The Tourist Imprisoned

Recently, The Lovely One and I returned from vacationing overseas. The transatlantic experience spawned the latest installment of The Tourist’s mayhem…

wpid-floorfig13-2013-10-29-11-11.jpg

Lies, ladies and gentlemen, all lies

Every time I have to do it, I hate flying more than I had before. The airlines seem locked in a death struggle to determine which brand can devise the final sadistic imposition on passengers that will at last prevent anyone from ever flying steerage again. Or simply never flying.

That imminent day resounds with sadness, but corporate profiteering edges the dire knell of the skyfaring businesses nearer with each deliberately overcrowded, crammed and undernourished flight.

Recently, domestically, I furtively smuggled a seamstress’s cloth measuring tape in my pocket — dutifully removed to pass microwave fullbody scansion, along with keys, change, watch, personal detritus and pocket lint — and used a minute portion of its length to measure my allotted confinement space: 21 inches from backseat ahead to head rest (less by nearly six when the careless cad ahead dismally and pointlessly reclined his so-called “backrest” eight minutes into our heavenly ascent), almost 9 inches from seatback ahead to front edge of my euphemistic seat “cushion” (less with egophilic jerk’s reclination, but only by an inch — sufficient to make the safety drill’s assurance of a flotation device beneath my economy seat merely a taunt, at best a contortionist’s impossible dream; from armrest to armrest a minuscule 16 and 3/4, possibly of suitable proportions when I was in my (early) roaring twenties but no longer (and my own somewhat bulging belly added its own girth to that measurement), and my corpulent seatmate oozed her bulk intrusively well into my euphemistic “space” and sweating flesh throughout, the decisively lowered armrest proving no barrier to unwanted intimacy whatsoever. Although officially in sitting position, my space, especially once the overhead lighting quenched to keep us docile, put me in mind of tyrants’ notorious “standing cells,” my movements restricted nearly to nil.

Therefore, I devised the demise of the purser who refused my request for any available liberation, who even declined to disturb the selfimportant fore-ass’s pseudoreclining position as it was after all, “resting period.” Well, I put a period to that. And while we were straightjacketed in the air as well.

That’s the start of that. More on the trip (the actual vacation) ahead, friends and family…

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Work 2013

logo_aphis_ppqIf it isn’t obvious (because I have actually begun writing stuff and making posts here on old Wak’s Blog again), my seasonal summer employment has ended. And, no, not because the Griefstriking Obfuscating Perverts enacted their wish and shut down the U.S. federal government (even though, as a seasonal employee of the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine, the feds are my employer) — because I was already (or almost) on hiatus status before the Grumbling Obvious Prevaricators pulled their stunt pointlessly (but politically) amending the continuing budget resolution with unrealistic but base-fiddling amendments that in no way were or are seeking “compromise” of any kind.

In fact, I removed my last trap during the morning of Tuesday, September 3, then cleaned and restocked the GOV and stopped earning salary — except for the year-end return of vehicles, supplies and equipment on Monday, September 23. (So if I were really industrious, I should have been able to present many posts by this time. I didn’t, however, do so.) There was a special drive to let the office acquire my actual vehicle (so it could be sold, evidently) in exchange for an empty Jeep that I finally returned later. And we all had one last packet of training to complete as well. But, excepting a few hours and just a few pence, work for 2013, for me, ended with the start of September.

Gypsy Moth (image Wikipe

Gypsy Moth (image Wikipedia)

This past summer, as I noted in advance, I had a much vaster emerald ash borer region to trap. But with only 95 traps, even spread over nearly twenty counties, most of my work with the EAB program was driving, and I could accomplish the whole circuit in just about eight days. What kept me busy was a, more or less, new program (for me), trapping for Gypsy moths. (I had assisted with GM both summers I had already worked, but all that assisting only added up to about eight days altogether.) And although I only had two and a quarter counties to cover, my GM traps totaled more than 300. So my job shifted hard in the direction of Gypsy moths. (I even caught one. Yes, just one.)

The summer was exciting for me, though. And the excitement lay with the EAB, which is now definitely spreading into Iowa. (It had already done so, into one county, Allamakee, the summer I was hired, and two more beetles were found there in 2012.) I do not get the credit for spotting the new outbreaks because I didn’t find them. The bigwigs of my own organization and the state pest control had already determined that trees in Burlington and Fairfield were infested, but I was ordered to drive down there (three times in the end) to check the purple traps those important folks had set. I found my first catches of emerald ash borers from both trees, in each city!

