A Novel Idea

I’ve had to change the title slightly in my novel “Wanderlust”.  Originally I wanted to name it just as you see, but there was already a poem by that name so I had to alter it slightly.  First, came “Wanderlust – Chapter 1”.  But that sounded stupid when I added the following chapters.  So I’ve now named it “Wanderlust!” (note the exclamation point).

Chapter 1 can be found on this link (clicking will open a new window/tab):

http://www.booksie.com/romance/novel/tom_oldman/wanderlust/chapter/1

I am heartened to see that over 30 people have already viewed the first chapter.  I hope more follow.

There are several more stories I am working on also.  One of them is a ‘what if?’ story that moves into an alternate universe at a crucial point and the other is pure fantasy (humorous, I hope).  Neither one of these will be ready for publication until I can flesh out some of the chapters a little more than a bare outline.

It seems strange, to me anyway, that I’ve suddenly discovered that I like to write at this time of my life.  One story I’d really like to write would cover almost all the things I did while I was in the navy.  Some stories, although true, would sound almost like fiction.  Unfortunately, if I were to publish most of them it would bring federal authorities down on me pretty hard – even though the personal events have been long surpassed by world events.  Suffice it to say that since the Soviet Union is no longer, writing about it could still land me in hot water.  This is a shame, because there are a lot of stories out there just waiting for someone to tell them.

Writing is very therapeutic and surprisingly easy to do.  All you really need is a good program, like Word, and a keyboard capable of taking a pounding.  I say that because, in my case, I started typing way back in high school (1958 to be exact) on an Underwood manual with very stiff keys.  You really had to mash them to get a good impression on the paper – especially when the ribbon began to get faint.  From high school papers, I graduated to writing a lot of letters to friends as I grew up.  making the transition to teletype keyboards in the navy was easy, except for having to shift between letters and numerals with a special key.  On a teletype, the key travel was around an inch and if you didn’t press firmly the letter (or numeral) wouldn’t register and it would mess up your coded message.

So, when I type, one can probably hear me all over the house because of the clatter.  In the last year, I have worn out four keyboards – one of which had the letters almost worn completely off the tops of the keys.  I’ve found the Hewlett Packard keyboards tend to hold up the best; Microsoft keyboards will fail within three or four months.  When I replace a keyboard, it always takes me a perceptible time to relate to a new layout, but soon I am flying along just fine.  In timed contests in the navy, I was clocked at 175 words per minute while touch-typing coded groups of five letters.  When I was taking Morse code, I can still handle around 35-40 words per minute using a typewriter  The key is to lag behind two or three words behind the code so that you can do “burst typing” to catch up.  It makes for much more accurate copy.

How in the world did I get on this subject?  My mind tends to wander on a lazy Saturday morning (or any other morning for that matter).  It is beautiful outside and the squirrels are gathering hungrily under new corncobs on the bungee cord.  One enterprising guy (has to be a guy because he’s just showing off), loves to jump from the limb supporting the cob and land on it holding tightly as it bounces up and down.  Once stopped, he calmly fills his cheeks with corn kernels and casually drops to the ground to run home with it.  A different one will pull on the chain until he has it on the branch next to him.  Far more effective, but not as much fun to watch.  He’s probably an executive in squirreldom.

My observations of the doves still lead me to believe that they are the cattle of the bird world.  They simply wander around under the feeder and peck at seeds that the more active birds kick down to them.  Even when I leave the house, they just look up at me and stare as I pass.  They are almost always a pair though.  Their pleasant cooing  is nice to hear after winter’s harsh crow calling.  Although yesterday there was a huge crow perched in the front yard tree cawing mightily.  It got so bad that Cami (our little cat) would bang her nose against the window in frustration trying to make it go away.

Time for a nice hot cup of tea.

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Weird Weather

A couple of days ago, it was 54 degrees out.  The sun was shining, the birds were tweeting, and the squirrels were, um, squirreling.  A light wind blew and all was right with the world.  Now, today, the rain came.  It is cold, blustery, and not at all conducive for the sun, birds, or squirrels to do their thing.

