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As we drove up to the Webster house yesterday, we were encouraged by the lack of structural debris—such as soggy carpet and wet sheet rock—piled in front of houses on our street. And the interior of the house looked okay through the front windows.

Alas, upon opening the door, it was clear that something had been wet for a couple of days, and an on-the-knees inspection revealed a swath of wet carpet about 6-8 feet wide extending from the back wall of the house. This affected the living room, both of the smaller bedrooms, and a closet in one of those bedrooms. We removed all of that carpet today, which included the carpet in the dining room and in the corridors leading to the bedroom side of the house.

An inspection of the walls above wet sections of carpet showed no apparent damage, but I'm thinking it's likely there was some minimal wetting of the sheet rock. (We'll find out more tomorrow, when we remove the molding at the base of the wall.)

Compared to a whole lot of folks in the Houston area, we got off very lightly. A few people that we know had their homes flooded to a significant depth, and one couple we know also had a rental house and two of their vehicles flooded as well.

One day at a time...
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...and it may be, yet, I changed my mind.

You see, among the things I've come to believe over the years is that complaining is a waste of time.

That said, the meaning of the verb "to complain" must be clarified. A statement made with a specific goal of ameliorating a situation or condition is not what I have in mind when I talk about "complaining." For example, if a hotel gives me a keycard that doesn't work, informing the front desk that is does not work is not, strictly speaking, what I consider "complaining" in the statement I make above.

On the other hand, I think a statement such as "I can't stand it when people do <whatever>," is a complaint in the sense I have in mind, because all it does is express frustration, which is not what I consider a healthy emotion. In my opinoin, it is better to simply let it go, or better yet—to work out specific steps that are intended to ameliorate some situation having to do with a specific person (much like the situation where one goes to the front desk to request another keycard).

So that said, I'm just going to drop all of what I was going to complain about—I will allow myself to say only that it would have been epic!—into my mental trash bin and forget about it!

Life is too short, y'dig?.

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I fell asleep without meaning to at around 9 pm last night (lying down will do that to you), and woke up a little after midnight with a hankering for a soda. I pulled on a tee shirt and shorts, grabbed my key card and a couple of bucks, and went out to the vending area.

With soda in hand, I returned to the room only to find the card did not work.

Stuff happens.

So I hied myself to the night window and the woman there reprogrammed my card. I went back to the room only to find the card did not work.

I'll spare you the details of the subsequent trips to the night window, back to my room, and back to the night window. The woman finally grabbed the master key card and went back to the room with me. My cards still did not work, but hers did (thank goodness).

Of course, by this time, any sleep that was lingering on the edge of my consciousness had dissipated, so I did some reading.

* * *

I hit the road at 7:30 am this morning and tried to configure Waze to take me through Austin via Highway 290 (which I had determined was the best route into Houston) instead of straight on in via I-10, but ended up on State Highway 71 (if memory serves), which would eventually take me back to I-10, so I consciously deviated from the decreed route, whereupon Waze went catatonic on me, remaining quiet until I returned to T-Mobile country close to Houston, by which time I really didn't need the app.

Believe me, it was good to get home.



Aug. 29th, 2017 07:46 pm
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Or thereabouts.

The goal for the day was to get to Fort Stockton, Texas, but I made pretty good time getting there, so I set off east on I-10, in the direction of Houston.

Good sense led me to grab a room in Sonora... the last room, according to the proprietor, which was corroborated by a couple of other guests, who said they were not able to find rooms at other places... something about an invasion of government types associated with the Harvey recovery effort.

It has been a long day, but I am that much closer to home.

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After spending quite a bit of time checking out Harvey's behavior in the Houston area yesterday, I slowly came to the realization that I would do better to leave for Seabrook tomorrow, giving the storm just that much more time to move eastward. It was just as well, for after yesterday afternoon's mushroom foray with Feht—which resulted in finding just one Aspen Bolete and nothing else that either Feht or I recognize as edible—I still had quite a bit of work left to do around the Pagosa house. For the most part, all of that is done.

What is left is to go through various stuff that's in the garage, and to stow things I feel I cannot live without in the Honda for the trip home.

So I better "turn to," for I intend to get a reasonably early start tomorrow morning, and to take three days (if necessary) to get home.

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I keep hearing about this thing called The Most Dangerous App, where the idea is to start write something and to keep at it for a prescribed amount of time (I was offered 5 minutes), with the "kicker" being this: if you stop typing for 5 seconds, you lose everything you've typed.

Here's my first serious attempt with the site, written about my Friday visit to Feht's. It's incomplete, but it's five unedited minutes of writing:
ok. let's see just what kind of drivel I can write here for five minutes.
i have not been doing much of anything interesting the past couple of days here at the house in Pagosa since returning from the eclipse. Perhaps the most interesting thing was to go visit Feht.
Feht has aged since the last time I saw him. Maria, his wife, looks as hale as ever, but Alex's beard is heavily streaked with grey and his hairline has moved back at least an inch, in my opinion.
Feht's son, William, was there, visiting in the aftermath of the entire clan having traveled to Idaho to watch the eclipse on the 21st. William looks eerily like his father, though at a younger age, naturally. When someone came out onto the porch after I parked my car in front of the house, I looked up and, for a moment, honestly thought it was Feht who had emerged to greet me. It wasn't, and I probably made a damn fool of myself, I forget what I said to William, maybe it was something... no, it was some kind of idiocy.
Anyway, I
As it turns out, the experience was not as harrowing as some would have you believe. Then again, it was easy for me to write about my visit to Feht's. I should try this with something more challenging, like writing a story.

