Thursday, April 30, 2015

A tough lesson

I used to run three internet browsers; IE, the big blue E; chrome; Foxfire. I was urged to switch to Foxfire years ago, to avoid IE security problems.  I never liked Foxfire, starting with their logo. I kept it updated, but only used it to play an online solitaire game.  The author of the game program and I emailed on occasion; I would find problems with the program, tell him, and he would fix them.

I used Chrome for blogging when Google stopped supporting IE. I still use IE for almost everything. I like its bookmarking system, which I can alphabetize in a heartbeat. I never figured out Foxfire bookmarks, and still don’t know how to use Chrome bookmarks efficiently.

Last Sunday evening I was tempted by new bar that appeared on my solitaire screen some time ago, inviting me to download Mahjong, among other solitaire games. Why not, I decided. I know the source; I love Mahjong. Click.

Within seconds my computer was hijacked by an operating system whose name included “trovi.” First it owned Foxfire. It began installing programs. I tried uninstalling and was met with a message that essentially said by uninstalling this program you are agreeing to install a whole slew of other programs. I went to IE to search how to destroy “trovi.” I had to get it out of my browser directories. I could not. It was ahead of me, opening new tabs of itself.

I texted my computer geek, who essentially has not responded. On Monday I called a local service and made an appointment for a service call on Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday morning I turned the box around and decided I could disassemble the puppy myself. I took a picture. How stupid, I decided; I didn't have a computer to put the picture on to study to put all the cords back. But I certainly was thinking through my problem!

From top to bottom I pulled cords and taped them to the edge of a shelf, with a description of where in a bank of slots they went. I could have ruined the phone line connection with all my tugging, except my fingers slipped and dislocated a silly cap covering the regular push button phone connector. Fools. I cannot imagine why it has a cover; no other phone connection in this house has one.

Tom carried the box to my car; I found a geek to carry it into the store. I paid an eighty five dollar deposit and another forty dollars for rush service to jump the eight systems on the bench waiting service. They would call me the next afternoon, which they did.

I learned the aforementioned system installed over two hundred programs on my computer on Sunday evening. Given its druthers, it probably would have pushed on to the blue screen of death.  It was Wednesday afternoon, my computer would be ready Thursday morning.

We looked at the screen in the shop; a couple of icons from the bogus installs remained, and Garrett, the technician removed them. Brought the puppy home, plugged in all the cords from bottom to top and fired ‘er up. Opened Chrome, to make blogger my home page. All the tabs went to “trovi.” Tried IE. It defaulted to Bing, not Google. Sorry Bing, I do not like the program. “Trovi” was in charge of IE, too. I didn’t even go to Foxfire. I called Garrett.

He set up a remote scan and we started over again. “It’s in a registry,” I kept saying. I don’t have a clue what a computer registry is; I only know the internet information I got before I was so hijacked was to remove it from my browser registries. “I know,” Garret said. I wonder if his teeth were clenched. 

I also told him to get Foxfire off my computer; I never wanted to see that little fox again.

In the end Garret ran a half hour scan that found the last two hijackers. One was in a piece of Foxfire code and one was embedded in Microsoft.

Collateral damage is my email account. I am up and running everywhere except Microsoft Outlook, whose registry is damaged. Trying to get to the email through my ISP bombed; my password is no good. I have to call them to answer secret questions. That’s my next project.

And that’s where I've been the last four days. I have lovely pictures of Laura’s jazz ensemble concert Monday night, but first I must get the email up and running.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Last week of April!

Things are looking up,

and looking nice.

I like walking by and seeing 

all the new anemones this year.

We gave the house a lick and a promise before Emily went to work,
and Laura and I dispensed with plenty of dandelions.

When we could stand it no more, we went to see what is in the nursery now, beside pansies.

And look who we found, deadheading pansies.

Check the boots!
Another job our working woman has is to make this front walk look attractive in the morning,
and cover the plants over at night.

It's still too early for anything, but we did scrounge two plants for the lettuce tower.
Nasturtium and creeping jenny.
Come back next week.

We're down to two bird feeders, and hung the two bird baths.
Next week I'll stop at a pet store and buy a box of gravel to put in one of them.
Let's see if I can keep them out of the road.

