Repairs Required

As I seem to be on a whiny roll, I might as well complete a triumvirate* of complaining posts. In addition to my lassitude and the bug-ification of our backyard, by Monday two other troubles had temporarily (and mildly; we donʼt want to make too much of this) tormented my life.

Da truck (Iʼd have shown you the damged tooth repair — as they did take a photo — but they didnʼt share it with me except temporarily on their screen at the office.

About three weeks ago, The Lovely One and I cleaned out our garage, a spring cleaning come several months late. At that time I had to back my truck out of its long-term parking** on the far side of the garage so we could sweep out the whole area and get to things on the passenger side of the truck. No problem — even though the last time the truck had been driven was, I think, a full month earlier, the Frontier moved easily back out in the driveway and eventually back into place, where it had (and still has), I shamefacedly acknowledge, served as a storage unit for accumulating pop cans and bottles that will eventually make their way to the recycling store.

Last weekend, with a small bag of grass I had raked up from the previous mowing still sitting around, I decided to take that litter to the cityʼs yard waste dump. Janet dislikes stuff massing up her trunk, so such tasks ask for the Frontier. Although the starter stuttered, that was the only reaction when I turned the key in my truck. Hoping that simply a wire had come undone, I opened the hood and tried to find a] the starter, b] a possible wire, and finally c] anything much in that engine that looked familiar to me, which was effectively nothing. So Monday morning, bright and early, just after Janet had left for work, as I was preparing to walk to my semiannual dental appointment, I called for help from our car-repair and oil-change shop. They were willing to come and check out the malfunctioning starter (Randyʼs immediate conclusion). He guessed theyʼd be by about 8:30.

Since the truck was in the garage, and I figured theyʼd probably have to get it to their shop for work, I shifted it into neutral and disengaged the parking brake, so I could laboriously push the vehicle out onto our driveway. By myself. Amazingly (at least to me), I succeeded. With no one driving, admittedly, the truck did end up with the passenger side wheels on the grass.

I trekked downtown for my appointment, arriving only somewhat sweaty from the “excessive heat” of the day, already arrived by 8:00 AM. The dental appointment proved the second of my temporary troubles, as Dr. Adrian determined that a partial tooth repair*** her dad/predecessor had done just less than eight years earlier needed to be replaced by a new modern partial or full crown. Gosh, I really wanted to spend a thousand bucks unexpectedly, in addition to whatever itʼs going to cost for Randy to have repaired my truck. (Okay, yeah, I know. Dental insurance will cover close to half of the full expense. The really incredible part is that the difference between the half or full crown comes to twenty bucks.) I walked home pondering my options.

Interestingly, arriving home, I observed the truck was still in position with two wheels on the grass. Although I figured that the repair guys hadnʼt been by yet, I felt hopeful and tried to start the truck. Nothing. Silence. Not even the ticking of the starter this time.

So I went inside and got busy doing (as Iʼve already revealed earlier) nothing much. A phone call about eleven informed me that repair jobs were running long but that theyʼd be by before noon. They were, somehow starting the truck instantly and driving it away. About 2:30, another phone call told me the repair shop receptionist would come by to pick me up and carry me down to the shop to get my now working vehicle. As I usually walk home from and then back down to the shop when we take the truck (and sometimes Janetʼs vehicle) in for work or oil changes, this level of service on such a hot day made me feel almost cheerful.

Now the truck is home, the yard has been mowed yet another time (Tuesday, as I told you), and the grass clippings and tree droppings have been delivered to the dump. I still donʼt know what the repair will cost, nor have I called the dentist back with my determination about that repair job, but Iʼm hopeful nothing else goes wrong as I head back to work next week.

* That word really should be trilogy, as there are no three men involved, but I was feeling humoresque (“by Dvorak” — a poor joke that The Lovely One enjoys on a regular basis).

