Thanksgiving Aftermath

Wow. Nearly the entire month of November has slipped away without even a breath of a post here. I wish I could say that I have been writing diligently for NaNoWriMo, but even though my word-count (now illustrated in the bright new, but sadly belated widget to the right) is pretty close to the norm, I have mostly just wasted my time (still) this month. (And I know full well that a good slew of what I have written and counted toward that total is worthless and I will probably never use it. Sad to say, but bitterly true.)

The box set iTunes is frustrating me about right now.

Anyway, The Lovely One is busily decorating for Christmas today (as per annum), my crapulous iMacʼs optical drive repeatedly refuses to acknowledge or read the final three disks from The Jimi Hendrix Experience Winterland box set (does anyone else think Apple does that — makes their hardware/software refuse to load CDs — deliberately to drive iTunes users to buy/download from that damnable store?*),and I have been raking (yet again — umpteenth time, again) to clear the oak leaves, originating across the street, from our yard. I only got the eastern side and half the back yard raked (and another mostly full truckload of leaves delivered to the dump site) before concluding the windʼs just too strong (damn southerly gale) to keep at it longer — much to your delight/misery, readers.

However, updating my word count with NaNoWriMo today reminded me to see about widgets they provide, and finding many, I placed one into the sidebars. And that procedure made me realize that I havenʼt written a word since the first of the month for good old Wakʼs Blog. So here are a few words.

I do have some parts of a travelogue on our Budapest trip completed, and I will upload those, or words very like those, as a post or two over the next few days, along with some pictures. Otherwise, having not eaten more than some soda crackers — a few with cheese — today, I had better keep this short to be able to help Janet make supper from the leftovers we snatched home from her mother yesterday. (Yum — both for the original Thanksgiving feast and the cold and/or reheated leftovers today and whenever after.)

I hope everyone felt appropriately thankful yesterday, and that those who went shopping all night/today enjoyed themselves (my beloved and I might venture into a store by tomorrow or Sunday). And now I must try to create a Christmas-gift suggestion list for my family, to get in the old e-mail ASAP.

Merry weekend, all!

* Personally, for every time a CD wonʼt load, I schedule not buying anything from the iTunes store. Itʼs around 576 albums I wonʼt buy from Apple right now…

And, yes, any suggestions on how to make the optical drive actually work (and not just kick a valid CD back out) would be gratefully appreciated. ASAP.

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

Summerʼs End

My summer job is finally, fully over. Yesterday The Lovely One and I drove to Des Moines to return the GOV to its real home at USDA APHIS PPQ.* The entire trapping staff was there — seasonal workers (like me), fulltime office staff, seasonalsʼ spouses… everyone.

Each of us received his or her annual work review (mine was quite flattering), reminded ourselves of some governmental policies, and turned in our official documentation and GOV keys. The staff treated us all to a picnic of brats and hamburgers before sending us all home for the chillier months. If funding permits the emerald ash borer (and gypsy moth) survey(s) to continue, I have more short-term work ahead for next spring and summer. Our office head, Rob, also awarded certificates and gifts to memorialize this yearʼs service (and a plaque for one trapper retiring after 21 years and a quarter-million miles in the field). The time spent yesterday in the middle of the state was pleasant and fun.

Rain set in, heavy and ominous amidst the speeding semis on Interstate 80,** as I drove Janetʼs car back eastward — although blue skies popped out, at first just off to our left, north, as we drove in downpour less than a mile from the sunshine, and later, briefly, overhead in Jackson County. We might have missed some of the precipitation if we hadnʼt had to leave Polk County in order to return as early as we could for Janetʼs job, from which she had taken a day off just to drive me home. Once snugly in our house for an evening, we reveled in the novelty of that domestic experience.

Celebration on the Ward — the men joyously imagine a home run, assisting McMurphy to undermine Nurse Ratchedʼs fatal authority.