 American goldfinches above,
and a male and female purple finch, sharing with a cardinal.
Now the bigger birds have thinned out the cardinals use the hanging safflower feeder.

My flying pigs!

The pig got a nasturtium.

And I brought home some color for the front porch,
Even if I have to cover it at night.

Friday, April 24, 2015

More birds than ever

We mentioned, on last visiting the bird seed store, we had more birds at the feeders this year than ever. Only one more feeder, and that a small one, so I’m ruling out quantity available.  The fellow behind the counter said customers were reporting fewer birds this year; we were an anomaly.

I was not able to take one decent bird picture last winter; certainly not like the winter before. Remember the cardinal in the oak tree? That took a lot of light. The chickadee in the oak tree took even more. There was not light like that last winter; it was gloomy almost every day.

I attribute all our guests to the harshness of this winter and to the feeder wait staff. Emily and Laura took good care of all those feeders, even when the paths to the feeders had four foot walls.

The return of the red winged blackbirds is a sure sign of spring. They live in the meadows and marshes. And this spring there were red winged blackbirds at our feeders, on top of the hill. The male stopped for a few days and left.  There probably were females, too, but they look too much like cowbirds for me to distinguish quickly. An immature young male still hangs around, so polite and handsome, with the white shoulder bar.

For fun, here’s a list of all the birds at the feeders: cowbird, starling, red-winged blackbird, grackle, crow, downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker, red headed woodpecker, red bellied woodpecker, blue jay, house finch, pine siskin (winter finch), song sparrow, junco, purple finch, tree sparrow, house sparrow, cardinal, mourning dove, nuthatch (red breasted and white breasted), chickadee, titmouse, goldfinch. I think the squirrel ground crew increased to half a dozen.

We were at the bird seed store probably every other weekend until the end of March. We’ll keep seed enough this summer for nesting birds who want it, but it’s coming on time to put out the bird baths. For Christmas I got a bird bath we can keep on the ground and outfit with a heater. With the snow gone we may get all those jobs done this weekend.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We thought we were invincible

In spite of appearing contrary, I have nursed my back these last two days in a state of total sloth. Not my style, and alleviated only a tiny bit by listening to an all time favorite, Middlemarch. I love Elliot’s tour de force, as if she was saying to the world, “look, I know almost everything, and see what I can do with it!”

Her detail is exquisite. Little boys, “standing between their father’s knees as he drove leisurely,” brought to mind first my brothers, then my sister standing in the middle of the front seat of the car, between my parents; the catbird seat. Certainly not safe, but way before seat belts, interstate highways and seventy mile per hour speed limits. My mother could restrain any child in the front seat.

My own children and my nephews enjoyed the same vantage point. As parents we thought nothing of it. My husband and I felt we had improved on the arrangement with the seat we had for our daughter.  Wooden buttons for spinning and a tray of cheerios and the kid was all set.

There were motorcycles, too. My sister-in-law, my brother, my husband and I all rode together. With our children. Beth was six, Shelly four, Michelle three. They had helmets. 

Beth was old enough to ride behind me. Shelly rode in front of my husband; Michelle generally was in front of Helyn. On the gas tanks. Or, as Helyn said years later, “We thought we were invincible.”

This winter is invincible, too.  I drove home from work in sleet and hail, only because, at thirty eight degrees it’s too warm to snow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cold icebag!

I went to work today and forgot the ice pack.
But I spent most of the morning taking pictures,
so it would have been a waste.

Some forsythia.

Jonquils at a home in Peninsula.
This fellow spent last fall making bed after bed of dense plantings.

Some naturalized daffs in a park picnic area that used to be some one's home.

Daffs in my own side yard. We never go in there. 
Poison ivy, too.

Anemones and colchium.

Anemones and yucca.

And a little grape hyacinth with miniature leaves, too.
Since the one trip down the salad bar the deer appears not be be back.
I think it wandered off the main trail, between the house and the vegetable garden.
A trip across the front of the house means a jump into the road.
Not quite so safe.