** With the USDA job (and the GOV in use for that), I really havenʼt had time or opportunity to drive the truck anywhere. When I am at home, except for Fridays, usually The Lovely One is here, too, and we go places together in her car (which consumes far less gas). And I just havenʼt driven anywhere for weeks of Fridays.

And a third footnote — while Iʼm complaining, I must admit to being almost disgusted with Dragon Dictateʼs infuriating insistence on inserting digits not words for every number that is included in todayʼs (and every other dictated) post. It even asininely insisted on “3rd.” Come on, programmers! Writing “the 3 bears” isnʼt even grammatically/mechanically correct!! (Numbers, except for dates and times, should — even today — be written out as words in text at least to twenty and for every even ten to 100.)  *** Dictate wanted that phrase to be: “truths we build.”

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Bugged

Our poor, bugged linden tree — and it had been doing so wonderfully well this year… until last week, that is.

Just over a week ago, home in the evening from a dayʼs work, I looked out our north window in the dining room and noticed that our linden tree looked peculiar in the topmost area. Later, I think that same day, I went around the house watering plants (a mandatory daily activity during our three-week drought, now strangely distant in the past even as rain falls while Iʼm dictating — northern Jackson and Dubuque, not to mention Galena, enduring a horrible thunderstorm-cum-tornado last night) and noticed the peculiarity was a laciness to the leaves, meaning some bug was eating them. The next night the damage had spread, and some gleaming green, chunky bugs flew in my face as I examined the tree — Japanese beetles.

I told Janet about my discovery when she got home from her workout, and she/we decided we had better do something immediately. So she trooped right down to Gasser True Value (yes, although we may hate their excessive accumulation of creosote-soaked, and creosote-fume-emitting, piles of logs, we do appreciate having a hardware store in town, although The Lovely One could just as easily have driven a little further to Theisenʼs), where she grabbed the last remaining Japanese beetle trap. Not calling on my USDA experience whatsoever, I assembled the trap following the directions on the outside of the plastic bag, hanging the bag from one of our tiki torch poles, and let the pheromone do its work.

The pheromone trap, currently about a third full on its third time around.

The trap was to be placed at least thirty feet from foliage (impossible in our yard) and it summoned by scent hordes of horny male beetles seeking sex from further away than just our yard (thus the need to keep the trap in isolation, away from plants, to prevent those erratic bugs from accidentally happening upon other juicy leaves to devour near the trap). We put it at the end of our driveway, since our neighbors had pulled down their one tree several years ago. Boy, shoving the tiki post into the iron ground was a chore and a half (not so much now, when all the dirtʼs turned from skillet hardness to mud).

And the pheromone did work. By the next evening the bag was already almost half-full. And I had to dump the still half-alive mass of churning black insects a day later — an unpleasant chore that I think was made somewhat easier by my experiences searching purple traps for emerald ash borers. Iʼm just not as squeamish about buggy life as I once was.

With the rain beginning last weekend and continuing just about daily this whole week, the beetles have diminished in quantity, and we have only had to empty the trap one more time. So far.

Of course, we are also worried about what those fiendish bugs may have accomplished in their life cycles before we started alluring all the concupiscent males to the pheromone trap. Our concern means weʼre also going to try to spray the tree with insecticide and soapy water and try to treat the ground as well — to eliminate (as many as possible) eggs that have been buried.

This was one time accessing the Internet was a genuine benefit. Neither one of us really knew anything about what to do about Japanese beetles, but a quick search googled out what we needed to know.

If only this were the end of our petty woes…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Nothing Much

Let us now whinge…

I don’t know if itʼs the heat, or if I just encountered too many things to be doing (mowing the lawn, running errands, diddling the day away), but I just havenʼt written too much during my current, enforced vacation. That would, of course, include posts for the blog. I had half-anticipated (at least while falling asleep one day over the weekend) dictating the rest of “Mistakes by Moonlight” and thereby feeling I had completed something of note. Evidently just a dream.

