Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Random Number of Updates of Moderate Length

Doing fun things on the weekend has never been something we are very good at. I grew up on a farm, where weekends were for doing farm things, so I never got used to it. Anyway, doing fun stuff generally requires a surplus supply of a couple of basic things like time, money, and energy. So our weekends consist of DOB sleeping on Saturday while I do work and keep the kids quiet, and then me resting on Sunday afternoon while he (and sometimes a designated pusher) goes to the Y to get in a lot of workout and therapy.

BUT we managed one fun weekend this month. Bookworm and Rocketboy took me and the kids to the Science Center to see the Pompeii exhibit before it leaves the US. We also naturally used the opportunity to aim lasers, fly to the moon, visit butterflies, and all the other stuff science museums were for. Though by far the most memorable item was the presentation with liquid nitrogen which led to lots of further discussions on the point at which various materials melt or condense.

Then on Sunday DOB took all the kids to the Y and paid for them to go in so they could swim, too, not just wait on the sidelines. And they got ice cream. They were beyond thrilled.

That was a brutal Monday. I don't think we'll have fun again for awhile.

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After avoiding medicine for the better part of a decade, I finally decided to go in for a checkup. The nurse noted that my sinuses looked bad. Well, I suppose they feel bad, too, I just try not to think about it. This is my standard approach to illness. It is not without reason, as my experience is that no proposed remedy (standard or natural) makes me feel any different. Or any substance at all, really. My body just lumbers along, doing its thing, without much regard to what is thrown at it, though it tends to put up a protest at lack of food.

So far the sinus remedies are living up to expectation. Except now that I've noticed my sinuses hurt, it bothers me more. Ignoring them was also a lot cheaper.

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We have four more weeks of school. Four. more. weeks. It should be five, but we're going to squish it into four, because we have to finish before Duchess's birthday. At least we should be able to come respectably close to finishing this year, unlike last year when nearly everything got tossed to the wind.

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Although we are not a lot of fun, we have reinstituted our summer tradition of Tuesday Movie Nights and so far have seen National Velvet, Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, and a somewhat debatable Kidnapped. I'm happy to report that we have produced four children who cannot help but point out all the ways the movie deviates from the book. (Though they were pretty happy with Harry Potter.) Part of this tradition is popsicles. I'm thinking I might want to branch out a little bit from my standard mushy-banana-and-peaches combo, so maybe I'll try some of these.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Books Read . . . Whenever


So, I'm already far behind on keeping track of books for this year. And it certainly hasn't been a good time for especially deep or challenging books. But let me see what I can still remember.

Idylls of the King, Tennyson
OK, not deep except for this one. But this was with an online book club, or I probably wouldn't have kept plowing. Tennyson's take on Arthur is unique. In his portrayal, Arthur is not Mordred's father--which means that the undoing of the Round Table doesn't come from Arthur--or at least not so directly. Rather Tennyson focuses on the roles of ideals and idealism and our own failure to live up to them. Arthur may be an innocent figure, but he is a cold one, lacking the ability to sustain love even though he inspires from a distance. He cannot sustain what he has created and it falls under its own weight.

Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett
This is one of those books I just need to read every once in a while. Despite being about witches and vampires and written by an agnostic, I find it very encouraging to my faith. I identify a lot with the Reverend Mightily Oats. Except for the acne.

The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
This is a brilliant title. The writing is good. I found the youthful hero a bit tedious, too much fabulousness at absolutely everything, but it was tempered with enough self-inflicted disasters through overconfidence that I thought he might grow up into an interesting character. And his nemesis, the mysterious Chandrian, definitely drew my curiosity. Which was all rather a pity, because then I read the second book in the series.

The Wise Man's Fear, Patrick Rothfuss
And this was still going along OK, but it was getting more and more tedious as our hero goes to ever more places and masters ever more implausibly difficult things with absurd ease, and still gets no closer to finding out anything at all about the evil horrible things he has vowed to combat, when it took a detour that left me completely uninterested in the rest of the book. I am quite willing to accept that different cultures have different morals and customs. I cannot, however, swallow a low-tech, no magic society run by female martial artists who also practice free . . . well, they don't dignify it by the name of love so neither shall I. People can have many different customs, but they can't escape basic biology (or if you intend them to, then you better *explain* their novel biology). Either they would be pregnant most of the time--which would *really* put a cramp in the daily practice of hand-to-hand combat--or their society's in real trouble because all its strongest and healthiest young women are infertile. Sorry, that's not competent worldbuilding anymore, it's just sophomoric fanfic. So I lost interest and it had to go back to the library and I probably won't bother again. I don't find philandering to add to the appeal of a hero who was already starting to bore me. But dang, I wanted to find out about those nasty Chandrian. It just never seemed like we were getting any closer to finding out.

The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, Alan Bradley
Fortunately Flavia de Luce never disappoints.