So, I've spent the afternoon with the cold, cold ice pack,
sitting by the Eden Pure.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bilateral L2/3/4/5 MBRFA x1 with sedation

Today was the payoff of five months of protocol. Month one, see the doctor. Month two, the first diagnostic procedure. Month three, the confirming diagnostic procedure. Month four, see the doctor to evaluate the effectiveness of diagnostic procedures one and two. Month five, the title of the post. I can explain most of it, except the x1. No idea what that means.

Bilateral means both sides of my back. L2/3/4/5 are the vertebrae from about the waist on up. MB is medial branch. That’s the nerve bundle exiting the vertebrae at L2/3/4/5. RFA is radiofrequency ablation. Ablation is vaporizing the ends of the offending nerves by the radiofrequency waves. The hardest part was getting to today.

In the diagnostic procedures the nerves were given a shot of anesthetic to see if numbing them reduced or eliminated the pain in my back, which it did until the very next morning. I thought the second diagnostic procedure actually was the RFA, and was crushed when I woke in pain the next day. A call to the nurse disabused me from the notion I should be dancing on tip toe, and I realized appointment four was not a follow-up, but a review of the state of the work to that point.

I survived the protocol. I climbed up to the table today and listened to the happy chatter of the staff during their pre-surgical check list. Three visits later, we do recognize each other, and they especially recognized my socks.  My hand knit wool socks I wear all winter. One of them idly picked some fuzz balls off and told me I really should wash them inside out to prevent that.

Other fun things about this outpatient procedure: I had to wear the gown, but kept on my bra (hooray) and my jeans and underwear. I merely unzipped and they did a practiced roll down of my jeans and pants at the waist, past the operating field. The warm blankets went on. Dozeville, before the happy juice. The doctor came in, leaned down so I could see him, and got my name and birthday again. It was the real me; the juice went into the IV.

Once again I was not asleep, and this time the doctor asked questions about sensations in my back as he placed the needles. These needles were larger than the first two times, because the radiofrequency wire still had to go through. I mentioned I certainly felt a particular needle, and I got another slug of happy juice. But, in very short order I had to roll over onto the gurney to go to recovery, where my pre-requested snack of two packs of fig newtons and  black coffee awaited.

This time I was not bright as a new day in spring. I dozed between bites of fig newton and could barely finish my coffee. When time came to zip up I swayed from side to side. The extra slug of happy juice.

Home to the ice bag. My sister hit upon ice bag extraordinaire. Back in the days we had little girls filling zip lock bags with acorns for Patty’s critters, the bags went into our freezer until delivered, to forestall the little buggers that exit acorns and metamorphose to something else. One day an ice bag was needed, and a bag of frozen acorns was handier than a bag of frozen peas. Frozen acorns stay frozen and very cold for the better part of a day, and refreeze with no guilty consequences. Jan made a cloth bag to permanently enclose a bag of acorns, and for the last three years it’s been the one. It will go to work with me tomorrow.

My last appointment is in a month, when we will determine if the procedure was a success (for up to two years!). I've already made up my mind.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Boots on the ground

I come from people with big feet. Not my mom so much, but she was the only girl in four generations on her father’s side, and men tend to have bigger feet. My dad was over six feet and had corresponding size twelves to stand on. My brothers the same; way over six feet. I’m thinking Melvin wore fourteens.

Foot size was not in my consciousness until after I married. My father-in-law was roughly comparable to my dad. Tall. Solid grounding. Definitely a Bohunk, as my mother-in-law proclaimed. Mom on the other hand (I never quit calling my in-laws Mom and Dad) was tiny. Her feet must have been correspondingly small; I’ve lost some of my mental image of her.

Her son had small feet. He was taller than me by a couple inches, and the length of his feet didn’t strike me as unusual, probably because I could conveniently slip into his slippers and be done with them before he got out of bed in the morning. Then I realized my brothers called him Twinkle Toes.

We divorced, he moved his Twinkle Toes to my best friend’s house and that was pretty much the end of it, excepting the genetics he left behind. Each of my daughters inherited his small feet, and the youngest inherited her Grandma’s stature, too. Five foot two, eyes of blue as the old song went.

