email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, August 30, 2013

Some Political Analysis

I pay a lot of attention to politics (I majored in it).  I pay a lot of attention to history (I minored in it).  I pay attention to game strategy (A lifelong hobby).  So I've been following the debates about possible US reactions to the nearly certain actions that President Assad of Syria has taken regarding chemical attacks on his own people.

My thoughts on this today do not involve the debate on whether the chemical attacks happened or what should be done about them.  I play some strategic games, and most involve figuring out what your opponent will do in response to your own actions.  I got to thinking about what Assad himself might say proactively to complicate his opponents plans and protect him against attacks (and I assure you I am not trying to provide him advice*)

President Assad:  "I have become aware that chemical attacks were launched against my people.  It was most assuredly done by either rebel elements engaged in illegitimate civil war or by rogue elements within the military.  I am investigating both possibilities and will report to the United Nations following that investigation.

I can only deplore the attacks and loss of life.  The guilty parties will be identified and punished.

But I am also aware that the United States and possibly other foreign powers are contemplating attacks on the legitimate government of Syria.  I warn them not to interfere. 

Syria does have chemical weapons, as almost all modern nations do.  In response to the foreign threats, they have been dispersed in ways that cannot be effectively tracked or targeted.  

If a single missile or airborne bomb from a foreign power  diminishes the ability of the legitimate Syrian government to suppress the rebellion, those hidden and dispersed chemical weapons will be used against all rebel encampments and strongholds.

If such attacks occur, the foreign powers will be responsible for the deaths of the rebels.

Finally, I remind the United States that it had its own civil war to maintain the governance of its own central government against a regional rebellion.  Foreign powers did not intervene, though 620,000 combatants and 50,000 civilians died in the suppression of the rebellious provinces. 

We will re-establish central governmental control over our nation.  We will actively resist foreign involvement by all means necessary."

Just some worrisome thoughts...

* If by some bizarrely unlikely possibility the Syrian government happens to read this, assume this is a planted blog by the CIA designed to provoke you into an disastrous course of action leading to your downfall.

Or not.  How would you ever know?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Too Few Facts

I was watching MSNBC tonight.  It is my preferred political talk source.  They generally provide backup to their claims, with videotape with dates and locations, etc.  They are generally thoughtful and complete in their presentations.  But sometimes even they go thin on the analysis and it irks me.

Chris Hayes did a piece on rip-off hospital charges.  And while it is generally true that US medical professionals and hospitals seem to get a lot more than in other countries (so that the costs can be legitimately questioned) the example he used was abysmal. 

He was talking about IV saline solution.  He said they use Morton salt and inexpensive bottled water.  I expect that its true because MSNBC doesn't slip on basic checkable information like that.  His big point was that some hospital charged a patient $91 for 88 cents worth of salt and water.  OUTRAGEOUS!

But wait-a-minute...  Aren't there other costs in providing that saline solution?

I'm no doctor and not even related to the least grade of medical assistant, but I can immediately think of a lot of costs involved beyond the saline solution.

1.  Someone has to mix the salt and water precisely.
2.  The saline solution has to be put in (I assume) a sterile plastic bag.
3.  A sterile tube has to be attached to the bag.
4.  The saline bag has to be delivered to the patient's location.
5.  A needle has to be inserted into the patient.
6.  The saline bag has to be attached to the needle.
7.  I assume there is a drip-rate control that needs to be set.
8.  The saline drip has to be monitored at some times.
9.  The use of the saline drip has to be recorded for billing purposes.
10. The use has to be billed.
11. The billing usually has to go through several cycles (the whole bill to medicare, then the uncovered amount to the insurance company, and finally some small bill to the actual patient.
12.  Some percentage of patient bills will never be paid, so those get distributed into other hospital overhead costs.  I'm a little uncertain on this last one, as those costs may be included in the above costs.  But even then, some of those costs will be distributed into hospital services that were not involved in the provision of the saline solution, so they aren't in the cost of the saline (meaning they got added to overhead for ER, cancer ward, meals, etc).

I'm not mentioning this to complain about medical costs (though that is worthy of attention and challenge).  I'm not qualified to accurately set the cost of an appendectomy (an operation I had once) or a heart transplant (which I haven't).

But if I can easily see a dozen more costly parts of a procedure, couldn't MSNBC's fact-checkers and editors see the same? 