I realize I shouldn’t be excited about such bad news (including my one-and-only Gypsy moth, discovered on my penultimate trapping day of the entire summer), but it did stir my blood to find what we are looking for (but hoping not to see).

Otherwise, the big news from work was Sequestration furlough: we each had to take two weeks off without pay (thanks once again to the Glory-sucking Officious Politicians). This season was also shorter than the past two, thus diminishing my earnings in the first place (four months rather than nearly six).

So The Lovely One may (in reality, genuiney does) have visions of me finding a job for the colder months ahead…

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Going Modern (Maybe)

I’m trying something new here. Once again I am dictating; however, I’m not talking into a microphone on my computer.

Normally (and previously) when I created blog post, I’ve been working on my iMac. And I’ve either been typing directly into WordPress online, using a browser, or I’ve tried various programs from which the text is sent to WordPress online. Using Scrivener, I had to export as HTML, open in a text editor, copy from there, and paste the HTML code into the online WordPress nonvisual text window. It worked pretty well – mostly because I like Scrivener a lot. But the process was klunky and required many steps. Then I got the program MacJournal in a bundle, and when Chronories became defunct with Lion and Mountain Lion systems, I started trying to keep a little journal in the new program. And one day, fairly early on, playing around with the menus I noticed its blog publication and tried it. It worked! From thereon at least the beginning steps of my blog publication always commenced with MacJournal.

Of course I have not been regular in the past couple years putting anything on the blog, but I have at least been playing with it.

With my bug trapping job returning this summer, and me being on the road overnight for even more days than last year, I began to feel really cut off in hotel rooms in the evening. Although My Beloved had expressed a definitely alternative, negative opinion about my solution, I knew what I should do for myself. I wanted a tablet, an iPad.

And with money coming in, even with thousands spent already for our vacation this fall, I decided I could do what I wanted. So I did.

Our Kindles have been such a pleasure for us (a little more on that, maybe, to come, as there have been some issues with The Lovely One’s Paperwhite) that I thought a tablet and the ability to get online when away from home would be a wonderful thing in my life. Our lives.

Last fall, when we were in Santa Fe for vacation, we used the “experimental browser” on the Kindles to check out restaurants and other possibilities while we were in our casita. The browser, definitely experimental for us, worked better on her Paperwhite than on my basic Kindle. I realized then that a tablet — for me, meaning an iPad — would probably be a good idea. Both at home and on vacation (or on the road alone, working, as I originally indicated).

And Apple is probably getting ready to release an improved (Retina-screened) iPad mini right now.* So prices have been dropping. Somewhat.

Somewhat temptingly…

the Mini shooting itself

the Mini shooting itself

Yeah, we all guessed it: I bought an iPad mini. (Don’t tell Her-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed! Okay? She doesn’t yet realize it, even though I used the mini to find a late-night restaurant and check weather, repeatedly on that latter activity, when we were in Des Moines for brother Paul’s ordination into full eldership among the United Methodist clergy. — I suppose she thought it was just the ole Kindle’s old experimental actually working…)

And for the past five or six weeks I’ve been adding apps and getting used to the little thing and what it can do. It has been fun and useful to check email and Facebook on those nights away from home, and I’ve even found a few fascinating little applications that enhance my life and inform and entertain me.**

However, the point of my post today is not the device but its latest app — the WordPress app.*** I’m talking to that app as I write, and it will be the system I use to get this post up (at least we hope so). So far it’s working pretty well (note an issue or two in footnotes below). And it’s been kind of fun, wandering about the house, anywhere I want (untethered by cords or Bluetooth range), talking out my erratic thoughts.

So now let’s see if I can add a picture and my usual formatting and get this thing up. I hope you are reading soon!

(Yep. So I clicked something and published a little ahead of schedule while getting the photo. Itʼs edited now, ten minutes later.)

* With my eyes, I bet I’ll never see the difference (what I’ve got looks pretty clear to me; and I seriously somehow doubt/know that video and gaming will [not] increase in my life in the next decade — the typical Wakdjunkaga lifespan for devices, based on admittedly limited prior experience).