According to the weather-guessers, it is supposed to snow for the next two days.  Now, these are probably not the same ones that told my sister in Boulder that the snow was only going to last for a short while and deposit just 2 inches, but they are of the same breed (if not the same genus) and they make their predictions based on Ouija Boards and fish guts (or whatever) wrapped around their fingers.

A company a few years back used to sell what they called a backyard weather indicator.  It was a simply flat board about 6 inches square that was suspended by a string on all four corners and hung on a tripod.  It was simple to use:

If the board was dry and warm, the sun was shining.

If the board was wet, then it was raining.

If the board was whipping around, then the wind was blowing.

If the board had two inches of snow on it, then it was snowing

You get the idea, I’m sure.  I wonder if that company is still around because they obviously had an inner track to thing of that nature.  They probably invented the Pet Rock also.

I just watched an old British black and white movie starring Aldo Ray and Peter O’Toole called “The day they Robbed the Bank of England”.  It’s a very good movie but only about 85 minutes long.  Now that I’ve seen it, I was strongly reminded of a much more modern movie released not long ago called “The Bank Job”.  Like the older movie, the thieves used an old sewer to tunnel under the bank vault so they could plunder it.  Not having the modern conveniences of things like radios, rapid transportation, and other things like that, the old thieves got caught simply by bad luck.  In the new movie, a ham radio operator picked up their handi-talkie chatter and called police.  The police, in turn, did some fancy sleuthing by sending cars all over London with their sirens hooting while the detectives listened for radio chatter.  Clever idea, for sure.  It didn’t work because a clumsy accomplice on a rooftop dropped his radio to the pavement below.

The end of the later movie got a bit murky as the thieves traded some smutty pictures by a female Royal for immunity and new passports.  They “underestimated” the value of their haul also and rode off into the sunset.  I’m pretty sure Aldo Ray didn’t get to do that.

Our cat is certifiably deranged.  That’s a veterinary term meaning “she’s crazy”.  Since the squirrels have virtually stopped frolicking in the yard, she has now taken up a watch station in the front window and “ekkkks” at the occasional bird that has the temerity to try and feed itself from the small try I have suspended right in front of the front porch.  This puts the birds at about eight feet away from her nose.  Yeah, I know.  It’s cruel, but lots of fun (for me, bwwwwahahahahah).  One of these days I’m going to have to film her.  She really gets into it.  She paces back and forth while they peck away and when they fly off (especially upwards over the roof of the porch) she zooms to the back sliding door and waits patiently for them to appear.  They never do, but she won’t listen to me.

Later, ya’ll.

Holiday, part 1, is over

Well, Christmas of 2011 is now over.  Today, being the 30th, is almost the last day of the year too.  Our Christmas here was very quiet.  Our granddaughter is down in Texas going to college there so there was just three of us to exchange gifts.  We have a friend, who we’ve known for over 40 years, living in our basement.  Of course, he was invited up to share Christmas dinner with us.

We had a great dinner – probably ate too much – and then settled down in the living room to open gifts.  I got some very nice pocket tee shirts.  They are very hard to find, especially in short sleeves.  I dislike getting tee shirts that don’t have a pocket because (now) I carry around a small notebook to jot down things I want to remember.  The old brain cell isn’t functioning as it should since I’ve gotten older.

I got a couple of books from my wife.  Both are in my small group of favorite authors, and both were brand new releases.  Unfortunately, I’ve already blown through Griffin’s book, but Clancy’s book will take a lot longer.  My most surprising gift came from my friend Rick.  He gave me a 30G iPod.  Only recently have I discovered that if I use larger, over-the-ear, earphones I can hear music very well.  I can’t use ear buds because I have to take out my hearing aids and that negates hearing music because I can’t distinguish the middle frequencies enough to enjoy it.  Now, I have to get busy and continue transferring my vinyl collection (450 records strong) over to MP3 for the iPod.  To that end, I bought a USB turntable a while back.  It works well but the bundled software that came with it was really badly written and difficult to work with.  I now just fire up Audacity, start the record playing, and come back in a half hour to stop recording.  Then, all I have to do is chop up the half hour recording into tracks.  Easy.