I have to accuse MSNBC and Chris Hayes of pulling a sleight-of-hand with the facts on this issue.  Rather FOX-like, in "convenient factlessness"...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Car Problems

There are worse problems than having a battery just not work.  Brakes could fail or a wheel fall off , for example.  Burt for minor things, turning the ignition switch with the key and hearing clickclickclickclickclickclickclickclick is bad.  Especially when you have been saving up errands to match the grocery-shopping trip because you are out of fresh food.

I even had gotten up relatively early today to do the shopping and errands.

So when the batterry seemed dead, I checked for causes.  No door was slightly open, the glove compartment was closed, the headlights had not been left on; no cause I could find.  And it was a good quality battery from April 2012.  No cause for a problem.

Fortunately, I have 3 boat batteries around and they are still well-charged.  I jump-started the car with one.  It started right up.  I drove it around for 15 minutes assuming that would recharge the battery well, with the boat battery in the car in case of trouble.  It probably helped to have really good cables too.  Never scrimp on those.  Good ones will work when cheap ones don't.

To keep a long story short, I had no further trouble today.  But every time I stopped the car, I had to consider that there would be problems.  I stopped at 5 stores today and worried every time that the car wouldn't start again.  I backed into every parking space in case I needed a jump-start from someone.

I hate that kind of uncertainty!  But I guess I'll just recharge the boat battery and leave it in the car for a month until I'm confident the car battery just had "a bad day". 

I keep 4 small plastic tubs in the car.  One holds the jumping cables, one has a first-aid kit, one has a cranking flashlight and emergency equipment, one has odd tools (like a window-breaker, in case of submersion).  And the back pouches of the seats are filled with local, state, and national maps. Its good to be prepared.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Busy Day

I got the 6th Evil Squirrel today.  I thought there were 5, but I saw signs from a 6th and I caught it.

I feel sorry for the poor things.  I know they just want to eat and live.  Drowning them seems cruel (but takes only 20 seconds and they are mostly just confused)..  So I considered the options in their lives.  It's not like squirrels often die of old age:

1.  Grabbed by hawk talons for several minutes and then get ripped apart while still alive.
2.  Same with owls...
3.  Hit by cars and die of injuries slowly on the side of the road.
4.  Starve to death slowly.
5.  Freeze to death in very cold winters.
6.  Grabbed by dogs and shaken into oblivion after terrible bites.
7.  Poisoned or snap-trapped by liscenced people getting them out of attics.
8.  Pecked to death by crows.

There are probably others I can't think of but it doesn't really matter.  There is (was) this group of squirrels that destroyed most of my garden and I think I got the last one (the trap will remain set until no squirrels attack my vegetable plants).

After reducing (hopefully eliminating) the East Grove Gang who had, as a group, learned to attack gardens, I have had 12 heirloom tomatoes harvested ripe and there are 12 more getting there.  Last year, with the East Grove Gang undisturbed, I got 2 tomatoes the whole year. 

It is good to be at the top of the food chain.

On the gaming front, I had stayed away from Risk for a week.  But tonight I joined a game of 5 players, 2 outpointing me by WAY LOTS.  I won.  I was shocked because I don't generally do well in multiplayer games and especially I don't do well against VERY more experienced players.  But some games just go well.  I played carefully.  I played well.  I attacked when it was best to attack and I defended my borders well. 

And Oh my goodness, Ayla has been playin fetch with the old worn-out "softy-mouse" she loves so much.  She has brought it back to me a dozen times as I type.  Its SO old.  There is nothing of the nip in it and it is nothing but the original cloth body.  But she loves it so much.

I think I will just spend the next couple hours tossing it to her until she gets tired of it.  Ayla doesn't love many toys, mostly plastic milk rings.  But as long as she wants to grab softy-mouse, I will toss it to her.

It was a Good Day!

Friday, August 16, 2013

I Am So Lucky Sometimes

Unlucky at love and cards, I am pretty much lucky at most other things.  It balances out. 

Two weeks ago, I lost the nut that holds the sawblade on the tablesaw.   Its a special nut with reverse screw threads.  You can't buy it at the local hardware store.  I lost it somehow when taking off the stacked dado blades I used to cut slots in some boards.  I assumed the nut fell into the pile of sawdust, and I felt through it VERY carefully.  I brushed all the sawdust out of the bottom om the cabinet saw.  No nut.  So I sprinkled the sawdust out in the back yard. 

Obviously, I had set that special nut aside somewhere in the house.  I searched the basement for a week.  No luck.  I checked the pockets of all my clothes for the past week.  No luck.