However, itʼs only Wednesday! Who knows what the rest of the week will hold? (Unfortunately, me, and I predict the blog, at least, will not profit from my activities ahead.)

I have been waxing political on Facebook and even delightfully alliterative in response to unresponsive commentary. But Facebookʼs just Facebook (I think thatʼs why all oneʼs past links, posts and comments vanish into nonexistence toward the bottom of the page). So we canʼt count that activity as real writing, although Iʼd like to.

Hereʼs the kind of thing with which can fill my time — I was fascinated to discover that the blog had been visited by someone in Carrickfergus, a town well-beloved by, like me, fans of Irish sea chanties.

Which brings us to this bit of blather today. Although my brainʼs been churning with many things, only some of them political or economic, I have been finding it very hard to sit myself down and seriously accomplish even a session of dictation as random as this. Excessive heat? Only later yesterday and starting about two hours ago today. Writerʼs block? One would actually have to have written something to get blocked, and I havenʼt done that. But I have been (periodically) busy…

Yesterday, for instance, having done nothing from 7:30 until nearly 10:00 in the morning (besides wasting time online), I did spend somewhat over two hours mowing the lawn, a task which had become necessary, after three weeks of drought, when we received possibly up to seven inches of rain. (At least thatʼs an amount I was told by someone in a store somewhere around the community; and a bucket that The Lovely One likes to hang from the knob of her Door to Nowhere, located this year against the concrete wall below the back of our garage, was nearly full when I was clearing the yard to prepare to mow yesterday.) And now today I still have yet to take the sticks, raked-up grass clippings and other yard waste to the city’s compost dump — not an unpleasant chore but somehow I actually flogged myself to attempt this instead, interestingly…

— But back to yesterday, supposedly my topic currently! In the afternoon, at any time after 12:30, which had already passed before I was done mowing, I was to donate blood, having missed two earlier opportunities this summer, thanks to work (and forgetfulness). That (for once, selfless) procedure killed an hour until after 3:00 when I needed to visit Janetʼs hairdresser for a tube of conditioner she had neglected to take away with her after our haircuts last Thursday and to reset our next appointment so we would be free to be directing the play to which she committed us more than a year ago, which begins with auditions in just about a week. Then a stop at the doctor’s office to drop off the blood pressure readings from my blood donation, and then away to the grocery store for some supplies. Once home again, I spent an hour making supper, using some of those supplies, sweating profusely this entire time because (as I suggested above) the day had turned decidedly hot and humid — probably not as hot nor as humid as almost every day last week, but pretty uncomfortable anyway. And mysteriously, all too soon, while I was making Janet’s lunch for today, she was home from her workout, and our evening together got started, even with nothing on TV.

Now I loosely held plenty of time during the day that I could have churned out something as miserable, vacuous and self-centeredly uninformative as this particular post seems to be, but my time here in the office at the computer was not productive of any such activity, merely checking plenty of stuff on Facebook, on e-mail and otherwise online.

So there we are — nothing doing from this nothing much. Yet again. (At least I didnʼt wane politically philosophical here…)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Not (Really) Working

All dressed up with nowhere to work…

I spent my most worthless day on the current job yesterday. In essence, I spent the entire ten hours waiting around. This eventlessness directly resulted from my activities on Tuesday.

And what, you may ask, was I doing on Tuesday? Driving to Des Moines (actually Urbandale) to update the passwords for the netbook I used to use on the job (and which we EAB trappers havenʼt needed since the end of May).

As I like driving, usually —  at least in the spring, fall and summer times — getting paid to drive for about eight hours wasnʼt too bad. During that time on the road, I listened to Bill Brysonʼs Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid audio book (which he narrates himself and…), which not only did I enjoy immensely, laughing out loud frequently, but the book gave me a lot of thoughts about things from my own youth I should record before I forget (and which could therefore appear here perhaps someday). While at APHIS PPQ headquarters, along with nearly all the other seasonal employees, I got to take a quick course on conflict resolution, which fortunately was very reminiscent of a similar practice my favorite superintendent had investigated using for contract negotiations back during the days of my educational career. I had thought the computer issue would simply provide one pretty easy day filled mostly with driving (and listening to Brysonʼs clever words and childhood adventures).