Regarding my post a while ago about my rusting truck I now have to consider putting inner tubes into all four of my tires.  I paid almost a hundred dollars to have all four tires remounted (after cleaning the rims) but since they are aluminum alloy wheels, they have developed corrosion enough to cause air leakage.  They are still slowly leaking.  Short of buying new wheels (which I definitely cannot afford) tubes are the next line of defense.  I never knew that there were inner tubes specifically designed for radial tires.  They are a bit more expensive, but will keep the heat down from the sidewalls friction.  Conventional tubes will blow out quicker due to all the heat.

The weather has not been cooperating at all.  We’ve had lots of rain, blustery winds, and even a tiny bit of snow for the last ten days.  Definitely not what I’d consider proper Christmas weather.  Right now, I went out to refill the bird feeder and add another cob of corn to my squirrel bungee.  As I look out the window, I see that the little brown chickadees (or whatever they are) are having a blast picking out the smaller seeds and kicking the larger ones down to the ground for the larger birds to eat.  I don’t mind that, but in the spring some of the seeds sprout instead of being bird food and then I have a darker patch of grass to deal with.  Every year I move the feeder to another branch so I can clean up the sunflower shells.

My squirrel family across the road have been hunkered down in their nest most of this winter so far.  They venture out only when they spy a new corn cob on the rope.  I’ve lowered it somewhat so that the younger squirrels can jump up to it.  A couple of weeks ago I watched an older squirrel carefully pulling the rope up to the limb he was sitting on.  Once he wedged the cob into the fork of limbs, he went about stripping it of kernels.  Tricky animals, these squirrels.

My remaining desktop computer developed a case of ‘fan-itus’.  The cooling fan at the back of the case began to sound noisy from time to time.  I removed it and manually spun the blades.  They wouldn’t even make one revolution before stopping.  One, or both, of the bearings appeared to be bad.  This explained why, when I booted up a couple of times, I got told that the “system fan has failed, press F2 to continue”.  That sounds ominous, but it only means that the RPMs have fallen below what the BIOS has deemed to be safe.  It was still turning, but not moving a lot of air.  I ordered a new fan from Newegg (I love that place) and it arrived yesterday.  It was installed and now the temperatures inside the case are back to normal.  One strange thing though: The shipment started out as a UPS shipment but when it got to Dayton, for some very strange reason, it was turned over to the US Postal service for delivery.  Since I was tracking it, I noted that it arrived in Dayton very early one morning, but wasn’t delivered until TWO DAYS later by the Post Office.  So, this package took two days to come eight miles from central Dayton to me.  No wonder the Postal Service is whining about money.

That’s about it for now.  Not planning much for New Years.  I did note, however, that Lady Gaga will be putting on a couple of performances before the big ball drops.  I haven’t watched Dick Clark’s narrative of the Times Square happenings for years, but I just might this time.  For some undefinable reason it turns out that I like Lady Gaga’s music.  I couldn’t tell you why, but I do.  I’ve watched the DVD I made of her “Monster Ball at Madison Square Garden” performance on HBO several times.  The ‘A Capella’ rendition of Born This Way during the closing credits is great.  I guess you’re only as young as you feel.

The birds are back!

I tossed out all the cruddy suet blocks I bought and bought new ones.  The birds came back – in flocks.  In two days they cleaned out three blocks.  Here’s some pictures.

The squirrel came from across the road, bounded onto my lawn, dug a hole, and buried the walnut.  The one in the tree is a different one, but is still intent on cracking the casing.

I just liked the cardinal shot.  Note the crest.

Click on a picture to enlarge & use the ‘Back’ arrow to return.