I pulled the tablesaw forward and back and searched underneath.  No luck. 

That's "lucky"?  Yes it is.   Because I accumulate ""possibly useful things".  One of which is a Very Powerful Magnet.  I could possibly attach myself to the steel basement door with it.

So, as I had the tablesaw manufacturer site onscreen, I thought to make one more effort at finding the lost nut among the sprinkled sawdust.

I dragged the magnet along in the sawdust scatterred in the back yard.  And WHAT do you suppose  found on the SERIOUS magnet?  A nut!  It didn't seem to fit.  But it was a bit rusty, so I gave a good workover with a wirebrush.  My fingertips WILL heal. 

But a little oil after that and IT FIT!!!

My lost tablesaw reverse thread arbor nut!  Oh sweet baby of the tablesaw...  And oh sweet magnet of the "just TRY to pull it off the steel garage door where I keep you".  Thank you, thank you, thank you...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Can the Electrical Stuff Get Worse?

The old family fake Tiffany lamp needs support/hanging hardware only a specialist can provide. The new "brightest" kitchen fluorescent bulbs seem dim.  The newly installed "bottom of the stair" light is newly-detached  so that the upper one works properly again and there is no light at the bottom.

Now the hall circular fluorescent light has suddenly failed.  The online guidelines said to "replace the bulb".  Did that, no improvement.  Then it said "replace the starter".  Did that, and after a quarter hour struggling with getting it set into the connections, didn't help.

And seriously, after a quarter hour holding your hands up not even doing anything, see how you feel.   There is an old trick about betting someone they can't hold a feather at arm's length for 10 minutes.  The sucker thinks "feather", but the problem is the weight of the ARM, LOL!  My arms were exhausted just holding them straight up from the stepladder.

I DID finally get the damn starter installed eventually, and it had no effect.  The light lit at about 10% and flickered.

To temporarily replace the misfunctioning hallway light, I took a floorlamp and put a screw-in fluorescent bulb and set the floor lamp on a narrow table.  It's just me here, so I can live with that a week.  But I had to replace a regular bulb in the basement light from where I took the screw-in fluorescent one out.

The base of the bulb broke off.  So I had to turn off the circuit breaker to that circuit so I could use pliers to unscrew the broken base.  I couldn't read the circuit breaker labels without my glasses. So upstairs I went to find them.  Back downstairs I went.

Oh, its the #13 circuit which I now see is printed SIDEWAYS which is why I couldn't make any sense of it without my glasses.  So I go to get my pliers out of my stupid fancy tray tool cabinet.  Which is LOCKED because I had contractors in the house and my friend had to take legal action because HIS contractors stole some of the same fancy tools I have.

So where did I put the keys?  Because I don't have a regular place to put them because I almost never have to lock the stupid tool cabinet.  I stand around upstairs trying to find them and THERE they are on the hook where the pizza paddle lives.  Of course, where else would they be.  Well at least I found them.

So I look in the tool chest for the best thing to spread inside the broken bulb socket (remember that?) and discover that the best tool for the job was sitting on my workbench the whole time.  I slowly spread the tin snips out in the broken socket (after double-checking the power was off) and slowly remove the broken bulb base.

I replace the bulb with a new one.  Hurray, I'm back to where I was an hour earlier!  This is actually progress.  I've already made the several required mistakes, and fixed them!!!

The new bulb is "oh so gently" screwed in.  The circuit breaker is set back "ON", it works!  Hurray...

And I had the damn kitchen fixture to deal with.  The electrician was going to replace the ballast but asked if I had any new 4' fluorescent T-12 bulbs .  I did actually, plant-grow bulbs for my garden-seedling light stand.  They worked.  The kitchen looked HORRIBLE, but they did work.  So after the electricians left, I went to buy better tube bulbs.  I selected "daylight" because I wanted bright light in the kitchen.  I do a lot of food-prep, so I figured "daylight" was good.

They were not good.  "Daylight" bulbs are rather blaringly bluish.  The light is bright but funny inside.  SO, I went out and bought what the store chart said was right for "kitchens".  The lumens output is less, but the color is better.

My addition of a hinge to one end of the 4' light fixture is the smartest thing I've done all year.  I've had to get at the tube bulbs a half dozen times just in this month and trying to be on both sides of a 4' fixture at the same time as one person is a real struggle.  Even the electricians admired the idea.  I tried the new "warm white" bulbs and it was like I remembered the lighting had been!  I could even put the diffuser panel back in and the lighting was still as good when I tilted the fixture cover back up by the hinge and attached it at the other end.