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By the time we were ready to leave for Utah, I was ready to go to sleep. I had spent the past four of five days with long stretches behind the wheel, and with the eclipse behind us, the fatigue was catching up with me.

Natalie volunteered to drive the Honda, while the grandkids rode with Kyle.

After it became clear that traffic on Highway 220 out of Casper was no joking matter, I drifted off into the arms of Morpheus, waking when we reached a point about a mile or two north of Muddy Gap, Wyoming, where Highway 220 joins with Highway 287.

The traffic was horrendous. We'd stand idle for about 15 minutes, and then move slowly forward for about as long before coming to a stop and idling. We finally saw a gas station up ahead, on the left side of the road, and decided to stop in, both for a human pit stop and to wait until the car Kyle was driving (which was behind us) came into sight.

Despite a breathtaking price of $3.64 per gallon, I also decided to fill up the gas tank, just in case. The pit stop was not feasible, as most of the floor space inside the building was taken up by people standing in line for the restrooms.

Kyle eventually came into view and we fell in line behind him. During one of or idle periods, it became clear that a Wyoming state trooper was basically letting trauffic from 220 pass for a while, after which he'd move his cruiser and then let traffic from 287 go by. South of that confluence, the traffic picked up the pace.

I fell asleep again, until we reached Rawlings, on Interstate 80.

At Rawlings, Kyle filled up on gas and everyone stood in line for a pit stop. Whoever was in the men's room took his jolly sweet time going about his business, and after about 8 minutes (with about a half dozen people still waiting in front of me), I gave up and went back to the car.

I retained consciousness for a while as we tooled down I-80, but fell asleep again, waking only when we stopped at a store in Dutch John, Utah, to pick up firewood.

We eventually gained the campsite I had reserved online at around 9:30 pm, and we proceeded to erect the tent I had bought for the trip. In the dark. Using instructions that were way short of usable. It took a while, but the job got done, with the help of Kyle and Huntür.

Natalie and Kyle wanted to stay up and marvel at the night sky—which was truly magnificent, with the Milky Way stretching from one end of the sky to the other—but I was still tired, and so I lay down on the ground with only my sleeping bag and the tent's floor between me and Mother Nature, and fell asleep again.

To be continued...


Aug. 25th, 2017 03:04 pm
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Our alarms went off on Monday at 4 am. The plan was to hit the road early and find ourselves on Interstate 25 heading north toward a rendezvous with Natalie and Kyle in Casper, Wyoming, in plenty of time to set ourselves up to experience a total eclipse of the sun.

Things began auspiciously enough with a 40-mile run down E-470 doing the limit, which was 75 miles per hour. After turning north onto I-25, it took us 90 minutes to cover the roughly 40 miles to Loveland, where our phone navigation persuaded us to "save 11 minutes" and take the exit onto Highway 34.

Things were tense for a while, as we twisted and turned in the country roads northwest of the intersection of Highways 34 and 85 near Greeley, but we eventually ended up on Highway 85, headed north, with a lot of other cars, but moving at a good clip.

The time eventually came to refuel and rejoin I-25 north of Cheyenne, Wyoming—my first visit to that state, by the way—where the traffic (two lanes worth) moved well, with some occasional slowdowns.

This continued until we reached the town of Glendo, which from a distance looked like a huge car dealership because so many vehicles had stopped there to set up and watch the eclipse. As we approached the exit for the town, just about all of our fellow sufferers had moved onto the shoulder to take said exit, I suspect because the eclipse had, technically, started and folks didn't want to miss the show.

As a veteran of at least a half dozen partial eclipses, I pressed on, knowing that watching the moon slowly cover the sun's disk took a far second place to the two-plus minutes of totality we had come for. To that end, I wanted to get to Casper (which was close to the centerline of totality) and share the moment with Huntür, Mathew, Natalie, and Kyle. In any event, I was grateful for the mass exodus from the interstate, because north of Glendo, the interstate started to look the way it should in the middle of nowhere in the middle of an ordinary weekday.

The 80 miles to Casper passed in a blur. Along the way, I passed two State patrol cars positioned in the median of the interstate and said a silent prayer of thanks that the speed limit was 80, which I was traveling somewhat short of, as maintaining 80 mph in the Honda makes the engine scream a bit and this was not a time to be "pushing the envelope," so to speak.

We exchanged texts with Natalie and Kyle, who had overnighted in Billings, Montana, and had (as it turned out) experienced no traffic on the way down. They had arrived in Casper before us and found a place from which to view the eclipse in a Target parking lot.