** Perhaps there are some blog posts on iOS apps that could come. Maybe…

*** Surprising, and annoying that the app doesn’t seem to recognize its own name when I say it. I had to correct two words, “word press,” into the name of the site and the program WordPress. (And yet again.)

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Old Times

In my last post, I suggested that my string of stays in hotels (for work) had prompted me to thoughtfulness, or at least reflectiveness. Hereʼs one such reflection (just about literally that) from May 15, written, while dining alone, during that long lull between ordering and receiving your meal… Even a glass of wine doesnʼt relieve that self-conscious, solitary tension.

hotel-key-courtyard_328_detailI am so old that I still feel I should turn in my room key(s) at the front desk before departing. Nowadays, with time-stamped digital pass cards, that step for checkout is unnecessary, even silly. But I remember well temporary possession of a real solid (often too large) physical key, the return of which (capable of opening the room in perpetua, or at least until the locks were changed) was of paramount importance, and so checking myself out without returning my means of ingress seems… incomplete, perhaps even unsatisfying.

I can recall vividly my first pass card — which we received in Hawaii, on Oahu, in downtown Honolulu (at some beachfront high-rising tower of a hotel that I am sure that Janet, were that she were with me, would yet remember by name — they had a Tiki restaurant in those distant days before Tiki bars again became kitschy cool; we ate there one night and brunch on the rooftop Sunday). I think our Hawaiian trip was in 1988.*

Upon arrival, somehow the only available room was in the antiquated, low-rise (low-rent, undesirable ghetto) side-portion of the hotel. However, if we accepted that musty accomodation for our first night, we could enjoy a beach-view, balconied, expansive chamber for the remainder of our stay. Exhausted, at late afternoon (I believe), it was an irresistible offer, particularly considering the minuscule rate my (lovely) travel-agent traveling companion had wangled (for rooming on the city-view side — of no comparison to our [eventual] Waikiki-viewing suite of [until then, at least for me] unparalleled elegance). The first night we acquired a familiar blocky brass key, but our subsequent 21st-storey aerie required a keycard. Which I had no idea how to use.

Previously, even in paradise (Fiji, that prior time**, where we blissfully enjoyed the islandsʼ [then] utter lack of television — but another story there altogether***) I got into my room with a practical, physical (analog?) key. What was this credit card theyʼd given us?

Fortunately, my bride, so worldly and so much better traveled than I, had the idea of this lodging novelty item pat (which makes strange her more recent behavior with keycards — never inserted quite the right way). She gained us admittance to our boudoir in the sky in skillfully masterful fashion. With practice (and patience) I got it right, too.

In those days (with my first pair of prescription sunglasses just for that trip) that electronic pass card seemed like the (sci-fi) future astonishingly realized in my mundane present reality: I had stepped straight into a John Brunner novel and expected the crime-solving immortal Karmesin to be in the lobby (a refraction of my actual experience colored, if not shaped, by my digital rereading of his excellent, classic The Squares of the City, which was originally a brain-boggling, mind-expanding barely pubescent reading experience from my sisterʼs mature [non-Hardy] library****). I felt expansively expensive and privileged for our whole stay.

Now, of course, the keycard is just another shoddy annoyance — the electronic validation always going bad about twenty hours before checkout time arrives.

So it goes. So it goes.

hotel key* Although The Lovely One and I tried to make a list of our trips year-by-year a few years back (five or ten) that I have extended and updated, I couldnʼt find the document just now — fat lot of good Spotlightʼs endless usurping of my computer does me.

** 1985, perhaps?

*** for that ever-promised, seldom (if ever) delivered future post… perhaps

**** and yet another possible topic for another possible blog… yet to come… perhaps…

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Does Dictation Work?

And wow. It has been a while since I last posted™. I even have another post I began that day on the poetical-composition process which led to that (presumably final) version of the poem, “Aubade in Retrospect” — itʼs mostly complete™ but never appeared. (Mostly complete in that it records the evolving versions but doesnʼt get into why I felt I needed to make the changes I made. Maybe someday — probably, as long-suffering Gentle Readers™ will realize, not soon… )

So what happened? (Other than my usual intermittency of posts™.)

