Sunday, September 25, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Completely unexpected

All three of the grandchildren who’ve been here came with interesting reading habits. They read fantasy. I picked up a couple or three to read, and was not impressed by thin plots and limited vocabularies.  Emily joined book club, realized thought provoking literature was available, at the library, no less, and moved on. 

A year ago this past summer I mentioned to Laura that some book she was reading seemed based on Grimms. I unearthed Grimms from the basement library, and she read the little green volume from my childhood. Then I handed over Andersen, and suggested she read at least up to the nightingale story, or the little mermaid.

For their first Christmas here I flooded the children with classics, hoping to influence their reading habits for the better. The Andersen volume went to Emily, with some others, and languished on the bottom shelf of her bookcase. Laura was the reader of it, though, and I see it now lives on the bottom shelf of her bookcase.

And so on to this year. Over the summer I took her to see the professional production of a play. This year she’s joined drama club. She spent all of junior high being too timid to join. Over the summer we went to a production of You Can’t Take It With You, and the ending was surprisingly well done. I was impressed by the set and the costumes, and pointed out to Laura all the work that goes into a production by the folks who put it on. She’s joined drama club “to work on sets or costumes.” One doesn’t ask.

Those are pleasant parts of the world through young eyes. My unpleasant part is band, band shows and football games. Joe, my car pooler, has a license and a car, so I have Laura’s round trip. Retrieval from band practice at nine o’clock plus Wednesday nights is not too far outside the pale. But, Friday night football and the occasional Saturday band show are!

The young, tailgating parents are, frankly, insane. But, at least they are already at the event, and can retrieve Susie and Johnny and get on home. For me, when pigs fly. I have found a school website that posts the big plays each quarter, and the score. I look at it occasionally, and about mid fourth quarter head off to the school. We’re talking late for grandmas, but I flip on the local public radio station for Los Angeles Theater productions.

Laura generally has an unfavorable remark or two, before she falls asleep on the way home. Last weekend she suddenly listened to the production of Pride and Prejudice, and asked me to fill her in on characters and what she missed. At home, we sat in the drive, at midnight, listening to the end.

“Emily has this,” Laura announced. “She left it here! I’m going to read that.”

I looked. Complete Works of Jane Austen lives in another bedroom now.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

We hope this is the last food story

Except for the ten years I was married, I never learned how to cook. When there was no one to cook for me, I winged it with a bag of noodles, a stick of butter and a can each of lima beans, corn, and tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes, in season.

Fortunately, people around me could cook. My daughters, my sister, eventually my granddaughters. No one went hungry, especially me.

Emily and Laura were defacto cooks last July, when we moved. Emily cooked like Aunt Janice, and pretty much elbowed Laura away from the stove during the several weeks before she went off to college. Big sister syndrome. Though Emily had little hope for Laura, the little sister was merely biding her time.

Laura was born to make lists, which is the last name of shopping list or menu list. She was very expansive in the beginning, and I had to rein in the amount of produce she wanted to load into our refrigerator. I learned in a day or less not to interfere. I don’t buy ingredients she isn’t interested in using, for instance.

In the beginning we ate a lot of wraps. I’ve become an excellent wrap wrapper. Kale goes into the pan first, some green pepper, some broccoli—whatever is in the fridge. Some spices. Some protein. This goes on a wrap, on a little plate, which is bigger than the wrap, when the wrap is wrapped. Always good, sometimes excellent.

After the breaking in period, I made a couple of attempts to steer nutrition. A vegetable with the mac and cheese, for instance. She does not bake mac and cheese (“the macaroni sucks up all the cheese! Yuck.”)  Most dishes seem to be served in a bowl. Even spaghetti. Convenience, I suppose. I generally find vegetables incorporated in the dish being served in a bowl. Kale in the mac and cheese, for example.

Laura is a solitary cooker. I don’t mince fine enough or chop well enough to be welcome, so I stay out, rather than be sent out. Consequently, I can read the list and know what’s for dinner, but don’t see it happening. The other night, before she called me, I heard something new. “I should plate this.” Someone apparently watches cooking shows, too.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Spiders and webs

Laura took the first two orb spider pictures.
They are common garden spiders in Ohio, 
but this is the first one we've seen in years.

