At long last, in the fulness of time, it came to pass that the patio needed attention. Yea verily, the walkway from patio to garage lay sore in need of a makeover. The lineaments of the former had become a vexation to those of us who walk upon it daily. As can be seen and attested by this image, while in most ways decorous and even of distinctive character, the stones which we had set down to replace the joke which had lain from pad to door when we originally moved in had lost their charm. Winter especially proved awkward and we agreed that this was but an accident waiting to happen.
We’d inherited those stones from my parent when they redid the concrete around their house. They had formed a wall around a garden plot in the front of their house. Dad just wanted to pitch them. Donna immediately said we’d take them and we spent a hot summer weekend digging a trench and placing them as you see. Donna’s nephew Dan helped. I’m not sure I could do it again, certainly not in one weekend. I was proud of that walkway and it has done it’s job for over 20 years.
But it was time. Something a bit less picturesque and a lot more practical was in order. So we made our plans, got in touch with the man who did my parents’ concrete work, got a quote, and set date.
First problem. Because we’ve had a rainy spring, the date had to be flexible. As it turned out, we had a window. They showed up on a Friday, after almost a solid week of rain, to do the prep work.
Scott Schilling and two young men arrived around nine and went to work. They moved all those stones, piled them up, and started excavating. I spent the time doing other chores and some writing and occasionally emerging to document the process. (Because, like the kitchen remake, I knew I’d be writing one of these.)
It rained that day anyway, though barely. Not enough to cause a massive disruption. During the heaviest part, they sat in their truck and waited for it to pass, which it did.
Our backyard is…idiosyncratic? It has character. Over the years we’ve acquired a variety of objects which Donna has rather wonderfully incorporated. One major change this time is Coffey’s old digging pit. She hardly uses its anymore, so we had them dump the extra dirt in it and Donna went to work later remaking it.
Below is a series of shots from that first day.
The gravel laid, the forms in place, we just had to wait for another dry day to complete it. Fortunately, Sunday was gorgeous, so when they arrived Monday morning it was ready to receive the magic elixir of impenetrable solidity.
There’s something beautiful about wet, freshly-smoothed concrete. I almost wish it could have remained so gleaming. But in the rain and during winter ice, that could be dangerous.
It took them till almost noon to get it done. I had to go to work that afternoon. We did not use it for two days, despite assurances that it would be walkable by the next morning.
I almost wish we had opted to get the entire patio done at the same time, but that would have stretched the budget a bit too far. A project for a couple years from now. We will certainly use the same contractor.
Now, then, came the work to restore some semblance of order and charm to the wreck of the yard. Repurposing those stones was the first set of decisions. Some, we knew, were destined for the front of the house. I pulled up the wooden ties that had framed the small flower bed to the left of the porch. Replacing them—which was inevitable, as the bottom of the two ties had already turned to mulch—gave us a slightly larger area for flowers. I moved the stones carefully. A few of them weigh upwards of sixty or seventy pounds.
Shifting the remaining stones in the backyard was a more studied project. Some of them returned to their former positions, but now only as borders, with a trench for—yep—more flowers.
As for the extension of the patio, Coffey approves. At some point I intend to get a new grill, as we now have somewhere to put one where it can be semi-permanent and easily usable.
Just in time for the full spring bloom.
And I managed to get my improvisational bit of lawn art more permanently fixed. Donna added a touch (the dish) and things are falling into place.
Therefore, we conclude this report by admitting to be pleased with the results.
I am a marginal Luddite. My friends tease me about it, not without justification. “What do you mean you don’t know how work that? YOU’RE A SCIENCE FICTION WRITER!”
A rather uncharitable way to look at it, but not without some merit. It is, however, like telling a scientist he’s an idiot because he can’t program his VCR (!). Or maybe criticizing an engineer because he can’t solve a Rubic’s Cube. Be that as it may, I have a rather antagonistic relationship to modern tech and I do not feel entirely unjustified. The last time I was upbraided for being unable to deftly wend my way through a computer problem and the science fiction writing came up, my retort was “Dammit, it wasn’t supposed to work this way!”
(Dammit, Jim, I’m a writer, not a software engineer!)
Constant upgrades, byzantine interfaces, labels on functions that do not make intuitive sense…it’s easy, perhaps, to decipher a language if you already speak it.
I’ve been with Earthlink for years now. Partly, this is because I have little patience for shopping for this kind of thing. I had a bad experience with an ISP when I first connected and Earthlink has been reliable. As time passed and I did more things, they have been far more helpful than not, so I stuck. I am a loyal customer given a bit of useful attention, courtesy, and spoken to in English (this is to say, not talked to like I’m a 15-year-old digital nerd who lives and breathes this stuff).
So I called them. Turns out, my DSL modem was over nine years old. Well past the average life expectancy of such things. Back and forthing, finagling, and communing with the service techs, I opted to purchase an upgrade to a fiberoptic connection with a new modem and higher speed.
