Sunday, October 23, 2016

"Look for the Upside-Down Pizza Icon"

I kid you not: that's what the "Genius" told me over the phone when I was trying to solve a problem with my old computer. Truthfully now: do you know what he was talking about? Nobody else at Apple that I've talked to can. I still have no clue. And the problem still isn't solved after three days.


A little history: my old (2008) laptop (MacBook) has been having increasingly frequent problems with getting connected with the Wi-Fi. It finally kept failing to connect after many tries last Thursday. After talking to Rich, he thought it was a failing Wi-Fi card.

I did the logical thing and called Apple about a replacement card. Well, logical to me anyway. To Apple, 8 years is too old. No parts. Nobody'd replace it even if I could find one. That's their story and they're sticking to it. Of course, I could buy a new computer....

So-o-o-o not a happy camper. But since the old one was a MacBook, I could call up their "Genius Bar" service and try to establish first for sure that it was in fact a dying/dead Wi-Fi card. After all the usual voicemail crap and holding crap (but hey, at least they give you a choice of what kind of music you want to listen to for your half hour and it includes classical) I connected with a young-sounding chap who tried to work me through to getting the old one to do a self-diagnostic test.

OK, how do I do that?

This is where it all broke down. He heard me repeat several times that I'm a technophobe. Perhaps he thinks we're as real and common as the Tooth Fairy? I got jargon this and jargon that until I had to stop him about 5 times for every piece of instruction and ask where I could find that on my screen. You know, is it in the applications menu? Under the Apple symbol? Because I can actually find those.  But no, too easy. After a series of instructions I finally got to where there were a bunch of symbols on the upper right bar of my screen.

And that's when he told me to find the upside-down pizza.

Are you shitting me? What the hell kind of symbol looks like an upside-down pizza?

I tried to work with him and describe the symbols as they appeared from left to right. I figured a physical description telling a simple shape like a star, or what kind of lines - straight, curved, bent, vertical, horizontal, diagonal, going in which direction - should cover it. You know, like pointing down, or an increasing stack of arcs like they used to draw for noise or volume control. I went through the whole lot of symbols and nothing registered with him. And he had no words to tell me what an  upside down pizza was supposed to look like.

He decided to change tack. "Go to the Bluetooth symbol." Another brick wall. To me a bluetooth is a shiny blue plastic thing that fits around my friends' ear letting her talk on her cell while she's not holding it. It's why she never sees  with bad news.  But I've never had one, used one, and certainly had no clue what its symbol looks like. I asked him to describe it.

Dead silence.

"Are you still there?" He was. But he couldn't describe a Bluetooth symbol. I do, for the record, now know that it is kind of a central vertical line through an X but on the right side of that vertical the lines turn into a pair of stacked triangles. Or a really weird-ass "B". But since there was absolutely no communication happening, the call ended.

 Where do they get these geniuses?

I trusted Rich's call on the diagnosis, and reluctantly went to the local Apple Store. By the way, poor communication seems to be endemic with them. Steve decided to come along. The store is in a huge mall, so I called to find out which entrance is closest to the store so we didn't have a 2-mile hike in store. So to speak. The 1st person I got was in a call center but put me through to the actual store. I was connected to a manager, explained mobility limitations as the reason for my question. (FYI neither scooter has living batteries right now, and Steve just replaced his.)

"It's the entrance by the ______ Theater."

That's fine but I've never heard of nor seen this theater. "Are we talking north, south, east, west, southeast, or where?"

Turns out it's on the north end, very farthest from the road in. Glad I asked. Then it was"Turn to your right and it's about 50 feet." Sounded easy enough. He neglected the part about the fancy landscaping between handicap parking and the front door recessed about a hundred feet on a curved sidewalk. Gotta look nice you know. Or the part about this dumping you into the food court, meaning another hundred feet circling stands and dodging tables. Most especially he missed the bit about your being on the second floor and them being down on one, so you backtrack to the escalators, or the part about the storefront with all the Apple symbols on it being closed and the store having moved "across the aisle", which actually translates to completely on the other side of the escalators, aka down a different hall about as far as you've already come since getting off the escalators. But hey, it was on the other side when you got down that far. No Apple symbols on any of the doors, walls, or signs above the doors. Steve didn't think that was it but the inside just looked like an Apple store.