Ms. Five Foot Two has three small daughters. Rebekah is over 21 and under five feet. Emily is 16, and approaching five foot two. Laura is 13, and we hope not done growing. She needs to catch up to the feet she got from my side of the family.

Emily needed boots two summers ago, when she began working at Heritage Farms; I outfitted her and she trudged through a year at the farm and a winter at the ski run. Now she is working at the nursery across the road. 

Last weekend she brought the condition of her footwear to my attention. I can tell you, I would not like to bounce a bale of peat moss off my big toe, outfitted in those worn out boots. We went shopping for Timberland’s, like the big boys wear.

Except—those tiny feet on my little granddaughter.

Of course, the smallest size in the store was too big. An inventory search of the stores (a modern miracle, those computers these youngsters use) showed the closest pair of size 6.5’s in Cincinnati, Ohio. We asked to have them shipped in, and they arrived today.

Still too big. We should have gone with our first choice, the sixes. They’re on the way now, from Indiana.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A smile and a wave

I hold a public office in a very small community. Most here are third, fourth, fifth, even sixth generation. Born here and never left. They are proud of being each other’s cousins. I count the inbreeding as responsible for the meanness.

If I were an ordinary citizen, just the ordinary “come here”, as opposed to “from here” of most others, I doubt I would notice. My friends are people I like, and I know I like people from both camps. As the town clerk I need to know a lot of people, and a lot of them aren't my friends. I attribute that directly to their meanness.

A large cloud of meanness has hung over the township for more than a year. Some days it’s more depressing than others, and today was one of those. Even the road guys looked like Joe Btfsplk under his dark rain cloud this morning, and I got a small dose myself.

I was thinking grumpy thoughts on the way home, but I did slow down by the lake to see if a heron was there, even though I had no camera. A little further up the road the police chief slowed and waved. The fellow who stopped the other day to see if I needed help, and scared away my heron. I smiled and waved back.

A couple of curves later Priscilla, another police officer drove past. Another smile and a wave. Priscilla let Mrs. Claus off a couple of years ago, when Mrs. Claus sped through town to get to the sleigh and wave to the children on the Polar Express. I like Priscilla.

When I arrived home and my sister pointed out a deer had sampled through the bulbs last night (grape hyacinths and crocus trimmed neatly to the ground) we laughed together; it must have been a very young deer just learning what tastes good. It will be in deer heaven when the hostas are grown.

A neatly trimmed grape hyacinth

Daffodil bed, unmolested

Two red anemones, a day from blooming

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring and 18,000 square feet of thread in North Carolina

Down and back in two and a half days, so adventures were the usual. The straight shot down Interstate 77, from the top of Ohio to the bottom of North Carolina was like unrolling time on the way down, and rolling it up again, coming home. We shed clothes by the south side of the Big Walker Mountain tunnel and the air was on before Fancy Gap.

Damn, don’t you just love those suthr'n words.

First the trees came into bud, and later on they were blossoming and had fresh green leaves on display. There was wisteria in bloom, azaleas, rhododendron, every sort of fruit tree, and dogwood. Then we rolled it all up again on the trip home.

We had the usual motel adventure. No one can circle a motel like Linda and I can. There is only one motel in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. It’s quite new and a trifle pricy. I booked it for the breakfast listed on the web page.

We asked directions about three times, as I recall. Once the owner of the gas station did not know, and was not fluent enough, in any event. The second person we asked was a local, and his direction started with “turn right at the one stop.” I quit listening, but Linda persevered to the end. The directions generally involved turning at a fast food establishment, passing intersections identified by the fast food stores on three or more corners.  There may have been extra points for a service station.

The third inquiry hit pay dirt. The woman at the counter gave me the key to her rest room, and I returned able to listen coherently. We were on a road we had traversed and quit, sure we would never find the motel. “Honey, you just go back up this road fourteen minutes.”  She was right.

After a typical motel breakfast of cereal and sweet rolls the next morning, not the eggs I had been promised when I booked at $114 (because of the scrambled egg breakfast!), we met Sheldon at his 18,000 square foot warehouse. The first time I met Sheldon, all the thread was in outbuildings on a property in Tennessee. Now it is all under one roof, and finding what I wanted was as delightful as ever.

