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This is very long and detailed, so I’m going to try to put in a cut tag.

All right, I can't get that to work, not if it was ever so. I'm sorry.

 

On Tuesday Raphael and I went to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. The forecast was for a sunny, almost windless day with a high of 87. The air quality was moderate. I complained about this the day before and Raphael asked if I'd prefer not to go. But Sherburne is actually a good place to go on a less than perfect day, because there's a seven-mile wildlife drive with stopping points for viewing whoever happens to be around; also a tiny oak savanna (1/10-mile loop) trail and a prairie trail with an oak grove in the middle with a bench (1/2-mile loop). And it's September; hiking season will be over at some point.

We got a late start but arrived with about five hours of daylight ahead of us. Sherburne is near Sand Dunes National Forest, and its soil is also sandy. It's a lightly rolling landscape full of marshes, pools, and prairie, broken by lines and clumps of trees. You drive through a short stretch of mature restored prairie to reach the actual wildlife drive. It was awash in blooming goldenrod and blue and white asters and rich brown grasses.

 We stopped at the Oak Savanna Trail and had a sandwich, read the list of plants presently blooming (six kinds of goldenrod, four kinds of white aster, two kinds of blue aster, rough blazing star, and boneset) and then walked out on the tiny boardwalk. We examined what looked like an abandoned bald eagle's nest through one of the spotting scopes provided, and then started looking at spreadwings (yet another kind of damselfly) in the tall grass that the boardwalk runs through.

 Here is an image of a spreadwing that one might see in Minnesota, though I don’t know if that’s what we did see.

 http://museum.unl.edu/research/entomology/Odonata/lere.html

 A flicker of motion in the distance caught my attention, and I looked up to see three sandhill cranes landing across the prairie near the road we'd come on. "A family," said Raphael, looking through the binoculars. "See the juvenile?" I did see the juvenile, which did not have all its red in yet but was almost as large as its parents. The cranes started walking through the grass, not unlike herons stalking through shallow water; occasionally they would bend their long necks down and poke around in the grass roots, and occasionally one of them would make a sharp dart and come up with food and swallow it.

It was hard to decide whether the cranes were more awesome through binoculars or just as tall shapes against the pale road and prairie, bending and straightening, wandering apart and together again. If you didn't look through binoculars you could also see meadowhawks darting around, the spreadwings rising to catch tiny insects and settling again to eat them, the unexpected wind shaking the oak leaves and the grass and the asters. From time to time a darner moved across the larger prairie, veering after prey or just powering along.

At last a truck came fairly fast along the road, raising a cloud of dust, and the cranes paused, considered, opened their huge wings and rose up, gawky but graceful, and flew away low over the grasses. We went back to looking at smaller wildlife

I was trying to spot a spreadwing through the binoculars when I saw what looked like an animated tangle of brown grass. I said to Raphael, “There’s some kind of mantis there!” and when Raphael expressed astonishment, I added, “It’s very stick-y,” which allowed Raphael to come up with the actual name: It was a stick insect. It took a few moments for me to describe its location and for Raphael to see it, and then I had trouble finding it again through the binoculars, but it was busy clambering around against the wind, so we did both get a good look at it. It was only the second stick insect I’d seen in Minnesota. The other was at Wild River State Park. That one was much larger and was rummaging around in a pile of leaves at the edge of the parking lot. This one was fascinating because its camouflage was so great, and yet it did have to move around, so you could differentiate it from the grass if you worked at it.

We’d arrived in the deep of the afternoon when smaller birds are quiet. We heard a few goldfinches murmuring, and a phoebe carrying on, and a chickadee. We left the boardwalk, admiring the asters waving in the non-foreseen but welcome breeze, and walked around the oak savanna loop. The little oak saplings tangled among the other shrubbery were already starting to turn red. White asters poked their flowerheads through leaves belonging to other plants, to startling effect. Autumn meadowhawks floated and hovered and darted, snatching up gnats from the clouds around them. We had seen a monarch butterfly in the asters while we were eating our lunch, and also a dark-phase swallowtail wandering over the grass; now we saw a painted lady butterfly.

We made an attempt to leave, but a darner landed on a drooping dead branch of an oak tree right in front of the car. The sun was behind it and we couldn’t get a good look without tramping heedlessly into the prairie, so we didn’t, but its silhouette was lovely against the brilliant sky.

 We drove on, past tall browning and reddening grasses, clumps of goldenrod, clouds of asters. Darners flew up from the sides of the road and zoomed away. We found at the turning that the refuge had reversed the direction of the wildlife drive since we were there last, which was momentarily confusing; but we found our way, and stopped at the Prairie Trail. I pointed out some thoroughly spent plants of spotted horsemint. We’d seen it in bloom, if you can call it that, at William O’Brien. It’s a very weird-looking plant. Here’s a photo:

 https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/flower/spotted-horsemint

 This observation continued my inability to accurately provide the names of things; I’d just called it horsemint and Raphael reminded me that that particular weird plant was spotted horsemint. There are other horsemints, but they don’t look so strange. As we stood looking over the rise and fall of the little prairie, with folds of alder and sumac, and lines and whorls of different grasses and goldenrod, all truly starred with the blue and white asters, I said that I loved how big the sky was at Sherburne. Raphael noted that it was a slate-blue just now; we assumed that was the haze of the wildfire smoke all the way from the west coast, a somber reminder of far too many things.

 We took the grassy path, startling small grasshoppers out of our way and stirring up meadowhawks from the tall plants and shrubs. We saw a monarch; we saw a painted lady. Passing through a little grove of young alders, on almost every tip of the dead trees intermingled with the living there was a meadowhawk perched. They swept upwards, snatched a gnat or fly, landed to eat again. Raphael showed me how to identify a female autumn meadowhawk: they have a definite bulge just below the thorax, which was easy to see against the sky. Darners zipped past from time to time. If it was a green darner we could usually tell even from just a glance. The others were mosaic darners, but harder to identify in passing.

 I think it was as we approached the oak grove that we started seriously trying to identify the grasses. We’d known big bluestem, aka turkey-tail, for years. After seeing it labelled repeatedly here and there, I could pick out the charming clumps of little bluestem, just knee-high, with their pale fluffy flowers lined up and catching the light. We’d looked at an informational sign at the trailhead, but its drawings of Indian grass and switch grass didn’t look right. Raphael pulled up the photo of the sign about grasses at the visitor center at Wild River, which had struck both of us at the time as much more informative than other attempts to depict native grasses; and we could suddenly identify Indian grass after all. It has a long, narrow rich brown seed head with varying degrees of spikiness; some are quite streamlined and others are tufty and look as if they need combing. And we felt more confident about the switch grass with its airy spreading seed heads.

 Raphael pointed out a beetle on the path, maybe a Virginia leatherwing, and then realized that it looked like a moth. A little research when we reached the oak grove and sat down showed that it was a net-winged beetle, and the entry even mentioned that it looked quite a bit like a leatherwing.

 The bench we were sitting on was made from boards of recycled plastic. At some point Raphael had had enough sitting and went ahead a little way just to see what was there. I’d noticed when I sat down that there were verses from the Bible printed on the back of the bench in some kind of marker. On the left was the passage from Matthew that begins, “Come unto me you who are weary and heavy-laden,” and on the right the passage from John that begins, “For God so loved the world.” These might have been written in different hands. But the passage in the middle was definitely in a different hand, and began, “We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine.” The ending of the passage was a bit smeared and I couldn’t read all of it, but at the bottom the name “hunter s. thompson” was clear enough. I followed Raphael and relayed the beginning of the passage. “Hunter s. thompson!” said Raphael, going back to the bench with me. “It’s from <i>Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas</i>.” Raphael looked this up too, and showed me the unsmeared passage on the cellphone.

 Giggling a bit, we went on our way. We were now well around the loop and into the straight stretch back to the car. From the other side I’d pointed out a lovely layering of grasses, goldenrod, a narrow cleft of willow scrub, and a candy-red line of sumac. Now we came to the sumac from the other side. On the path in front of us was a butterfly. “What is that?” said Raphael. “It’s a Red Admiral,” I said confidently, but it wasn’t. It was another Painted Lady. Raphael consolingly told me that they were both Vanessa, very closely related, but the Red Admiral is very common in Minnesota and I was chagrined that I’d misidentified something else as that.

 We came to a little stretch of boardwalk over a marshy area. On a shrub was a shimmery amber-tinged odonate. I pointed it out to Raphael. It turned out to be another autumn meadowhawk, though it looked as if it ought to be an Eastern Amberwing, or at least a Band-Winged Meadowhawk. It had perched on a bit of red-stemmed dogwood, just to be extra-cooperative. We went on through the cattails and willow, past a minute patch of open water and up onto the grassy path again. Raphael pointed out that where the path climbed back out of the tiny marsh there was a nice view over the rest of the open water and the winding marsh with more willow, and cattails, and a shrub we should have known but didn’t. (I briefly misidentified it as more red-stemmed dogwood, because it was my day to misidentify everything; but it had deep purple stems and leaves just starting to turn reddish.)