What happened, however, is that the update of the netbook came either too late or too ineffectively. While I was approaching Clinton on Wednesday my cell rang, a call from Urbandale to inform me that perhaps the password update wasnʼt going to work. I was supposed to turn on my computer that evening to discover if it worked, meaning if I could get past the encryption window. So I did that, and I could — twice. However, Iʼd also been advised to leave the thing on overnight to permit it to update whatever updates were available, something I hadnʼt really done except a couple of times back in May.

On Thursday morning I could not get back into the computer. So then I had to call the national help desk and wait around (in addition to entering a lot of code) to discover why I couldnʼt get on — even after all the coding. It turned out that having not gotten online at least once a week to let the netbook update itself, my online account had lapsed. The only solution was for Urbandale to reinstate my account, and I waited a few more hours to find out if they did.

At least I spent the waiting hours fairly usefully, updating and checking over my trap book and revised maps. However, overall yesterday made the most worthless day I think I have spent on the job (at least from my perspective).

I did get another phone call on Wednesday as well, advising me that as I had some 55 hours of comp time/accrued annual vacation time/accrued sick time, and nothing really to accomplish until the time came to take down the traps, I should take a week off…

So thatʼs what Iʼm going to do. Vacation started today (which is kind of why this post appears so late this day). Happy weekend, all!

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Something (Slightly) Creative

I realize (have for some time realized) that I ceased offering a bit of creative writing on weekends. Even though I have hundreds of old poems to cannibalize or use, I just havenʼt had time to do much of anything. (Yes, The Lovely One does keep me busy, pleasantly — usually shopping with her —, on weekends, when the job isnʼt consuming all my time and energy). However, as I remarked some time ago, I have been writing (on and off) over the past few months. Just to prove that point, hereʼs a little introduction of a Tourist story (the direction of which, and even location, I donʼt know). This bit may never become a story.

It really should be just a writerʼs notebook passage describing pretty much what I was seeing as I sat in Janetʼs car while she shopped at Kohlʼs in Cedar Rapids on a rainy Sunday a few weeks ago.

Sitting in a rain-drenched parking lot, safely dry inside my rental car, I realized that modern vehicles make it pretty difficult to conduct surveillance unobtrusively in a downpour. With the ignition off, the view through the windshield was a splotched and ragged kaleidoscope, the side windows heavily speckled with continuing and sometimes sliding arcs of raindrops. But if I turned the key even to the Accessories position for the wipers to work, I also instantly illuminated the parking lights fore and aft, obviously marking my Chevrolet as not just another deserted car parked outside the mini-mall. Bad tactics, particularly in this situation.

Furthermore, either my breath or body heat was slightly, slowly but continually misting the windscreen. Another easy indication that I was inside. That I was here. And the rain was too heavy to risk starting the car briefly for a reprieve via defrost and lowering the window just to crack even the humidity within. Although I did just that, also illuminating the headlights and letting the wipers take a cleansing swish or two.

Now, although I continued to let the radio play (it remained on, even with the key withdrawn, until I opened the door, I had finally discovered accidentally just the night before, returning in some haste to my hotel room, eager to reach my temporary domicile before a testing phone call rang through), I could hear the wind battering at the vehicle as it wrenched the paltry trees, bordering the street, in wild gyrations. And the rain was letting up. Lightning flashed among the clouds over the increasingly agitated saplings and evergreens. The car rocked and jolted more than mildly.

Tornado? To follow the three-day thunderstorms. Or was it just a lot of wind? The radio just kept playing antique rock songs I had never liked, nor my father either.