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
This was for the church book club, or I never would have read a book so currently popular. It was, nonetheless, pretty good.

Maskerade, Terry Pratchett
Not only did I need some more Granny Weatherwax, but I had to do this one again because I am leading an online discussion of Macbeth. Not that it's at all relevant. I just needed to.

Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Always my favorite tragedy. I just love bloodthirsty female villains. Lady Macbeth, Medea, even the White Witch. Let's not analyze it too closely, shall we? Or if we do, let's take a Gilbert and Sullivan approach and hope no one will hold it against me for being just a liiiitle bit bloodthirsty:

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. This was another reread, and I don't know what to say about it. If the idea of a literary dinosaur struggling for his life in a grizzly catacomb of books and monsters doesn't appeal to you, then there's no sense trying to explain. If it does, then you should just read it and the other Zamonian stories by the same author.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This was a highly entertaining take on the end of the world. When the devil becomes incarnate he finds himself siding with the carnate. I'm still pondering what I think of the theology of it all, though. Perhaps too much for a work of humor, but I think it well deserved. Hey, maybe we should read *it* for the church book club. (Insert maniacal laughter)

ETA: Of course when I wait this long I forget about two of the best ones:

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Like pretty much everything by Potok, brilliant and sad and beautiful. A young Orthodox Jew tries to reconcile his gift and passion for painting with his faith and community.

Snuff  by Terry Pratchett. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could keep writing so many great books and keep them all just as good while dying of Alzheimer's. I was sad to think this was the last one, but Bookworm assures me there is one more in the publication pipeline. RIP.

Still in process but probably going to finish someday soon:
The Royal Road to Romance, by Richard Halliburton. An old travel memoir from the days when travel was easy but McDonald's and Coca-cola had not yet invaded everywhere. A geography possibility for a few years down the road, but I found it at a second-hand store during Duchess's birthday trip (no, her birthday isn't for a couple of months yet but we found it kept getting lost in the morass) and couldn't resist the chance to get it now.

Home, by Bill Bryson. This is lots of fun, a meandering look at how the rooms and things in our houses got to be the way they were. Though the basic message seems to be that homes in the Stone Age were a lot more comfy than you might think, and homes right up through Victorian times much less.

Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens. We watched an outstanding BBC miniseries on this last month, so naturally at the end I had to pull it out and figure out what they got wrong. Not the casting, that's for sure.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Ghost of Print Jobs Past

When we moved into our proper quarters, the wireless connection on our printer stopped working. After some time of frustration, the paralegal physically connected the printer to her computer and then we sent all documents to her to print out. Clunky, but it worked for a week or two until I finally got annoyed enough to spend an hour or so in chat with tech support to get it functioning.

So the tech support took over the computer and did this, that, and the other thing. And then, suddenly, the printer came alive. And started churning out all the unsuccessful print jobs that had been tried and never properly canceled. Given the nature of our business, this turned out to be five copies of a fifty-page probate opening document.

I didn't want to turn the printer off, because the tech support people were still working their mysterious ways. So instead we dashed around trying to find which unworking copy of the printer on which computer had sent the job. I don't think we ever actually found it, but we managed to delete a few other things that would have come through next.

And now the printer is working. Which, I suppose, is worth half a ream of paper.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grammar Commando: Decimated

The Grammar Commando has been quiet for a while, but it doesn't mean she's gone away. Just been distracted.

Also, the Grammar Commando is aware that words change meaning over time. This is understandable.

Sometimes, though, it gets taken too far.

For example, the word "decimated." This comes from the Roman practice of disciplining recalcitrant regiments by killing every tenth man. As a disciplinary measure, a pretty stiff one. It seems to have worked out for the Romans, though.

 Using it to describe, say, an all but empty city in a post-apocalyptic setting makes no sense. If only a tenth of the population was killed, you could probably even keep the lights on and the gas stations working. And it's not like the root "decem" is all that obscure. I mean, if you made it through fifth grade you should have some acquaintance with decimals, and possibly even have gained some idea about the month of December.

So, if your disaster has wiped out roughly one in ten people, then it decimated the population. If it wiped out practically everyone, use a different word. Obliterated might work.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Easter Saturday

Once again I've put off blogging for so long that all the long and interesting posts I wanted to write have coalesced into a lump of tedious goo.

We've moved into our office space. The offices, which used to be consulting rooms for the medical marijuana practice that preceded us, are a little small and the waiting area is far too big for current purposes, but moving walls around is a task for another time. In the meantime, a fresh coat of paint (which I, thankfully, did *not* have to apply) has done its hoped-for work in dimming everything down, as the preceding wall colors were aqua and mint. We are getting around to getting enough chairs and working out where Ron can park the wheelchair that isn't in the door to my office or the door to the break room. Well, we haven't really worked that out yet.