 On our right for the end of our walk was the brilliant sumac and the cleft of alder saplings, all their leaves fluttering and twinkling in the wind and sunlight; on the left a long slope of prairie grasses interrupted by goldenrod and asters. More darners sailed by. The sky had lost its smoky cast and was a fine late-summer deep blue. We came back to the car and Raphael began to drive away, but I exclaimed at the sight of a big clump of stiff goldenrod covered with pollinators. We didn’t get out, but looked our fill from the car. Big bumblebees, a Ctenucha moth, beetles, ambush bugs. Once Raphael started reading it, I had to edit this entry to correct the Ctenucha moth's name and type, so have another link, since they are very handsome:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ctenucha_virginica
 
There’s one more trail you can actually walk along, near the end of the wildlife drive, but there was a sign at the beginning saying that it was flooded. Before that we drove past long stretches of marsh, open water, and rolling prairie, all patched with clumps of trees. From time to time there would be a wider spot in the road, sometimes a formal space big enough for three or four cars, with a bench or two, or a platform over a low spot with spotting scopes and some informational signs about the wildlife; others just a metal platform with railings, where you could stand and look over the water. We tentatively identified the spot where we’d once common moorhens, which are not so common that we weren’t deeply excited. We’ve also seen muskrats and various ducks in these locations, and once there was a gigantic cloud of mosaic darners all brown and yellow – I seem to recall that some of them were lance-tipped darners, but I may be wrong. This time we heard water birds making a ruckus, but couldn’t see them. Darners came by in about the density that they had been all the while. Over one platform we saw what turned out to be a northern harrier; these guys have an amazing acrobatic flight, and they’re reddish on the underside and bluish on the back. I excitedly called this one a kestrel, which would be smaller and have the colors reversed: bluish on the underside and red on the back. We also very clearly saw a nighthawk with its white wing bars, though the sun was still up.

 We also saw some cedar waxwings fly-catching from a tree with a dead top, and heard a yellow warbler.

 At last we came to a stretch of water, islands, and snags so large that it had two separate viewing-spots. From the first we saw several groups of large white birds. I thought the first were swans, but they were white pelicans. There were also some swans, however. We came finally around a curve of the gravel road to an observation station in a little oak grove, overlooking the far side of this large sheet of water. This is where most of the dead trees are, and here, to our delight, we saw as we’ve seen before several times a very large number of cormorants. The sun was setting by then, off to our right. The sky was pink and the water reflected it. Many cormorants were roosting already, but some were still coming out of the water; they would land on a branch, sometimes settling and sometimes glancing off several different trees before finding one that suited them, or one in which the other cormorants accepted them. It was hard to be sure. Then they would spread their wings out to dry, looking as if they were practicing to be bats for Halloween.

 We found the swans and pelicans we’d seen from the other viewing station, though it was getting pretty dark by then. Cormorants still flew up into the trees and spread their wings. Through binoculars you could see the ones that had folded their wings now preening their breast feathers. Some of them had pale necks and brown fronts rather than being entirely black. I mentioned this to Raphael, who looked it up in Sibley and confirmed that those were juvenile cormorants.

 It was getting quite dark by then and the mosquitoes were starting to think about biting us in earnest. We drove past two more pools; beside one two groups of people we’d seen pass earlier, a third car I didn’t recognize from before, and a man using a wheelchair were standing and gesticulating. We pulled up and got out. The water and trees were lovely in the twilight, but we didn’t see any wildlife. The solitary man went away in his wheelchair, the unfamiliar car left, and we followed, watching the varied texture of the grass and flowers fade away into the dark.

 

Pamela

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Hi, you guys. I put up a public Patreon post yesterday intended to lure in new supporters. The main lure is that I promised to let supporters see early chapters of Going North in November,  by which time I'd be confident that said chapters would not be undergoing any more radical alteration.

I really dislike doing this. I feel terrible when I can't support people I want to support, or can't shower money on them rather than providing a dollar a month. And yet from the other side, every $1 supporter is so valuable to me that I have continual difficulty in remembering that there is an awards structure and that people who are able and willing to support me for more than that are supposed to get extra perks.

ANYWAY, I don't want to make anybody feel guilty or anxious, or obliged in any way, except that, if it isn't inconvenient and you haven't already done so as a result of my posting the link on Twitter, you might spread the word a little further. If you can't or don't, no guilt need obtrude, not the slightest.

Here's the link to the public post on Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/posts/seasons-return-14318544

Raphael and I are hoping to go hiking later this week, so I intend my next post to be another phenological one rather than this kind of thing.

Thank you.

Pamela

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Trying to catch up with hiking posts before I forget everything. We try to hike every week but have missed a number of weeks because of the weather. But here's another one we managed.

Last week Raphael and I were very reluctant to leave the house, but we decided to go somewhere nearby and possessed of varying degrees of strenuousness. We went to Hyland Park Reserve, which is part of the Three Rivers Park District. We started at the lake where they rent out canoes and kayaks, hoping to see some Eastern Amberwings. We did see some; they are always both so familiar and so startling, small but very intense. Then we drove to the Nature Center, and after admiring the garden around it, set off through the woods to our first destination. We passed the Creative Play Area, which was a sea of mud, and Raphael remarked that either children would not be playing there or their parents would be very sorry that they had. We sat down on a bench that faces but doesn't really have much of a view of a pondy area. There's a screen of sumac and wildflowers in the way. The sumac was richly and abundantly going to seed in a very deep red. I remembered seeing deer down there a few years back, but the area where they'd been grazing was all water now. We stood up and used binoculars for a bit, but the light was dazzling on the water. There were some smaller ducks and some larger ones. On the way back to the car when the light had changed, we saw some identifiable wood ducks and some smaller dabbling ducks.

We headed for a little path that leads to the edge of another pond, but it had become a stream. We accordingly went on a more official path through a patch of woods and sumac. A woman running by remarked that she was seeing a lot of butterflies today. When we got to the pond, one ramp of the dock was waterlogged and the other muddy. We took a brief look at the water-covered approach, and some kind of heron flapped out of the grass at the pond's edge and back into it again further on. "Was that a heron?" I said, but it was hidden now.

On the muddy but passable side a woman, two children, and some toys were disposed in the sun. We edged past them, exchanging greetings, and the larger child showed us what he had caught in an ice cube tray. I remarked that the ice cube tray was a good idea, and he came after us to say that he had also caught about six leeches, so we shouldn't go swimming. We promised we wouldn't.

We've often seen kingbirds and swallows, as well as many dragonflies, swooping over this pond. Today dragonflies were a little scarce, but the turtles were out in force, dozens of painted turtles sunning themselves on a number of fallen logs and tilting snags. It took us a little while to notice the snapping turtles; the more remote ones looked like rocks and the nearer ones like swellings in the tree trunks and longs. But there were three snapping turtles lying along the logs. Raphael thought they looked like jaguars on branches and I thought they looked weirdly like wombats. They were too wide for the logs, so they were dangling their legs over the sides. Two remained alert, with their heads up; the third let its head dangle too. One of them was arranged across rather than along a branch, so its long tail also dangled. They were both imposing and very funny indeed.

We hung over the railing, looking at a few damselflies, watching a turtle swim up to the surface and put its nose up to breathe and another one climb onto a log and slide back again. Then I saw the heron again. It was shaped like a green heron but its markings were off. It had a streaky breast and its back was dark but not exactly green. I pointed it out to Raphael, "Green heron?" "Or is it a bittern?" said Raphael. When it stuck its neck out it looked very like a green heron, but they are usually so shy that I'm never sure of my identifications. The heron perched on a log, occasionally walking along it and stretching out its neck to look for food. Then I noticed the second one, some ways further along the shore. That one stalked into the reeds and came out with a frog, which it either washed in the water or kept having to get a new grip on before it could finally swallow it. The other heron preened itself extensively and then started flipping its very short tail around and suddenly puffing up and deflating a crest on top of its head. "I think they must be juveniles," I said. "The only other time I got a good look at a green heron it was a juvenile."

Shortly after the crest-puffing, the further heron flapped towards the near one, then veered off and flew away, followed by the second heron. We took another long look at the snapping turtles and turned back to walk around the tiny prairie restoration adjacent to the pond. There were dark-winged grasshoppers and meadowhawks. Goldenrod and yellow coneflower were blooming, along with some stiff coreopsis and a few white asters. As we climbed the hill towards the upper part of the prairie, we began to see monarch butterflies. I managed to see six or seven all at once, which was many more than we'd seen together for some time.

I was not having a great day physically -- it turned out that the pollen count on the Weather Underground page was wrong and I should have taken an antihistamine before leaving the house. While I do get drippy and stuffy with allergies, sometimes my main symptom is just a dragging fatigue. So we sat on several benches and enjoyed the rolling layers of tall grasses in their autumnal rich brown, broken here and there by clumps of goldenrod and bordered by dark green oak trees.

There's another trail we often take and we discussed it, but neither of us felt really up to it, so we looked up the green heron when we got back to the car -- indeed, our birds had been juvenile green herons -- and drove home through the summer evening.

Pamela
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I am really out of practice at these hiking posts, but this is better than nothing.

