alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-22 08:33 pm

A solid hit!

Over the past couple of months, I've repeatedly run into references to "Blue Apron" during the course of daily life. The name refers to a company that appears to be making a go of sending subscribers the raw materials for meals, delivered on a weekly basis.

A recent combination of (a) the company being mentioned in a comment by by LJ friend adoptedwriter and (b) an introductory $30 off offer I caught on the radio tipped the balance for me, so I signed us up and the first box arrived today. At Galina's urging, I made the "Saffron & Tomato Bucatini Pasta with Summer Squash and Basil."


My first move was to substitute whole wheat spaghetti for the bucatini (I am trying to stay clear of white flour). I then added one more squash (the box contained one zucchini, which just felt wrong). From there, however, I followed the recipe through to the end and served it to Galina, Alla, and myself.

The response from the ladies was quite vehement—they liked it! I liked the result as well.

This one is a keeper!

So far, so good, with Blue Apron.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-21 07:21 pm

Not quite under the weather,...

...not quite entirely okay, either.

Keeping my thermometer handy.

I went for a haircut and the same woman who gave me a buzz cut some months ago worked on me again, and expressed genuine happiness (I think) that I appeared hale and hearty. There wasn't much to cut, but the experience lifted my spirits.

I'm going to take it easy and look forward to tomorrow morning.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-20 09:27 pm

A pretty straightforward day...

Paid some bills. Had fun trying to deal with some web sites. Seriously considered buying a laptop that's way too expensive. Did some reading. Did some writing, using both pens and a keyboard.

Not in that order, necessarily.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-19 09:21 pm

Insomnia advice...

Back when Champ and I hung out at his parents' house for extended periods, I could not help but notice that his mom, who bedded down on the family couch in the living room, turned on the television on those nights when she was plagued with insomnia (and there were many of those).

At the time, I suspected the tactic merely encouraged the insomnia, because once the tube went on, Champ's mom was focused on what what being broadcast and kept her eyes open until the test pattern came on, at oh-dark-thirty. Consequently, in my own experience with sleeplessness, I avoid turning on the television or otherwise entertaining myself, lest I lose all hope of falling asleep.

The trouble with my approach is that not doing anything—basically just lying there with eyes closed but experiencing not the least desire to fall asleep—is boring at best and a source of fitful tossing and turning at worst.

At today's follow-up at MD Anderson, I mentioned that, for the past two chemo sessions, the night following chemo ends up being a sleepless night, as I remain alert and awake through most of the night, with the feeling that I had dozed for a few minutes here and there.

My suspicion that this was due to the steroids that are administered as part of the process proved to be correct, but then I received some interesting advice as to the best way to deal with insomnia. It boiled down to this:

(1) Do not watch television or read electronic books. Electronic screens, I was told, tend to encourage wakefulness as a result of their flickering, which is subconsciously perceptible.

(2) Read a paper book, preferably on a less-than-exciting subject (i.e., avoid the latest spy thriller or mystery).

* * *

In other news, yesterday I mentioned something that felt like a cramp in the calf of my left leg. The problem was still there this morning, and crawling out of the rack was something of a limp-fest because of it. Once I worked the muscles for a few minutes by walking around, the pain had subsided to the level of "noticeable" and my gait was almost unaffected.

Any subsequent prolonged period of rest would result in a partial reversal, so for example when I stepped out of the car after a 50-minute drive from the house to the Texas Medical Center, the pain was back, but it again dulled during the walk from the parking garage to the elevators inside the building.

Funny thing, though—after only a couple of hours had elapsed from the end of the chemo session, the pain went away completely and has not returned.

I was about to conclude that this was evidence of a link between that pain and the fresh chemo attacking my cancer, but realized that more than anti-cancer agents were infused into me (I've mentioned this above), so it's possible, I suppose, for there to be a link, say, between the pain going bye-bye and the steroid component of the treatment.

In any event, I am not complaining, but I will keep track of this.

I've started reading Ryan Holiday's Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts. I'm finding it hard to put down. It's pretty far from boring, but if for some reason I can't readily fall asleep tonight, I'll keep turning the pages until Morpheus comes calling.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-18 08:11 am

Heading for a perfect storm of deliveries...

It occurred to me yesterday that various orders placed over the past ten days seem to have all shipped at approximately the same time, which is going to make Thursday and Friday pretty busy, package-wise.

In other news, three years ago, I bought a program called USB Secure. I apparently fired it up and entered an access password to the program, which I apparently did not write down anywhere. I asked the publisher how to go about resetting the password, a response dropped into my inbox just after midnight, which suggests the writer is either a night person or lives in Europe, but the instructions therein didn't work, possibly because they assume I registered the product with the publisher, and I'm pretty sure I did no such thing.