Work happened. My seasonal job, trapping bugs for the Department of Agriculture, started almost right after that post* with the now-usual trip to Des Moines for orientation, testing, acquisition of supplies and re-familiarization with my GOV (thatʼs “Government-Owned Vehicle” for those who need a review from the last two summers). The Lovely One™ and I went out early (she must go along because I bring home my GOV, therefore requiring transportation out there) since she prefers not to drive both out and back in one day. So we had a little one-day minivacation in Des Moines (if any stay in our Fair State Capital™ can be considered a “vacation” at all — Bob Weir having captured the essence of the city in his song “Salt Lake City,” which “really makes Des Moines seem second rate”), enjoying a delicious and different Russian meal and then tasty pub grub before she left me on my own for Sunday evening in a hotel. It was a long, lonely evening™ (even with my multi-thousand-book Kindle library) inspiring some life changes about which you will all have to wait to learn™.

Our Emerald Ash Borer training was May sixth and seventh, and we started to work immediately. As of today, I am almost done putting up the traps.

My first year, I only had a three-county area, right around my home. Last year my region expanded to ten counties and took me out past Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, requiring several nights away from home in two different locations twice a month. This year I add seven more counties (although with fewer traps, just lots of driving), and I have already spent five nights (out of ten workdays) away from home — Mt. Pleasant, Muscatine, Tama, Coralville and Cedar Rapids — getting to know a variety of hotel rooms in several chains: their luxuries, limitations and idiot-advertising required to access the (falsely) “free” wireless Internet™.

As you will learn, when I (eventually™) upload the information from my smartpen and permit the computer (using MyScript for Livescribe™) to OCR My Horrible Penmanship™, my renewed relationship with hotel rooms has made me thoughtful (at least periodically and not very profoundly) or, minimally, reflective.

And I have been busy™.

You are supposed to notice the earclipped microphone...

Youʼre supposed to notice the earclipped microphone… (this photo itself is a Whole ʼNother Story™ and an enthusiastically  novel experience at that, regardless of self-consciously stern expression)

Those ten-hour days™ really can get long, making me appreciate my Fridays to myself™. I appreciate the time so much that Iʼve fallen-behind-on-correspondence™ (again — my apologies, Aunt Alaire and brother Stephen™) and made no effort — until now, that is — to keep up with the blog™. However, several technological influences (more on those perhaps to come™) rekindled my interest in using Dragon Dictate™ for composition. So I unhooked my little Bluetooth™ microphone from the power and slipped it around my ear, remating it (necessarily after its long rest, unused) with its receiver, and have attempted — successfully, it seems, so far — to dictate words directly into MacJournal™. Without mystery crashes™, strange word insertions™, random cursor malfunctions™ or other typical behaviors of Dictate™ when dictating not into its own text window.

Thus Todayʼs Title™.

However, for now, having proven that my technology works (thanks, Nuance™), I should mow the lawn. Then write some (long-delayed™) letters.

* I had felt that poem and its (so far only private) reflection on its creation was a kind of farewell to winter dormancy™, stirrings of spring™ and a last gasp toward writing before Work™ (and earnings) began.

And No Rewards™ for those Perceptive Few™** who glommed onto Todayʼs Fun Theme™.

** (even publication days, like this, here on Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog™ only garner fewer than fifty hits nowadays)

Alternative Title™ = “Option-2”

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

from an auroral episode

I wrote a poem this morning — renovative experience, nearly novel for this old man.

Writing poetry interests me…  I composed words in my thoughts striding southwestward (some of which still occur more or less in what I merely recall later with uncertainty), seeking colors and description for what I halfwittedly observed.

Pity now that I had no camera to coldly record what my warm eyes saw, because then I could have a decent photo to include here. This (pretty) photo I found has too few clouds but has some of the effects correct (far too orange for my experience, however, as readers will perceive for yourselves).

But the words come first.

I wonder if this is the real last draft…

Aubade in retrospect


rags of cloud,
dark
bluegray and crumpled
like fat ash frozen,
empurple the western sky,
a vault of frayed slate
violet
shredding to ultramarine overhead

eastern cloudfringes,
puffy
refraction-fronted
blush,
pinked and bright
crumpled rosewhite beachheads

That moment was
already past
then, now astray —
the pink prows
of those tattered cloudsails
neon white

and the rest
to the west
declined to gunmetal, grim.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Failed Again

Even the title for this piece failed again (the effing computer having tke over from th keyboard nput — as you can see here — so I had to go back and add the “in” at the end of “Again;” and Iʼll just leave the stinking errors in this parenthetical addendum as evidence of what Appleʼs miserable excuse for technological advancement forces me to endure daily/hourly/every minute and second that the effing computer is on — not that anything Windows-based would do any better, I perceive*).