We hadnʼt had an evening at home since early August, with play practice for One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest every weeknight until now. And I spent just about all of September, once the EAB traps had been all taken down, working onstage for former Grand technical director (and general genius) Keith through most of the day.*** With about four or five brief but important exceptions, I was his only volunteer, unhelpfully unskilled as I am. Even with my fumblefingered carpentry, Keith put up an amazing set for opening night last Friday.**** He also crafted outstanding sound effects that really fulfill the wonderful performances of the hugely talented (and hardworking) cast — not to mention Melissaʼs delicate lighting and Dougʼs startlingly perfect special effect.

The wonderfulness of this production is almost enough to keep me thinking about future theatrical endeavors.

My sister Margaret came for the opening weekend, and I hope she enjoyed the show, even with her inefficient hosts being utterly preoccupied and too busy for a proper visit (our conversations mostly stranded during the hours around midnight). We all really should just get together to visit without special events, glad or sad.

However, as the dire gales of autumn wail grayly around the house, thrashing treetops and bushes into barely constrained gyrations and scattering batches of freshly torn-away leaves everywhere, summer things are definitely drawing toward an end…

(Maybe Iʼll find/take the time to write something, finally, now.)

* We both had to go, of course, so that I had a way home once the vehicle I had driven out there was no longer mine to drive. Also, the office staff likes to meet the spouses of the seasonal workers.

** (I-80 really should be three to five lanes each direction all across the county, I sometimes, even often, think)

*** (with rehearsals continuing until sometimes nearly the next day, thus suggesting a reason for the lack of posts to the blog lately)

**** The performances continue and then conclude this coming weekend — Thursday through Sunday.

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

Past Blast

As the dextremist Enemies of Americans at Fox News attempt (tiresomely, repetitively, again) to distort real news/events for Their own smarmy purposes (abetted by that shady and seditious shark, Andy Breitburp), I, who have mowed the lawn today (such a major accomplishment, we must say), feel the best post I can make for this Labor Day is the one I published one year ago. You may read it here.

Our Iowan 2011 Labor Day brings/continues the midwestern coolth we first experienced yesterday, and, even as I type with sweatshirt and long pants upon my body, the temperatures are a pleasure. The Lovely One and I traveled on Saturday to Mt. Pleasant to visit Dawn and Kevin (she has been suffering from chicken pox, a truly unpleasant experience as an adult), returning yesterday. Dawn was pretty completely recovered (even being permitted back into her elementary art classroom this past week), and (I think) all four of us enjoyed a good time together.

I came home a bit lighter in the head (very marginally) when my just-more-than-a-week-old crown fell off the stump of my tooth about 11:00 AM Sunday! Fortunately, I wasnʼt chewing anything, and the $1000 misinserted (or failed) part is nestled in my vest to be restored for free (or so I presume) early tomorrow (or so I have requested). Happy holiday to me. And I certainly hope you, gentle readers, have enjoyed more fully your three-day weekend (which corporate powers and the dim Dextreme, along with their utterly mindless Teabots, would like to render more meaningless than the day has become).

By the way, the birthday bash for my mother-in-law at Timmermanʼs Friday evening was very fun. Janet brought home a full meal of leftovers from her order (Chicken Chardonnay with added artichokes), while I consumed both of my Greek-style pork chops. My Beloved is right now on the phone with her sister, but that call is probably drawing toward an end, so I should cease saying somewhat less than nothing here and be ready to actually speak with my spouse.

So thatʼs the news for now. Power to the People, and welcome back to work tomorrow.

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

Free as a Bird (Not)

The poster for our production. It was one thing in which I participated productively yesterday.

Rainʼs moving in…

Of course, the radar has shown that rain closing in all morning, but the front wall of the rainfall has curved around Our County, encompassing Dubuque and a big region south of Interstate 80, but not us. Yet. The forecasters continue to insist it is coming; it will probably be here by the time I get this item composed, edited, illustrated and finally posted for today.

My summer job has ended. Like so many college students I enter September temporarily unemployed. My GOV still needs to be returned to the main office, and that event is currently scheduled for sometime late next month. So Iʼll earn a day or two daysʼ income taking it back and getting debriefed. Unfortunately, The Lovely One will have to take a day off work to drive me home afterwards. Or else I will have to locate other help lest I remain stranded in Urbandale…

Until that trip, I no longer have the ten-hour days encompassing my time and energy.