In reviewing the program's documentation and the publisher's web site, it would appear to be impossible to register as a user without having gotten "into" the program (using the password, naturally). So, I sent another inquiry. Unfortunately, it would appear that there's nobody home at the company's premises during the day (phone calls go to voice mail) and the "chat" feature on the web site shows "offline" all the time.

If it wasn't for the response to my initial question, I'd grade the company as "F" for customer service.

In other news, I woke up with some kind of problem with the calf muscle in my left leg, which has found me limping around the house (and during my walk). Annoying as buttercups.

At the urging of an acquaintance, I started reading Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. It is not the easiest text to wade through.
Only now is the child finally divested of all that he has been. His origins are become remote as is his destiny and not again in all the world's turning will there be terrains so wild and barbarous to try whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man's will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay.
Not all of McCarthy's sentences are that long; in fact, most are quite short and deliver their meaning in the form of verbal rabbit punches.
The passengers are a diffident lot. They cage their eyes and no man asks another what it is that brings him here. He sleeps on the deck, a pilgrim among others. He watches the dim shore rise and fall. Gray seabirds gawking. Flights of pelicans coastwise above the gray swells.
This style is not conducive to running across a lot of commas. By comparison, Astolph de Custine's Letters from Russia is breezy in its exposition.
alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-17 09:14 pm

Slowly, but surely...

I am starting to fall into both a semblance of physical order in my office and a reasonable routine of daily activities.

Both show me just how much I have left to do.

Tonight was our monthly (more or less) pizza night. Good eating!

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-16 01:02 pm


After mounting a few stamps in a Rhodia journal that I had been scribbling in, I appear to have stopped scribbling in it. I have also stopped mounting stamps in it.

So, I ask myself, "Why?"

Off the top of my noggin, I suspect the former is because I don't want to violate a book with mounted stamps with unorganized scribbling, and the latter is because I don't want to end up with a journal that (a) appears ungainly because of stuff that's stuck between the pages, and (b) is worth entirely too much, in terms of catalog value.

Hmmm. Food for thought.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-15 09:45 pm

A lazy Saturday...

I did not get a whole lot accomplished today, and I'm perfectly okay with that.

What I did get done took place mostly in the kitchen, where I made two loaves of bread (it's uncanny how fast loaves disappear around here) and dinner, consisting of boiled shrimp with sides of mixed veggies (from the freezer) and quinoa.

For some time, Feht has been compiling a catalog of Russian Imperial Postage Stamps (1857–1919), including major varieties and constant plate flaws. I received a beta copy and have already provided some feedback. My own impression, after examining the book, is that collecting early Russian stamps is a lot more complicated than collecting the corresponding period of French stamps, because various aspects (e.g., perforations and types and thicknesses of paper) of what appear to be the same stamp actually vary between issues (e.g., the fourth definitive issue of 1864 is perforated 12-1/4 x 12-1/2, while the fifth definitive issue of 1865 is perforated 14-1/2 x 15).

For me, it's finding one's way through all such detail that makes stamp collecting such a relaxing pastime.

Tomorrow, however, I think I'll put some stuff up on Etsy and eBay.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-14 08:12 pm

Work in, work out...

And what else did we do?

Cleaned off the stuff in front of and on the credenza. Cleaned off the stuff on the bridge table.

Accompanied Galina and Alla to do food shopping. Picked up some tempeh, among other things. I was not sure I'd ever eaten it, so I prepared some this evening, heated in a skilled with oil and soy sauce with some kale and a few chopped Kalamata olives. I found it quite satisfying.

If I am to make a fundamental change in my diet in the direction of plant-based sustenance, I will find myself having to learn a whole new set of culinary skills. Last weekend, while tooling around the area, we stopped at a new (to us) place called Snap, which sells prepared, prepackaged food, and they have a pretty substantial stock of vegetarian meals. We picked up a couple to get an idea of what kinds of foods go well with others, in what proportions and cooking methods.

I am looking forward to preparing cauliflower and kale this weekend, along with peppers and olives. I also plan to think of other things to do with tempeh.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-13 06:50 pm

Memory is a funny thing...

As I have no systematic way of looking for publishable stuff "embedded" in roughly 8800 journal posts over the past 17 years (short of actually going through them, one by one, which would take just over one solid day of eyeball time if one assumes an average review rate of 10 seconds per post), I find myself relying on items that rise to conscious awareness like bones in a stew.

So that my "baker's dozen" collection of fiction stories has now grown out of its stated limit (unless I get rid of an equal number of stories that were already included in the collection).