Our new faucet. Notice, please, the lovely brushed nickel matching the sink (a novelty here at Wakdjunkagaʼs Abode).

Our new faucet. Notice, please, the lovely brushed nickel matching the sink (a novelty here at Wakdjunkagaʼs Abode).

I began this rant on the tenth, intending to mention I had failed (one piece of the total set of failures to which the title refers) to fix our kitchen sink (replacing the faucet) because the original supply lines were too short for the new faucet. I needed 21 and 23 inches of line respectively (cold and hot water), and places in town only sold 20-inch lines. However, real life and time in general have intervened, and thanks to a trip out of town (intentionally for brunch with My Belovedʼs sister and her husband and his sister and her significant other) I got what I needed, which I could have acquired in town it turned out — extension lines. I installed them successfully (so far) with only one hiccup when the cold water leaked the first time around. Wow.

My plumbing job isnʼt pretty, but it works.

My plumbing job isnʼt pretty, but it works.

My first plumbing job! (Although willing to do just about anything with electricity, thanks to my long noncareer with theatrical lighting and special effects, I have avoided accidentally flooding either our house or any theatrical venue by my plumbing incompetence.) My aged retirement continues to provide new adventures and experiences.

See the moisture (and the meter)?

See the moisture (and the meter)?

Now the only failure involved with that endeavor is that our main valve on the water entering our blessed abode has developed a bit of a leak. Just a little constant moisture down the copper line and wetness all the way to the drain in the basement floor.** But thatʼs before our water meter so… well, allʼs well that costs us nothing, for the time being.

The real failure, to which my nearly week-old title referred, is that my most recent attempt toward publication had just received rejection. Again. (And again and again and again, even though I donʼt keep resubmitting and searching out new market possibilities as I should. Nor even writing all that much either.) I had churned out and polished a brief 5000 words extending my Sepharad story (stories/series) with an adventure for Søren in Córdoba, encountering Lovecraftian horror (and his own weaknesses) as he attempted to earn some cash abetting two quarrelsome students of nigromancy. “Scholarsʼ Folly” (which may give away or, preferably, retrospectively suggest the nature of Sørenʼs climactic slip-up) being crafted for a Mythos market, hasn’t many innate qualities to make it attractive outside the specific anthology for which I wrote it. Sadly.

My own little cover for a short story (that didn't sell)

My own little cover for a short story (that didn’t sell)

Failure again.

Too bad they couldntʼ have rejected me more delicately (or even personally):

Hi,

Thanks for taking the time to sub to OUR LOVECRAFTIAN ANTHOLOGY and for your patience. We are going to pass on this.

Cheers,

THE EDITORS***

At least — good news — I do get to work again trapping bugs for USDA APHIS PPQ this summer. Take that, Sequestration!

And now, maybe to work on some fiction writing…

or else dinner.

* This (forthcoming) thought is not original with me (I believe I read something like this somewhere a long time ago, probably on the internet somewhere/when), however, it remains so utterly valid, I must type it out: Would we tolerate automobiles (or even cell phones, and I don’t mean “smart” ones) that operate as poorly as personal computers do? Admittedly mine (2009 iMac, bought as my last educational purchase at retirement) is now four years old, come June, but my truck is thirteen this year (a decade in my possession).

** I at first wrote “cellar floor,” an inaccurate description of our finished basement.But that slip reminded me that when I was small I read that supposedly (I think according to Robert Frost) the loveliest phrase in English was “cellar door.” Thoughts? Results of your research? Both welcome.

Deliberately so — one side is completely finished, while the other has no ceiling (for property-taxation reduction reasons).

But according to my New York Times link, the loveliness of “cellar door” was evidently H.L. Menckenʼs notion (no bet that we would not have heard about him in elementary school in the Sixties).

*** Detailed information (such as the editorsʼ names and the anthology title) have been altered/omitted to protect the unenthusiastic (and foolish?).

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.