Fortunately or un-, my time is not yet quite my own. Our play* is busy in rehearsals, currently four nights each week (soon to become five), and I also have some duties during the day to fulfill (now that Iʼm “free”). Like finding some costumes, acquiring or manufacturing sound effects, helping to locate props, and assisting in set construction.

I also need to apply formally to work as a substitute teacher in districts nearby, and at least in Our Town that means about a dozen pages of various forms to complete along with credentials to locate and copy. So thereʼs plenty to do to keep me busy.

But I still find time, fatuously, to create and post material to the blog, like this. And I still want to take time to work on real writing and even give myself a chance to read some things for pleasure. This morning I composed a letter to my brother Stephen, long-overdue, and vague bits and pieces of what I had to tell him kept churning through my mind to become this post. However, now that Iʼm trying to put those same fragments of thoughts into print, Iʼm not sure I really have much to say. So at least this post will be brief.

And maybe I will get this into the electronic æther before the rain arrives.

Thanks for reading…

* I hope some may remember that Janet and I are directing One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest for the Grand Opera House in Dubuque. Auditions were held August 7 and 8, with actual rehearsals beginning on the 11th. The performances will begin September 23 through October 2.

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

Best Laid Plans?

“Looking out my garage door…” at the Trailblazer in the rain (actually the sun is coming out).

Yesterday, almost from the predawn moment I arrived at my government Trailblazer to fetch it home for the dayʼs activities, rain poured from thick, dark skies, persisting all morning, as thunder revved and rumbled all around the atmosphere. Craggy shafts of lightning startled the gray world almost regularly but unpredictably. Although The Lovely One* dutifully headed off for work in her poor, padiddled** Toyota Corolla in the driving downpour, your humble blog host dryly elected to alter my penultimate plans for my seasonal job and leave checking out what few EAB traps I might have accidentally skipped, during the Great Takedown this past month, until the next day — meaning this day, today.

Instead, I sought shelter in our garage, with the big door wide open on the deluge, and packaged my collected hangers into groups of ten and boxed them up. I also worked laboriously to clean dirt and acquired glue from about a dozen or fifteen spreaders (all the rest I had judged clean enough to just pitch in the tangled agglutination of such items in a box in the GOV). Then I gave my faithful pole a final (at least I hope itʼs final) cleaning before starting in to vacuum and scrub the good old GOVʼs pretty dirty interior. The rain had ceased about 11:00, so I wasnʼt risking a wetting from the storm as I dragged our faithful shop vac outside to scour the carpeted and other parts of the vehicleʼs cabin. I knew that chore would be extensive (and not just because I had gotten a lot of dust and stuff into the GOV; it wasnʼt any too clean when I began this job back in April), but two and a half hours was a little more than I had anticipated on just that part of the vehicle clean-up.

That element of my work day drew to an end about 3:30 (as I indicated, quite a bit later than I had imagined), and I spent the next ninety minutes beginning my concluding bookwork — checking trap sheets to be sure I had marked off visits to remove the traps at each site (and struggling to recall to myself that I had done so/could remember something about doing so). I also wanted to count various aspects of my trapping.

The hangers grouped in tens in stacks of fifty — with one stack a few short, of course

Statistically, I now know that I have 244 hangers which I have collected over the takedown process (and I know that some trap sites — less than a dozen, but a significant “some” — didnʼt even have a hanger clinging in a tree when I arrived to take down the — in those cases blown away/fallen/vanished — traps). I canʼt count up the spreaders because theyʼre just a nest of tangled metal devices (much like oneʼs Christmas tree lights seem to become in their box from one year to the next, as my immediate supervisor John remarked at our last meeting). I had never counted how many traps I had actually put up (nor how many remained up as I discovered traps in oaks and hackberries and box elders and elms and walnuts and even a mulberry… and which I didnʼt replace if or when I could not locate an ash in that grid; nor did I yet know just how many of those instances occurred), and I figured I could keep count as I checked over the sheets. I wanted to know a full, accurate total on how many traps I had personally put up (even wrongly), and an enumeration of how many I had visited and revisited and finally removed over the course of this past summer.