Bill

 

Not in a good mood…

I have no idea how long this post will be today.  It all started (the day, that is) at the horrible hour of 0600.  The wife could only get an appointment to see her Doc. at 0710 so we had to get up and ready for that.  At this time of the morning, I am bleary-eyed and definitely not bushy-tailed.  We joined the throng headed for Wright-Patt AFB and headed for the hospital.  They tell you to arrive 15 minutes early, but what they don’t tell you is that the clinic opens at 0700, so being there at 0655 is counterproductive.  We stood until five after for it to open.

Then the receptionist opened the door, wafting out a cloud of toxic stuff she had dipped herself in.  This immediately slapped my sinus openings closed.  In seconds, the noxious cloud had spread to the entire waiting room.  Fortunately, we weren’t there very long before we had to leave for the lab, then her PT session for her shoulder.

For those who don’t remember, she had shoulder surgery to re-attach a tendon she tore while out in Colorado trying to corral a feisty grandkid.  She is wearing what I can only describe a sling on steroids.  It consists of many straps, clips, Velcro fastenings, and a huge foam pad under her entire forearm.  I don’t know how comfortable it is, but I do know I wouldn’t like to wear it.

. . .

My truck (1996 Nissan Frontier) is rapidly converting available iron/steel into rust.  The latest thing is for the tires to very slowly lose air.  I might not notice it until I have to fight the steering wheel as I drift towards the right side of the road on a semi-flat tire.  My only means of pumping it back up (save changing a $10 bill into quarters to feed the greedy “free air” machines at filling stations) is to try and use my old 12v pump.  I’ve had it for a while and, at first, it used to work rather well.  Over the years, however, it has slowed down considerably.  Now, I can attach the clip, start the compressor, and go read “War and Peace” while the pathetic thing puts a few pounds per hour into the tire.  My regular service guy(s) tell(s) me that older wheels will develop what they call ‘rusty rims’ and start gradually losing air through them.  This is what is happening.  So, the next time I have to buy tires, I’m going to have to spring for a wheel cleaning and refit.  Bleh!

. . .

It is apparent now that I bought some really cruddy suet blocks for my feathered friends.  I found some at a place called “Ollie’s” that were marked down to $0.75 each.  I don’t know what they were made of, but none of my usual birds or squirrels will touch them.  The same suet block has been out there, hanging on the tree, for a week now and had just a few peck holes in it.  I tossed it on the ground and it’s still there a day later.  Even the squirrels won’t eat it – and it’s supposed to be a tough winter this year.  That’s the main reason I don’t have any animal antics pictures lately.

. . .

I have also been beating my head against the wall trying to figure out what is wrong with one of my computers.  At first, I just thought is was some playfulness of Vista, but that was not the trouble.  What happens is that it will suddenly, for no reason at all, freeze.  The mouse stops moving, the keyboard stops responding, and it just sits there looking stupid.  I have to power down to recover.  Then, during power-up and re-boot, it may or may not stop responding yet again.  At first I thought it might be memory but overnight tests say no.  Then I tried power supplywent from a 250W to a 475W unit.  Still does it.  Then I bought a new video card for the PCI-X slot – no change.  Then I tried a new 500G hard drive – no change.  Finally I threw caution to the winds and yanked all the connections and pulled the motherboard.  I examined every square inch of it by magnifying glass.  Couldn’t find a thing except one of the hundreds of pins on a RAM-stick slot was bent.  As a test, I pulled the stick out and firet the computer up.  It ran for two days and I thought I’d ficed it.  BOOM!  Still halts again.

Now enter the big guns.  I fired a salvo of Ubuntu LINUX at it.  This ran nicely for three days, then started halting again.  So, unless I can come up with the cosmic force that has inhabited my computer and making it fail, this one is headed for the old graveyard in the closet along with my 8″ floppy drive and my tape backup units.

Meh!