Yesterday looked like the best hiking day of the week, given various other constraints, so Raphael and I somewhat reluctantly pulled ourselves together and went to Wright County. There's a park in Monticello called Montissippi that is often rich in dragonflies and always rich in birds. Sometimes it's quiet and everything is hiding, but yesterday we were lucky. We went in hopes of seeing some clubtails that had been observed in that location by, as Raphael said, people other than us. We were lucky in a different way.

American Rubyspots are one of three species of damselfly often referred to as jewelwings that we see in Minnesota. I don't know if they are any less abundant than river and ebony jewelwings or just a little harder to spot because they're less dramatic and have a strong preference for sunny riverbanks and logs and rocks out in flowing water for their perches. But for some years I had only ever seen a single one, way up north at St. Croix State Park, perched on a rock in the abnormally low river during a drought year. Then Raphael found a city park that served as a convenient stopping-off place on the longish drive to Lake Itasca, and there were jewelwings in great abundance on the Mississippi River there; we got to see them doing their mating dances, and they were thick on all the emergent vegetation. This also happened during a drought year. We returned to the same spot several times and always did find some rubyspots, but when the river was higher we couldn't get right next to the vegetation they liked, and there was no exposed sand to walk on between the steep bank of the river and the strips of vegetation. The rubyspots were probably there, but we couldn't get to them as readily.

At Montissippi we've seen rubyspots on logs and rocks; on one memorable occasion, we saw exactly one, through binoculars, from the top of a bluff where the park has kindly placed a bench for better viewing of the river. The rubyspot was on a rock that, while nearer the shore than the middle of the river, was not particularly close; in any case, the bank was far too steep to consider climbing down.

There are plenty of images of rubyspots on the web. The first picture on this page is a male rubyspot: http://www.west11thstreetpark.org/index.php?page=Damselflies

And here's a female: http://www.dragonhunter.net/hetaerina_americana_f.jpg

But none of them really conveys the quality of the insect in flight or even just perched on a dead stick or a broad leaf of river grape.

Yesterday the Mississippi River at Montissippi was high; we've had a lot of rain recently. I felt this would mean there would be no evident rubyspots, but I was wrong. The river was so high that there were no logs or rocks left unsubmerged, and the rubyspots had to come up to the top of the banks and hang out in the wildflowers and shrubbery there. There weren't any in the areas where we looked at first. We still had a grand time, because it was a lovely day for late August, though sticky, and the goldenrod and Old Man's Beard were blooming. The goldenrod was hosting an exuberant variety of tiny pollinators, including some tiny, extremely fancy moths we'd seen there before. The little mown area next to the parking lot for the boat ramp always hosts catbirds, and they were soon yelling at me while Raphael went back to the car to get a better lens for photographing tiny moths. Goldfinches swooped through or called gently, "Potato chip, potato chip, tato tato tato chip chip chip." Chickadees explained the dangers of everything in cascading buzzes, occasionally shouting, "Cheeseburger!" in the most melodious manner imaginable as a change of pace. Bluejays shrieked outrage, probably at hawks but maybe at us. Later on we heard redstarts and saw a female one dart from one impenetrable mass of vine-covered shrubbery to another. I heard several wrens burring and buzzing like tiny angry teletypes, and eventually one perched on a low dead branch and dropped several times to the ground as if it were catching insects. I think it was a winter wren, but I'm not at all sure; it was not cooperative about letting all of itself be seen. Its body shape and tail position were definitely wren-like, however.

At some point as we worked our way closer to the boat ramp, we started to see rubyspots. By the time we struck out through the picnic area to walk a little on the bluff top, we had found a border of wildflowers so dense with them that you could see three or four perched ones without having to turn your head.

There were also numerous powdered dancers and blue-fronted dancers; these are also largeish damselfies, but with a more standard wing shape than the jewelwings. They were prancing around the parking lot and perching on the railings of the fishing dock and on the boat ramp. We also saw a very fancy shield bug that decided to climb up my leg and walk around on my binoculars. I was worried about injuring it, so we tried putting it on a leaf, but it wasn't having any of that. Since it had liked the tie of my hat and also the strap of the binoculars, I offered it a grass blade, and it climbed off my shirt at once.

There's a bench in the picnic grounds with a view of the river, and for the first time I noticed that the oak trees lining the top of the bank were swamp white oak. A lot of the oak trees up on the top of the bluff were also swamp white oak. A few blue asters were blooming up there, and a great deal of both stiff goldenrod as well as other kinds of goldenrod. In time the sky clouded over to the point where mosquitoes started to come out and bite us. So we didn't sit on the bench overlooking the rock where we'd seen our sole rubyspot once, but noted that the rock was covered by water, though you could tell where it was by the way the surface of the river broke and moved around it.

Given the clouds and the mosquitoes, we went on to our next destination, which was in Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park. We've poked around the lakes a bit, but if I recall correctly we avoided the large swimming beach, and the others had access for canoes or other boats but no general way to get around on foot. So we've confined our visits to the Oak Savanna Reclamation Project Area, which at the moment is a really lovely rolling prairie full of native grasses and plants. The sky had cleared quite a bit while we were driving from one park to the other and the light was gorgeous. Yellow coneflower and goldenrod were the main things in bloom here. From a distance the grasses were red and brown and reddish brown. A few clumps of purple coneflower were still going, and the intriguing seedheads of many earlier plants stood everywhere among the big and little bluestem and switch grass. Raphael also successfully identified some side oats grama, which, like the other grasses, is lovely but looked especially ethereal in the evening light.

There are a couple of dead trees just at the start of the trail, and on the way back we saw a hawk sitting in the one closer to the prairie. It was not impressed with us, and we were able to get some good looks at it through our binoculars, though the light was a little difficult. We thought it would fly off when we passed under the tree, but it stuck to its post. Raphael got out the Sibley guide, and we decided that it was probably a juvenile red-tailed hawk. We went back to its tree again, treading quietly, but Raphael was carrying the open guidebook, and either the hawk saw something tasty out on the prairie or carrying a book was just one thing too many, because it flew off, gracefully, and disappeared over the grasses.

Pamela

Edited to fix the first rubyspot link.
pameladean: (Default)
This is not a serious discussion of bad human role models for other humans.

Saffron is my cat. She is a honey. She is whimsical and notional and energetic. Sometimes she must, must, must be with a person, and then she kneads you and punctures you with her claws and pets you with the back of her head and rolls around and body-butts you and purrs like a small distant thunderstorm. Just try, under these circumstances, to do anything other than pay attention to Saffron. She makes it difficult, sometimes impossible.

Sometimes she must be with a person but all this demonstration is Unnecessary and Unwanted. Then she comes ghosting in and goes to sleep on the chair in your office, or she meatloafs herself at the foot of your bed, usually with her back to you, though she will blink politely if you catch her eye. If you try to pet her she will leave. If you ignore her, she will come back.

I was pondering my Wiscon experience and retrospective regrets and realized that I had been in the second Saffronian mode detailed above. I was glad to be there, and glad to see people and to know that so many had come together for this multifarious weekend. But I wanted to tuck up in the corner, make a meatloaf at the end of the bed, and blink politely. I'm sorry now, of course. Saffron lives here and her people are mostly around. But nobody lives at Wiscon and many of my people are not always around.

I also failed at some bed-meatloafing attempts. I was a little late to [personal profile] oursin 's reading. It was in one of the little Conference rooms along that dark hallway behind the gaming area. I know from experience that that hallway can become quite noisy, and it must have, because the door of the room where people were reading and the door of the room across the hall from it were shut, while the other rooms with panels in them were still open. I envisioned the tiny room and the intimacy of a reading, and funked it. I went instead to a very interesting panel about food, which I stayed for most of, though at one point the discussion of post-apocalyptic strategies got to me and I had to leave. Current post-apocalyptic fiction is very different from what I grew up reading, but I'm still allergic to it. I also kept forgetting that there was a music jam, even though [personal profile] elisem was involved with it, because it was a new thing and apparently couldn't find the doorbell to ring to get my memory to come out.

I was very glad to see everybody I saw, even if you did not see me, or saw only a tail disappearing under the bed. Next year I think arranging more small meetings in advance and remembering that I don't live at Wiscon should be things that I seriously attempt. I should also do a reading. I hope that speaking these intentions outside in a loud voice will help solidify them.

It's too early in the day and in the caffeination process to write properly about the highlight of my programming experience, which was Amal el-Mohtar and C.S.E. Cooney's musical extravaganza. I had had serious not-meatloafing intentions, but I was so overcome by them and the wit, passion, lyricism, and dramatic virtuosity that they lavished upon us that I had to leave and recover myself.

This must suffice for now.

Pamela

pameladean: (Default)
No doubt I should have posted something earlier, but we've had memberships and a hotel room for the past several years and yet it was not actually feasible to go. But this year, if I get off the computer and finish my lunch and finish packing, Eric and I will be at Wiscon. We hope to arrive in time for the Gathering, or a good portion of it.

Pamela
pameladean: (Default)
I was planning to do a photo essay about a recent visit to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, and still plan to do one, but right now I feel impelled to write about health insurance. Not in the way that you may think. This year, David and I have insurance through MNSure, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. I am really grateful for having had insurance, and tax subsidies to help pay for it, for the past four years. And I want to dedicate this account, with an extremely unpleasant expression involving crossed eyes and a stuck-out tongue, to former Senator Joe Leiberman, who fucked up the possibility of a much better system than what we ended up with.

