Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Positive Note for the Dark Days

Vitamin D helps. Lots and lots.
And the realization that the days, as always, have been getting shorter since last June, but we had the good weather and warmth to balance that. It didnt really start to show until late October, and then the yearly axe came down with the end of daylight savings time.

However. The winter solstice is only a month away, and then, by golly, the days begin to get a bit longer every day. In the middle of January with blizzards and ice storms and gharstly cold weather, you can say, yes, but the days are getting longer. There is that.

We have begun the search for the next kitchen stove. It's amazing how many wood stoves are out there, and how strangely delicate they all are. Glass fronts, ceramic plates that need to be protected from damage inside, fireboxes with grates that barely function, and while most of the stoves look very nice, with lovely soap stone surfaces or really chichi designs, I look at them and think, these are "company" stoves. "We're having the Hendersons over tomorrow night, it would be nice if we had the stove going. It creates such a lovely ambience"...

But, then, we have till next summer to find one. This is not the time of year to break in a new stove, heck, it's not even the time of year to have one delivered.

Monday, November 23, 2009

lurking turkeys

we have been enjoying the cautious company of two wild turkeys, all summer long. They seem to be two males (which is doubtful) or two females with beards (some females do have them), or a friendly couple, one male, one female (one seems to be a bit larger than the other), who take long walks in the morning, afternoon, and early evening, foraging in the garden for whatever seeds and seed pods may have been left behind.

When startled they would launch into what I think of as synchronized running, much like swimmers indulge in, in the Olympics, but so perfectly in sync you have to realize at last how locked into the larger Brain these birds really are. Like starlings, all wheeling at once, turkeys follow each other in perfect step. Fascinating to watch.

But now that turkey season is upon us, I no longer see them. Now and then you will hear something that sounds a lot like a howitzer going off, here and there along the road below us, or deep in the woods. Ive not seen either of them for about two days, and this after a steady stream of visits for five months. Yes, they were just turkeys, but they were familiar. I miss them.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


last night, with severe trepidation, I uploaded (or downloaded, Im never sure what the difference is) IE8. the installation was a breeze, since these days you just push the "download' button and remember to keep your hands away from the process until asked. The problems started when I realized that like it or not, I was being gifted with a Google search bar. The unremovable kind. Then I noticed I had five or six toolbars added. I removed two of the more thoroughly useless ones, but am stuck with a huge yellow icon for 'favorites' (which I never use anyway) and tabs. TABS?? you can remove the tabs bar, but if you do you are no longer welcome on the internet. sigh.

Some of my usual go-to places, I was told, were outside the limits of what MSN perceives to be 'secure sites' (you can almost see the frowny face) and to that end I had to do some relatively fancy scrambling to find the passwords that are automatically allowed. All my passwords had been erased, and I suspect will not be allowed until I carefully re-add them.

The font size in the dropdown address bar is now about a pt. 2 or 3, almost impossible to read without squints or glasses.

But the most annoying feature of all, is when I go to ask someone online for help, their only comment is, "get firefox". (I'm behaving. Im not being snarky.) But I will admit I typed in several responses to this kind of comment, and erased them very fast before I could get to the 'post" button. One of my unposted comments was, 'if I wanted firefox, I'd HAVE firefox." In a way it's like buying a new car, and commenting to a neighbor that you really didnt want A/C and his comment is, "you should get rid of that and get a Subaru"...

I'll survive, and realize that a great deal of this whinging is just that, the Luddite in me dislikes changes, even when they're necessary, and the whining and pot cover banging is mostly my way of dealing with it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Getting ready for winter

There is a certain satisfaction in getting in all that wood, split, stacked, waiting to be used; in getting the stoves cleaned out, refitted with gasket cement and new firebrick, resolving this year as every year to get it a bit better, what I always think of as correcting for true north; last year what we did worked pretty well, but this year I'm taking pains to make it work better. Always tinkering, adjusting.

Today was the second day of cleaning out the dining room chimney, which has needed doing for about five years. It's a bitch to clean with brushes, since part way up the flu shrinks down, for some reason, to about 75% full size, and it's a bear to get a full sized brush into it unless you're lucky and determined. This time the chimney won. I got what I could, but it took two days to get to that point, and tomorrow we have the dubious pleasure of sliding the stove back into position. I can handle the kitchen flu alone, and will start on that in the morning, and finally by tomorrow night all the adjusting and fussing and whining will be over. For awhile.

We've been lucky this week, Indian summer has come early and lingered just long enough to bring in wood from the outside rather than pulling from the shed wood, and just long enough to allow the stoves to be out most of the day for cleaning. Im just glad to get that first one done...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Empire Falls and other strange places

True to this season of masochistic reading, I have decided it was time to finally get Richard Russo over with. I saw him several years ago reading excerpts from his then latest book, Empire Falls. He's a masterful reader, and had an entire auditorium in hysterics.

I have since bought the book at a much lower price, and it has been sitting on my stash shelf for several years. yesterday I took it down, resolved to finally see what all the shouting was about.

I got about a quarter of the way through before I realized that either he had failed to make me care about these people--or reading about Miles Roby and the assorted loons in Empire Falls was so well done, and the characters so finely and truly constructed, it was like reading about people I knew, grew up with, and was less than impressed with the lot of them. For me they are not the exotic species they might be to someone from, say, Duluth, or East Texas. In much the same way that the Beans of Egypt Maine weren't necessarily interesting, just sad and way too locally recognizable.

