Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Just stuff ....

Well, I’m still sick, but I may not die. There is an art to being sick, I’m told. I haven’t mastered it yet. I was in the hospital most of two days because the flu went to pneumonia and I was dehydrated too. Daughter 1 was in an out of ER with pneumonia and asthma. Everyone else was sick to some degree.

We had our moments sick or not. There was the day early on when I found my self wandering down the stairs, wondering if I was going to die from the flu any time soon. I found daughters 4 and 5 at the foot of the north stairs:

Dau 4: You smell like bubble gum!

Dau 5: [Indignantly] I do not!

Dau 4: Do too!

Dau 5: It’s Passion Flower and Vanilla Body Wash. It smells nice.

Dau 4: [overlapping her sister’s passionate explanation] … just like bubble gum. … You’re supposed to rinse it off, you know. It’s not perfume or anything …

Dau 5: I did!

Dau 2 walks by: I smell bubble gum!

Dau 4: [Looking at Annie] I told you!

Dau 2: [Sniffs Annie’s hair, feels it] You didn't rinse your hair. Go rinse your hair.

Dau 5: Did too. I rinsed it.

Dau 2: The back is stiff and smells just like bubble gum. You used that stuff dad bought? No one likes that.

Dau 5: I do. It smells nice.

Dau 1: [Walks up] Who has the bubble gum?

Dau 5: Huffs at her sisters, turns on her heels and stomps off to bathroom. This is followed by the sound of running water. She returns with towel wrapped around her head.

Dau 1: Much better …

Then there was the day when I was at one of my lowest point. I’d just come home from the hospital and was as nearly lifeless as I get. I’m sitting on Knobby Knees’ lap, more or less. We’re into a snooze. I’m at the point where I’m really asleep but still vaguely aware. I hear KK’s soft snore. I hear Dau 1, 2, and 3 at the family room entry.

Dau 3: What are they doing?

Dau 2: Sleeping I think.

Dau 3: I wanted to watch a movie ….

Dau 1: Well, they’re sleeping. We shouldn’t wake them. Come watch it on my TV. What are we watching?

Dau 5 walks up. She blows her nose loudly, says “hi” to her sisters and thumps into the room, climbing up on the couch. She shoves on my legs and snuggles into the crook of my legs ignoring her sisters’ whispered, “Annie!”

I open my eyes.

Dau 5: We’re sick, huh Mom?

I nod. She makes her self comfortable more or less at my expense. She’s out like a light. I wiggle back into comfortableness. KK continues to snore.

It’s nice to feel loved while you’re sick. Various sisters, in-laws and friends showed up with food. My sister made her tuna casserole. I know that doesn't sound good but it’s nummy, made with home-made egg noodles and such. My Mom-in-Law made beef stew and dumplings. It was a real help. None of us were up to cooking.

Now I never meet anyone I've met on-line (to the frustration of some of my on-line friends). But I did in mid December by accident. About forty-five miles from my front door is a mid-sized Antiquarian Book Store. They call themselves that at least. Having run one for some years, I can tell you that it’s mostly good used books. It’s a fun store for all of that, but far enough away that I only visit a few times a year. The owners email me if they get something I may want. They bought a box of religious tracts. I drove up to examine them and to shop there and in the nearby antique malls.

I was in their history section looking at a set of François Guizot’s History of France. I have a set, but it’s ratty. This is really nicely bound in half-leather. I won’t buy them. I spent too much on the tracts, and this set is beyond by budget anyway.

“Excuse me,” someone says, “but I know you, don’t I?”

I look up into the face of a tallish, long-legged woman. Indeed she knows who I am. She’s been sending me her art work for months and an occasional photo of herself. We spent the afternoon in a coffee and pastry café gossiping and getting to know each other in person. We discussed the characters in my new story. She wanted all the back-story and details. Some of it I hadn’t developed. I don’t develop my characters that way, though some well-known writers do. She likes my pixie and her shape-shifting dragon mate. We talked about them for a long time. She made wild suggestions and such. It was fun.

A “gentleman” sitting one table away listened intently. Finally he said, “When you finish that I want to read it.” It was a nice comment.

When I got sick she sent me a get-well card with dragon pictures in it. I can’t reproduce them here, at least not in full. I don’t post any (or much) of her art work here. She is friends with a Japanese artist. Some of his work has been on my blog. I don’t know him at all.