I bet you can guess our moods by this time. So it was probably a good thing that we got to sit for about 25 minutes after signing in before it was our turn to get the attention of a salesman!

I finally, after going through two different employees, bought a new laptop. We discussed how I was to transfer my data from that day's Time Machine back-up device, set up a call for the next morning so they could assist with any problems or questions, and I went home poorer but reasonably optimistic.

You'd think by now I'd know better.

Oh, the upload went fairly well. And one advancement I really appreciate is that it comes with all the basic operating installed, ready to go. I decided to be brave that night and see how far I could get by myself.  English as primary language? Click on that and then on continue. Whee, easy. Next was American or Canadian English, eh? American of course. Brits can't spell properly so I get the reasoning on that one.

Then it asked if I wanted to input my backed up data now or wait till later. Hmmm, not sure. Better wait, go onto next. How was I going to hook up to the internet? I spotted the home Wi-Fi system in the list of possibles and clicked on that. Fine, what's the password?

Uh oh. It's Steve's system so he should know. He offered me one possibility, but it didn't work. OK, maybe it was _______. It's been so long since needing to log anything into the Wi-Fi.  So where's it written down?

Huh? Where?

Meanwhile I thought maybe I should back up a page so I could try again with the different login, only this time the window options didn't even include the home network. WTF? 5 minutes and I've already broken the system? Time to give up and wait for that morning phone call.

Not ready to trust in my complete failure the next morning. I started it up again. This time it started over: English? American? When it got to the do you want to import part, I told myself what the hell and plugged in Time Machine. Maybe it had my passwords stored in it. Cause I only had about half of all of them memorized. Fingers crossed.

Well, the data mostly transferred. A few of my website passwords took an extra day to connect with where they belonged, which has me head scratching. Still no Wi-Fi right away though. I did some navigating while waiting for help and found a bunch of stuff in the operating system has changed. Firefox bookmarks are currently unmanageable, for example. They used to have "manage bookmarks" where I could go in and move or delete them and that's gone. I finally figured out their newer system on my last computer, but no luck with it on this one. Just one of the building list of frustrations.

My morning call took a mere 100 minutes before I got access to Wi-Fi again. Except... I can't connect to my mail system. And the way the window for mail is formatted now is terrible. I figured out a couple of fixes, simple stuff like paring down each entry from four lines to two, but can't get it down to one. Plus the header lines used to stack across the top of the mail window and now they take the  whole left  half of the window in a vertical column. That means when I open one of the old stored ones ('cause I still can't get or send new ones) I can only view a tiny upper corner of what was sent. I can't move around inside, scroll in any direction to read more than a few words per line or  more than a corner of the first of any pictures sent. And any links in them do not work.

Finding all of that out has thus far taken me two plus days, a dozen lengthy phone calls where Apple has given up on me and hung up on me, blaming my email provider, and the email provider has done the same thing blaming the computer. If you need me desperately, call. My ancient flip phone still works. No texting though.

Tomorrow my new laptop and I are going back to the Apple Store. Steve has already declined the hike. And even if they figure out how I can connect to my email, I still don't expect anybody there can tell me what an upside down pizza looks like.

If I were to draw it, it would look something like a flat fat-legged caterpillar without segments, eyes, or antennae. Those leggy things would represent all the toppings splatted over the floor.

I'd call that about a 20 minute cleanup.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


OK, everybody, I voted. Mailed in the ballot today. No more decisions, choices, questions.

And especially no more TV ads to watch. Not that I did watch them anyway. Oh, the glories of DVRs and skipping forward.

I had long ago decided my candidate for President. On the whole, I tend to vote by party platform. Of course, moving down here here recently, there were a lot of never-heard-ofs on the ballot. And some with no party affiliation. And that's just the candidates. There were also options to raise taxes and legalize marijuana.

Lucky me on several counts. I know long time residents who are politically plugged in and share most of my values. (Maybe all, but not every question has been asked.) If they didn't know, like in the long judges columns - yes, plural - they knew where to go to find out, say, who was rated poorly by their peers. Or who might rule in controversial ways.

I also had a door knocker who was passing out party information, including a listing of candidates for non partisan positions who were allied with her party platform. I'm not saying which party was represented, but it was useful information with which to base my own decisions. So thanks for taking those two minutes of my time.