About a month ago I had several nights when I couldn't sleep because things in general hurt. I kept thinking that I must be coming down with the flu, but I never did. Then instead of a general achiness I started having specific muscle pains that couldn't in any way be correlated with unusual or even usual exertion. They came and went in no pattern and with no cause. Then I started feeling a really strange sort of dizziness. I can get postural hypotension from my blood pressure medication, but this was much weirder than that and, like the aches, didn't really correlate with anything.

An acquaintance posted on Twitter that her statin had been causing dizziness and brain fog. Wait, I thought, muscle pain can come from statins. I read the patient information sheet and stopped taking my Lipitor. I ought, of course, to have called the clinic and left a message for my doctor, but I was busy. I don't even have high cholesterol. I just have a 14% chance of some kind of cardiac event over the next ten years, according to some calculation the state of Minnesota does, because of the hypertension, type 2 diabetes, proportion of good and bad cholesterol, and possibly a few other things that I've forgotten. On the basis of this calculation I was advised to take a statin and daily low-dose aspirin. So I figured stopping the statin for a little while wouldn't do any harm.

Within 48 hours the aches and dizziness had vanished. On Monday I tried to send email to my doctor, but there wasn't an email button under his name in the list of my "Care Team" on MyChart. I could have emailed my eye doctor, the nurse practitioner I've seen for a few minor ailments, or the diabetes nurse who showed me how to use a glucometer. But they hadn't written the prescription. I finally scheduled an appointment with my doctor, since I'm due for a bunch of lab work anyway; and in the space left to explain why you want an appointment, I explained about the side effects and stopping the statin.

The clinic called and asked me to call back, and when I did the nurse I talked to asked if I would be willing to see a different provider so they could get me an appointment sooner than Thursday the 18th; and I was willing, so she scheduled an appointment for this afternoon.

When I arrived I went to the registration desk, and the clerk told me with every evidence of sympathy that the clinic was not in network for my insurance plan and they would have to cancel the appointment unless I wanted to sign a consent form saying I would pay out of pocket. She also said that I was enrolled in a HealthPartners Medical Assistance plan, which I knew I wasn't. MNSure checks this for you when you give them your income information, and we aren't eligible for Medical Assistance. So I hoped that if I could get this part straightened out maybe they'd let me have my appointment. I had been pretty sure that the clinic was not in network for my plan -- it is in network for some specialties like chiropractic services and chemical and mental health, which initially fooled me into thinking it was generally all right for my plan; but it's not in network for primary care. I'd been able to get my medications from the pharmacy all right, and I really didn't want to change clinics, so I hadn't done anything about it. I said I'd pay out of pocket -- I know about what they charge for visits and this was a short one; and I wasn't actually worried about the statin, but it seemed to have sent the clinic staff into a tizzy that I had stopped taking it without consulting anybody -- and then I knew I'd really have to change clinics.

So I signed the form and went upstairs, in the nick of time for my appointment; but the poor clerk came running up the stairs and caught me. Her supervisor had "come by" and said that no, really, I couldn't have the appointment. They were legally required to bill the insurance company, and then the claim would be denied because the clinic was out of network, and "that would be a problem." I didn't see any point in inquiring further into this; I could see many possible reaons that they would prefer not to be billing plans that would not pay them.

But, she said, she would take me to the office of the financial counselors, who would help me change my plan so that I could stay at the clinic. I was pretty sure that this would work only if I really were on Medical Assistance, but I went with her and explained my situation to the counselor when they called my number. The counselor said that there had been some kind of confusion with HealthPartners assigning a lot of people to Medical Assistance who weren't on it, and she had fixed that part of things in my records, but the clinic was still, really, out of network for my plan.

I walked home -- at least it was a lovely spring day -- and called the nearest Park Nicollet clinic and got an appointment with the doctor of my choice -- from a list I'd made in January before I got stubborn and busy and didn't follow up with the change of clinics -- for Thursday, May 18th. I didn't laugh at the very nice woman on the phone who was helping me, but I laughed afterwards. I then had to call my dentist and move a hygiene appointment from that date to the following Monday.

I got an automated message from MyChart saying that my appointment of today had been cancelled. The reason given was "scheduling error."

I'm sure the new clinic will be fine, but Joe Leiberman can go jump in some really nasty polluted lake.

Pamela
pameladean: (Default)
"Random Jottings" has a particular literary source, but it's been so long that I cannot recall what that source is.

I think I've finally sorted out the cross-posting to LJ, but I guess we'll see. I assume that it will work perfectly now that LJ has finally gone off the rails for good and I should probably consider not posting there any more. I'll do a separate post asking people to tell me if they plan to stay on LJ and post there, because I don't like losing track of people even though I make it easy to lose track of myself.

I've been trying to be more active on DreamWidth/LiveJournal, but what this has resulted in has been my commenting lavishly and then having a very hard time responding to the responses even though I'm delighted to get them. I doubt anybody is feeling neglected or snubbed, but if you are I apologize; and even if you aren't I will try to do better.

The rest of this post is an International Bad Cat Day post involving tulips, followed by a section about the Guthrie Theater's recent production of King Lear.


Last week I got on a bus and took a large thick envelope of receipts and statements and forms to the accountants' office. I'm not sure when we last got the current year's taxes done by April 15, though we have managed to file an extension and get things done by August 15 a time or two in the last never-mind how-many years. I'm suddenly feeling much more chipper; I hadn't realized what a horrible burden having the undone taxes looming over me was, and yet doing them is such a nightmare. Tax law has no understanding at all of how self-employment works, and doesn't care either. Tax law secretly feels that if you get your money in large lumps rather than in increments week by week or month by month, you are somehow duplicitous, lazy, or both; or else just generally trying to get away with something. It hates me and mine and I hate it back passionately.

When I left, Raphael asked if I knew when I'd be home. I had no idea and was a bit short with R because I was about to miss my bus. (I did, in fact, miss it, but the next one was early, and it wasn't very cold out.) I sent a text once I knew when I was likely to be back, wondering a little, since I wasn't making dinner and we didn't have any firm plans for anything. R texted back that zie had gone for a short walk and might or might not beat me home. I got home first. When Raphael got home I eventually wandered through the kitchen to find her putting white and purple tulips in a Portmeirion vase. "It's a Saffron vase," said Raphael, and indeed the image on the vase was of meadow saffron (a kind of autumn crocus). We have the dinner plate but I hadn't realized that there was a vase as well. The vase was an early anniversary present and the tulips were for getting the taxes done. The overflow went into a Portmeirion mug (with sweet peas on the side) with a broken handle, and the vase spent the afternoon in my office on a high bookshelf, faintly scenting the room with tulip.

But at some point Saffron herself evidenced a strong desire to get up on the bookcase with the tulips. You could see her cat-brain doing the math. Can I jump up from this vantage point? No, not enough room to land. What about from the lower bookcase under the air conditioner? No, can't see properly. What about from the top of the air conditioner? That's better but some monkey has put a paper bag up there on my occasional landing spot. Pause. BUT TULIPS! What about this part of the pile of boxes of author copies and very old files apparently put here just for the convenience of cats? No, not actually convenient to cats. Scaling the lower shelves? No, too many useless bits of decoration and books stuck in sideways for lack of room. She had been allowed to sniff and examine the flowers before they were put in the vase, but she still seemed very determined, so I removed the tulips to my bedroom for the moment.

I was reading peacefully in my bedroom much later when she started the same set of calculations in there, ultimately making it through quite a number of random objects without knocking any of them down, until she was a foot or so from the vase. I removed it and put it on the front stairs. This was useful insofar as it's cold on those stairs, which preserved the tulips nicely. I let Saffron sniff them again before I took them away, but whatever she wanted with them, it wasn't that. When I brought the tulips back up at the end of a busy weekend, and on every day that I had them in my office, she did her mathematics at some point, but by then I was persuaded that she probably couldn't actually get up on that bookcase and was too smart to try and fail.

In late March, Eric and I went to see the Guthrie's performance of King Lear. I meant to write it up immediately so that local people would still have a chance to see it. The Guthrie had not done Lear in twenty years. Raphael and I went to that 1996 production, which was excellent; my main memory of it at this remove is Isabel Monk's tremendous, hilarious, moving performance as the Fool. I mentioned it to Raphael when I was talking about the recent production, and Raphael reminded me that Isabel Monk was so much more robust than Lear in that production that it transformed the entire nature of their relationship.

In this production, the Fool was played by Armin Shimerman. I gazed and gazed at that name and at the photo of the actor, which was not familiar. I was only clued in by the conversation of the people next to us. All of you are no doubt jumping up and down to tell me that Mr. Shimerman played Quark on "Deep Space Nine" and later, Principal Schneider on "Buffy." Lear was played by Stephen Yoakum, who long ago was Henry Bolingbroke in Garland Wright's production of the History Plays, which I saw at least four times, most of them on day-tickets. It was in that line that I overheard a bunch of late-adolescent girls fangirling Henry V. Not Kenneth Branagh, whose movie had come out recently; and not the actor who played Henry -- Henry himself. It was awesome, as was that whole run of plays. They did Richard II; a very long and deeply distressing adaptation of both parts of Henry IV; and Henry V.

