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Up at 4:30 am, with the idea of hitting the road at 6 am.

It didn't quite work out that way. I finally left the house at 7:30 am, in plenty of time to run into traffic, except that I minimized that particular delay by doing an end run via 146, 225, and 610. Still, I only managed to cover 40 miles during the first hour on the road.

Meanwhile, Galina was getting new tires, and eventually, we met at a truck stop in Midlothian, Texas, where we exchanged garage door openers and other implements of destruction. I continued north on 287, and Galina and Alla headed south, toward I-45 and home.

I mentally decided to stop at the first reasonable motel after entering the city limits of Childress, Texas, and it turned out the motel that Natalie and I stopped at during our January 1996 trip to Houston (where I was to assume the responsibilities of vice president at the NASA contractor that supplied—ad still supplies—language services to JSC). Today, the place is a Motel 6 franchise, and that makes it a "reasonable" place to stay, in my book.

The only down side of stopping in Childress is that it is just short of halfway to Pagosa (510 of 1040 miles). On the other hand, I only spent 11 hours on the road (which includes all stops for gas, meals, and meeting up with Galina and Alla), and my one and only client sent me an assignment that I've been pounding away at for the past two and half hours. I really don't want to have to work on this over the weekend, and there's a good chance I won't, assuming I can get a decent night's rest.

Which is something I ought to see about getting, in short order.

In any event, the program for tomorrow morning is to despeckle what I've done, send it off, and get on the road by, say, 7 am.

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Okay, so I finally got everything stowed in the trailer. There's plenty of volume left, but the name of the game with cargo trailers is not so much volume as it is weight, and where it is placed in the vehicle.

The heavy items are in front—heck, pretty much all the items are forward of the trailer axle, so that should not be a problem.

Galina called a little more than an hour ago to report that she'd experienced a flat tire on Highway 287, between Chillicothe and Vernon, here in Texas. I made the call to AAA, and they promised to have roadside assistance there by a quarter to nine, but Galina called soon after to report that someone had stopped to help change the tire, so she had called AAA to cancel the call for assistance.

It reminds me of a time, back around 1975 or so, when I was returning home from a visit to a Marine Reserve Center and stopped to change the tire on a car being driven by two older ladies. I didn't think it was any sort of big deal, and refused the twenty they offered me. Heck, I didn't stop to help in the hope of any kind of material reward, that's for sure.

My personal stuff is in a kind of packing limbo. I've been segregating some stuff—meds, flashlight, books, USB drive, and so on—into a box. My computer will probably get packed tomorrow morning, along with clothes (pretty easy, as the "uniform of the day" for the next ten days or so is going to be "casual"), after which I will need to do one last pass through the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen to make sure they're shipshape for Galina and Alla's arrival tomorrow afternoon.

I should probably get some of that done now, and then do some rack drill.

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I picked up the trailer this afternoon and have been addressing various tasks that must get donewould be nice to get done before I leave.

Kitchen-related tasks are probably the long pole in the tent right now. That, and staging all the stuff Galina wants me to take to Colorado (to be followed by loading, in such a way as to prevent stuff from breaking).

Le sigh...
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My natural inclination, after typing "creeping," is to type the word "meatballism" (said colocation was one of many coined by Jean Shepherd, but I digress...) but I managed to keep my fingers under control.

Galina wants me to bring a bunch of stuff to Pagosa to stage the house, and it looks like I'm going to have to rent a cargo trailer to be able to do so. It turns out U-Haul is about the only outfit locally that does one-way rentals along those lines, and said lines ain't cheap.

The translation is done and sent, leaving me free to concentrate on cleaning this place up before I climb behind the wheel for the trip north.

Apropos of which, it's time I "turned to."

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So much stuff to do, and it was hard to figure out where to start.

The most obvious approach in such circumstances, of course, is to grab what's closest and dead with it, and then grab the next closest, and so on, but that didn't work for me today—at least not as well as it should have. That said, there is a lot more floor space visible in both my bedroom and my office.

In other news, I finished my first pass through the translation, and did about half the despeckling before I allowed my spirits to flag.

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It's good that some jobs are coming in now, because things are going to get interesting about the middle of this coming week, and it sure will be pleasant to send out an invoice at the end of the month that will cover more than utilities and food.

Natalie and Kyle report an inability to find eclipse-viewing glasses anywhere in Calgary. I suggested hitting up welding supply places for #14 welding filters, but I get the feeling that ain't gonna happen.