Oh, and thanks for asking which is my most important local issue I'd like to see addressed and in what way. I told her that with global warming, the natural climate and the added drought, we ought to start getting rid of grass lawns down here and remember that water is a limited resource, even more so with the explosive growth in the area. If California can do it....

You may have heard about the lines up to 5 hours for those wanting to vote in the presidential primary down here in Arizona. I was already on the "Permanent Early Voter" list, so I get my ballots mailed our for all elections. A lot more voters signed up after that for that list. So rather than waiting around for hours, I have days to study the ballot, research candidates and issues, and still get my ballot in well before the election.

This part of Arizona voting I like.

The only down side, as I see it, is I no longer get an "I VOTED" sticker to wear.

Monday, October 17, 2016


You gotta know there's a (thousand?) stupidly programmed blog reader out there. You know, the kind that finds a key word, completely ignoring context in order to persuade you to be a new customer for something you spent your whole post giving reasons why you wouldn't be interested.

I've gotten three kinds of these over the last few months. The first came months after I was explaining why e-cigs were even more dangerous to my heart than regular tobacco because I couldn't smell it and thus do whatever I need to avoid it. Of course the "comment" was an ad for some brand of e-cigs.

The second came after I was extolling the virtues of my newest Hyundai and my history with the brand that keeps me going back to them. In comes an ad for a new Toyota. What? I need another new car when I just got one and fully expect to go years without another one needed? Or you missed my loyalty rant? Gotta wonder how these ever work for anybody, or if that's even their point.

Third are of course the totally irrelevant ones. I'm used to those coming in my spam folder. But some idiot out there (or face it, more than one) thinks because I have some kind of on-line presence that I'm looking for, say, a sex partner? Not talking let's meet and greet because something was interesting. I'm talking solicitations for a "F*** Buddy". Or some thing I can do by using their reasonably priced product to increase eyes on my blog. Their five minute video will explain, probably while they're figuring how to hack my system. Cause the blog is out there in cyberspace and even I am not connected to it unless I'm working on a posting.

I guess I should feel lucky I haven't come to the notice of the real trolls yet.

Friday, October 14, 2016

I Still Believe Anita Hill

I guess I was lucky. I wasn't busty and beautiful enough to attract the attentions of Gargoyle Trump. I was too old for Jarrod and didn't eat at Subway all that often anyway. I wasn't the type for Bill Cosby, didn't run in the right circles, though I bought every record of his I could find and can still quote passages from his conversation between Noah and God. I never worked for one of "those" bosses, although as a boss I got to report an obscene comment, from a potential manager I was training to one of my junior staff, higher up the chain of command that got the trainee fired. (Hey, one tiny victory. But I bet the jerk hasn't changed.)

While I somehow managed to miss all those stereotypical situations where sexual harassment and assault are commonplace, I didn't grow up unscathed.

I was on my way to high school in the big city of St. Paul. 99% of the time that involved walking 2 miles of sidewalk along main streets in daylight hours, very much in public view. I have no idea what I was thinking about that particular day, but it wasn't about paying attention to the guy approaching me on the other side of the sidewalk. He didn't look at all out of the ordinary, act strange or threatening, just another one of the hundreds I passed by through the school term.

But there was one difference.

Just as he was ready to pass me, he stuck out his hand and shoved it in my crotch. I was too startled to do anything but yell, "Hey!", but he was already running away, laughing.

Lucky for me.

Maybe lucky for him that all my fantasies of vengeance are just fantasies. There's no power here, no striking back. Never had a self defense class, wouldn't have been fast enough to chase him down had it even occurred to me. I wouldn't possibly even have been able to have identified him two minutes later.

I don't remember it often. But when I do, I remember the feeling of being ambushed just for being young and female, of being for the last time able to thoughtlessly pass a man by, of being embarrassed for not having done "something" while having no clue what that might have been, and being unable to tell anyone about what happened.


Till now.

So when I hear those ridiculous denials of wrongdoing because (a woman) / (several women) didn't report it right away, they don't count with me. They're crap. You better have a way better defense than that, Bud.