I didn't recognize Mr. Yoakum, but I recognized his voice at once in the first scene.

It almost always takes a few minutes to settle into Shakespeare's language, and while that was happening I looked over all the characters who were on stage at the beginning and suddenly recalled the scene from the third season of "Slings and Arrows" in which Charles Kingman, meeting the rest of the cast in a production for which he had been invited to play Lear, asks the woman playing Cordelia how much she weighs and reacts very rudely to her answer of 107 pounds. This Lear would not have needed to do that even if he had been twice as rude a person: Yoakum's Lear is physically robust even as his mind breaks and breaks again into smaller bits.

Cordelia and Goneril both also had very robust physical presences. Goneril was tall and Cordelia was just very much present. Regan was more withdrawn and quiet, which made the later scene with Gloucester particularly horrible and creepy. I had forgotten how funny Goneril is; horribly funny, but funny. Another thing that struck me was that, when she has her first tantrum, she behaved and sounded really exactly like Lear just had when he flew into a rage at Cordelia and exiled her.

Edgar's first appearance was made with his hair falling into his eyes and a wineglass in his hand; he was clearly pie-eyed and may not have been completely sober until sometime after his transformation into a Bedlam boy. This made his complete cozening by Edmund more plausible than is sometimes the case. And of course it lighted up what's already present, his gaining clarity while feigning madness. Edmund was very well done; I had remembered that he is funny, but actors vary in how well they manage this, and this one did a very good job.

Armin Schimerman was an excellent Fool, much smaller than Lear but much more mentally present. The production also did something I don't remember seeing before. The Fool simply vanishes from the proceedings during the thunderstorm. At the end of the play Lear says, "And my poor fool is hanged," and there is, or was, much speculation about whether he means the actual Fool or is using a fond term for his daughter Cordelia. The parts were probably doubled originally, which explains the Fool's disappearance so that Cordelia can reappear from her exile, but it's still very weird how the Fool just falls silent. When Isabel Monk played the part, she deliberately withdrew and turned her back on the entire situation, wracked with many feelings. In this production, as Lear's mind breaks down, he stabs and kills the Fool without knowing it, to the horror of Kent and Edgar.

I was sad that they cut so much of Edgar's speech when he's persuading his father that they are standing at the edge of the cliffs of Dover when really he's been leading Gloucester in circles, but the scene was very affecting anyway. And they did leave in the bit during the torture of Gloucester where the one servant objects to what is being done and is killed for his pity. C.S. Lewis has said somewhere that while that is a very small part, it's the part he would want to play in actual life.

Pamela
pameladean: (Default)
Eric is away visiting family, so I am looking in on the cat once a day. I took the bus and walked the five blocks from 38th Street, though it was a blustery gray damp day. I ended up one block too far west, which meant that I came to his place along the block where we generally park Lydy's car when we borrow it. The people who live there have a lovely garden, and while this is not at all in evidence at the moment, I still looked the yard over out of habit. Under the big evergreen in the side yard was a large piece of blue cardboard hand-lettered in black: “We are now living in an age which doubts both fact and value. It is the life of this age that we wish to see and judge. Flannery O'Connor.”

When I went home again I took the 9 to its confluence with the 23, and was glad that I had, because the wind had risen a lot and the air had if anything gotten damper. As I was waiting for the 23, I saw across the street and a little way further east a house with a white-painted concrete-block wall around its yard. On the alley side of the wall, facing the eastbound traffic, someone had painted neatly in black, "And so we beat on, boats against the current, ceaselessly borne back into the past. F. Scott Fitzgerald." On the wall facing the street directly, there were two more painted quotations. The one on the left was, "Remember that justice is what love looks like in public. Cornell West." On the right, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. Elie Wiesel." I walked down to try to take photos, but my phone wasn't good enough to get an image from across the street, and the bus was coming. I'm pretty sure I got these right; though two of them are not quite accurate in spelling or wording, the gist is quite well preserved.

I wonder what this outbreak portends.

Just before I left I had done a flurry of self-promotional posts about my Patreon and the links to locations where books of mine are on sale. When I got home I was somewhat startled and very pleased to see that I had six new supporters. When I was talking to Raphael about this, Raphael suggested that I should remember to lock my cat photos so that only patrons could see them. I said I'd try to do better but that I hated locking people out and that I really valued every single $1 a month supporter. "But a dollar a month gets you cat photos, doesn't it?" said Raphael. I began to agree and then remembered. "No. A dollar a month gets you the revision reports. Cat photos are five dollars a month." "Oh well!" said Raphael. "After all, they're cat photos. Where else on the internet could you get something like that?" I said that I knew I was Doin' it Wrong. But that is in fact why I keep making the cat photos public.

After this I made what was allegedly an Irish stew with tempeh. It was good, but I'm not sure about the Irish part.

Pamela
pameladean: (Default)
The vegetarian portion of the household gets the majority of its groceries from Coborns' Delivers. We have been doing this since Coborns' was Simon's. Before that I went out on the bus to shop, but after one strenuous exertion to get everything into the house, I actually weighed the groceries to see if they were really heavy or if I was just whiny. Ninety pounds. All right, then.

In any case, I went out onto the porch to get the groceries in on Monday afternoon, and when I opened the first tote I thought they had given us the wrong order (this has happened once in about a decade) or at least one tote from somebody else's order (this has also happened just once, resulting in the contribution to the downstairs of a collection of strange but sometimes delectable foods like frozen waffles, breakfast sausages, and some kind of strange roll). The top item was a plastic box of blueberry mini-muffins, with a sticker on it saying "Oops! We were out of the item you ordered and substituted this." I had not ordered anything for which a box of mini-muffins could be considered a substitute. I checked the packing list, which did mention that they had not delivered or charged me for a yellow bell pepper because they were out. This was fine; they'd been having a sale on red, yellow, and orange bell peppers and I'd gotten some of each on principle, not because I must have a yellow bell pepper. But obviously one does not substitute blueberry muffins for bell peppers of any color. I brought things in and put them away and checked the website to see if I had mistakenly ordered some kind of pastry, but of course the printed list was just taken from the website and there were no pastries thereon.

I put the package on top of the dishwasher and went to consult Raphael, who allowed as how it would be interesting to at least try a muffin before I offered them to the more omnivorous downstairs people. (We know from experience that we get to keep what is delivered in error, whether we want it or not.) I ended up eating one myself -- it was all right, but I prefer more blueberries in my blueberry muffins.

The cats had been having a hungry day, beginning with fussing at me from seven in the morning on and going right through to demanding food at hours they are not fed and being everlasting nuisances any time I was trying to eat something or even just stepped into the kitchen. I did give them extra treats, but the treats don't have many calories and were evidently insufficient. They get a quarter can of wet food each at around nine in the evening, and were in full-on trompling mode, walking on the laptop keyboard and chewing on the edge of the screen and knocking things off my desk, til I went into my bedroom and read a Sue Grafton book, which provided less scope for demonstrations. Saffron did steal the bookmark and murder it, but she may do that even when not hungry. When it was time I gave them the wet food, which did not prevent their sitting upright and intrigued on either side of the computer while I ate the late dinner that Raphael had produced. This dinner was actually vegan, but they wanted it anyway.

They followed me into the kitchen when I took my empty plate in, so I rinsed it carefully and put it in a stack of others. They didn't come back to the office with me, but shortly I heard an alarming crackly slam, as of a breakable object hitting the floor, followed by a series of exclamations from Raphael. I ran in and was asked to "CORRAL THEM" so that Raphael could pick up the mess. I was fearing broken glass, but evidently a plastic tray full of blueberry muffins makes quite a racket on a wood floor. I put Cassie through the door into the cat-sitting room, but she went back into the kitchen while I was securing Saffron. A second try netted me Cass while Saffron prudently retired to the top of the cat tree and looked innocent, so I shut the door on them. Four muffins were still in the box, so we kept those and Raphael put the rest, in various stages of disintegration, into the organics recycling, peeling off the paper cups where they had not already been savaged by cat teeth. R's primary concern had been that Cassie, after giving a muffin a killing shake, had been gnawing at the paper.

When things were cleared up I opened the door again and they both rushed in and cleaned every minute particle of muffin or paper from the floor.

They were of course entirely unrepentant, and once Raphael was over the worry that Cassie would bolt a lot of paper and then return it in a nastier form to the carpet, we had a good laugh over the killing shake. No muffin will ever harm us while Cass is around.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
I'm posting this both because it's been too long since I posted anything other than a plea for help with tree services and other domestic matters, and in order to see how crossposting from Dreamwidth to LJ is going to work for me.

A couple of weeks ago, the last leaves came off the ivy at the corner of the roof where the sunrooms at the front of the house meet the main body of the house. It looked weird to me. I finally got a look at it in good daylight and realized with dismay that the intermittent gnawing of squirrels that I had been hearing was not, in fact, their fruitless attack on the fortified window air conditioners, but a successful attempt to chew right through the fascia board and into the attic. Raphael and I had both heard the thunder of squirrel feet, which sounded pretty much like cats running overhead, except that we don't have cats in the attic. I provided this news to such fellow residents as were at home and started looking around for a small, reliable, cost-effective outfit to deal with the squirrels.