I don't remember the exact time we arrived in Casper, but we parked next to Natalie and Kyle (42.848085°N / 106.265398°W, or thereabouts), at a point about 7 kilometers from the centerline of totality. We had less than 30 minutes to wait for the main event.

Solar eclipse glasses and binoculars were broken out and everyone looked at the progress of the eclipse. Eventually, during the final few moments before totality, the portion of the sun visible behind the moon had shrunk to a single brilliant point, giving the impression of a diamond ring floating in the sky.

Then that point was gone, and totality began.

I will admit I tried to take a photo with my phone, but the result did not look anything like what I saw, so I just relaxed and lived in the moment, similar to the way I simply took in the launch of STS-106 from the Kennedy Space Center back in September 2000.

The sight of the eclipsed sun took my breath away and I will also admit to experiencing tears of happiness that I was able to see this wonder of nature, and that it so exceeded anything one might see on a video or a photograph. The corona—the sun's luminous plasma atmosphere—could be clearly seen, with what seemed to be outflowing streaks all around the moon and three large areas where the corona seemed concentrated. A glance off to the side revealed the sky had darkened enough for a star to appear. A quick look around, at the horizon, showed it to be pink.

After a couple of minutes, the diamond ring effect reappeared, the sun "rose" from behind the moon, and totality was over. A family from Washington state that had parked near us climbed into their vehicle and drove off within a couple of minutes of the end of totality, presumably to beat the crowd home.

Our little group went into the Target to buy some items we'd need that night at the campground I'd reserved for us a few weeks ago (through not far from Dutch John, Utah. According to Google, the campground was 4-1/2 hours away by car.

The drive took almost twice as long, but we made it.

To be continued...
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After making my peace last Sunday, the 20th, with a protracted lack of connectivity (including cell service from T-Mobile), it wasn't hard to stay off the electronic grid on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but I get ahead of myself.

Huntür, Mathew, and I set off for Denver at 9 am on Sunday. On the way over the Wolf Creek Pass, we stopped at Site Lima and Site Romeo, where we found, respectively, some lobster mushrooms and incredible devastation.

The lobster mushrooms (way more orange in person than in the photo):

The devastation:

The pine trees whose needles were turning brown six years ago in response to having been killed by pine bark beetles now stand starkly in a depressing study of grays. However, new saplings are appearing everywhere, though it will probably take decades for the forest to recover.

On the way back to Highway 160, I passed what I initially dismissed as a nice, new softball that has been discarded on the side of the road, but then the mushrooming circuits in my brain kicked in, and I stopped the car and backed up. That "softball" turned out to be a puffball, in pristine condition and most edible.

After those short stops, we continued over the pass and eventually elected to take the "inland" route to Denver, consisting mostly of Highway 285. Once we eventually gained access to Interstate 25 near Denver, we then turned south, toward Parker, where some old friends had graciously agreed to put me and the kids up for the night.

More later...
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That part yesterday where I mused as to today being a day off?

In my dreams!

The trailer was unloaded and returned. Most of the stuff in the trailer was dragged to where it's supposed to go in the house (a few items remain in the garage).

I tried to nap. No joy.

I met with the contractor, we discussed some items on the "punch list" that Galina dictated to me over the phone, he provided plausible explanations for each point, so I ended up paying his invoice.

I washed the car. I tried (with little success) to deal with the chipped clear seal roof section, and what's done is done. Maybe, if I approach this a bit more slowly, I can revisit this after our little adventure trip (which we set out on tomorrow).

For some reason, stuff that needs to get charged (phones, earphones, power packs) is getting there at a snail's pace. After being connected to chargers since this morning, nothing is above 75% yet.

Natalie and I spoke on the phone to set up a rendezvous point in Casper on Monday, as she and Kyle will be approaching via I-25 from the north, and we'll be approaching via I-25 from the east. The whole situation represents a huge unknown (for example, will highways between Denver and Casper achieve the level of standstill of, say, the 405 in Los Angeles?). I expect that food and gas throughout the area of the path of totality will be under pressure Monday, but with some vigilance, those ought to be manageable.

Tonight needs to be a solid sleep night.

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I awoke around 2:30 am and could not fall back asleep, so at 3:15 am, I got up, turned on the light in the room, and started the despeckling process, which took about an hour.

I moved my wake-up time appropriately and went back to bed, and fell asleep shortly.

Upon rising, I threw all my junk in the car and hit the road. It turned out I was just down the street from a McDonald's, so breakfast was spoken for.

The road to Amarillo went quickly, despite the dark clouds and intermittent rain. Interstate 40 going west also disappeared under my wheels rapidly. The most curious part of that leg of the trip was a segment only a few hundred yards long between mile markers 48 and 49 (if memory serves) where street lights stood in the median between the west and eastbound lanes.

And so it all passed: Clines Corners, Santa Fe, and so on, until I drove up the driveway in Pagosa at a few minutes past five in the afternoon.

Two very long days of driving. Tomorrow is an off day, and you'll hear no complaints from me.

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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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