 

Hot

Well, hello there!  I’ve been doing my best to keep from going outside for any reason at all.  This is hard to do since the wife has gone to Colorado for moral support and washing machine replacement.  Over the last week, the daily average has been somewhere between hell and a much warmer spot (Phoenix).  I have a Mini-Max thermometer and it told me on Friday that the highest temperature reached was 101 degrees (fahrenhot).  Since the actual thermometer is on the front porch, I aimed my camera out the front door and zoomed in on the reading.  Hah!  I didn’t have to go outside!

At night is has been a little more reasonable – only hitting the low 80’s.  I’d mow my jungle lawn, but I’m afraid that the lawn tractor will go up in a burst of flame (not to mention the plastic of the seat adhering to my seat).  Mowing at 0300 is probably not a good idea either.

Yesterday, a little lost cloud passed over my house and in a freakish set of circumstances let loose with a huge blast of thunder at exactly the same time my cat landed on the floor after jumping off the couch.  I jumped a foot, but suffice it to say that the cat jumped further – around 15 feet if I measured correctly.  When last seen, she was headed horizontally across the floor in hovercat mode about three inches off the floor.  She didn’t even respond to my calls of ‘crunchy!’ until the storm had passed.  Even then she repeatedly looked at me as if I’d done it on purpose.

Today it is only as hot as the approaches to hell: a mere 84.  It is partly cloudy (a condition the weather-guessers insist on calling ‘partly sunny’) and there is a very small breeze blowing once in a while.  I did get my lawn mowed however.  It was rapid and required that I actually leave the house so I made it fast and ducked back inside right away.  As I gaze out the window, I can see little ridges of grass where, in my haste, I didn’t quite get over far enough and left a trail.

Boredom has set in.  I’ve watched enough satellite TV to pay for my outrageous billing for the month and have reverted back to books.  I’ve started Tom Clancy’s latest book, which weighs in at approximately 5 pounds (weight, not monetary) and contains over 700 pages.  I’m halfway through it and enjoying it thoroughly.  A week ago, I ended up at Ollie’s (a local “we have everything” store) and bought three more backup books just in case this heat wave continues past December.

I sat at the table this morning eating my cereal and had a random thought: Why did all the cereal companies drop the use of waxed paper for liners?  Waxed paper kept a great seal and allowed you to have more than one box open at the same time without any of them going stale.  Now, they create these Kevlar liners that takes a bazooka to open and, in the process, scatters cereal all over the kitchen floor.  This is excepting, of course, Shredded Wheat.  These little bales of hay come three to a packet but, if you note on the specifications box, the figures are for TWO biscuits.  This means that you have to figure 1.5 times all the figures to actually arrive at what you ate/are eating.  On the other hand, you can re-pack one biscuit for the next time.  This means that when Shredded Wheat comes around in breakfast rotation (about a week later) the one biscuit you saved has gone stale.  Bummer.

Fixing my own meals doesn’t stop at breakfast.  I now have to do both lunch and supper (or dinner – depending on where you were brought up).  I wouldn’t mind so much, but I have to go out into the garage and open the freezer door to select an eatable.  Once that’s done, I fix it in one of two ways: 1) boil it in a pan, or, 2) nuke it with microwaves.  Done either way, the meal kind of tastes the same – bleh.

I haven’t included any animal pictures lately because even the squirrels are holed up in their air-conditioned condos awaiting cooler weather.  I imagine it’s pretty hard on them because they start out with a fur coat and get warmer.  Even the birds are panting when they land on the lawn.  Their prey (worms, one presumes) are dug in deep enough so that even the sharpest robin’s beak can’t reach them.  I know this is true because I saw a robin just the other day with a shovel over its shoulder.

Random thoughts are cool; one never knows where they will end up.

 

First Signs of Spring

Here are some shots of my front yard.  The first few were actually shot in March, but after a slight snowfall.  It’s hard to make out the spots on the bird, but I think it might be a female robin the other is obviously a small woodpecker.

The rest or shots of various other bird-type animals in and around my feeder.

All the squirrel shots are of the same one; a youngster in search of how to get to my feeder.  He tries all sorts of things, but couldn’t make the jump between my yard light and the feeder.

Enjoy…