So there are 2 working fixtures of 4 again.  As lame as that is, I feel like I had a major success today.  That's actually pretty pathetic. but sometimes 50% is good.

I'll get the other 50% done next week or the week after, after bringing the fake tiffany lmp to a repair shop 40 miles away, buying a new hallway lamp for the electricians to install, having them install the fake tiffany lamp in the top of the stairs and fishing wires through the walls and across the attic.

I dont EVEN want to imagine the problems they will discover.  But at least the last electrician specified the details of the wire fishing and attic support and wrote that the work WAS ALREADY PAID FOR BY THE QUOTE IN THE FIRST PAID BOTCHED JOB!

I may get out of this yet without the house burning down by bad electrical circuits.

25 years ago, when I moved in, I would have done this myself.  But I'm not crazy-confident-brave 36 years old anymore.  I've zapped myself too many times doing amateur electrical work.   I nearly killed myself twice, surviving only because I wasn't grounded.  I'm not touching electricity anymore.

Now I just hope I don't kill myself gardening somehow.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Electricians, Part 2

OK, an electrician (and helper) came out today at 11 am.  I demonstrated the problem (but of course, as dramatically as possible).  I have a split-foyer house, which means the front door is halfway up the house, a half set of stairs goes down the the basement and a half set of stairs goes up to the one main floor.  So it looks like a 2 story house outside but it is really a ranch house on a full basement that is mostly above ground.  I hope that makes some sense.

But that means that the light inside the front door is about 15" high and that there is a light switch at the top  in the middle at the door, and at the bottom at the basement.  I've never used the middle one because I enter the house through the garage attached to the basement and only use the top and bottom switches. 

So the first electrician decided to wire the new ceiling light to the switch at the basement end of the stairs.  I asked why not  just connect the new light directly to upper light but he said that wasn't really possible.  After he was done, it turned out that the upper switch wouldn't turn the lower light on "because of the wiring".  Grumble grumble...

After he left, I discovered that using the switches in order of descending the stairs made one light come on and the other off back and forth.  I emailed the company and said politely that this couldn't be normal or unfixable.

Enter today's electricians.  Now I will say from the start that they understood the problem immediately.  When they saw the one light turning on and the other turning off from the same flip of a switch, they cringed (it was their own company's previous work after all).  Even the electricians HELPER said that the "main switch" must be at the top of the stairs.  I mentioned that I had suggested the more direct solution was to fish a wire from the new light to the existing light up the walls and across that attic.

After opening all 3 light switches and testing the circuits head electrician said my suggestion to the previous electrician was the best way to do the job.  I didn't comment further.

But another matter was the "new" ceiling light I wanted installed at the top of the stairs.  Its a old fake tiffany lamp (Mom and her sisters fought over it thinking it was real from Gramma).  The first electrician refused to install it because it was missing support parts.  I thought I had "fixed" it well enough but the new electrician said it still wasn't to code and needed "canopy and ceiling plate" parts they don't have.  So it needed an antique lamp repair shop.  OK, I'll trust him on that and get that done.

So, because wiring the new lower stairs light to the upper light now would mean all the wiring work today and unwiring and rewiring it when the old "tiffany" lamp was repaired (at extra cost).I agreed to basiclly let them set the switch wiring bck to the previos settings (so the lower light was not connected).  That was how it was before the lower light was installed earlier this week, so it is back to normal.

When I get the "tiffany" lamp repaired for "to-code" conditions, there will be little charge since I already paid for the lower lamp installation and wiring.  Doing the wiring between the lamps will take them extra time, but they gave me a quote for that and will stick to it (and I've already paid for it).

But since they were there, I had them replace a motion-detector light way up over the front door (that the roofers messed up when they detached and re-attached it after doing their work AND they looked at my kitchen ceiling 4' fluorescent light fixture which bizzarely will not come on in the hottest part of Summer.  I've assumed attic heat is the cause.  Well, it only happens then. 

The first electrician said I needed to convert the existing T-12 ballast and tubes to T-8 because "they run cooler".  The 2nd electrician (who had recognized the first electrian's multiple failures) said "well, you probably need a new ballast, but do you have any new fluorescent tubes around?"  I did.  He replaced them and they worked.  I felt stupid. 