I still believe Anita Hill.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Grandma's Political Primer

I don't do Facebook. Sometimes Steve reads or shows me things he finds of special interest. Today it was a discussion between my daughter and granddaughter (no names but those who know me know them) about Clinton vs. Trump. My granddaughter starts with she doesn't really follow politics, but she thinks Trump has more to offer than Hillary.

I sent the following email:

subject line: Clinton v. Trump

Dear (Granddaughter),

Steve's been reading me some of the conversation between you and (your Aunt) on the subject. I can agree with one thing you have said. That's that you have not been keeping up with politics. Here's what you can call "Grandma's Political Primer."

Lets go back to when Hillary was First Lady... of Arkansas. She and Bill came up outside of the mainstream political system and still he won the support of the people. Yeah, he was screwing around, but that's on him, not her. Because they were "outsiders", they got attacked just to get some insider into the office "because they'd earned it" by being part of the organized system. Then, and at every step along the way, people who knew Hillary came to love and respect both her and her knowledge, not to mention her ethics.

Advance to Bill getting elected President. Still considered an outsider, and still hated by the establishment, the "Machine" cranked up to ruin him. By then Fox News, sponsored by Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdock, gained the muscle to go on a 24/7 campaign to ruin the Clintons and any other Democrat they could in order to advance their own agenda. (Study fascism and its goals, not as a name calling tactic but the philosophy that thinks only the rich should have power, and should only use it to get richer on the backs of the little guys.)

Fox did 2 things. They put TVs in all kinds of public places like doctor's offices and airports, making sure they were tuned to their channel with no way to switch the channel, and then began their propaganda war against liberals. All liberals. They made liberal a dirty word, working to shame news outlets not to air contrary information for fear of being "too liberal". Facts became Fox facts, i.e. whatever served their cause only.

They knew their history, and knew the power of the "Big Lie". Repeat it often and loudly enough and it becomes perceived as the truth. After all, it's on TV, right? So it must be true, because we'd had years of integrity in news reporting, a policy called Equal Air Time, and actual fact checking of statements from everybody, including politicians. Reagan got congress to end that requirement, but the people still trusted. They weren't following politics either. Just in the habit of trusting.

Back to the Clintons. Even before they arrived in the White House, the Machine geared up against them. Are you old enough to remember Kenneth Starr? He publicly announced he was going to bring them down. And from that "neutral" position, he was made a special prosecutor for Congress in order to do just that. It started, actually, with Nixon, forced to resign over criminal activities rather than face impeachment. Republicans were mad and wanted to get even.

The outsiders were thought to be easy pickings. It started with Whitewater, probably the only "scandal" without a -gate added on the end. It was a real estate investment deal that the Clintons put some money in. They had no control over what happened, just made an overly optimistic investment. It fizzled. Good ol' Ken thought he had a scandal. He didn't, and not for lack of trying. Eventually he cost taxpayers $50 million for his investigations. Other issues were brought in: who was used as a travel agent, whom X-mas cards were sent out to. When a friend, Vince Foster, committed suicide, they were accused of murdering him. It finally all came down to sex. Two people were found who (later admitted) lied under oath. One was an Arkansas highway patrolman who claimed he "found" unwilling women for Bill to have sex with, and Paula Jones, who lied about being one of them. Of course, hearing so many accusations, a lot of folks believe/d there was something criminal actually there. (Big Lie at work.)

Since there was no there there, it might have all gone away, except for one thing. Bill actually had a history of infidelity, and was currently getting blow jobs from a very willing intern named Monica Lewinski. She was stupid enough to keep a souvenir, a little blue dress with a semen stain, and even stupider when she told another woman, Linda Tripp, a member of the opposition, all about it. Starr pushed for impeachment, stretching the terms to justify it way past the constitutional definition. It failed.

And interesting side note here is that history has shown that the loudest voices for impeachment were themselves philanderers, some hiring prostitutes, some diddling young boys, some closeted gays back when that was totally unacceptable, especially politically. At least Bill had willing, adult partners. Not saying his actions were OK, but less awful than many, and no worse than many former Presidents.

Note that Hillary very publicly gave him the cold shoulder for months, but after a lot of counseling, the two put their marriage back together. What it is now, what it was then, is private. She of course took a lot of flak for not divorcing him.