Then I discovered that my router was also ancient and decrepit and may have been the culprit all along. No matter, I had a spare, which worked fine.
Until last weekend, when I lost all connectivity and had to simply wait till the install guy showed up.
Which was supposed to happen today. But instead, he knocked on my door yesterday, just as I was about to leave for work. After a moment of panic I chose to go with it, because who knew when the next available time would be? After two hours, I am back online. The connection is faster. No, really, I can tell. It is.
Which then prompted going around the house re-entering passwords and upgrading the other machines, etc etc etc.
And going through the sixty-plus emails that had stacked up in my inability to access my online world.
But it also means my distractions are back.
Oh, well. What is life without distractions?
Just in time, however, as the final notes from my agent on my new novel are about to pour down the pipeline into my lap for me to tend to and get back to her so she can start pushing it to all the people who don’t yet know they want it and want it badly. Timing.
Which also means I have to get back to work on the other projects sitting here.
I am, unfortunately, easily distracted, but I’ve come to understand that the thing that distracts me most, more than anything else, is when things don’t work. It nags at me when something of mine is broken. Nero Wolf once described rancor as a “pimple on the brain” that muddled his thought processes. In my case, it’s knowing I can’t do something I ought to be able to do but a glitch is blocking me. Pimple on the brain. Annoying.
But for now, problem solved, and one hopes I can glide through all this unperturbed for another nine years. At which time, some other something that shouldn’t be a problem (and wouldn’t be in one of my stories, where technology works as it should, unless its not working is a plot point) goes wrong. Meantime, a bright day ahead.
I would say something about other things, but I don’t want to spoil my mood. I am back, my window (pun intended) to the world is open once more, and I have what is in this modern day and age the All Important—Access.
I will say that Coffey, my dog, was delighted to have the technician here. She followed him around, scrupulously checking his work, making sure he was doing everything according to standard—her standard, which may be higher than my standard in some things—and enjoying having me around an extra couple of hours.
The pimple has cleared up, for now. I’m back working on…things. (I’m writing this instead of what I should be writing, grumble-mumble…)
To close, I will offer up a staple of the internet realm, something I seldom indulge mainly because I don’t have the subject on hand with which to indulge it. I have to borrow one for such purposes, but…
I give you a cat picture. Have a good day.
Fox News is defending CNN in the wake of a Trump insult and possible threat at his first press conference in over 160 days. In recent years one could not imagine Fox News chastising someone who is in many ways the perfect flower of their mutated brand of “news.” But since Roger Ayles has stepped down and may now be looking at some very serious problems, there seem to be a few people at Fox trying to reposition themselves in order to gain a credibility that the network actively shunned for more than two decades.
This on top of a sitting senator actually testifying against a colleague before the senate committee vetting Trump’s cabinet picks.
That rumbling, still faint, may be the severe indigestion coming from one of the worst morning-afters this country has ever had. The headiness of the post-election high has faded and people who thought everything was going to be “fine” (or some version thereof) are starting to wonder who this is snoring beside them.
It may make for some of the most trenchant reassessing we’ve done for a long, long time. In that regard, this may turn out to have been to the good.
But only if it doesn’t take too long for the bromo to work
Chris Christie has endorsed Donald Trump.
I’ve been looking for a point of entry into the campaign thus far and this seems as good a one as any. Like many, I’ve been watching in amazement as Donald Trump drags open the closet door on the GOP and shows everyone what’s in it. Thus far in his campaign I haven’t heard anything he has said that, if couched in less caustic, bombastic, or otherwise reworked by spin artists to be more palatable, is not what all the rest have said or hoped for or believed for two decades. Or more. In other words, Trump has stripped the politically polished veneer off the GOP platform and shown us the ugly workings inside.
Added to that, on stage, during the debates,he has been shoveling at the other candidates pretty much the same kind of stuff the entire GOP machine has been flinging at Obama or any other Democrat in their sites for the last seven years. Whether it be the hyperbole of floor speeches in the House and Senate or the little email blasts full of non-facts and smears, this is what the Republican Party has dished out consistently at their perceived enemies—all in the name of “taking back the country” or “making America great again.”
The lesson for everyone is that, rather than accrue negative approval ratings, Trump is leading the pack. The people who believe Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Communist are lapping this noise up as if it’s the Second Coming of Reagan and loving it, entirely sans the sense of irony that Ronald Reagan would be both appalled and unable to win a single caucus on his own in this climate of uber Right Wing—what was it Lindsey Graham said the other day? oh yeah—batshit crazy.
I imagine folks who love Trump now think Graham is a Lefty. And not a bit of irony to be found among them.