Our house is treated monthly for wasp nests, as two of us in the house are deadly allergic.
One time a substitute operator came in for payment when he was done, and announced
"I took care of that big yellow spider, too."

"You killed Charlotte!" from the lips of all the weavers working in the room.

There was a "Charlotte" every year, where the ramp and deck joined.
They are annual, and it seems a new one every year appropriated that good spot.

This Charlotte is storing her catch for later. She "zipped" up her web to capture it, and now will unzip and reattach it, to snare the next course.

Driving from the post office to work this morning, I stopped for this web.
The sign is in a swale, and I did not dare step in for a straighter picture.
That's the morning sun from the east; the road runs north and south.

Oh, yes, that is the tip of a concrete road marker fastening the web.
Peninsula will not change to eye level, green reflective road signs, which are easy to see.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday night, waiting for the band show to end

This year every child in the school system, from fifth grade up, was issued a Chrome Book. This is a little tablet sized computer that runs on Chrome. All communication, school work, assignments, announcements, occurs via Chrome Book. Emily worked for the school all summer, “enrolling” the several hundreds of Chrome Books required.

Of course, I discovered early on, the Chrome Books have no parental controls. I asked for them, as a condition of Chrome Book being used in this house. The request has caused a great deal of trouble between the system and me; it remains under “discussion and review”. I wonder if I’ve ever mentioned how I dislike doing business with the generations succeeding me.

Just as a check, I asked a parent in a different school system that also went to Chrome Book this year, if she realized there were no parental controls on the little darlings. After consideration she admitted she did not, but added her children were trustworthy.

My aunt’s fanny.

In this house I put up with its abuse for a week or so, and then installed my own parental control of removing it to the kitchen, its new home when it’s not going to school. And on the Monday I had a phone call from school—the previous Friday night, Chrome had attempted an unauthorized site. A red flag on Friday and I was notified on Monday!

The counselor got my ballistic best. As I later explained to Laura, I yelled at her counselor. “You yelled at Miss O?” Damn right I did. I understand my concern has moved up the agenda, but I have little expectation beyond my parental control of looking at the damn thing in the kitchen.

And, this started out to be a post about Laura’s dislike of electronic record keeping. We went shopping for a month at a glance calendar the second week of school. She likes to see her assignments, obligations, appointments in pencil, flat on her desk.

When we moved here last July, the grocery list moved from inside the pantry door to the kitchen table almost at once, and Laura keeps it constantly updated. This little notebook has so many pages gone to the grocery store I think a new little notebook will soon be on the list.

Even more than the grocery lists, I like the menu list. It lives on the kitchen table, too, and I’m never in doubt about my next meal.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

And a chickadee in a pear tree

We have hanging baskets, and we have a front garden, 
but we are low on trees.

I've looked, but even in the Charlie Brown section, they are pricey.
Look what we found last weekend.

It came home with the top extending out a front seat window.

Laura dug as big around as the branches and deeper than the pot.
There are two bags of good dirt in there.

They call it "soil" at the nursery.

One morning I stepped out the door, and the leaves were rustling.
I looked and looked, and then found the chickadee.

Such cheeky little fellows. 
I didn't disturb it a bit.

It hopped across the branches and onto the railing, to take a good look at me.
Then up to the crook, and with a final Phoebe, off it went.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Laura and I went to the old house and brought back a shopping bag of fall blooming crocus,

The flower tower looks mighty nice this year.
Don't know what we will do with it.

We planted the bag full of crocus in the back half of our garden.
Just wait, in two or three years they will be coming up through the wooly thyme ground cover.

Homecoming is in two weeks.
We went with good friend Gia to a shop that recirculates prom dresses.
They ask for a donation, twenty dollars for short dresses, forty for long.

After the prom, we can take the dress back for another girl to use.

A grape?

"You're OK with a bare midriff?"
This question went back and forth.
One of us wasn't.
Hint--not me.