One of the first and main things Hillary did as First Lady was, consulting with a lot of experts, put together a healthcare plan that 1) got sent to congress for their evaluation and hopefully, after doing their thing with amendments, passage, and 2) was a whole lot better than what finally got put together as Obamacare. Please note that what finally passed years later is almost identical to Bob Dole's plan, fine by Republicans back when he proposed it, considered a very poor second to what Hillary's group recommended. Once again, being the "outsider" cost support.

Meanwhile, the machine ground on, though many of its members disgraced themselves publicly and fell out of public office and public view. Not necessarily out of actual power, however.

Hillary (and Bill) moved to New York. Ex Presidents can play golf, work for Habitat for Humanity, or start a charitable foundation to do good around the world. Hillary won a Senate seat and ably represented New York  while Dubbya ignored warnings about Bin Ladin planning to use airplanes a weapons, ignored reports that WMD's were no longer in Iraq, and took us into the wrong war for the wrong reasons. He also ignored Bin Ladin, the actual leader of 9/11. On the plus side, if he was screwing around, he kept it well hidden.

Obama came in, giving us a President we - and the world, don't belittle that! - could finally believe in. He made Hillary Secretary of State, so even though they were rivals, he saw something valuable there. The Machine now had two targets. There was the black guy, and never fail to underestimate the remnants of racism in this country. Those folks are still plentiful, and they're angry. They also had Hillary, as rumors swirled around her for years that she had ambitions on the White House.

First they tried to make hay out of the tragedy of Benghazi. You've surely heard the accusations by now. After all, there were 7 (!!!) hearings trying to pin the blame for the loss of 4 lives on her. Even the most slanted of them found nothing. Congress had slashed the security budget for our embassies beforehand. Ambassador Stevens had turned down extra guards, believing he was well liked and safe there. When a controversial video came out angering the devout Muslim world, a small group came in and took advantage of the unrest to turn it into a violent riot. (Hey, same thing in Fergusson and a lot of other cities in the US over cops shooting blacks, turning peaceful protests into riots and lootings. ) But because the video was known about first, crediting it for the unrest was seen as some kind of evil coverup by Clinton and others. The rumor that our jets were told to stand down instead of coming to our aid in Benghazi has been proven repeatedly to be false. No such order was given, and no jets were stationed close enough to have done an ounce of good anyway. So every, and I mean EVERY, investigation exonerated Hillary. Of course, Fox didn't, beating the drum with lies and innuendo for years.

(Your Aunt) has taken you through the email bruhaha. Listen to her. Believe her. Policies were changing at the time she - Hillary - took over as Secy. of State. Internet security was just becoming "a thing", and yes, mistakes were made. They have, and I'm sure will continue to increasingly be, corrected. No criminal intent was found, even by the head of the FBI. Fox plays the worse edit of his statement over and over, but I bet you've never heard him say that what happened never came close to rising to the level where any kind of punishment was appropriate. And yes, that question was asked. And answered.

And erasing emails, accidentally or on purpose? Give me a break please. My spam folder gets filled with suggestions on how to spend money I don't have, ways to increase the size of body parts that don't grow on me, diet miracles that never are, and even people I maybe have met but don't want to talk to.  My regular folder fills with cute pictures, funny jokes, more ads my spam folder hasn't filtered out yet, invitations for phone sex with a stranger, claims of court dates disguising malware, just open this zip attachment for the details. Sure I delete them. I even delete conversations with loved ones, long after they cease to be important.  I bet you do too. Are we crooks? We're not that important so we don't start off with 5,000 new emails each week. Imagine it.

Fox goes on and on about the use of 13 cell phones over the four years. Think about it. They get wet and die. Screens break. Newer models replace older ones. They get lost, maybe on the way out the door, maybe between car seats, maybe heading to 4 other countries in 3 days. Calls come in to associates who hand it over with a "it's for you". I bet you can think of more reasons people switch phones, and unless you know a lot of drug dealers, pimps, and terrorists, not one of them is hinky.

So please, before you swallow anything about "Crooked Hillary", consider the source and the history. It's way too easy to  dismiss it all with that smoke-there's-fire nonsense.

If you want a better health plan, or child care plan, or tuition plan, write an actual letter - not email, not form petition, but paper and stamps - to the person in office who has some say. Try Klobuchar and Franken, working where the actual laws get made. Find out who is the Representative where you live now and write them and if that's no help, vote for the opposition.