Yesterday, by the way, I found the same absence of gear in Houston—stuff is plumb sold out (and has been, for a while I am told). I'm pretty sure the dearth of such glasses both here and there is due to people buying them so they can view what they can from home, though I am still wondering what the situation will be on the ground as one geographically approaches the path of totality on August 21. Will Interstate 25 heading north out of Denver be a bumper-to-bumper parking lot? (I'm holding on to the idea that the answer to said question will depend on just how early one leaves Denver.)

Online sources for eclipse gear are also back-ordered. I placed a Prime order yesterday through Amazon that's slated to arrive in Colorado (with overnight shipping, no less!) on the 18th. That gives me at least one day of leeway in case of any delay, and a reason to cross my fingers.

Most of the day was spent translating some incomprehensibly large amount of text. I hope to clear my plate tomorrow and to make additional progress with cleaning up the junk in my office.

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It turns out the local Honda dealership does not sell spray cans of paint for their cars, which seems to me to be a missed opportunity, because so many of the DIY videos out there on dealing with a flaking clear coat feature Hondas as "the patient." So, I spent a couple of hours watching such videos, to get an idea of what needs to be done. I've got a plan—I just don't know it it's a good one.

I tried to take a nap earlier, but couldn't. And I'm yawning nonstop right about now, so I guess I'll sign off.

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I've been doing this chemo long enough to expect that the day after, I'll basically feel like Thor, or Ilya Murometz, or some other superpowered individual.

I try to stay modest, however, and do mundane stuff, like go to the bank and drop by the paint and body shop.

Oh, and translate. Lots of translate.

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There was a time, several years ago, when I was constructing a set of names to be used in a memory system I was working on, I needed a male singer whose work lay in, roughly, the country–pop-folk spectrum, and I gave serious consideration to the name Neil Diamond, as the name fit certain phonetic criteria I'd settled on.

The only problem was, I could not recall a single song of Diamond's off the top of my head, and I had no idea what Diamond's face looked like, so including him in a memory system didn't make much sense.

So I ditched the phonetic criteria for this single instance only and settled on... Glenn Campbell, whose music I considered to lie in roughly the same spectrum (if I am mistaken, so be it), and more important, whose Wichita Lineman was securely burned into my consciousness because back when my Marine Corps MOS was 2511 (wireman, in my era; today, it's been changed to 0612, field wireman), I trained to acquire pole climbing skill—one in which, in the end, I was proud to have gained experience—and Campbell's song sort of became a "mascot" tune for me, linked in my mind to that skill. And so, in system, my image for number 27 is the fella wearing rhinestone-studded jeans (Rhinestone Cowboy was another of Campbell's hits) while singing, playing a guitar, and wearing climbers.

I enjoyed quite a number of Campbell's other songs, too, including Gentle On My Mind and By The Time I Get To Phoenix in particular.

Sorry to see you go, Glen.

Memento Mori...
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I awoke early again today, which gave me an opportunity to get some stuff done before leaving in plenty of time to arrive for my follow-up appointment and chemo session #7.

After my vitals were taken, I found myself a corner and did some taiji while I waited for the nurse to call my name.

The actual follow-up was short and, let me tell you, was it sweet! The principal good news is that things that should be getting smaller are getting smaller or disappearing, and the metastases in the bone tissue remains stable.

The chemo went very well, too.

It started, naturally, with a "stick," which I tried to meditate away (i.e., dismiss any associated pain from my mind and concentrate on my breathing), and I either succeeded, or the nurse taking care of me slipped the needle right between nerve endings.

I mention this only because yesterday's "stick" was quite painful; so much so that I involuntarily lifted a leg from the floor. The nurse commiserated with me but then attempted to explain why it had been so painful (it was a fairly large-diamter needle), and I basically let her, because (I thought to myself) it wasn't my week to be going around and explaining her flawed reasoning (at times, it seems I've had more needles of various size—including the size she used to enable injection of the CT scan contrast—pass through the surface of my skin than the Bayeux Tapestry).

Once I was again a free man, I drove over to Hare Repair, because they had recommended a place "right across the street" to repaint the Honda's roof, where wide swaths of the coating had cracked and left the paint layer exposed to the weather. I experienced sticker shock when I heard the proposed price, but since then, I've determined that (a) Hondas like the one I drive experience this kind of environmental (sun + heat) damage, which really has nothing to do with the price, and (b) the price is actually on the low end of what's available out there among shops that publish prices online.

Tomorrow, I plan to take the car to a few local well-reviewed places to get prices and see what options I have.

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Few things are as fraught with hazard as the gentle embrace of routine.