But its dim.  The 2nd electrician is an honest person.  He said, you know, you can buy a new one at Home Depot and have them install it for less than I can do this work.  I thanked him.

The second electrician and his helpers did good honest work, admitted where things had gone wrong before and repaired those parts at no cost (and detailed on the work order those things that should not be charged in the next visit).

I value that.  I found the company on Angie's List and selected them among 3 companies all rated "A" in all categories. OK, they had that first guy do badly, but they returned so quickly with a better person that I bet that first guy is already gone).  I found the roofer there and the replacement siding company too.  I have had nothing but great service from "A" rated house work companies on Angie's list.  Dentist and doctor too, BTW.  

I'm not here to promote Angie's List in any way other than my own personal satisfaction with the service, but it sure has been working for me.  Its possible the top ratings are not very different at "A" or "B" level, but I think it really weeds out the bad ones and that's good enough for me to stay subscribed.

And I still have other work to have done.  The asphalt driveway is 26 years old and falling apart.  I want a cement one.  Back to Angie's List...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


First, evil skwerl #5 passed this earthly life 2 days ago...  I THINK (and hope) it is the last.

Seeond, what on earth passes for an "electrician" these days?  I had a person from an A rated Angie's List service here today and it was like watching someone butcher a chicken with a machete. 

OK. it was a LITTLE complicated and I knew that going in.    So I contacted a top-rated company .  And to hell with the cost.  I like jobs done right. The stairway has a ceiling light way up at the top.  I wanted to replace it with a fake tiffany lamp I am sorry (but of course honored) to have inherited..  The stairs ceiling is the only place to put it so that relatives will see it but not bang their heads on it.  So basically, this fake Tiffany lamp is a matter of family pride I must endure.  I am not allowed to tell my older relatives it's fake.

Plus I decided it would be a good idea to add an old ceiling light at the bottom of the "damn it dark down there" stairs for safety and have it come on when the upper light was lit.  Two stairs, two lights, existing switches.  Logical.

The electrician who came out yesterday failed utterly.  I've done some electrical work in the basement, so I understand circuits in general.  I even know how light switches are connected to lights.  So when the electrician explained what he was going to do, I had my doubts , but he IS the professional from a top-rated company, right?

I told him I thought he needed to snake a wire through the walls to directly connect the upper light and the new light at the bottom.  I got one of those "who is the professional here" looks.  So, OK, do whatever works and I'll just stay out of the way.

I was right, he wasn't.  It's hell understanding how things work sometimes.  There are parts of the job I understand VERY well, but parts I don't.  There was NO WAY I was going to rebuild the wiring and support for the heavy lamp, and there was NO WAY I was going to snake wires through the walls.

But when he failed the 3 switch connections, I was resigned to the idea that I had to manage the switches carefully.  Until after he left and I discovered that one switch turned on only the upper light and then the other two would turn one OFF and the other ON!

What would YOU do?  I emailed the company and told them what was wrong.  I emailed because I wanted things in writing...  They are sending a more experienced electrician and a helper (to hold the damn lamp up in place while it s being properly wired, I assume) Friday.

Complaining works.  But I will wait and see the results.  If it all works, I may take pictures to show.

But damn, I'm aggravated...  And I haven't been in bed yet since 11 am Tuesday.  "Seriously annoyed" keeps me awake.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Evil Squirrels

I caught the 4th of maybe 5 squirrels who had learned to steal from the garden.  If there is a 5th, I'll get it in a week.  My tomatoes are just ripening.  I hope there is only 4.  I don't ENJOY this.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Angelique Story

Angelique (what a name) begins as the child of an impoverished rural Baron.  She runs wild through the countryside, becoming quite confidant and independent.  Overhearing a poison plot against the young Louis the 14th, she steals a casket that will cause her trouble for a decade. 

She is married off to a scarred lame older man Jeffrey de Peyrac) who turns out to be brave, scientific, poetic, and loving.  Perhaps a last Renaissance man...  He mines gold, breeds mules, organizes intellectual parties, etc.  And he is based on a real person.

Shortly, his wealth threatens the young King, who arranges a fake trial and has his burned as a sorcerer. Angelique falls into poverty and discovers a local Parisian underworld leader is a former childhood friend (far under her former station, of course).  She sinks into the underworld of Paris, but of course rises up again after her childhood friend's gang is wiped out.

It sounds stupid, but it does go along well with the history of the times.

Angelique narrowly escapes death a few times.  Being around Angelique is almost as certain a death sentence as being a red shirt security guy on the original Star Trek.