Sorry Anthony, there is no way I'm showing all of this picture. This is, after all, a mostly PG blog.

… So she sent me this long illustrated chatty email get well letter-card thing, suggesting that I should get well if for no other reason than to keep my pet Scot, the shape-shifting Dragon happy ….

We also discussed the seen and unseen. An American anthropologist specializing in a South American tribe drank a shaman prepared concoction. It gave him visions of dragon-like creatures and showed him plants as intelligent creatures. We discussed that at length. I think the world is full of the unseen. I think taking hallucinogens is stupid. One does not need them to see the unseen. One only needs a really good imagination and a willingness to observe … and to see.

She sent me another artist’s view of the unseen. It’s a vaguely disturbing picture. I can’t tell you why I find it a bit disturbing. Take a look. Tell me what you think.

I haven’t written much while I’ve been sick. I read two volumes of a Civil War history to come up with a two sentence addition to one chapter. It was worth it though. One of the main characters in our work in progress was in the Signal Corps. I think what I found adds just the right amount of detail.

I’m totally peeved at Harvard. Their reference librarian who answers queries is as irritating as they come and not at all helpful.

We are trying to acquire the bulk of a collection of booklets. Most of these are Age-to-Come booklets from the 1870s and 1880s. We got unexpected funding for this. This is round two of these auctions, and the money gift to our research puts us in a much better position than the first time. We’ll see. There is going to be a part three. Being patient is hard for a pixie.

I’m still on short hours at work because my lungs still hurt, and I’m coughing them up on a regular basis.

I’ve read a huge amount for my classes this semester. I’m really pleased with my English grammar class. We covered in the first session as much as we did in the first five weeks last semester. Last semester they stuck students in my class who were not qualified for the class on the basis that they had to go somewhere. This never works well, but one of the mothers found me in the hallway yesterday and told me her son was really benefited by the class and that his writing and grammar had improved dramatically. She told me her son really liked the class, liked me as a teacher and thought I was “really funny.” I thought he was totally disinterested and suffering. This was a good boost to my ego. She also told the principal. That’s always a plus.

The hardest part of this semester has been being sick. I don’t sit at my desk in class. I stand, walking from group to group and student to student to engage them personally. Standing has been difficult because I’m dizzy still. Yesterday I finally had to put my butt in a chair.

I have a new boss’s boss at my other job. I detest the man. I see “conflict” in my future. I wrote him a short email two days ago. He’s ignored it. He is right on the edge of violating Federal and State employment law. I told him “no” to an order, explaining exactly how it would violate our state’s laws. The man has been promoted beyond his ability. I wrote a separate email to my boss’s boss’s boss. I’m still waiting for the lightning to strike.

I really like my goat-girl character. … (Excuse the regression to a previous subject) … The trouble is time to write. I’m just swamped.

Anyway, I’m more or less back. Mostly less. I have three classes to teach today, and my work-room is a mess. I’ve got bedding to wash. My washer and drier are broken. Until we get a new one I’m off to the laundry mat. I hate the place. 

From Harry #2

Just Another Monday Morning

Note: The characters in this story bare no resemblance to anyone living or dead that I have ever meet in real life. That is except for Harold. He’s a strange one, he is.

Slowly the sound creeps into her consciousness. “Phone” she mumbles. The ringing continues.

“PHONE” she says louder and shoves an elbow into the ribs of the knobby-kneed Scot laying beside her.

He responds with a “harrumph” and bangs his arm on the side table as he strives to locate the source of the ringing without opening his eyes.

“H’lo,” he listens to the receiver. “Here,” she feels the phone thrust against her cheek. She groans and attempts to sound human.

“Hello? Yes, you did wake me. What’s the problem?” She knew there was a problem. The assistant day manager would not be calling otherwise. She interjects a “yes” or an “I see” as the voice on the other end continued on, but she is doing a slow burn.

“Listen. As you well know, I’ve been in bed with the flu for over three weeks. I haven’t a clue who is taking the spare sheets and pillow cases from the second floor, even if the closet is right beside my office! Tell security to figure it out!” She presses the off button on the receiver and starts to hand it back to her husband as a whirling dervish with golden yellow hair flies into the room and dives on the bed between her two parents.