Reality didnʼt actually measure up to those plans. First, I didnʼt get through everything in the ninety minutes, so Iʼll be continuing to work with the books before I head out to check the possibly skipped traps this morning. Second, I lost count on both the overall number of traps and in particular the ones that originally were placed in other trees than an ash. So those statistics may just never be calculated or result from some activity on my own, not on government time.

If my plans for today go better than my bookwork plans yesterday, I may even get to continue cleaning the GOV late this afternoon. No matter what, I intend to get it finished and reloaded with unused and collected supplies tomorrow and, except for the return of the vehicle to Des Moines, conclude my seasonal employment for this summer.

At least thatʼs my plan. For now.

* I inserted that asterisk as I dictated this post before play practice yesterday. But why? Surely most of my several dozen readers know who The Lovely One is by now…   

— Oh, yes! Now I remember: I finally figured out how to get idiot Dragon Dictate to insert the words for numbers to one hundred instead of defaulting to digits. So now “The Lovely One” appears correctly when I say, “Cap The Cap Lovely Cap One” instead of becoming irrationally “The Lovely 1.”

** Ah, the sweet scent of youthful experience… In my late childhood and teens, a “padiddle” was a one-eyed car (with one headlight out), as Janetʼs vehicle is right now (and will remain until we get it to our repair guy on Saturday).

And third, the rain was much-needed hereabouts. And gratefully received.

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

Dirty Work (at and away from The Crossroads)

Thereʼs nothing particularly dirty about this shot (from today). But this is the tree I actually climbed to get the trap about a month ago. It is (I firmly hope) the ONLY tree Iʼll have to climb. (The trap is visible in the photo, but you have to look very closely to discern it in the quite low spot where I rehung the thing and from where I removed it this morning.)

My job is dirty work. I havenʼt mentioned this issue before partly because it didnʼt seem that way back in April when I got started. (I am thinking about “when I got started” as I have begun to take down the traps, beginning with those we first put up.) But even in those (dreamily now?) chilly and rainy days of not-quite-spring-here-on-the-prairie, I was using the “goop” weʼre provided to clean the sticky stuff (Tanglefoot®) on the traps from my fingers and the extendable pole. On a fairly regular basis.

Since those early days, especially as heat has swelled and the dry epoch of summer descended, the roads have become dustbins thick with yellow grit my vehicle plows up into clouds of dense fog-like filth, even as complicated and unreadable medleys of weeds have sprouted (neck-high in some places) in the ditches along those dusty country roads… my work has gotten dirtier. My clothes really require a daily cleaning, partly to remove my own bodily exudation but also the thick layer(s) of accumulated dust and stickiness from traps.

I had thought the worst was two weeks back when temperatures soared to nearly 100° (with — pardon my mentioning it, Tushie Lamebah — heat indices often nearly 120°). And at the end of the aforementioned three weeks of utter aridity. But today, as I began to take down the traps, the filth factor (and the sweat, even though the day topped out just about 92° with the heat index only at 105º) the grimy grunginess hit a new level of ugliness. Taking the traps apart (saving the hardware but eventually folding the purple cardboard into a flat with the glue sides inward* for later disposal) with the glue in a molten state (mixed with bug bodies/parts/guts and windblown dirt) had me cleansing my fingers every single stop.

And the dust puffed in visible waves of billows around me, reverberated from my clothes with every step I took from the back of the GOV to the driverʼs door.

I just wanted to report: my job is dirty work.

And now, as it is not air-conditioned here in the office, I think Iʼll quit and leave this post brief. But dirty.

*  — but only after very, very carefully scrutinizing each peculiar bug — after all, this is the final examination, and I wouldnʼt want to miss anything exciting, however much I donʼt want emerald ash borers around here in my lifetime.

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

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.