When she escapes the underworld live, she does a grill-restaraunt makeover and recovers her fortune.  Alas, nothing in Angeliques life is ever settled.  Noblemen crash the place and burn it to the ground, killing her manager and a child.  But not until she recognizes most of them from her days at court.  She plans revenge!

That's when The Poet appears.  He lives in the underground too and writes the most scurrilous poems attacking Bad Guys!  Out of love for Angelique, he writes condemnatory poems of each of the noblemen, to be ended with the one (The King's Brother who actually killed the child), on the last day. 

He is of course, caught and hanged before that and Angelique is forced to turn over the last days accusatory poem in exchange for her life and some kingly business favors. 

Being around Angelique is usually fatal...  And If I had been around her I would have gotten the hell out of Paris fast!

But there is no escaping Angelique!  If you ever knew her, you are doomed.  Every person she meets dies.  Every friend, co-worker, and servant...  Basically, you might as well just throw your self into the Seine. 

I make light of it but death DOES hang around her neck like an albatross.

And that's just the first 3 books of 13!  The person around her that lives (and whom I admire) is a detective with a talented dog who actually just stays "a friend". 

Spoiler alert for the rest of the series as I know it (those darn 3 books not published in English)!!!  If you want to read the books, don't read further.

OK, Angelique marries her cousin a nobleman Field Marshall.  He gets killed in a battle.  From her new title though, she gets access to the Court.  There, she gambles at cards with a sad old Prince.  The wager becomes if Angelique wins the hand she gets his castle and if she loses, she will become his mistress (she wins of course).

This brings her to attention of Louis 14th.  After some danger, she ends up in his personal chambers.  He knows who she really is.  He remembers her from Jeffrey de Peyrac's court, from her days as the Red Mask Tavern that was the site of the child murder, and as Field Marshall-General du Plessis's wife.

In a wonderful scene, the King talks about his younger days trying to fight for his Kingshipe.  Many long years of living as a paesent stoking fires to stay warm at night.  As he stokes the fire in his private room's fireplace.  He explains that he had to put down noblemen with greater riches and influence than he had.  He explains that he needs a queen to match his boundless ambition for France to rise again.  He needs Angelique.

Quite frankly, in a moment of both hope, tenderness, and utter stupidity, he gives Angelique the official reports of Jeffrey de Peyrac's "death".  Jeffrey slipped over the side of the boat bringing him to burning site.  The  report says the death was certain.  Angelique says to the King "He Lives".  She leaves the King  to search for Jeffrey.

OK, after that, she foments rebellion in Southern France loses, gets raped and with child, ends up a captive of an Arab Sultan, escapes with the help of an Englishman, hides among Parisian Houganots and helps them escape onto a pirate ship.

Guess who's the captain of the pirate ship?

Jeffrey.  He survived the escape into the Seine, made his way to Arabia through his science contacts, and he has been wreaking vengence on French ships while his spies tracked Angelique!

She doesn't recognize him at first because the Arab doctors has rebroken then repaired his crippled leg, gebnerally fixed his lifelong facial scars (yeah right), but he wears a mask anyway, and even partially repaired the damaged vocal chords.

Bad things happen on ship.  The Hugonauts mutiny just as a terrible storm makes them help the ship's crew to brace the mast.  All seems good.  No, nothing is ever calm in Angeliques life.  Just as she is loving Jeffrey again, she learns that he had kidnapped her sons (remember them?) and not told her. 

It was a test he said, to see if she cared what happened to them.  Never mind that she went nuts and did crazy things saving them many times.  She hadn't asked HIM about them fast enough after she learned who he was.  I think she faints from shock.

Anyway, they eventually make up and go to Canada.  It gets weirder after that.  They are happy, then that Englishman who carried her out of Arabia shows up, and some Jesuit and some Demon woman sent to destroy her. 

But all turns out OK.  Every man in Angeliques life eventually succumbs to Jeffrey's leadership and admirable skills. 

But there are Indians AND the King of France who has never forgiven Angelique for rejecting him (or forgotten Jeffrey as being a threat).  And who wants control of Canada.

Two bad books made fast, the Englishman, the leader of the Hugonauts, and an Indian leader make up to Jeffrey and Angelique, and Jeffrey kills a mysigonist (but sturdy) Canadian Frenchman in a snowy swordfight.