There is something about reading of the shenanigans of people so sharply familiar, that any humor there might actually be in all of it gets washed out by a faint embarrassment that you do indeed KNOW people like this, and they ain't funny a-tall. At least when you're standing that close to them. When you start picking apart the foibles of the neighbors, that's one thing. It's done with people who already know the outlines, you just fill in the details of what Susy Mae is up to THIS time...

I kept reading, and reading, looking for the funny bits, and then understood that if the funny bits were there, they were subtle, and it took Mr. Russo's masterful reading to bring them out.

I am also working my way through another Doris Lessing novel, "Summer Before the Dark" and it seems that Ms. Lessing is about to have her heroine overthink herself right into madness. It does seem that the heroines do that a lot in her books, just think things to death. Nothing comes easily for them, and if it seems to, they have to examine it under a microscope until the wings fall off. Classics, I keep telling myself. These are classics. Must Read Classics now and then. As a reward, I promise myself the next Robert Parker novel, or Sue Grafton, or the entire sweeep of Terry Pratchett, from one end of his series to the other.

complaint department

My penultimate iron leaked heat, even turned off, if it was plugged in. Eventually I dumped it, and got a nice new Black and Decker. True, it doesnt leak heat, but if you use the spray it squirts water straight across the ironing board onto the cat, the floor, or your good sideboard. If you want to use the steam feature it will pee on your clothes as it steams them.
It has no "linen' setting, and no 'cotton' setting. Apparently folks at B&D are afraid someone might burn themselves. It's an IRON, people. The box is covered with warnings about it, including, 'do not submerge in water" and "iron is hot when turned on". (good to know these things).

Also on the box, I found out, is a small nearly invisible sticker, that says, "discontinued model". No wonder it was only $13, marked down from lord alone knows how much.

My hair dryer is so loud it could cause deafness, and barely functions as a heat delivering item. "do not use while sleeping', the instructions caution. "do not immerse". who ARE these people, that regularly give their electrical appliance baths?

The toaster we now have is so slow (one of those heat sensor things) that you can make coffee and be working on a second cup by the time the toast hurls itself out of the toaster. The highest setting barely browns a muffin. "Product will be hot when turned on (well, arent we all)." "Do not allow children to operate this item" and "do not immerse in water". (my mother's old toaster would give you a seriously browned piece of toast, and if you were fool hardy enough to try for the high setting you could make charcoal briquettes. and it had the most wonderful tick-tick-tick that let you time your trip around the kitchen; the closer it got to Toast Time the faster the tick. She gave it to me, finally, and I got about three years out of it before the Tick turned to Smoke. ) Newer toasters just let you wonder how done they are, and just as you lean over the toaster to see, up it pops, scaring the hell out of you and any cat in the area.

My new curling iron, when I plug it in, flips the breaker switch on the bathroom plug. "do not immerse in water". "do not use while sleeping, or while in the tub". Or possibly during nap time IN the tub...

Monday, November 9, 2009

whining--fall back, oh yeah

Last year I had the same trouble; change the clocks back an hour, and I am totally disoriented for weeks, as to day and night. Im fighting sleep from 9PM on, knowing if I do give in I'll be awake and staring at 4 the next morning, which is what happened today.
Food I can deal with, since I can eat at almost any hour, with no real problems. But the dark this early seems to make the evening slope along like a kid who doesnt want to come in yet at sunset. The hours from 7-9 at night are endless.

I just wish they'd leave it all alone, put us on summer time and be done with it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Woodshed door

wood's in, shed's stuffed full. Haven't had this much inside this early (this was end of October) in several years. It's a gooood feeling.

Now I have to force myself to use it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A very small thing (1)

This morning I happened to be up just before 5 AM, and as I often do went out on the porch to admire the clear cold sky. The traffic sounds on the highway (five miles away, but sound does travel) had just begun to pick up, prior to the morning commute.

At 5 AM sharp I heard the town clock (equally five miles away) chime out the hour. This is not something i've ever heard at any hour from here, but thanks to a gentle east wind, it was clear, distant, but not at all faint. The town clock, still operated by levers and gears and a great deal of personal attention, still keeps whacking good time.

And now its snowing, a steady, damp, large-flaked snow, drifting down, sometimes rain, sometimes not.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The old guys

I have been exploring Bob Dylan's later albums, one in particular, "Modern Times" which is apparently one of three recorded as a kind of trilogy. I have yet to find them in the local stores, but they'll show up sooner or later. What I love about this particular one is the looseness, the lyricality of the whole thing. He's 69 now, and still good. I listen to this and hear shades of Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson, some of the much younger Dylan, but none of the anger that fueled his first albums. I guess, you get old enough, you stop being angry. It takes way way too much energy.

He also has a Christmas album out, the proceeds of which are going to charity. It's funny, a bit flaky, but the first chrismas album I have ever, ever, bought.

and that got me to thinking about performers and writers who are still producing, singing, writing, well into their 70s and 80s, and still kicking butt. All of them have one thing in common; they are not only dynamite performers, they are also flexible and creative enough to keep changing, morphing, reinventing what they do. They take chances. Every book of W.S. Merwin's is different from the last, both in style and language. The only thing that never changes is his punctuation. Paul Simon is still creating new stuff, (which bodes well for the future) Leonard Cohen, the same.

Ray Bradbury has been writing the same story for ten years, and that's sad. Billy Collins seems to be going the same way, writing "billy collins poems" which no longer invent, they recreate.
It's as if they ran out of gas somewhere along the way, or got scared to take that last step up to the next level. Maybe the rep gets bigger than the talent, and they're afraid of losing that by taking the chance that might hurt the reputation if not the writer. Dunno.