It was nice to go from pile to pile and box to box, not to storage shed upon storage shed. The world of textiles has changed in those twenty five years. I no longer buy hundreds of pounds of thread at a time; he no longer has thousands of pounds of cotton. The American mills simply are gone. But we puttered and looked and left with a bit over a hundred pounds. I believe it was as much a trip down Memory Lane for a visit with Sheldon as anything.

We got to Ripley, West Virginia that evening, and from the restaurant on top of a hill we looked down into the city and saw a sign: McCoy Inn and Conference Center. I looked on my phone, and there it was, 701 Main Street. We circled the block for at least fifteen minutes before we asked. It’s been demolished and there will be a gas station on the corner.

There’s more than one motel in Ripley. Super Eight had no first floor rooms. Hampton Inn Express was $185—second floor. Linda was for pushing on, but I suggested we give the Quality Inn a chance. The young man at the desk was a delight.

When I came in he was in the midst of a phone call with a stupid person. The sort who won’t believe they actually reached the establishment they called. He walked away once so I wouldn’t hear him grind his teeth. I suggested he might say he could no longer hear because his receiver just smashed through the wall.

As he spoke I read the breakfast menu. Scrambled eggs. The young man confirmed this. He had my business, although his available rooms were second floor. I told him this made me sad, but I would stay for the scrambled eggs. Well, he had a queen double on the first floor, but the wi-fi did not work. As neither Linda nor I had a wi-fi device, and as it was past bed time, all was moot. We stayed on the first floor.

In the morning I had scrambled eggs. They were good. Linda told me they were powdered, but I could not make the taste connection. So, I looked up “How do motel breakfast bars make scrambled eggs?”

They buy plastic bags of frozen, mixed up eggs. The eggs defrost on the counter overnight, hit boiling water in the morning, cook and are slipped into the warming tray, where they probably get a visit from a potato masher before they move to the counter. Quality Inn did it right, and for $75 a night.

I have enough thread for a while, but I am considering a short run to Michigan this summer, to an outlet that’s still around. It includes lunch at a little establishment that has the best ice cream by a dam site.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Almost back to normal

Laura and her friend Gia, on the way to the 7th grade dance last night.

Emily and some of her gang,
off to the high school dance tonight.

Grandma and Aunt Linda back from Boiling Springs this afternoon.
More on that another day.
Today I must be awake enough at eleven to get Emily from the dance.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

To the post office and back

I took my camera to run my post office errand.
It's a grey and dull day, but the river is rising and I wanted some pictures.

Well spotted, Joanne.
The heron was tall and thin and looking a lot like the reeds.
Then he moved.

I made a U turn at the end of the road.
The heron was still in the water.
I pulled off quickly, turned on the flashers
and began snapping away.

I heard a car behind and checked the mirror.
Not just anyone.
Oh, no. It's the chief.

The heron left.

"Good job, you nailed the Boston clerk."
"Not, bad. I may report it at tonight's meeting."

I pulled into the Brown Rabbit.
The river obligingly flows below.

The upstream view was dull enough,
the downstream view too dull to use.

I met my first Corgi.

She came half way across the green way,
And ignored me for the rest of my visit. 

 My friend Peggy Jo, one of the Brown Rabbit's principals,
taking in a consignment of plows.

Some spent flowers on the bank.
I'll guess May apple, but don't count on that being right.

After a visit with Peggy Jo
I went downstream to take more pictures.

This is a perfect example of why the First Nations called it the crooked river.
It bends like a snake, making peninsulas of land.

I don't know the history of the piers above, except there were several sandstone quarries in the area and the stone went to market on trains.

I also don't know when the retaining work was done to the river edge,
but again during the heyday of the quarries from the mid 19th to early 20th century.

A block of sandstone on the shore.

I passed this bunch of park guys, walking with clipboards, looking at the river and the trails.

Greeted by Mr. What Did You Bring Me?

And noticed my sister has transplanted my birthday present, complete with the "fork you" deterrent.

That's all! Linda and I are off to Boiling Springs tomorrow, on the great thread quest.

Janice will take a picture of Laura in her twirly dancing dress Friday.