In other news, enough work came in this morning to prevent me from joining Galina and Alla on a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. Feels just like old times, to some extent.

I also made up for "breaking training" yesterday by taking the dogs for a one-hour walk this morning.

Which reminds me... I need to feed and walk them, like, right now!

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-12 09:25 pm

Pen Club...

But before the pen club there were a couple of translations, some writing, and a bunch of petty stuff that had to be taken care of.

Among the latter was a trip to the Webster house to repair the locks on the back door (fortunately, it was not a matter of repairing or replacing locks; what I want to know, however, is how did four screws just disappear?) and finding out that the insurance policy on a house we no longer own is being renewed (and we were being billed for it).

The writing is happening more often, and I've revived an interest in the Duke Jacobs story.

The pen club meeting went well. We had a world-class expert on Parker pens hold forth on the subject and pass around some of his collection as he introduced the various pens. A good time, I think, was had by all.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-11 09:34 am

Work, finally...

It wasn't much, but a couple of small jobs came in and were dispatched with aplomb.

I got a late start to the day, and so it was 10 am before stuff started happening around here, and mid-afternoon before I became really aware of just how much of the day had elapsed. (I get that way during long rainstorms... I guess they lull me.)

I got to thinking hard about my tentative chapters of the Duke Jacobs story (one of which appears in my "baker's dozen" collection), and am wondering just what it would take not to simply recast old material into something publishable, but to write some new stuff. There's also the Feather story that needs to be expanded and completed.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-10 07:00 pm

Pucker factor...

My client informed me, a while back, that the end client for the work we've been doing chose not to participate in a "recompete" for the contract, and so, we should expect a change-of-end-client in September. What worried me, at the time, is that given a bunch of other tepid moves undertaken by the current end client, August may not be much of a month for invoicing.

And of course, in the grand tradition of freelancers, the lack of incoming work since the Fourth has caused me to wonder if July will not also be lukewarm, in terms of billing.

That said, I'm not taking any of this lying down. No sir!
* * *

Alla accompanied me on a trip to the Jardin-del-Mar beach this morning. It was a glorious day and the water was warm. Alla swam, I waded.

As I walked along the beach, I could not help but notice the line of vessels out in the Galveston Bay ship channel, heading toward the Gulf of Mexico. I also could not help wondering what it would be like to be aboard such a vessel and where they might be going.

We took a (big) detour on the way home to visit a store called "Mi Tienda" ("My Store," in Spanish). I had spent some time over the weekend looking for some hibiscus tea for Galina, and the best I could do was a box of teabags at the local health food store, but the bags create only a very weak tea. My previous experience with stores like "La Michoacana" told me that I would almost certainly find hibiscus (jamaica) in a store that catered to the Hispanic community.

Among other things, I brought home some very nice hibiscus.
* * *

I've successfully exercised for three days in a row, now. Today I put in about 70 minutes of moderate exercise.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-09 11:34 am

Putting it together...

I've finally gotten it through my head that, unless I take concrete steps to pursue some so-called "long term" goals, I may very well depart this veil of tears with the sweetest music left unplayed.

So in addition to the other ridiculousness going on chez nous, I spent the day putting together a... something (book?)... of fiction items that I'd written for LJ Idol over the years.

It wasn't as hard as I thought, but it took more time than I anticipated.

My main takeaway from the exercise has been the difficulty associated with rewriting the ending to a story. Specifically, I rewrote (a href="">Salt of the Earth to leave Sailor alive at the end, with the issue of his survival in doubt, but with some (I hope) optimistic overtones.

In other news, I've started to listen to podcasts again, but the whole podcast ecosystem would appear to have undergone a major radical change since last I listened to the genre. That change involves podcast length. Podcasts such as This Week in Tech and Jocko Podcast are easily over two hours long! (I don't watch that much television in a week!) I shall have to pick and choose where to spend my time, I guess.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-08 07:14 pm

Getting back in the saddle...

I am chagrined to admit that I have not exercised much since the beginning of the year, and what exercise I have been getting has been as a result of day-to-day activities, i.e., climbing stairs, shlepping boxes from one place to another, and so forth.

Today, I got about 40 minutes of exercise in, and I feel pretty good. No shortness of breath or anything like that.

Experience tells me that the first such day is not the problem. It's the second and subsequent days that will be a challenge.
* * *

I spent about an hour this morning scraping as much adhesive from the area of the LCD screen and the bezel of the MacBook Air. The next step is going to be to check the operability of the replacement screen, and then, if it works, to replace the backlighting layers before reassembling the unit for action.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-07 11:01 pm

It started with a loaf of bread...