For spring break I spent the entire week cleaning the house for Easter. I'm not sure what possessed me. It was just something I needed to do. I haven't really had the time and energy to deep clean the house since we moved in, and I needed to scrub every surface myself and think about the rooms and arrange some things. Many years ago I noticed around Easter that I could not get the house and the children presentable on the same day. Now that the children can mostly manage the latter themselves, I can do both, but only if I don't have to cook. And since I had a Costco rebate handy, it made more sense to source out the cooking than the cleaning. However, I'd much rather cook and once the business is well established I will probably outsource the cleaning instead.

(And yes, the children did help with the cleaning. We had a daily Plants-versus-Zombies themed card game to select appropriate tasks. If you played "Sunflower Friend" you had to go weed for ten minutes; if you drew one with a cabbagepult you had to throw fifteen things away.)

The one thing that was really missing from the food I was able to find was lemon bars. Apparently store bakeries have never heard of such things. Indeed, store bakery options are pretty lame in general: you have the options of the cake with ooky frosting, or the box of generic chocolate chip cookies. Neither seemed very Eastery, even if dyed pink. Fortunately one of my sisters-in-law came through with lemon bars, and the other one had carrot cake, so we were well stocked with the appropriate desserts. And Costco meatballs topped with Costco pineapple habanero sauce are pretty tasty and take all of three minutes to prepare.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. School has started again, and I've rewritten our schedule to fit with how work is actually shaping up, and it's working well. I'm starting to think we can really do this. One little complication is that DOB is no longer able to self-propel, which means he must take a child along to almost everywhere except the office, where he has a power chair, or for short court appearances, for which he wears braces. That has played merry havoc with chore and school schedules, but it's good that we can be flexible for now and we hope that the insurance company will find it in their heart to approve him for a scooter.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Work, work, work

Our whirlwind of travel concluded with a third trip, an overnight in Seattle in order to be part of a continuing legal education class on probates. DOB presented on how to deal with interstate issues and creditors' claims, and I got to be the example of What Not To Do in the practice skits in the afternoon.

After the very cozy and old-fashioned hotel we got in Bellingham I tried picking up a deal on a very trendy looking hotel in Seattle. When we got there I feared it might be too hipster for us, but DOB had insisted on wearing his favorite plaid flannel pajama pants for the drive up, so we fit right in.

All those trips were fun, but they would have been a lot more fun if they had not been back-to-back-to-back like that. It wasn't the way it was supposed to be, but life has a way of glomming together, like lumps in gravy.

Then there has been the aftermath--the report that needs to be written that still isn't, despite DOB working to 2 a.m one night. (Which at our age and parental status counts as an all-nighter.) I probably should have gone to sleep but I didn't--I never can sleep well if I'm waiting for something--so I read My Name is Asher Lev instead. Another GAL case that has been really busy because the alleged incapacitated person has proven very difficult to place or persuade to cooperate with, well, anything has finally ended with a trial--judge, reporter, attorneys and all traveling to the hospital to get it done--and the appointment of a guardian, which means someone besides DOB can worry about her now.

Meanwhile I've been working on building up my own caseload. I've joined a networking group, which has been busy but fun. It's very focused--only one person in each business category is allowed in the local group--and then you must meet every week to practice marketing skills and get to know the others in the group, and additional meetings for more in-depth understanding of each others' businesses. So I've been spending a lot of time hanging out in coffee shops getting to know the other members, which is a little awkward because I don't like coffee, but I find I like pastries pretty well and some places have tolerable tea.

The good news is, looks like we'll be able to pay ourselves for the second month in a row. And next month should be covered, too. The big thing outstanding now is to move into our proper office space, after all the painting and prep that needs to happen first.

And then, maybe, things will feel a little more settled and we might get the weekends off sometimes. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

On the Road (and Boat)

One of DOB's practice areas is serving as a Guardian Ad Litem, which is a court-appointed person who looks into the needs of an incapacitated (or "alleged incapacitated" if the case is just beginning) person and makes a recommendation to the court.

Lucky for us, he got appointed on a case that required him to travel to the San Juan Islands one weekend and the city of Bellingham another weekend in order to make a thorough investigation. (It really was necessary! And court pre-approved!) For the first trip, we brought all the kids along and got a highly adorable rental cabin with a very mossy hill out back. For our second trip, we left the kids with Their Majesties and spent some time poking around used book stores in a very fun historic district.

Unfortunately GAL work isn't usually so glamorous and mostly involves travel to the nearest nursing homes. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

It left me with some more thoughts on accessible travel, such as that while a ramp that runs at a 30 degree angle from the door to the main road and then directly into the sea is technically a wheelchair accessible entrance, it is more than a little terrifying. Actually, hills in general are not all that wheelchair accessible, but I'm not moving us to Nebraska even so. Getting a fully accessible room at the second hotel was awfully nice, though.