Whether Trump is serious about his stated positions or is playing some very broad game of “let’s implode the Republican Party”, the take-away from this is just how desperately insane a significant segment of our population has become. That the equivalent of a substanceless spiel worthy of an Adolf Hitler could be seen as a solution to problems which I suspect most of these folks don’t even understand points up the ruin the last three decades of Republican pillage has left of this country.
Education has been mangled in the name of programs that do the opposite of what their labels claim.
Promised jobs bills have either not appeared or have been used to bust unions or position key industries to be sold overseas, with a concomitant loss of the jobs that once anchored our middle class.
Decent politicians have been hounded out of office by demonizing them for actually doing their jobs, to be replaced by people who wouldn’t know how to manage a paper route and whose only claim to electability is how well they can make their constituency believe that someone else is at fault for their decaying situation.
The national debt has become a tool for sucking the latent wealth out of the country and into a pool of capital that “floats” globally and has no national home, a process that is not illegal because the people who might have brought it to our attention and caused legislation to be passed to prevent it have been fired, moved to other positions, or simply had their wings clipped in the name of profits.
Our standing in the world has been damaged because of a policy attitude that is based on some version of the Old West and the town marshal, with the United States willing at the drop of an insult to invade, bomb, destabilize regimes, or sell guns and bullets to terrorists as long as they claim to love capitalism. Other nations don’t trust us because we gave up solving problems in lieu of international pillage. (I cite KBR as a prime example of what I’m talking about.)
The middle class economy, which at one time was protected and managed in such a way that once a savings account paid interest upward of 3 to 5 %, a time now mythic in these days of a gutless Fed that won’t raised rates so the multinationals might be forced to pay some of their pilfered pelf back into the hands of those from whom they’ve stolen it.
And what is funnier is that the very people who might be able to repair all this are now fighting an uphill battle against charges that have zero substance—that they’re socialists or communists or that they simple want to raise everybody’s taxes or that they’re somehow racists.
Whatever else one might think of them, the only two presidents since 1980 who have overseen a reduction in the deficit and even a partial reduction in the debt are Clinton and Obama.
Every Republican president has presided over massive increases in both the deficit and the debt.
Large deficits and high debt are very good to a certain class of people. It’s that simple. Where, exactly, do you think those interest payments—your taxes—go to service that debt?
The newspeak of the current climate is perverse and, I think, brittle. Observe the shattering going on even within the GOP by Trump, who in almost any other time would be seen as the clown he is acting. The fabric of deceit and lies and misconceptions and misdirections which have formed the core of the GOP for the last two decades cannot hold against the weight of reality.
The danger, though, is that even more rational people have been infected by the politics of image and the legerdemain of mistrust. The campaigns of he-said she-said built on accusations over character and presumed crimes have had their effect even on those who seem to know how they work, so that we see Hillary and Bernie being faced off in battles of gotcha that have no substantive bearing on their positions or their policies. We see people declaring that they will sit the election out if the “wrong” candidate wins the Party nomination.
Are people really that unobservant and narcissistic? All 435 House seats up for reelection this year. Thirty-four Senate seats are in play. Twelve governorships.
The presidency isn’t the only thing at stake. Staying home would be such an abandonment of duty as to amount to moral bankruptcy.
Government, it is said, no longer works. That’s not true, obviously it does, we are not living in an anarchy. But within the less absurd scope of what is meant by that statement, government can only work when people are chosen who know how to do it. We have seen wave after wave of political intransigents and functional idiots sent to Washington time after time. It should surprise no one that things are not working well. When a conservative like Lindsey Graham stands up and declares that his party has gone batshit crazy, it would seem time to take back the controls and go to the polls in November. Staying home would be almost criminal.
This has been a public service screed. Thank you.
Okay, okay, so it was my birthday. I have been inundated with well-wishes, more than I ever expected, and I had a very special day yesterday when my sweetie came to have dinner with me.
The news is—I’m 61.
Now, what follows is perhaps wanting in taste, but it’s my blog so if I want to do something like this, who’s to stop me? Besides, it’s kind of interesting, at least to me.
Two pictures, the first shot by Donna back in 1981. Then, after that, another shot the morning of my 61st birthday. (I should’ve done something with my hair, yeah, but oh well.)
So, without further what have you, 1981:
Yeah, I am a bit vain. But I work hard to earn it. I never really think I do, so I labor under a bizarre mix of humility and pride that often results in odd manifestations. But in this instance—and there may never be another one—I’m looking at that and thinking “Take that, 61! Screw you!”
Been a hard few years now. I had appendicitis a few years back, then this past year I had my right arm in a brace for months from a ruptured tendon. Not to mention the usual assortment of annoyances and the fact that I’ve been running full-out now for like a decade,
But also a terrific few years. Good things have happened and most importantly I feel in a better place now than I have in a long time.
So I’m braggin’ a bit. Soon enough there will be another post here and you can ignore this one, which, admittedly, is dubious at best, but hey, why not?
Still. After 34 years…not too shabby maybe?