As an "old hand" at getting poked and prodded by the folks at MD Anderson, I was quite prepared for the usual one-two combination consisting of an injection of radioactive substance into my body, followed by a two-hour interval that ended in a mind-numbing bone scan (one must lie rock still for about 20 minutes), after which I would report upstairs to prep for a CT scan (said prep consisting of drinking about 16 oz of "spiked" Diet Sprite over the course of an hour) that would, after some time, culminate in the actual scan. (The last time I underwent a CT scan, the whole process took almost 5 hours, most of it engaged in waiting.)

Last night, as I double-checked the times of my appointments, I failed to notice that the bone and CT scans were scheduled in "reverse" order, with the CT scan as the lead-off procedure. Had I noticed, I would not have eaten a McDonald's sausage burrito (4 oz., 300 calories) on the way into town, because CT scans are supposed to be done on an empty stomach. Fortunately, my transgression was small and early, and so did not derail the procedure, and it went quite smoothly (and only two hours, from the time I checked in to the time I punched the "down" button on the elevator). The bone scan was a cakewalk. I only hope the results are as good as today was smooth going.

Our area was subjected to torrential rain (again) last night. Some areas of town saw six inches of rain fall overnight, but fortunately for me, those areas were nowhere near where I live or where I needed to be today.

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Different philatelic catalogs offer different features (or bugs, if you choose to view them in that light).

On the plus side, it's pretty easy to track classic French definitives in the Scott catalog, because they're all bunched together, regardless of when a particular stamp was issued. For example, Scott numbers 138 through 154 represent stamps displaying la Semeuse (the Sower) that were issued between 1903 and 1938. My two French catalogs (Yvert & Tellier and Maury) show (and number) said stamps by the year of issue, which can be frustrating when stamps of the same design (and sometimes, the same denomination, but different color) were issued years apart. (The Y&T catalog makes up for this with a section at the front of the catalog that acts as a visual aid, showing images and associated catalog numbers of stamps arranged in ascending order of the printed denominations. By contrast, the Maury catalog just assumes you're smart—or experienced—enough to figure this out on your own.)

Hovever, one aspect of the Scott catalog that really annoys me is how "semi-postal" stamps are segregated from the listing of definitives and commemoratives. (A semi-postal stamp is sold for its face value plus a surcharge that is collected to fund a purpose postal authorities consider worthy. The United States has actually issued a few such stamps—for 9/11 and breast cancer research, for example—but the designs do not actually show the cost breakdown. By contrast, France Scott No. B84, issued to benefit the children of the unemployed, clearly states a face value of 95 centimes plus a 35-centimes surcharge.)

However, the thing that really irks me about the Scott catalog is the reduced reliance on stamp illustrations, which play merry havoc with visually oriented users like me. I just spent ten minutes trying to find the entry for a stamp issued in 1938 to commemorate the discovery of radium because I could not find an illustration of the stamp in either the definitive/commemorative section or the semi-postal section. Even after I got up to take a good look at the stamp to confirm that it was a semi-postal (so I could focus where to direct my attention), I could not find it in the Scott catalog, at least not by its illustration.

Only after I consulted the catalog index was I able to find a catalog value for the stamp (as it turns out, $21 in mint-never-hinged condition), but what I found vexing was the lack of illustration and only the description "Curie issue—Common design type" for the stamp, which indicates that the same design was used for stamps issued in several French colonies.

All that being said, the Scott catalog remains valuable on a couple of counts. First, it is (I believe) dated 2016—I cannot tell for sure because I bought the electronic version from the publisher—so it is relatively current, as my Y&T and Maury catalogs date from 2009, and second, the prices are a bit more realistic (read: lower) than the somewhat inflated prices quoted in the French catalogs. This is very likely due to the fact that the French catalogs are published by folks that'd be more than happy to sell you stamps. (That same radium-discovery semi-postal, for example, is quoted in Y&T at €27, which is about the same price quoted by Maury.)

Ah, well. I suppose there is nothing to do but get used to it (unless I am prepared to compile my own catalog, which ain't gonna happen, let me tell you!).

* * *

My thoughts keep returning to Walter K. His passing has affected me more than I realize. I'm trying to cheer myself up with some oddball pieces of music.
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Quite by accident, I learned last night of the death of Walter K., who was the best friend of a close friend of mine from my working-in-the-USSR years. Galina and I visited Walter and his wife a few times shortly after Galina was allowed to leave the USSR after our marriage, and I still remember his warm smile and easygoing manner.

Though we had a number of friends in common, we never developed a close friendship with Walter and his wife, mostly because we moved away from New York, to Florida, and regrettably, I never kept in touch.