This family of shoes came in.
The little girl's strappy sandals caught my eye.
But the story was sisters in Converse and flats. 
The flats picked out a dress and asked Converse to try it on,
"So I can see how it will look on me."
Converse refused, because Converse would spoil the look.  

And back in the real world, here is the pick.

Laura used to have a pair of Converse.
I wonder what became of them.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The lonely life of an only cat

Waiting for Emily

Keeping Laura from the edge

Keeping the outdoor cats away

General surveillance

Occasional mischief

"Don't be thinking I did it!"

Last night Laura shut him out of her room.
It's been very hot, and cats just make it hotter.
Toby meowed piteously.

I invited him to share a corner of my bed.
He stalked out, still protesting.

Toby carried on for an hour.
Laura slept through it all.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Tweaking technology

When we started the township web site some nine or ten years ago, one goal was to publish all the township minutes. All the minutes on 14" paper, held flat for a hundred years, I could scan and upload myself. But many machinations were involved. 

I used some forgotten Microsoft picture program to splice several pages of minutes of one meeting into a contiguous whole. I think I used the same program to strip extra pixels from the file, then used a free program to make a PDF file. All the years and years of minutes I first uploaded have PDF file created by free version of PDF Factory stamped across the bottom. Actually, meeting minutes I typed have the same information stamped; it was not until Windows 7 that Word could be saved as a PDF file.

At some point all minutes we had, from 1811 to present, were uploaded. The original 25 inch ledgers were outsourced to a scanning company, but I stood at the scanner and scanned, collated, resized and uploaded 1936 to present. It took a long, long time, and I simply labeled it my gift to the township. 

There were three gaps in our minutes. When some noble citizen took one missing book from his shelf and turned it in, I needed to think hard how to get these into usable format. Several computer upgrades later, I could not run several sheets through my photography program to make one set of the pages. Every solution I looked at cost more money than I cared to spend. The book of minutes sat on my credenza, awaiting inspiration.

One day and eureka. I realized that in scanning a document to an email (magic that is beyond me) I got one file with continuous pages if there were more than one page. A bit more experimenting and I realized the scan was a lovely PDF file that I could drag to desktop, then save and rename. Or rename and save. Such control. So, that found chunk of our history was scanned and sent to the servers. Two more books to find.

Not too long ago our township legal counsel decided to clean out a storage unit (and save the firm $400 a month!) He has been counsel for thirty odd years; he has a lot of files.He came into a meeting recently, dropped several battered expanding folders in front of me, and said perhaps I was looking for these. Several more missing years. Now we are down to only three years missing.

But the folders our attorney gave me look rode hard and put away wet. They have been stored on their 14" edge, the opposite edge unprotected from sleeves rubbing across them, other files dropped on top, and other indignities that happen to paper. The scanner at work is not a 14" flat bed; it is a workhorse 8 1/2 x 11 inch copier that handles 14 inch copies through a separate unit that sends the paper around a bend as it takes the picture. Adequate for paper nicely stored in a heavy binder all these years, but sure destruction to sheets with torn and ragged edges.

I consulted again with the trustee/historian/curator. We decided I needed archival tape. In the end we decided what the heck; good Scotch tape cannot be any worse than what the pages have suffered for the last thirty years. Forge on.

The very first page and I realized I could not get tape on the mangled tears until....

With a nothing to lose mindset, I went to work:

Edges too battered to go through the scanner:

A cotton towel for padding, a percale pillow case for protection, 

 My iron. I straightened those pages right out.
(Aside--this is the best iron I've ever owned. It's the same on both ends and doesn't make wrinkles ironing the back stroke.)

Scotch brand's finest "archival" tape.

Another important tool--the oblong hole punch, so those repaired pages still fit oblong posts in official Record of Proceedings binders.

Low tech scanning of 14" pages.

The ultimate discovery--that PDF file in an email that will never be sent can become a PDF file to send to the server in the clouds.

Drag it to the desk top,

and back to the working folder.

 I have two years scanned and uploaded.
A year a morning (or afternoon) is all my back will put up with.