In the interim, the handle broke off the upstairs bathroom faucet. David had a terrible cold and was not available either for faucet replacement or for anything involving using his voice, which was on strike. I called our usual plumber, who had very strong opinions on what kind of faucet was best -- certainly not the kind that had broken -- and where I should get it, and said he would install it when I had gotten it.

In a frenzy, I got on a bus and went over to Park Supply America in our old neighborhood -- it's at the corner of 26th Street and 27th Avenue -- and bought the cheapest faucet they had in the brand recommended by the plumber. This was not, as it turned out, the optimal faucet for the various uses to which it is put, and in my frenzy I had failed to inquire about these. Raphael had assumed that I would get the same kind as the one that had broken, but I had taken against it because it did break, and also because it was rather vehement for the size of the sink and tended to get water on the floor. However, we are waiting to see how it will work out. I do recommend Park Supply, though; they apparently have All the Faucets and are very nice people.

Raphael, now up and ready to face the day, came out and collected me and the faucet and took us home, then departed on errands; and I called the plumber, who had expressed a strong disinclination to begin work after three and then get caught in before-Christmas traffic. We were perilously near his deadline, but he was no longer in his comfortable office, but finishing up another job nearby, and decided he'd rather do the work that day than the next. So he came out and installed the new faucet, observing to me that "that faucet you picked out" -- a very optimistic view of what had happened -- did not have a pop-up assembly. I did not see why any faucet should have a pop-up assembly, until he explained that it was a part of the drain that comes with most faucets and enables one to raise and lower the stopper by means of a lever attached to the faucet. I did not expostulate about how he had told me a brand, not explained that faucets usually BUT NOT ALWAYS come with drain assemblies and parts that sound like entertainment for small children. In any case, he had a standard drain assembly in his truck that he installed, and we have the stopper from that, which works fine; you just have to pry it up with your fingers when you want to empty the basin, and we almost never fill it up in the first place.

The plumber takes cash or checks only, so I wrote him one. Then I started looking for a squirrel whisperer. I got an email from Angie's List at about that time reminding me that Angie's List is now free, so I joined it and looked for squirrel whisperers, or Wildlife Exclusion and Control experts, as they are formally called. I found a guy who sounded perfect. He answered his phone at once but told me he wasn't working at present because he was laid up with a bad knee. He asked where I lived and recommended the pleasingly-named Beast Wildlife, which is in South Minneapolis. I called them and left a message. It was now December 23rd, so I was not unbearably surprised not to hear back. On Boxing Day I did get a call back, followed very shortly by a pleasant and mellow young man named Keith, who referred to going up into the attic as "entering the abyss." He confirmed the presence of squirrels and set up some traps, and a trail camera that would text him when it noticed movement, and would email him photos of what was going on. I think this is extremely cool. Thus far he has removed four squirrels in traps and noticed a dead one that he will try to remove once the live ones are out. Over the past weekend he took the traps away but left the camera and some bait, and on Monday he came back with another trap, because there was yet another squirrel. I expected to hear from him today that it was in the trap, but it must be cannier than the other ones.

Keith also noticed that a vent in the roof was missing its roof boot, leaving a back door for the squirrels, as it were; and recommended that we get a roofer to deal with that. I called one, again from Angie's List, and they came out early the following morning, examined the situation, and emailed me an estimate, and were calling by ten a.m. to ask if I wanted them to do the work or not. I did, so they came out and put a thing like a gigantic thermos on the roof vent. They didn't stay to be paid and apparently take credit cards, which is just as well, because the squirrel whisperers only take cash or checks.

Sometime while all this was going on, the heater for David's waterbed died. We had a discussion in which he said that in the long run he wanted to switch back to a regular bed, but didn't want to rush into it, so he ordered a new heater. Yesterday he went to drain the waterbed so that he could extract the old heater and install the new one, but had to stop the process because the basement floor drain was backing up. This meant no running the dishwashers or doing laundry, and threw into doubt whether it would be a good idea to take any showers in the morning. I had various horrible visions of terrible failures and hideous amounts of money. David, now recovered, took care of calling drain people, and they found that the issue was actually some kind of blockage in the laundry line. We have had this issue before, and may need to change the lint trap on the washer more regularly. In any case, the charge for that was moderate enough that David just wrote them a check.

I sincerely hope that nothing else will break any time soon.

Pamela

I think the default footer that will appear on the LJ version of this post says to comment on DW, but it's fine with me if you comment on LJ. If the comments turn out to be disabled, I'll have to fix that.

ETA: Okay, that didn't work, trying again.

I just cut and pasted this manually, but I think I know what I messed up, so maybe next time it will all go smoothly.
pameladean: (Default)
I'm posting this both because it's been too long since I posted anything other than a plea for help with tree services and other domestic matters, and in order to see how crossposting from Dreamwidth to LJ is going to work for me.

A couple of weeks ago, the last leaves came off the ivy at the corner of the roof where the sunrooms at the front of the house meet the main body of the house. It looked weird to me. I finally got a look at it in good daylight and realized with dismay that the intermittent gnawing of squirrels that I had been hearing was not, in fact, their fruitless attack on the fortified window air conditioners, but a successful attempt to chew right through the fascia board and into the attic. Raphael and I had both heard the thunder of squirrel feet, which sounded pretty much like cats running overhead, except that we don't have cats in the attic. I provided this news to such fellow residents as were at home and started looking around for a small, reliable, cost-effective outfit to deal with the squirrels.

In the interim, the handle broke off the upstairs bathroom faucet. David had a terrible cold and was not available either for faucet replacement or for anything involving using his voice, which was on strike. I called our usual plumber, who had very strong opinions on what kind of faucet was best -- certainly not the kind that had broken -- and where I should get it, and said he would install it when I had gotten it.

In a frenzy, I got on a bus and went over to Park Supply America in our old neighborhood -- it's at the corner of 26th Street and 27th Avenue -- and bought the cheapest faucet they had in the brand recommended by the plumber. This was not, as it turned out, the optimal faucet for the various uses to which it is put, and in my frenzy I had failed to inquire about these. Raphael had assumed that I would get the same kind as the one that had broken, but I had taken against it because it did break, and also because it was rather vehement for the size of the sink and tended to get water on the floor. However, we are waiting to see how it will work out. I do recommend Park Supply, though; they apparently have All the Faucets and are very nice people.

Raphael, now up and ready to face the day, came out and collected me and the faucet and took us home, then departed on errands; and I called the plumber, who had expressed a strong disinclination to begin work after three and then get caught in before-Christmas traffic. We were perilously near his deadline, but he was no longer in his comfortable office, but finishing up another job nearby, and decided he'd rather do the work that day than the next. So he came out and installed the new faucet, observing to me that "that faucet you picked out" -- a very optimistic view of what had happened -- did not have a pop-up assembly. I did not see why any faucet should have a pop-up assembly, until he explained that it was a part of the drain that comes with most faucets and enables one to raise and lower the stopper by means of a lever attached to the faucet. I did not expostulate about how he had told me a brand, not explained that faucets usually BUT NOT ALWAYS come with drain assemblies and parts that sound like entertainment for small children. In any case, he had a standard drain assembly in his truck that he installed, and we have the stopper from that, which works fine; you just have to pry it up with your fingers when you want to empty the basin, and we almost never fill it up in the first place.

The plumber takes cash or checks only, so I wrote him one. Then I started looking for a squirrel whisperer. I got an email from Angie's List at about that time reminding me that Angie's List is now free, so I joined it and looked for squirrel whisperers, or Wildlife Exclusion and Control experts, as they are formally called. I found a guy who sounded perfect. He answered his phone at once but told me he wasn't working at present because he was laid up with a bad knee. He asked where I lived and recommended the pleasingly-named Beast Wildlife, which is in South Minneapolis. I called them and left a message. It was now December 23rd, so I was not unbearably surprised not to hear back. On Boxing Day I did get a call back, followed very shortly by a pleasant and mellow young man named Keith, who referred to going up into the attic as "entering the abyss." He confirmed the presence of squirrels and set up some traps, and a trail camera that would text him when it noticed movement, and would email him photos of what was going on. I think this is extremely cool. Thus far he has removed four squirrels in traps and noticed a dead one that he will try to remove once the live ones are out. Over the past weekend he took the traps away but left the camera and some bait, and on Monday he came back with another trap, because there was yet another squirrel. I expected to hear from him today that it was in the trap, but it must be cannier than the other ones.

Keith also noticed that a vent in the roof was missing its roof boot, leaving a back door for the squirrels, as it were; and recommended that we get a roofer to deal with that. I called one, again from Angie's List, and they came out early the following morning, examined the situation, and emailed me an estimate, and were calling by ten a.m. to ask if I wanted them to do the work or not. I did, so they came out and put a thing like a gigantic thermos on the roof vent. They didn't stay to be paid and apparently take credit cards, which is just as well, because the squirrel whisperers only take cash or checks.