“Oh good, Mommy. You’re up. I’m hungry. What’s for breakfast?”

Before she can answer two somewhat older girls barrel into the room. Daughter 5 puts her hands on her hips in disgust.

“Mother, tell Liz to stop trying on my bras! She’s stretching them out of shape!”

“I am not. I didn't, and besides the cups are too small”, daughter 4 replies smugly.

Daughters 2 and 3 come bouncing into the room.

“What’s going on?”

“Where’s breakfast?”

“How did Annie get in here?”

“Can we have waffles?

She looks over at her husband for assistance, but his head is buried under a couple of pillows.

“A lot of help you are,” she says as she boots him with a small pajama-clad foot. He rolls over and begins tickle fighting with daughter 5. Daughter 4 jumps in giggling wildly.

“The only ones that aren't in here are those blasted fairies. I am positive they deleted chapter four from my computer yesterday.”

As if on cue, there is a loud crash in the hallway followed by the blur of a pair of blue wings that fly in through the door and start bobbing and weaving among the assembled family members.

“THAT’S IT! I'VE HAD IT!” She grabs a copy of a recent journal from a well-known tract society and swings at one of the fae. She stands, but quickly ducks as she is buzzed by the other. She starts to throw, checks the volume and number, and then flings the periodical at the retreating fairies.

“HAROLD!” She stands with her pajama-footed feet apart as she brings herself to her full four foot five inch stature on the bed. “Harold, where are you?”

The butler politely pokes his head in the door.

“Ah, good morning Ma’am. I see the entire household is up. Breakfast in a jiffy.” He pauses for only a moment and goes on. “I am so sorry about that Fenton glass bowl. I know it was a favorite of yours.”

Taking two steps into the room, he sets down a pile of linen. She stares at him with mouth agape as she tries to decide if he is the sanest person in the room or the most insane.

“I’ll just leave these here and change the beds after breakfast. Right then. Who wants to stir the batter for the waffles?”

As the butler guides the girls out of the room, she looks over at the clean white linen. Clearly stamped on the corner of the sheets are the words ‘Property of ****** Hotels’

From Harry

Hi my dear Pixie,

I hope you are recovering from the flu. I am fighting off a cold and cough. So far it is not bad and I am doing all I can to keep it that way. Here is a post for you. I have included some HTML formatting. I hope you and everyone else enjoys it. - Harry

Prepping, and Bug out, and Zombies, Oh My!

The trip to the shopping center had been fruitless. Now just two weeks since the zombie virus (Z1N1) had broken out in the city, the store shelves were empty. I did manage to find a few toiletry and medical items that others had overlooked. There were a few zombies roaming around, but I only had to shoot two that got too close. Jumping back into my truck, I looked longingly at the filling station on the corner. My guess is that there was still gasoline in the underground tanks, but without electricity it was impossible to get.

It has been a long and somewhat convoluted journey for me since I last wrote in December. I enjoyed a long and pleasant vacation from school over the holidays.
It all started with a gun show. For our international (and probably more civilized) friends, a gun show is a gathering of gun dealers and traders where the general public can come to buy and trade rifles, pistols, shotguns, and other lethal weapons including knives, axes, bayonets and goblin-cleaving swords.

Anyhow my son and I went to this gun show one Saturday before Christmas, because after all nothing says peace on earth more than an assault rifle. I was just looking, but my son, who is 30, planned to buy a small, concealable handgun.

We drifted from table to table covered with hundreds of weapons from small .22 caliber derringers all the way to a .50 caliber sniper rifle capable of stopping a small armored vehicle in its tracks. My son found what he wanted and at the same table I picked up a pistol that just fit my hand perfectly. The price was right and I made my purchase too.
I am neither conservative nor liberal in my opinions of guns. America has been a gun culture throughout its history. I grew up a country boy and my father taught me to shoot a rifle and a shotgun to go hunting. He taught my brother and me the basics of gun safety. I have owned guns since I was fourteen. I served in the Air Force, but once I qualified with the M-16 rifle in basic training I never got a chance to shoot one again. I don’t want anyone to take away my right to own a firearm, but on the other hand I don’t want access to guns by felons and the mentally unstable to be allowed.

