it is not a lottery ticket you want to win.  Kinda irked with regular doc that he didn't even bother to check the guidelines for MRI contrast and kidneys before ordering contrast.  Pretty sure he didn't check a year ago either (when my kidneys were much worse - but for other reasons I didn't get the MRI...in part because the system sort of punishes people who try to follow up on cost by cancelling their appointment...need to submit a "comment" for that).  Anyway, for this one, I made a bunch of calls and got the nephrologist to weigh in - hence the testing.

I continue to research and consider...and will probably need to make yet again still another call, to get clarification on whether or not an MRI without contrast has a decent chance of giving them useful info.  Or what alternatives exist.  Just because it's their default go-to doesn't mean it's what I personally would decide to do, or that they should feel justified in trying to talk me into it...which is how too many medical discussions feel.  "Protocol" is not an excuse for not using one's head.

Kinda sick of how a person has to be their own PM for all medical stuff.  I'm not perfect, but I'm marginally capable of doing that job...but what does a really sick person do?  Or a less-educated person, or one with fewer resources or a less flexible work schedule?  They are at the mercy of the system.  And its shortcomings are hidden by a lack of such issues being documented or even recognized.  On the one hand, I love all the things that modern medicine can do.  On the other hand...we could do SO much better.

Anyway, theoretically an MRI (my first) on Friday.  Then Picasso to vet on Saturday - standard checkup and vaccines.

Work-wise...they are changing our work-from-home deal.  Although no one has ever complained about the quality or quantity of our work, apparently senior managers don't like us taking Fridays for work-from-home.  Also, the one really big perk of working here - the free cell phone with mostly unlimited usage - continues to degrade.  Harder and harder to get a decent phone that doesn't cost full-price.  And now we hear that the plan is going to change to something with pretty major limitations.  Doesn't affect me as much, but will be a big hit for families.  So, the list of reasons for staying continues to dwindle.  We also had to fill out a thing saying whether we'd be willing to move to Chicago to keep our job.  But "don't read too much into that".  Idiot boss has apparently been told he could be a senior manager if he moved...oy.  In related news, I finally finished the resume re-write.

May. 23rd, 2016

Haven't posted in ages, apparently.  Well, I log in to do my 1word1day post each week, then log back out of LJ without even checking the friends feed.  Which means I've missed a lot of things.  Same with Facebook...it's been a couple of months since I've been there.  I don't much like Facebook, but it is handy for checking up on nephews and nieces, seeing invites for parties, etc.  So, I should check it occasionally.
No particular reason for having gone silent.  Busy, but not much more than usual.  Niece's wedding was last weekend - it was the right wedding for her, and very nice.  I like the new nephew-in-law; he's one of those people who can see problems coming and arrange to avoid them - she is a headlong-into-things person, so that will be handy.  In a few weeks, niece #3 will be getting married (niece #1 has been married for years).  It will be a very different affair - small family-only ceremony then a casual party - which sounds like the right wedding for her.
The late hard freeze did a number on the mosquitoes, and I was able to wait until after the freeze to plant the seedlings.  Still working on getting the garden planted; it's coming along fine.  Plenty warm now.
My allergy season is here.  Should be over around July 4.  Until then...drugs.
K's knee replacement went beautifully.  She is a terror when driving those motorized carts at the grocery store, but she missed the tower of oatmeal.
Met up with Z, and with Ski and family, yesterday.  Flower Factory - got a nice cartload of fine things - then Curry in the Box, followed by dessert at the Michoacan ice cream shop.



In which I review a movie from 2014

So, spoilers, but likely everyone who cares has already seen it.  I repeatedly think "oh I should go see that", then the next time I think of the film it's on cable free previews.
Anyway...Interstellar.

It's worth seeing once.  Probably exactly once.  The wormhole bits and alien planets are worth seeing.  It was clear they had a proper physics consultant (Kip Thorne), and they put a lot of time, thought, and money into those visual effects.
The film has a strong feeling of something specifically crafted for IMAX, which is fine if that's where you're watching it, but a bit distracting otherwise.
I can't help it:  whenever I see Matthew McConaughey, all I can think of is those stupid car commercials.
Everything outside of the wormhole story was hard to follow, and hard to care about.
There was something very flat about all the acting, as if the story itself was just an afterthought - the minimum effort needed to get the viewer to the wormhole stuff.  I wanted to like these characters, but I honestly didn't care if they lived or died.  Well actually, I kind of cared about what happened to Murph's brother...but that character was basically ignored until he died off-set.
And what was with that "faked moon landing" textbook thing?  That felt like one of those storylines that any sensible writer would have recognized as self-serving and unnecessary and would have cut from the 169-minute story.