All is wonderful again, but there is still an angry King of France and I won't bother you with the rest of it because the last couple books got really stupid.  It happens in series.  I'll just say that at the end of one of the last books, one of Angeliques son's leads his pet wolverine into the forest after the demon woman and he returns shining in Arthurian brightness.

In spite of all that, it's worth reading the series.  I've been a bit sarcastic because historical fiction/romance novels are not my usual fare.  But I liked this one.

I mentioned all of this because there is FINALLY (after 45 years) an English-dubbed version of a 1960s French movie series about Angelique available.  I am enjoying it thoroughly.

You should give it a try.

I get nothing from this recommendation...


I grew up reading mostly science and science fiction.  I was never into fairy tales (according to my mother's memories (even as a child).  By the time I was 11 or 12, I had exhausted the local library's collection of "young adult" science fiction and was allowed to take out adult books.  In 10th grade, I was so far beyond the usual modern novels (Dickens bored me to death) being discussed, and the lame weekly vocabulary tests )it was the 60's), that I was allowed to sit in the back of the room and just read anything in the teachers bookshelf as long as I produced a book report weekly.

Forward to 20.  I was majoring in Political Science, thinking of a law degree, and thinking a political future.  New scince fiction being few at the time, I happened upon something called "Historical Fiction" set in France at the time of Louis The Sun King (and my minor degree was history).  I asked an employee about it and he explained that it was actual history told from the point of view of a minor or even "symbolic" person alive at the time.  And he said there was "Historical Romances" that combined that with history (like Gone With The Wind.  But he said this particular book was (generally) accurate history and some exciting romance.  And had read it and was impressed.

Ok, I needed something to read other than how to construct political polls and the histories of English Kings...

I fell in love with Angelique, and who wouldn't?  From being the daughter of a destitute minor Baron in rural southern France, to the heights of the King's court, to abject poverty among the knaves of Paris, to a new rise as a commercial restaranteur, to married nobility again, a new fall, and a rise again in Canada with her first love, and other challenges, I read each book time and time again.

And then it all seemed to end.  I understand there are 3 more books not translated into English.  I await those.

But a week ago, I found a DVD version of the first few books made in French and overdubbed in English.  The reviews were good, but I know the story well enough, I could probably follow it in French.

The dubbing is so good I can't even notice it.  The DVD movie version doesn't follow the books perfectly, but I know the missing parts and errors well enough that I don't mind that much.

I watched Part 1 of 3 two nights ago, Part 2 last night, and was enraptured.  Tonight I will watch Part 3 of 3.  Sadly, that will be only half of the books I've read of the series and I haven't even read the last 3 books (available in French only). 

Someone should translate the last books into English.  And someone should make 2 movies to cover the last 6 (?) books.

And someone should make decent movies of the Jean Auel series of books about Ayla, the equally wonderful heroine I discovered after the Angelique books stopped.  Aren't there enough Spiderman and X-Men movies now (of which I also admire) to suggest heroines from the past?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Shower Leak Grows

In my house, there is a main bathroom, a showerstall bath off the main bedroom, and a "powder room" in the basement (that I installed) for convenience.  I never used the shower stall off the bedroom.  Actually, the shower stall was so useless to me that I set plastic liner in it and kept a painted turtle there for several years.  When you live alone, you can do weird stuff.

The turtle finally died (not from lack of good food) and I cleared the shower stall.  For whatever reasons, the drain leaked after that and I didn't bother with it for 15 years.   While having some general house renovations done. I had them fix the stall drain.

Several years ago, I discovered  that the shower pipes were leaking, so I put a repair on the "To DO; list.  Forward 5 years...

Having joined Angie's List to get top contractors for other reasons, I decided to have someone fix the shower stall leak.  Um, I didn't think to see if the shower stall pipes were still leaking.  Once leaking, always leaking, right?

So on the hour before the plumbers were to show up, I turned on the shower so they could see where the leak was.

No leak...

But when I flushed the toilet, water fell into the basement.  Talk about serendipidy!  It took a good 30 minutes for the 2 plumber guys and I to figure out where the water was coming from.  The water was leaking out around the air vent stack, not a water supply pipe. So:

1. There was a leak around the new roof flashing.
2.  The shower stall was leaking at the base where the tiles meet the fiberglass shower stall.
3.  There was a leak around a toilet or sink pipe.
4.  The toilet had a crack.
5.  The wax ring around the bottom of the toilet had dried and cracked.