I just got back from our cluster mailbox, where I deposited my letter of condolence in the "Outgoing Mail" slot. I don't send a lot of snailmail, and when I do, it usually involves a trip to the post office, so slipping an envelope into that slot felt strange. For a moment, I imagined the slot fed a shredder, which probably represents the germ of a short story, but I digress...

I wrote my letter out in longhand, and though the words clearly conveyed my meaning, the act of writing something longer than a brief "to-do" description in my BulletJournal made me realize that, frankly, my longhand needs work. As I sealed the envelope, it occurred to me the enclosed letter may convey the idea it was written by a person of frail hand (not the case), but I put the thought aside, because le mieux est l'ennemi du bien, and anyway, I may be judging myself a bit severely in this department.

That said, I think what I need to do to ameliorate this state of affairs is to regularly write some serious longhand (in terms of penmanship, not content).

Back to work!

Memento mori...
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Applying shoulder to wheel and nose to grindstone has resulted in the translation of a significant number of words (with said number still subject to "despeckling"). At this point, I believe I will be able to deliver the job ahead of my self-proclaimed deadline.

I also feel completely justified in goofing off for the rest of the weekend!

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An email came in last Thursday, and I managed to glimpse the subject line ("Alex, congrats on your first sale!") before my attention was drawn to other, more urgent messages. It turns out the message was from Etsy, and it informed me that the book I had put up for sale back at the end of June had been sold.

The message body encouraged me to "First, kick back and celebrate," and I did allow myself a moment of satisfaction, but that feeling was quickly replaced by my uncertainty regarding the question, "Now, where did I put that book?" (Ending up unable to ship my first sale would probably make it my last sale, netting no income and probably spelling the end of my Etsy experiment.)

I experienced a pretty hectic few hours—things get moved around here all the time, despite my best efforts to keep track of them—and in the end, I managed to ship the book on Friday.

That currently leaves my store empty because of an inability to get what I believe to be suitable product photos and, frankly, a combination of (a) laziness and (b) having other things to do.

I've got to move off of dead center with this. But for now, I've got this giant translation assignment to take care of.

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The recently acquired ballon monté cover came with a certificate of authenticity from a well-regarded French company that specializes in "expertising" philatelic items. The handwritten description of the cover indicated "URT" as the city indicated in the arrival postmark. I had never heard of such a place—indeed, I was half expecting the name to actually be some kind of abbreviation (don't ask me why)—so I turned to Google for help.

Unfortunately, in the time between putting the cover away and bringing up Google, "URT" had turned into "URL" in my mind, and let me tell you—no matter how you decorate a query with additional words designed to winnow irrelevant hits, having "URL" in the query is not much of help at all.

I was prepared to give up on my search when I opened brought the cover back out for another look and realized I had wasted a bunch of time looking for a city that wasn't there. (On the other hand, I did uncover a trove of interesting philatelic sources located in Dallas, including one book with the tantalizing title of The Mysterious Disaster of the 'Jacquard' (which left Paris at 11 pm on November 28, 1870).

According to the narrative in my copy of The Balloon Post of the Siege of Paris, 1870-71, the weather was so violent at departure time that the three passengers who were to have accompanied the pilot refused to go, and so, after making up the weight of the passengers with ballast, the pilot took off. The balloon rose slowly, then disappeared suddenly into the weather.

The balloon was observed the next morning off Land's End, the southwesternmost point in England, but no aid could be rendered and the balloon, its pilot, and most of its cargo were lost at sea. A single sack of mail was recovered, which beached as a result of tidal action.

I tell you, nobody mentioned any of this during discussions of French culture and history (civilization) back in high school French class.


P.S. Urt turns out to be a city located wa-a-y in the southwest corner of France, which makes sense, as the letter was addressed to someone who lived in Basses-Pyrénées (now Pyrénées-Atlantique), which is where Urt is located.
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I cannot claim any world records with regard to how much I accomplished today, but a few things got done. A new job came in that, alone, will amount to about 80% of my billings for the entire month of July. I just need to make sure it gets done on Monday (although I did negotiate a deadline of next Thursday, just in case).

Among other things, I broke out the Maury catalog to find out more about a cover that arrived recently, originaly sent during le siège de Paris , which lasted from mid-September of 1870 to the end of January 1871. The subsequent capture of the city by Prussian forces led to the ultimate defeat of the French in the Franco–Prussian War.