Now, why on earth would you consider Trump? Examine most of his so-called plans, then look at the constitution and the limits of powers, and ask yourself which of them he'll actually accomplish. Keep in mind he's even less liked by his own party than the Clintons were. Can he build a wall - much less should he? - and force another country to pay for it? Do you actually support all the racist things he's been saying about Mexicans, African Americans, Muslims? The rest of the world is terrified of him taking office, and equally afraid if we were stupid enough to elect Dubbya, and if Britain was stupid enough to vote in Brexit on a lark (per exit poll interviews), we might go for Trump this time. These are the world powers who know Hillary, and TRUST HER!

By the way, he'd love you. You're slim and attractive. That's how he values women. He wouldn't care if you're kind, smart, supportive, nurturing, decisive, happy, goal oriented, honest, hard working. Like I do.

As a businessman, first consider, on the experience of 12 years in government, that business and government often have opposite goals, require different skills, and have different kinds of results. So take his claim of expertise with a grain of salt.

Or a bushel.  Ask yourself, how does the house lose when it's a casino and everything is slanted towards the house winning? How does one go bankrupt running a casino? Might this have anything to do with his hiding his tax returns. Perhaps he doesn't want us to know exactly what kind of business man he is.   Look at his universities and the fraud charges against him for them. No, not drummed up by political opponents, but legal processes. Has he actually skipped paying income taxes for the last 18 years, and if not, why not show us? Does he care about this country, or just himself and what he can get out of it for himself? Do you want a president who mocks the handicapped, denigrates our soldiers, sexually harasses females? How about one who incites violence during his rallies?

If you think one possibly better idea, all disclaimers above noted, is worth throwing your vote that way, then with all respect, as you asked, I'll be terribly disappointed in you.


PS Grandpa says he loves you too.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Catching Up: Home Again

Yep, we're back. It was a short summer, not arriving in MN until mid July. We stayed long enough to see some fall color again, after missing it for a few years. Whatever they tell you to the contrary, you just don't get the colors in AZ. Bits of yellow, a bush here or there that actually gets red leaves. Otherwise the color palette is brown or green, unless you're counting the rocks.

I've been missing springs in the old MN yard. While taking a wiring class in the next town up there, the instructor asked if I was the one who owned the house I sold to my son. After explaining my relationship to that house/yard, she commented how much she loves the first signs of spring every year when the crocuses bloom in the yard. Me too. Then the blues of the scillas, the varieties of daffodils, tulips, violets carpeting the lawn by themselves for a week before the dandelions join then. Not to mention the blossom cycling of the various fruit trees. Yes, I mess them all. But it's too cold to head up there then, snow and ice still possible to slip on, lakes still frozen over some years and even with open water the fish have no appetites for whatever is on the end of Steve's line.

It was a frustrating summer for the most part. Cold, wet, short, skeetery (and we're talking very hungry skeeters!), and with mobility still somewhat limited. Yes, the knees are still improving, though I still stagger the first few steps after sitting a bit. The first knee is otherwise pain free now. The second knee still presents some problems, and not just that it's ten weeks behind the first in recovery, but just isn't quite as good. I've been working to do more walking, but the stamina is gone. A three block round trip on the bike trail, or shopping both ends of a WalMart exhaust me. And I'm still good for two naps a day.

That's without coffee, of course. Steve and I shared driving back over just three days, and I had a cuppa each morning, drove a couple hours, and slept while he took the wheel. Most days I didn't need a second nap, though we were both happy to hit the pillows in the motels. Each day was approximately 600 miles with no problems. Gaining 2 hours while coming home got us here with a bit of light and energy left for a bit of unpacking, opening up the house windows, and watering our plants. Steve took an extra hour to get the satellite system and DVR box functioning again, most of which was fighting with a voicemail system to manage to reach a "real human, you @#$%^%$#$%%$#$!"

The two real humans he finally managed to reach were very helpful.

The plants in the yard had various levels of life left. Even for here, it was a very dry summer. We first noticed the yellow bird of paradise was a pair of brown sticks. Then further exploration revealed the loss of a few agave plants to the lack of water. Now that's dry! We noticed one was failing when we left, so no real surprise there. The other two patches were babies with nearly no root systems that were kinda thrown in the ground and watered to see if anything would grow. All were from a box of offsets tossed over the fence last fall from a neighbor, so only labor and hopes lost. Maybe next weekend we'll head out shopping for replacements. Steve wants blue, like the dead ones were, but isn't fussy about trying to match the variety. That makes it easier.