Still no evident action within the store I was amateurishly observing. And as the wind kept things moving — a woman scurried right beside me to her car, taking advantage of the rainfallʼs lull, but had a confusing time trying to get her long windwhipped hair to stay within her car until she could slam the door and drive away; an empty fastfood enormous cup came leaping and rocketing past her passenger side just as she did restrain her hair and close the door together — the rain must have increased again because my view was broken erratically once more with drops and rivulets. And I hadnʼt been watching the store. Again.

And as the car jumped some more, I realized that with the window slightly down, I was feeling chilled. Injudiciously, I twisted the key past On, and as the wipers swished twice, raised the window again.

Now I didnʼt do any of the things (except perhaps try to lower the window to balance the relative humidity within and without) that the first-person character does in the passage. And Janet drives a Toyota, too. My mind got interested in the differences my GOV revealed in its operations. Nor was I engaged in surveillance (merely reminded of the rainy watch Marlowe keeps for a chapter on the upscale porn shop in The Big Sleep). But, see, kids, I was writing

The Tourist character is having a busy time in my mind and notebook, by the way. I am fifteen or sixteen (handwritten) pages into his Big Encounter in Seattle as well as nearly to the brutal climax of his flight home from Europe to Chicagoʼs OʼHare. The San Francisco story is complete (for many months now) and needs dictation into digital form, as I just did yesterday with this bit of nothingness.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Whining (Again, Parenthetically)

Qwest (or perhaps… the presumably lamewad modem* we were forced to buy half a decade ago when The Lovely One first let us online here at home, as she purchased her Windozed Hewlett-Packard slow-as-molasses laptop, just so that we could get Qwest ISP as part of the [inflated] deal) continues its misbehaving and misconceived substitute-for-good-business-practice ways. Being online for a period of time greater than ten minutes effectively means that I get to run downstairs to reboot the modem at least a half dozen times (sometimes within about ninety minutes).

Our modem (doesnʼt it look like something that would have been produced, containing vacuum tubes, in the late Fifties or early Sixties?) — ActionTEC model GT701R.

I donʼt know about you, gentle reader(s?), but I find that level of (non)performance not to be what I want to pay for as “internet service provision.” When I feel sufficiently interested (or motivated, meaning cussingly frustrated), I keep tabs on my internet disconnection antiservice in a cute little diary program that downloaded among a dozen other shareware tidbits, Chronories (an amusing and interesting, if not exactly necessary bit of interfaced code that permits me to keep, among other things, a little diary with tags [“Qwest” being a particularly persistent and unpleasant one], as well as mood icons, photos [like the one I used for art yesterday], a record of programs running, and e-mail contacts — which, as I donʼt use Mail, doesnʼt know anything). The venting there helps (a tiny amount) each day and provides me a record that may someday be very useful when I have time to call Qwest service and hang online for hours as my call gets shuffled around the globe, pointlessly.

Anyway, I mention this issue (again) today because the connection severed three times while I was trying to download an album from the (excessively busy and distracting) iTunes Store this morning. Finally, I just gave up, and we took off to visit the library, eat some lunch, and stop at (sigh, another tale of woe best left for another — you hope never-to-be-realized — time) Walmart. Now I am back, and the download is proceeding (again for the fifth time — amusing that Apple could maintain the link long enough for the purchase to go through, even without the music following), and I can only hope I will get this little diatribe itself posted online.***

Is it any wonder that I have gotten a little less reliable on presenting a post here regularly?

Of course, I should mention that internet-connection problems are instantly predictable whenever iTunes gets started. I donʼt know what shenanigans Apple has that (essential-for-iPod-owners) program doing under the hood, but just starting iTunes up pretty much guarantees that our internet connection will break (whether “Genius” tries reporting on all my [nonApple-ized, imported-from-CD] music or not). And is anyone (perhaps of my “certain age,” probably) actually pleased with what “Genius” puts together as purchases recommendations or a playlist from its invasion-of-privacy research? Name-irony appears to be a growing trend at Apple.