The plumbers went for #1 because that wouldn't be their problem to fix.  And #2 for the same reason.  Now think about that.  They DIDN'T want a problem they could fix...  Don't they make money by solving problems?

So we all went into the basement to identify all the pipes.  OK, granted that I know the positions of the "equipment" upstairs, they couldn't figure out which pipes went to where.  Its understandable.  My builder's guys did some really weird stuff in the house, and I didn't know because I lived 60 miles away and only visited the construction site every 2 weeks.  And what would I know anyway?  I'd never seen a house being built.

It was #5 that was the problem.  On the VERY day before the plumbers came, the wax ring under the toilet had cracked and a gallon of water came out each time it was flushed.

It wasn't what they had been called to fix, but it was what was needed.  Sometimes, you just get lucky!  I'm not used to that kind of luck, but I'll take it when it comes...

In the next few days, I have contractors coming to look at replacing the crumbling 26 year old asphalt driveway and the 20 year old deck that I am beginning to think I will fall through.  And an electrician to hang a 17 pound fake Tiffany lamp over the stairs, add a lower stair lamp fixture, replace 2 smoke detectors, and fix a basement electric plug I can't make work. 

And THEN get someone out here to remove a ridge in the back yard that has aggravated me for 20 years (it was 5 years before I even really knew it was there because it was covered with thorny locust scrub trees that I spent 3 years killing).

So much stuff to catch up on, but this is the year I will do it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sort Of Missing Relative

First, just let me say there is a happy outcome; I'm not drama-dredging here. 

But I have an elderly widowed Aunt who never had children and I never heard of any family on the husband's side.  I'm not at my best on the telephone with social talk, so I send homemade cards and the occasional letter.  I never expected replies because she is quite elderly.

So when I wanted to write a new letter to her about my Dad moving to an assisted-living facility, I checked with a family member to see if she already knew about that.  No need to go into great detail about Dad if she already knew, right?

Imagine my shock to be told "Oh I called and the phone was disconnected and she didnt reply to any letters.  She seems to have disappeared a couple of years ago."

What???  I had visions of her lonely and abandoned in some awful nursing home, or even a virtual prisoner in her own home by some dominating caretaker or housemate (I have a vivid imagination, and there HAVE been horrible things in the news).  And who would want to just say "Oh everything is probably fine" and then discover it was not later.

I live hundreds of miles away, and I didn't really know any relative to call (actually, there was one relative I could have called, but I was all upset.

So I googled her address and found a detective agency in the town.  I'm NOT kidding.  They do exist and not just for getting sneaky pictures of people having affairs etc.  I explained that I just wanted to know where she was and how to contact her; no crimes or big inheritances involved, just "out of touch for 2 years and I wanted to make sure she was OK".

They assured me that "they do nice stuff too" and estimated it would take an initial 3 hours work (with a prepayment).  I agreed.  After I hung up the phone, I felt a bit like a sucker.  Sure, they would use up the 3 hours and then need another 3 hours and again and again.

I am happy to say I was wrong.  They visited her listed address, got the name of a relative, who got them to an assisted-living facility.  It turns out that my aunt stopped wearing her medical alert button, fell and broke her hip and laid on the floor for 10 hours until someone found her.

I received an email from the detective agency and a call from one of her nephews explaining the past several years and her "disappearence" (from my POV).  It was an awkward conversation.  I grew up in New England, but I could hardly understand a word he said, so I had to keep asking for repeats (and even spellings a few times).

It turns out that there are numerous family on her deceased husbands side that I never knew about (well they didn't know I existed either) and are close to her (geographically and socially).  They brought her to various assisted-living facilities until she liked one and she is there, healthy and happy (for her age). 

So I am relieved.  I did "The Right Thing" by checking on her.

The nephew says OUR aunt probably doesn't know about my Dad going into assisted living, and MIGHT not even know her sister (my Mom) died in 2010.  So I will write about all that.  And writing to her about Dad was what started all of this.

Now lets see about how I am related to the nephew who called me.  I'm terrible at that stuff.  Beyond immediate cousins, I give up.  My aunt is a sister of my mother.  My aunt was married.  The nephew of my aunt is the son of the sister of my aunt's deceased husband.  So from me, it goes to my mother, to her sister, to HER husband to HIS sister to HER son.  So is that like second cousins, first cousins twice removed, or what?

I am curious but confused.

The important thing is that my aunt is "OK" and getting good care and attention.  And while it wasn't necessary to my aunt's health and well-being I DID something to make sure about it.

I will sleep better tonight