And then there was the other part of the story:  an entire branch of science treated with zero respect.  The volume of questionable agriculture/blight/famine scenes/comments...I'm not even sure where to start.  There was clearly no scientific consultant for this part of the movie.  Pretty sure they never even talked to a farmer.  It felt like they watched Ken Burns' The Dust Bowl, and maybe leafed through a Michael Pollan book, and then ran with it all.
It wouldn't have taken that much effort to come up with a sufficiently-believeable way for the characters to be in the bind they're in.  But the story they used was just a train wreck.
The whole ag story seemed very America-centric:  choosing corn and okra as the last crops.  Plus...corn and okra would not be the "last crops":  the crop that will survive the longest will be something with way more genetic diversity and far less dependence on humans (and fossil fuels) to make it grow.
If there really was a huge famine, then - let's face it - the poor and under-represented would have taken the biggest hit.  So, primarily rich&privileged left...yet here's Cooper, living in this rustic farm house...I'm just having trouble making that whole backstory work.
What was with all the remote-control combines, roaming around when the corn wasn't ready to harvest?  And if there's a huge famine, then why is Cooper so willing to drive his truck through the cornfield?  Isn't that food supposedly all humanity has left?
If the only "crop" left truly is corn, then humanity is already screwed, since we cannot survive on corn alone.  Plus, there must be other plants, otherwise every ecosystem everywhere would have collapsed.  So...there must still be other plants - as evidenced by the occasional tree, and by the bottles of beer they're drinking.  So...how stupid is humanity, if they couldn't figure out to eat anything other than corn.  There are hundreds of edible things in my yard alone:  plants, insects...woodchucks....
And then at the end (a really bootstrappy ending), here's humanity looking pretty healthy and acceptably-fed on a space station.  If that were possible...why weren't we pursuing that sooner, instead of saying that the only options were death on earth or a new world through the wormhole?
It was a very sketchy and disrespectful treatment of the whole biological side of the story.
I would have ecstatically forgiven everything else if they'd made even remotely equivalent efforts on both of the science stories, and not just one.
Rant over.

owl house!

Well, whatever else I get done this weekend, the owl house is installed.
I bought it at last year's Badger Steam&Gas festival - they have many affordable and fine birdhouses, made from scrap.
It's roughly 14 feet up, at the top of the denuded spruce trunk - I felt bad maiming/killing 3 perfectly good trees, but they were shading the garden more and more each year, and making it harder and harder for the propane guy to navigate the path to the tank.  I'll try to make the best of the destruction:  owl house on this one, the other two will be the main verticals for the Proper Compost Bins, with the removed branches forming at least the long wall.  The other limbs have made a brush pile that should house a sizeable wildlife population.  Might use my fine new power drill (Dewalt DWD110K) to drill trendy native bee homes in the trunks.

For the types of owls most likely to show up here (and use a nest box), I did not need to pre-load it with wood chips.
LIkely an owl would prefer something less exposed - if I buy another owl house, it will likely go up in one of the white pines, or the bit of woods out back.  This one overlooks the garden - so, good rodent hunting, I would think.
It's possible it might attract a flicker woodpecker - they're also cool, and seem to do fine around here without nest boxes.
Or, it could attract a squirrel.  Oh well.

better week so far

The talk with idiotboss didn't go as desired.  I really had no interest in having a big Talk; I just wanted to acknowlege that I had talked to otherboss (since otherboss would have told him anyway), and if switching over there was going to mean that someone from that team had to move to this team...it would probably be a net loss for both teams, at a time when neither can afford it, so just leave things as is for now.  Maybe get his ass in gear with the team restructure that's supposed to bring both teams together, with a mutual front-door team...yeah, so he isn't moving very fast on that.

But then I started talking about all the stuff that bothered me.  He interpreted my comments as me "not trusting him".  Which implies that I think he's deceitful or something.  I think many things, but not that - he's honestly clueless.  So now I need to figure out how to redirect him, let him know that my actual point is that I don't trust his ability to accurately represent us.  For which I have many examples.  And I'm not the only one who's given him that feedback.

The agitation I feel is taking up entirely too much of my brain power.  But I did get some good work done over the weekend and today, and I will try to keep the momentum going...a few wins will help me tackle the other stuff.

Good yardwork weekend - that always helps too.  Cleared all the tree stuff from the location for the Actual Proper Compost Bins (blame Will Bonsall's book).  Now to submit a request to Digger's Hotline to mark the area (I know there are lines under there) so I can sink a few posts.  I think the long back wall of the bins will be made of wood from the cleared trees - much hand-sawing to do there.

Food:  threw together some stuff that seems to have made sweet potato and red lentil cornbread - ancho pepper and cumin for seasoning.  Turned out well - dense, but in a good way, and more moist than regular cornbread.  Ate it with pinto beans and garlic butter brussels sprouts; tonight made a black bean - okra - tomato thing to go with the rest.

Went to a gaming meetup with ex-housemate yesterday.  It was nice, but I didn't stay long - non-stop meetings 8:30-4 today; I needed to bulk up on non-people time as much as possible before this week began.