I was going to take a shower yesterday. Even though we never actually get cold water here, without the gas turned on yet, we don't get water warm enough for a shower either. I settled for getting as wet as that first blast of water got me. The gas guy came out today, so the water heater is working now. Things will be better shortly.

There was minor in-house stupidity disaster this vacation. Totally my fault. Back during surgery times, I made a pair of ice packs following the recipe given out by the joint clinic. It's a mix of dish soap and isopropyl alcohol, double bagged in Ziplocs, and frozen until use. A wrap of a dish towel keeps it from getting too cold on bare skin. After 4 1/2 months - or less - the packs leak. While still at least semi-frozen, it's not much of an issue. Of course once the power gets shut off.... Well, the stupidity involved (1) leaving them in the freezer (2) without putting them inside something like, oh, a cake pan, just to keep the leaks from covering a glass shelf, running down the back and sides, and working its way into places impossible to completely clean out.

I know. I tried.

The lower half of the freezer is very clean now. And still a bit soapy.

While I  cannot find any evidence of any kind of leaking or gap in the water tube that brings cold water to the front of the freezer door, no matter how many times I drain a full bowl of water from the system, the flavor of Dawn plus alcohol will not leave that water supply!  In case you had doubts, blecccchhhhh!

Everything else is fine. I worry about friends, however. They are on a long-planned cruise. On their last cruise, the Norwalk virus ruined the trip for them. Confined to their cabin, they couldn't even leave until all the other passengers had disembarked.

Now they're on another cruise. This time they're traveling from California to Florida, via the Panama Canal. Sounds great, doesn't it? Of course the timing will be critical. There's this little hurricane called Matthew that may still be a bit in the way of their return leg.

Maybe the ship stocks lots of seasickness meds?

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Legend of the Swamp Buck

Now everyone who knew my mother well knew there was never a penny she couldn't pinch. I don't think she was naturally miserly, but was of the generation who had to survive the Great Depression. Mostly it served us well, though there were frustrations growing up. I mention it here merely to give the proper emphasis to the family story I'm about to relate.

I was in a conversation with my middle son this afternoon when he started talking about trapping and butchering rabbits. He's currently in a survivalist phase. Or maybe not just a phase. Time will tell. Anyway, having raised rabbits to eat, I had a few tips to pass along about the butchering process: where the meat was, what to avoid, etc. I cautioned him that when splitting the pelvis he needed to use extreme care not to cut the bladder or urethra. Tends to spoil the meat, you know.

That led to my asking him if his grandfather had ever told him - say, 30 times - about the swamp buck he shot years ago. Rich hadn't heard the story, so I filled him in.

Back in the early 50's, the family lived on a resort in central Minnesota. Times were still financially challenging, and hunting grouse, pheasant and deer, as well as keeping the fish we could catch from our and surrounding lakes were a regular way of filling the larder. We'd also head out into the countryside to pick bucketfuls of blueberries, raspberries, chokecherries, and lowbush (swamp) cranberries. I have great memories of these trips, except for freaking out over the tiny spiders that made their way to the top of the berries and tried to get loose in the car.

One year when we kids were very young, my Dad killed himself what has come to be known in family lore as the swamp buck. He was a big old thing, way out in the swamp, and my dad had a heck of a time dragging it back to the car. But it would be worth it with all the meat it would bring to the family.

It went to the local butcher to be made into the usual various cuts of meat.

It was the wrong butcher.

Rather than carefully remove the meat from the bones, leaving them intact, before cutting or grinding up the venison, this fellow cut through the bones, just as if it were a cow. In case you don't know it, deer marrow has a very strong flavor. Very. I mean nasty. This method of butchering spread that marrow flavor into all the meat. Since we were already starting with an old, swamp-fed buck, what was already strongly gamey meat was rendered inedible.

Thanks to Mom, we tried. For several meals we tried. The final straw was when it was offered to the dog and even she refused to eat it! After that final rejection, the meat rapidly disappeared from the house, and the legend began.

By the way, we still all love venison. We just make sure it's butchered properly.