* Although I had been online since the early days of browsing (oh, Tim Berners-Lee, you deserve a Nobel, yes, you do) at school (since roughly 1990 — perhaps earlier; I donʼt remember nowadays, and any ancient records are [not successfully] preserved in unavailable formats on floppy disks that no computer I currently posses can read), my Beloved Spouse had for more than a decade threatened that if I tried to get online at home, our wedded bliss would end. Until she eventually wanted to get online at home herself, that is (seldom as she actually does that, even while carping that her parents arenʼt making full use of their new computer and internet access).

** (I have begun to suspect that maybe the problem lies within our 1950s-looking, antiquated gray modem, pictured with this post today, rather than out in the digital æther with Qwestʼs servers themselves. Sometimes, because I can cure the perhaps local problem with a new modem purchase, I hope so. Other times, as the rage against Qwest floods high, I prefer to blame the Faceless Corporation directly.)

*** Hey! It only took one modem-restart, which conveniently permitted me to take the photo for the post.

And, let us note, Qwest, in the realities of corporate buyouts these days, is dumping its peculiar and laughable old name for, of all inanities, CenturyLink. Just another easy (and outdated — which century is that?) name to hate.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

All Shook Up!

I am babbling at my computer while summer squash and zucchini are cooking in vegetable broth on the stove (yep, itʼs time for the first squash soup of summer!). For a day off this one hasnʼt been particularly relaxing, primarily because were looking forward to that apparently endless “excessive heat” wave arriving tomorrow. So I did a bunch of chores Iʼd rather not “excessively” sweat my way through — mowing the lawn, cooking this soup (thanks, neighbors to the west, for the veggies), and a few other things.

I had planned to get a blog post up yesterday evening or this morning, but clearly that never happened. In fact the computer didnʼt get turned on today until well after noon. This item won’t be much, but at least itʼs something.

Work has been going fairly well. I should as of Monday be complete on phase two (or should I say phase 2.5+?) of my summer job. The first phase, working with my partner, was getting sticky purple emerald ash borer traps in trees (presumably but not certainly ash trees) all over Clinton, Jackson and eastern Dubuque counties. The “.5” part was me checking on the traps (moving some from walnuts and oaks and box elders and hackberries and… into ashes) and preliminarily on the bugs during the first two-thirds of June, until my boss visited and assigned me to take whatever time required (four days) to help get gypsy moth traps placed in Linn and Scott counties. Then I began working phase two: checking every trap for possible emerald ash borers (and one sample earned a trip to Des Moines for further study — although, thankfully, clearly not itself an emerald ash borer) and resupplying new lure in every trap. Phase three will involve trap removal from all three counties (and of course close observation of each trap before disposal of the bugs we have caught).

Phase three, which is slated for August, begins after I make a flying run back to Des Moines for a computer upgrade (that Iʼm hoping I actually won’t need). I call in Monday morning to discover when I drive out and back.

Real life has more or less been placed on hold for the summer. My nephew (and new niece)ʼs wedding went off very well. The bride and groom both looked elegant and blissful, and my brother Paul did a wonderful job officiating the ceremony. Niece Rachel also did exquisitely handling all the details of the day and made a fine speech herself after the best man and maid of honor. It was also great to visit with Margaret and David and Aunt Alaire. The Lovely One and I even enjoyed our hotel, a Country Inn & Suites much like the one where I stayed in Decorah.

However, real life kicks into a major gear also in August, as Janet and I will be directing a production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for the Grand Opera House in Dubuque. After all my many years of constant play direction for school and community theater, I’m not sure how excited I really am about this project, but if a lot of good people turn up for auditions the first weekend in August, this thing might be fun.

Time is passing. I need to stick my magic mixing wand into the cooling soup to get it ready for supper. Theater also calls tonight as weʼre off to Ohnward Fine Arts Center/Peace Pipe Playersʼ production of All Shook Up. Mustnʼt dawdle.

Break a leg, cast and crews!

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.