There are few things as good as home-baked bread, but between (a) losing track of two (!) pizza stones on which to bake bread and a plastic container large enough for the artisan dough I learned to make some time back and (b) Galina's objections to heating an oven to 450°F and keeping it at that temperature for the time it takes the bread to bake (while at the same time running an air conditioner in the Houston heat), there's not been much bread baked around these parts in recent times.

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, buying bread in a store can be an expensive roll of the dice, given that the kind of bread I'm looking for typically costs $3–$4 per loaf, sometimes higher. My most recent unfortunate experience was just a few days ago, with a loaf that cost very nearly $5, the slices of which "contained" a lot of empty space, which degraded slice performance—for example, when buttering bread in the morning to go with coffee or keeping mustard inside a ham sandwich.

So a couple of days ago, while accompanying Galina and Alla while out and about, I picked up a thrift shop bread making machine at a price that would not hurt should the device turn out to be defective. A little Internet search-fu found the machine's user manual.

I made some whole wheat bread yesterday, but as it typically the problem with such bread, it was quite dense. Today, I went out and bought some white bread flour and repeated the experiment, and ended up with a loaf that was pretty airy.

I think I have what I need bracketed.

One thing led to another in the kitchen, which gave me the desire to make something that I had made a little more than 3 years ago (mentioned here). As it turned out, we pretty much had all the ingredients on hand; the only thing I really needed to get from the store in order to put this dish together was a small butternut squash, some raisins, and some pitted Kalamata olives, which were obtained in short order.

Making the concoction was not difficult, but did take some effort to keep things straight. I thought the end result was pretty tasty, and while Galina's comments about the Moroccan-style stew were pretty noncommittal, Alla declared it to be of restaurant quality.

It's getting late, so I guess I should go hit the rack. Big day tomorrow.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-06 05:15 am


The Samsung S8 comes with a USB cord with a "type C reversible" connector at the phone end, which makes it a unique item in the tangled inventory of cables chez nous.

And it has gone for a walk.

I am sure it will return soon, probably just after I purchase a replacement.

Fortunately, I opted for the wireless charger when I got the phone, so there are no worries there.

For now.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-05 03:56 pm

Aftermath, and the day after...

We learned that, of the at least dozen or so members of Our Little Group™, two couples actually made it to the restaurant yesterday. Personally, I thought that setting up a dinner party in Kemah on the Fourth of July (at a buffet restaurant that does not take reservations, no less) was a bit outrĂ©, but I decided to hold my peace. In the end, everything turned out well.

I'm on Steve Barnes' mailing list and recently received an email in which he states "we now have seven reviews on Amazon! As I've said, when we get to twenty the algorithm treats the book differently, and with greater respect. Only thirteen to go!" (my emphasis). I shall have to do a little digging about the part I've italicized.

From the same email:
When I got back down to L.A. in 2005, I was eager to pick [up] my career. My agent [...] gave me some horrid news: freelancers were no longer hired for television shows. It was all written by staff. And they didn't hire anyone for staff over the age of forty.
Interesting news, though not germane to my own dreams and goals.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-04 10:07 pm


Over the past couple of weeks, arrangements had been made for Our Little Group™ to meet at a place called The Lighthouse in Kemah for the Fourth. I personally had my doubts as to the wisdom of such plans, as Kemah tends to be a pretty popular place on ordinary weekends; what kind of popularity it might attract on a national holiday that involves fireworks I could only imagine.

We left the house at 6:30 pm to meet the group at 7:30 or so. Normally, the trip to Kemah takes about 10-12 minutes, and Google Maps estimated about 25 minutes given the traffic conditions at the time. At 7:30 pm, we were still in line to turn left into the restaurant area in Kemah when the police showed up and started setting up roadblocks. It was okay to leave, but entry was being severely discouraged.

We ended up going to the Villa Capri. Dinner was good. I had a martini, the first for many moons. I also spied George Abbey, a former Director of JSC, and wished him a Happy Fourth.

All in all, a pleasant evening,.

alexpgp: (Default)
2017-07-04 10:16 am

Happy Fourth!

I edited the lone outstanding assignment and sent it and my June invoice off to my one and only client, so for now, "the plate" is clear.

I then set about scanning old LJ Idol posts for fiction items that, in retrospect, don't cause me to think "What was I thinking of?" and have found ten items so far, which "weigh in" at very nearly 17,000 words, which is a little less than half the size of the translation of 'Keep Forever' that I did for Feht a few years back.

I figure I ought to be able to find enough additional items to break 20K words, whereupon I will feel sorely tempted to wrap them up into something salable and offer it to the world.