Sometime while all this was going on, the heater for David's waterbed died. We had a discussion in which he said that in the long run he wanted to switch back to a regular bed, but didn't want to rush into it, so he ordered a new heater. Yesterday he went to drain the waterbed so that he could extract the old heater and install the new one, but had to stop the process because the basement floor drain was backing up. This meant no running the dishwashers or doing laundry, and threw into doubt whether it would be a good idea to take any showers in the morning. I had various horrible visions of terrible failures and hideous amounts of money. David, now recovered, took care of calling drain people, and they found that the issue was actually some kind of blockage in the laundry line. We have had this issue before, and may need to change the lint trap on the washer more regularly. In any case, the charge for that was moderate enough that David just wrote them a check.

I sincerely hope that nothing else will break any time soon.

Pamela

I think the default footer that will appear on the LJ version of this post says to comment on DW, but it's fine with me if you comment on LJ. If the comments turn out to be disabled, I'll have to fix that.

ETA: Okay, that didn't work, trying again.
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Jim Hines is doing a fundraiser for Transgender Michigan, and I've donated a set of autographed books. Details below:

Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] jimhines at TGM Fundraiser: Autographed Books by Pamela Dean

Welcome to the penultimate 2016 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auction!


Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464. Every tax-deductible donation helps them continue to provide support, advocacy, and education.


Today’s auction is for a set of books from Pamela Dean, including signed hardcover first editions of THE DUBIOUS HILLS and JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY, along with a signed mass-market paperback set of the reissue of the SECRET COUNTRY trilogy. That’s a total of five autographed books for you to enjoy!


Cover of The Dubious Hills Cover of Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary Cover of The Secret Country


About THE DUBIOUS HILLS: Centuries after a group of warring wizards eliminate war from the Dubious Hills, the Hills are a place where knowledge and ability are parcelled out in strange ways. Only the group known as the Akoumi understand death, only the Gnosi know how to teach, and only the Physici can know pain. Dean weaves a strange and compelling examination of knowledge, responsiblity and death.


About JUNIPER, GENTIAN, AND ROSEMARY: Three sisters live comfortably with their parents: Juniper, 16, who likes cooking and computer chats; Gentian, 13, who likes plays and astronomy; Rosemary, 11, who likes Girl Scouts. Enter Dominic, handsome as the night, quoting poetry, telling riddles, and asking help for a complex and fascinating science project. Gentian isn’t interested at first–she has her own life. But gradually her life, and her time, belong more and more to Dominic and his project, and her father begins to fear that the lad may be more than a charmer…


About THE SECRET COUNTRY: Each vacation for the past nine years, cousins Patrick, Ruth, Ellen, Ted, and Laura have played a game they call the “Secret”—and invented, scripted world full of witches, unicorns, a magic ring, court intrigue, and the Dragon King. In the Secret, they can imagine anything into reality, and shape destiny. Then the unbelievable happens: by trick or by chance, they actually find themselves in the Secret Country, their made-up identities now real. The five have arrived at the start of their games, with the Country on the edge of war. What was once exciting and wonderful now looms threateningly before them, and no one is sure how to stop it… or if they will ever get back home.


Note: Books have been stored in a house with cats, and may be dusty.


This auction is open to U.S. residents.


How to bid:



  1. Minimum bid is $30 U.S. Bidding starts at http://www.jimchines.com/2016/12/tgm-fundraiser-dean/ the moment this post goes live!

  2. Enter your bid in the comments. Bids must be a minimum of $1 more than the previous bid. (No bouncing from $20.01 to $20.02 to $20.03 and so on.) Make sure to include an email address I can use to contact you.

  3. Each auction will run for 24 hours, starting at noon Eastern time and running until noon the following day.

  4. To discourage last-minute sniping, I’ll wait until 10 minutes after the last bid to close an auction.

  5. If you want to be notified about other bids, check the “Subscribe to Comments” box when you bid.


Winning the auction:


I’ll contact the winner, who will then donate the winning bid to Transgender Michigan. You’ll forward me a copy of the receipt, at which point, I’ll contact the donor to arrange delivery of your winnings.


About Pamlea Dean:


Pamela Dean is the author of The Secret Country trilogy (The Secret Country, The Hidden Land, and The Whim of the Dragon); Tam Lin; The Dubious Hills; Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary; a handful of short stories; and Points of Departure with Patricia Wrede. She was born in the Midwest of the USA, and aside from a few aberrant periods spent in upstate New York and Massachusetts, she has stubbornly remained there. She attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, which in a somewhat altered state is the setting for her novel Tam Lin. She lives in a cluttered duplex in Minneapolis with her chosen family, about fifteen thousand books, and a variable number of cats. She enjoys hiking, gardening, cooking, reading, being a part of local science-fiction fandom, and attending the theater. She understands that writers are supposed to have colorful careers, but on the whole she prefers as quiet a life as the family and the cats will permit.


#


Don’t forget about the DAW Raffle!


My publisher, DAW Books, has agreed to contribute:


6 Tad Williams Bundles: each bundle includes one copy of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (hardcover first edition, first printing)  plus 1 Advance Review Copy of The Heart of What Was Lost.


6 DAW December Release Bundles: each bundle includes one copy of all DAW December titles: Dreamweaver, Tempest, Alien Nation, and Jerusalem Fire, plus a bonus ARC (dependent on stock).


At any time between now and the end of the day on December 23, donate $5 to Transgender Michigan and email me a copy of the receipt at jchines -at- gmail.com, with the subject line “DAW Raffle Entry.” Each week, I’ll pick at least one donor to win their choice of either a Tad Williams or a December Release bundle from DAW.


You can donate more than $5. For example, donating $20 would get you four entries. However, you can only win a maximum of one of each bundle. This is separate from the individual auctions. Winning an auction does not count as a raffle entry.






Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
So I filed our taxes late again and am therefore only now narrowing down the not-very-appetizing choices remaining on MNSure for health insurance for David and me. I found a pretty good and a slightly better plan; the first is through Health Partners and the second through UCare. Both of them have a lot of complaints on the BBB site and scattered about here and there. My mother, who used to work for an insurance company and still has an interest in how they operate, is not very enthusiastic about Health Partners, though the anecdotal evidence she has is somewhat outdated. Health Partners seems to have inspired a lot more annoyance and dislike in the people it billed for premiums they had paid, whose doctors it made repeatedly re-authorize the same prescriptions, and so on. I have had a UCare plan before and, aside from having a very primitive website, they did not do anything egregious during the year I was their customer. But the Health Partners plan has a lower co-insurance and a lower co-pay. What to do, what to do? I'm leaning towards UCare, partly because they use the Fairview provider network.

A major annoyance in all this is that no plan available on the exchange includes HCMC in its network. I've been at HCMC since 2002 and I really don't want to leave, but we are eligible for quite a hefty subsidy on the exchange and really couldn't afford any health insurance if we had to pay all of it. But I am viewing all other provider networks with a very jaundiced eye. Anyway--

If anybody has experience with either provider that seems relevant to this choice, I'd love to hear it.

Thanks so much. One day I will make a post with actual content.

P.S. The upshot of the last problem I asked for advice about was that [livejournal.com profile] lsanderson most kindly came over and took down all the tiny trees with a Sawsall and a green-wood blade. He did this on the last day before it snowed for the first time back in November. I failed to bundle up the branches in time for the last yard-waste pickup of the year and was still contemplating doing so and calling the city, as the city say sone may, to arrange for an out-of-the-ordinary yard-waste pickup. In the meantime I took [livejournal.com profile] coffeeem's recommendation of A-Tree Service, and they dealt with the larger trees that had got tangled up in the powerl ines, and with the one branch of the Chinese elm that was hanging threateningly over the garage and rubbing on the tree's main trunk while it did so. The day, which involved Xcel energy's dropping the power lines and the power consequently being out for about five hours, felt quite traumatic at the time, but it all worked out well aside from the hole left in the bank account. As a very nice bonus, when they cleaned up all the branches they had cut themselves they also took all of Larry's. Thanks to all who made suggestions and recommendations.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
I have a new phone with a more primitive camera, and I forgot my real actual camera, so you'll have to make do with words.

It was 47 degrees and sunny today, so I went for a walk. Everything has that swept-clean, expansive feeling that comes after all the leaves are down. Houses that are veiled by leaves in other seasons stand out, and you remember again that the red one has that funny round window and the gray one has a strange little corner porch on the back and the blue one has that look-again-no-really side dormer that looks as if somebody was quite drunk when designing it. The grass is still brilliant green, and small fantastical castles made of half-melted leftover snow stand around upon it. Here and there a sunken partial snow person leans sideways. Most leaves of all kinds are down. Rosebushes are still turning red. Some are still flowering. A sheltered garden has here a bright yellow snapdragon plant blooming away, and there a clump of chrysanthemums, bright red or white or wildly golden. Creeping phlox and sedum and periwinkle are all evergreen in milder climates, and they are as green and creeping as can be, though not in bloom.

Everybody was out with dogs and children in strollers. Chickadees uttered short, sharp warnings, maybe about me, maybe about hawks. House sparrows contended about deep philosophical issues, or perhaps about territory or food.