I don’t want to belabor the point here (although we can discuss it further in comments) so back to the gun show. My son and I had to pass background checks before we could complete our purchases. My son, who was actively involved and arrested during the Occupy Movement protests last year flew through the mandatory state police background check in a matter of minutes, while my check stalled somewhere in cyberspace. Me! A model citizen! It was a minor delay and I just went back to the gun show the following morning to pickup my pistol once the check was complete. My son enjoyed teasing me for the next week.

Back home, I put my new purchase in my dresser drawer and helped prepare for Christmas dinner and here is where our story takes a turn.

I drove slow, conserving my gasoline. The road was pretty empty except for abandoned vehicles. In my head I started checking off what we would need to make our move to the enclave that was starting up in the mountains to the west of the city. We had been doing disaster planning for a while before the zombie virus outbreak. We were used to being prepared in the winter for icy storms that took down power lines leaving people with the need to heat their home with wood in fireplaces that usually contained decorative baskets of dried flowers, or to use smelly kerosene stoves. In the spring there was the small possibility of a tornado or strong thunderstorms. Late summer is hurricane season, so we knew to stock up on bottled water and prepare to use a grill or camp stove to cook meals. This was different though. We needed to plan to bug out. I wasn’t paying attention to the road. I saw the roadblock almost too late…

After Christmas I sat at my computer and looked for accessories for my new pistol. I had one ammunition clip, but I wanted extras, and I needed a holster. One website I viewed had a tab labeled “zombie preparedness” that drew my attention. There were shooting range targets depicting zombies, special zombie killing ammo for your guns, and a “zombie bug out kit.”

When I was a younger man in the Air Force, my job was to build and inspect survival kits for the aircrews of our large cargo aircraft. In our training school I learned about how to survive in a variety of environments, although I did not get to have any practical experience. Later when our son was a boy scout getting ready for his first camping trip, my wife and I packed his bag with every bit of suggested gear in the handbook. The bag ended up being nearly as heavy as he was. After that trip he started packing his own bag and pulling out most of the stuff my wife insisted that he have. He learned to pack light and pack smart. Now he teaches me how to pack for the outdoors.

Anyhow the concept of a bug out bag fascinated me. Zombies are low on my scale of disasters, but storms, earthquakes, nuclear meltdowns (we are a mere 40 miles from a power plant that happens to be built on a seismic fault line), terrorist attacks, and the increasingly possible economic collapse of the world economy have got me thinking more about being prepared.

and the http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/kit/disasters/">CDC both have information about a 72-hour bag for yourself or larger kits for your family. The idea being in the case of a natural disaster, it may take at least 72 hours for the government to organize a response to people in a disaster area. As we all know, if Congress had to vote on what to have for lunch, they would all starve! FEMA’s response to disasters has improved since Katrina, but 72 hours is still optimistic.

The basic 72-hour bag, or bug out bag contains enough food and water for three days along with shelter, first aid, communication, and other survival tools to deal with most circumstances you might encounter. A family kit would be bigger and contain more food and water plus some comfort needs for children such as favorite toys or books. Along with the kit each family needs a plan. If the children are at school, or mom and dad are at work when a disaster strikes, how will everyone get together? If you have to evacuate your home, where will you go?

I slammed on the brakes just as two men stepped out from behind a van and raised their weapons. I grabbed my bug out bag and my shotgun and ran away using the truck for cover. One of the marauders yelled and started to follow. A single blast of “double-aught” buckshot changed his mind and I ran into the woods. Once safely under cover I made sure they were not attempting to follow. They weren’t. They were more interested in siphoning the gas into their own vehicle and digging under the seats of my truck for useful items. I slung my pack over my shoulder and took a compass bearing so I could cut through the woods back towards our house.

There is a lot more I can talk about. The whole sub-culture of doomsday preppers and survivalists is fascinating in itself. Some of these people have no trust for the government. Some of them are or were part of the militia movement that was popular in the 1980s and 90s. I have learned quite a bit about planning for the worst. I have started collecting stuff I already have and making a few purchases to develop our home 72-hour kit as well as a smaller Go Bag for my vehicle. Maybe I’ll write about that soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Flu

We've been hit by the flu epidemic. I'm spending most of my time in bed. Be patient.

Thursday, January 03, 2013