The word "siege" has, for me, all sorts of medieval connotations. Indeed, the siege of 1870-71 was not the first siege of Paris; two others occurred in the ninth century and a third took place at the end of the sixteenth century. On the other hand, sieges are nowhere near obsolete, mostly because the nature of warfare has not changed all that much over the centuries. Among recent examples, for example, Ho Chi Minh's forces successfully besieged the French at Dien Bien Phu, and of course, you cannot work with Russians the way I have for four decades and not have been exposed to stories of the 900-day German siege of Leningrad during what we call "World War II" and what Russian-speaking people call "The Great Patriotic War." (The Wikipedia article on sieges, by the way, has a head-spinning list of major sieges throughout history.)

A little over a week ago, while Galina and Alla were enjoying a "ladies' night out," an acquaintance and I took a run over to Kemah and stopped for a bite at a place called "Tookie's Seafood Restaurant." It was the first place I've ever been to that demanded my phone number, as they intended to inform me via text message when our table would be ready. Given the ambient noise level near the reservation podium, the effect of this system was to have me stand around with my eyes glued to my phone, as the chances of hearing any kind of notification stood between "teensy" and none.

By the time we were seated, my appetite had, frankly, faded away, so we decided to split a couple of orders from the appetizer menu, and while the portions were ample, the presence of jalapeño in both dishes sort of defeated the purpose of ordering food (instead of, say, textured vegetable protein). The spicy did an excellent job of overpowering whatever nuances may have existed in the seafood.

Never mind me—I am turning into a cantankerous old so-and-so. Still, I don't think I'll be going back there any time soon.

I think I shall listen to a little more Liszt and then hit the rack.

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Originally, Galina had intended to drive up to Colorado to inspect the work that has been done on the house and to oversee the installation of the carpet, but a couple of things got in the way.

First, someone Galina wanted (and was supposed) to meeting on Tuesday showed up yesterday instead, and then only for a few minutes. Second—and perhaps the main reason—was that the carpet people, who had promised an August 1 start to the job called on July 31 to say they could only deliver the carpet on the 5th.

So from my end, once Galina and Alla took off, I was left with the dogs and cats. I ate entirely too much food today, which makes a good case for fasting tomorrow.

I did get a bunch of stuff done, but driving home afterward felt weird—like it didn't quite make sense.

I then spent entirely too much time trying to get an old IP camera up and running with my current router setup. No joy, but it killed time.

Natalie texted me today to ask if I've done any research on the weather along the path of totality during the upcoming August 21st eclipse. My response suggested that trying to determine, with any atom of certainty, the probability of the sky being overcast any any given place along that path for a period of time of less than two minutes and thirty seconds was a little, um, premature with 18 days yet to go.

Time to hit the rack. I'm tired.

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I recently did a translation and just now have received the following comment:
The client for this assignment just got back to me. There is one change that still needs to be made: The mother’s birthday should read as January 1st, 1971.
There was no question in my mind that I had not screwed up the mother's birth date because two different years were stated in the source files (and neither was 1971). After some consideration, I replied as follows:
In the scans you supplied—the file names of which end in "Pg 1" and "Pg 4"—line item 3 (Дата рождения матери) contains the mother's date of birth.

In the "Pg 1" file, the handwritten line item entry clearly indicates "1973" as the year, "March" as the month, and "14" as the day. In the "Pg 4" file, the line item entry contains only "1969" for the year, while the month and day were left blank.

Now, while the end client may want the birth date to be stated as some other date, I'm sure you'll agree that the job of the translator is to render what is shown in the source document. Therefore, with all due respect, I'm not quite sure how the requested change can be justified from my end (not and keep my certification on the translation).
Now taking bets on whether I'll be paid for this job.

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So I restored my .emacs file and don't you know? Now my "system" works the way it did before! (No surprise there.) Now, all I have to do is continue to do what I've been doing the past couple of years, and things oughta keep right on truckin' along. (The changes I intended I shall simply implement the old fashioned way—in my mind!)

It turns out there is a Roku channel out there that delivers programming from pretty much all the major Russian channels. I find it's kind of neat to be able to call up this kind of thing on my television, but I'm not at all sure it's worth even $10 per month, which is the rate for the bottom tier of service. My seven-day trial ends this weekend, so we'll see.

Natalie and I are trying to arrange to meet somewhere under the path of totality for the eclipse on August 21, and I plan to drag Huntur and Mathew along with me. Quite a number of places in said path have been booked solid for over a year, so pulling this off is going to be some kind of miracle, but I figure the endeavor alone will be adventure enough (and I'm pretty sure we will find ourselves in the path of totality, one way or another!).

The translation plate is clear, for today. I managed to finish all seven documents, with panache I might add.

Invoices go out tomorrow.



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