Nobody has dug up my bulbs yet.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Well, no pies slid from their cookie sheet, flipped entirely over, and landed right side up with no loss of filling; nor did I forget and bake the shell before I put the pumpkin filling in. (The pumpkin pie is vegan, made with silken tofu, and the other pie I make with tofu has a no-bake filling that you just chill; however, the pumpkin filling wants baking in an ordinary way, and half the time I forget and end up double-baking the crust.) The pie dough, however, was a nightmare. I realized belatedly that I'd had similar problems with David's lemon meringue pie on his birthday, and concluded in time to throw out the last 7/8ths of a cup that the current batch of flour was to blame. It's unbelievably dry. I didn't put in so much extra water that the texture of the crusts was affected -- opting for crumbly crust that split and had to be patched and looks as if a batch of mice had crimped it while playing hide-and-seek -- but I put in enough extra water over the permitted 2 teaspoons that the crust tastes distinctly under-salted. I tasted the dough and knew this was an issue, but I didn't begin to know how much extra salt would work, and it was not the stage where salt goes in in any case.

Nobody will starve, however.

I should stop typing and drink my tea and start prepping vegetables. The diabetic regimen suggests, in lieu of weighing All the Things, filling a quarter of one's plate with protein, a quarter with starch, and the rest with vegetables. So I'm going to roast several different kinds and serve them in separate bowls, since there are a number of people with Very Strong Opinions about which vegetables are edible and which are not who will be foregathering for dinner. Many guests don't really care about the vegetables and are happy if they have turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and pie. But they will put a few spoonfuls of green or orange on the edge of their plates as long as it isn't the wrong kind of green or orange. And a few actually like vegetables.

I am very grateful for all of you guys here on LJ, and the people who aren't on LJ but comment sometimes anyway. May your Thursday, whether a holiday or just a day, be as bright as November permits.

Pamela

Edited for words out.
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Note: I've put in hardcover first editions of The Dubious Hills and Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary (one each) and one paperback set of the Secret Country trilogy, in the second edition published by Firebird.


Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] jimhines at Fundraiser for Transgender Michigan

I met Rachel Crandall more than twenty years ago, when I first started volunteering at the Listening Ear crisis center in East Lansing, Michigan.


I remember some of the conversations we had as she was coming out, and some of the challenges she talked about. We fell out of touch for a while, as happens sometimes. When we reconnected again years later, I was amazed at the things Rachel had accomplished, including founding the International Transgender Day of Visibility and working with her partner, Susan Crocker, to start what I believe was the first transgender helpline in the country.Transgender Michigan Helpline image


Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464.


We know transgender youth are at a higher risk of depression and suicide, and these coming months and years could be very difficult. Therefore, I’ve enlisted some very generous SF/F friends to put together a fundraiser to help Transgender Michigan continue their important work providing support, education, and advocacy.


 


24 Auctions in 24 Days


Each day at noon (with the exception of Thanksgiving weekend), I’ll post an auction from one of the people listed below. It could be for autographed books, a manuscript critique, a Tuckerization (where you get to be a minor character in an upcoming book), or something else altogether. Bidding will take place in the comments, one bid at a time.


The following day at noon, I’ll close the bidding and notify the winner. The winner then donates their bid to Transgender Michigan and sends me the receipt, at which point I’ll send your information to the donor so they can hook you up with your winnings.


Transgender Michigan is a 501(c)(3) Michigan nonprofit corporation, which means your donation is tax deductible.


Note: I will wait until 10 minutes after the last bid to close an auction. That will hopefully reduce the impact of last-second sniping.


 


Bonus Raffle from DAW Books


That’s right, there’s more! My publisher, DAW Books, has agreed to give away:


6 Tad Williams Bundles: each bundle includes one copy of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow (hardcover first edition, first printing)  plus 1 Advance Review Copy of The Heart of What Was Lost.


6 DAW December Release Bundles: each bundle includes one copy of all DAW December titles: Dreamweaver, Tempest, Alien Nation, and Jerusalem Fire, plus a bonus ARC (dependent on stock).


Have I mentioned before how amazing my publisher is?


How can you win one of these awesome bundles? That’s easy. At any time between now and the end of the fundraiser, simply donate $5 to Transgender Michigan and email me a copy of the receipt at jchines -at- gmail.com, with the subject line “DAW Raffle Entry.”


Each week, I’ll pick at least one donor to win their choice of either a Tad Williams or a December Release bundle from DAW. (Which means the earlier you enter, the better your chances of winning!)


You can donate more than $5 if you want more than one entry. For example, donating $20 would get you four entries. However, you can only win a maximum of one of each bundle.


This is separate from the individual auctions. Winning an auction does not count as a raffle entry.


 


Our Donors


Here are the donors for the fundraiser.



#


Yesterday was the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, memorializing those “who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.” In my mind, that makes today the perfect time to work to make things better.


My thanks to everyone who helped make this happen. Please spread the word about the fundraiser, and about the individual auctions as they go live.


And if you want a hint about tomorrow’s auction? Well…let’s just say the Force will be with you, always.






Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Several weeks ago, when it was warm and forecast to stay that way for at least another week, my email box filled up with tempting offers from seed and bulb companies. I held out and held out and suddenly succumbed to a batch of white tulips, a batch of red ones, and, apparently, two lily bulbs. The price was very good indeed. As time went by I wondered briefly from time to time where the bulbs were, but the events of November have generally been so horrifying and distracting that I never wondered long enough to recheck my email to track the package after I got a notification that the order had shipped.

It arrived over the weekend. I put it on the coffee table in despair and did my weekend things. This morning I was awakened by the second tree service I got in touch with, letting me know that Cory would be over in a little while. I put on a random assortment of clothing; fortunately I'd taken my medication already, but I hadn't had any tea. Cory was very pleasant and gave me an estimate of slightly over a thousand dollars for the work. I made some sound about this and he assumed I was relieved that it wasn't more. He explained that it wasn't more because the trimming was mostly very straightforward except for the Chinese elm.

Anyway, this was all very daunting and awful, though hardly on a par with other daunting and awful events recently. If all I had to worry about was paying to trim the trees, I'd be much happier. In any case, it was a lovely day, not all that warm, but warmer than it's going to be and quite sunny. I didn't think the ground was frozen yet. It lacked that hard lumpy texture, and bare patches of earth were just muddy. So after the nice tree man left, and after the tea and the acetaminophen for a nagging headache, and after putting in some laundry and despairing of everything (which happens at least once a day at the moment) and getting over it, I collected gardening gloves and a shovel and the bulbs and went outside.

In palmier days I got most of my bulbs from White Flower Farm. White Flower Farm will practically send you the history of planting methods plus the current extremely detailed recommendation, a little separate sheet for each type of bulb. Park Seed (which was apparently subsumed by Jackson and Perkins at some point when I wasn't looking) sent a sheet with basic instructions for each major category of bulb. White Flower Farm also labels its bags. Park Seed/whoever probably does too if they are not heavily discounted and made up into lots to be got rid of before it's too late, but these basically said how many bulbs each bag contained and where they came from (Holland). I think one of them did say it had tulips, and what kind they were, and another indicated that what was in it would have red flowers. The bag of what I think were lily bulbs was quite innocent of any description.

I found some places in the front yard where nothing appeared to be growing, dug some holes one by one, put in three to five tulip bulbs per hole with a fine disregard for how far apart the bulbs were supposed to be, slid the lump of damp soil from the shovel back in place, and stomped things down. Where they were nearby I scuffed fallen maple leaves over the stomped earth. Then I dug an individual hole for each lily bulb and filled it back up and scuffed leaves over them too. It may be that I am only feeding the mice and squirrels. They don't eat lilies, but they are quite capable of digging them up just to say Ewwww.

I guess we'll see. I have no idea what anything will be like come spring.

When I made the order, I thought of the line "busily planning for the resurrection," which I mistakenly associated with Iris Murdoch's husband's essay about looking after her when she had dementia. When I told [livejournal.com profile] elisem I had ordered bulbs, she quoted the line more accurately and attributed it to E.B. White. A quick search on her phone proved her correct. It's possible that Iris Murdoch's husband referred to that line in his essay, but just as possible that I misfiled the scene in my head.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Hello hello! I have a huge backlog of things I want to write about, from my last hike of the season with Raphael to camping with Eric and doing early voting and going to see Ten Thousand Things' production of Pericles to my adventures with David in recovering my camera from a rental-car company's lost-and-found office in the twilight zone.

But right now I'm hoping some people local to me can recommend a tree service. Things have been neglected around here for too long. We need trees trimmed back from the house and from the power lines; there are bunch of volunteer trees that are a bit large for me to remove, though I could do it if I had to; and there's a big Chinese elm back by the garage that needs some attention.

An extremely nice man came out from Rainbow and opined that, while they would be happy to do the work, most of it did not require the services of trained arborists, and if you asked trained arborists to cut down a bunch of little trees and haul them away, it would take a lot of time and would cost us a bundle of money. He named a number that made me blanch and suggested getting some other bids. So I am thinking of saving the Chinese elm for Rainbow at some later date, and getting some competent people who aren't quite so exalted in their expertise for the rest of the work.

Recommend away, I beg of you! If you are comfortable with saying how much various services charged to do your work, and what the work was, that would be excellent.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
No, that's not right.

I just launched my Patreon. Here is the link:

https://patreon.com/user?u=320980

Please spread the word.

*runs off, hides under bed with cats*

Pamela

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