Nicole, having become a hurricane long enough to harrass the western Bahamas and southeast Florida, made landfall around 3 a.m. just south of Vero Beach, a little further north than we expected. I had been awakened a few times during the night by wind gusts and the steady sound of rain. When I got up for real around 4:30 (normal for me), it was clear that our decision to take in the wind chimes, orchid, and trash cans last night was the right thing to do, but everything else was fine.
Of course the day is not over yet; Nicole is currently around Davenport (where we ourselves were on Monday for a friend's birthday party), and heading our way at about 14 mph. But it's now a tropical storm again, and although we are still warned of gusts up to 70 mph, sustained winds where we are look to be less scary than predicted. (I'll take that!)
I greatly enjoyed a few early-morning hours on our back porch, watching what we've had so far from the storm. Because our porch faces west, and the winds were largely from the east, I enjoyed a safe haven with barely an occasional light breeze, while watching the trees whip around somewhat impressively.
Once again, the biggest damage to our neighborhood is likely to be flooding, but we haven't ventured out yet to investigate. Power outages usually come after the storm has passed, so we're not out of the clear there by any means.
Many thanks to those of you who have expressed your concerns, and offered their prayers. I expect to do at least one more update, more if anything untoward happens.
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Nicole is not a hurricane yet, but looks to become one in the Bahamas, and come on shore around Ft. Pierce in the early hours of tomorrow morning, aka the middle of the night tonight. I fully expect to be awakened at least once by our ear-splitting weather radio, hopefully for nothing more serious than that for which it awakened us during Hurricane Ian, and again two days ago.
We were briefly out of "the cone" but are currently back in it, as the predicted path shifts. Of course, the area of strong winds is a lot broader than the cone, and we've been feeling its rain for days. They are still predicting peak sustained winds of 45-60 mph with gusts to 75 mph, which is a "strong tropical storm." Nicole should be off our west coast by 1 p.m. tomorrow, and I'll give an update when I can.
There's a reason we hadn't packed the generator up from the last storm. I hope we don't need it, but with the storm coming straight at us, the ground once again completely saturated, and rivers and lakes still at flood level or very close....
We're still pretty much prepared from last time, though we're waiting till tomorrow to bring things in from outside. My concern when I awoke this morning was for an appointment I had this afternoon at 3 o'clock. Based on today's weather, there was no reason I shouldn't have been able to take it: there's almost no wind yet, and the rain has been steady but not heavy. However, when it was clear that many businesses were deciding to close early, I chose to go in the morning as a "walk-in." I say I chose, but really, I didn't feel I had much choice. Call it a nudge from God, call it hyperactive anxiety—but I couldn't rest about it, and decided I might as well wait for hours there than be unproductive at home. As it turned out, they were able to fit me in quickly and I even made it to the library to pick up The Bellmaker, before it closed at noon. It was definitely the right decision.
Now we wait, hoping that our decision to wait till morning to batten the final hatches turns out to be a good one, too.
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Happy Columbus Day!
In my heart, Columbus Day is always October 12, no matter what the calendar says. It's a better day, anyway, because we get mail today, and we didn't Monday.
If you don't think Columbus Day is worth celebrating, feel free to have a miserable day. Or not. Your choice.
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It began a month ago, when we made the decision to switch our phones from AT&T to Spectrum. Spectrum is our cable internet provider, and now offers mobile phone service, which through some sleight of hand is actually Verizon.
We had been loyal AT&T customers all our long lives, from back when "Ma Bell" was the only way to go for long distance; through the forced breakup of AT&T that led to our move to Florida in the mid-1980's and Porter's 17 years of employment with the company; to our very first cell phone ("car phone") in the early 90's, and many changes of phones and phone service since—wherever we were, whatever our phones, it was all AT&T. I do know that there's really nothing left of the original AT&T besides the name, but still, it hurt to leave.
But recently we had two very annoying and expensive experiences with AT&T:
- "I don't care what the e-mail we sent you says, our system says differently so we're not going to honor the deal you signed up for."
- "Whatever made you think that making a call using Wi-fi Calling would not cost an arm and a leg when calling Switzerland?")
When these were quickly followed by
- A shockingly high price increase,
that was it for the camel's back. Spectrum/Verizon offered a price/service combination that was such an improvement we decided it was worth trying.
However, our AT&T root system was apparently stronger than we knew.
We made the account switch with ease, or so it seemed. When our new SIM cards arrived from Spectrum, Porter's phone made the switch without a hitch. My phone, on the other hand....
As I powered my phone back on after inserting the new SIM card, the phone insisted that I enter an unlock code. This was a bit concerning, as the phone was supposed to have been unlocked already. Thus began more than three weeks of struggle (mostly Porter's heroic work) with AT&T, Spectrum, and Samsung.
We tried multiple times to unlock the phone using AT&T's website. A few days after each try, we'd get an e-mail telling us there was a problem.
Next level: phone calls. Many phone calls, countless hours. Each time we'd be assured that an unlock code would come by e-mail "in a few days." Each time the result was failure.
By this time, we were on vacation in Connecticut, thankful to have one working phone as we continued the adventure. Hoping that being physically present might move things along, we took my phone to the local AT&T store. Although the sales clerk was friendly and tried to help, there wasn't much he could do as a simple reseller of AT&T services. So he sent us to a true AT&T store, half an hour down the road in Branford. As we drove along, we tried another phone call, ending up on hold for about an hour and a half in total, before giving up.
The Branford guy started our visit optimistically: "I can fix anything." Before we were done he'd gone so far as to drag the District Manager from another store out of a meeting to help. She was able to confirm that there was absolutely no reason we shouldn't be able to unlock the phone, and she said it shouldn't be necessary for us to drive to her store. We were grateful, as it was at that point rush hour, which in New Haven is nothing to be trifled with, and would have more than doubled the nominal 20-minute drive time. She escalated our problem up to highest priority, and we left the store armed with her telephone number.
Unfortunately, in the end, even that came to nothing. We went home to Florida.
Several more phone calls and no progress later, we learned that, while our problem was stilll "highest priority," it no longer had a person attached to it but had been kicked back to being assigned to a group. Knowing AT&T's trouble ticketing system from the inside out, Porter recognized this as the place insoluble problems are sent to die.
I'm half convinced the various companies hired someone's creative writing class to invent the reasons why they couldn't give me an unlock code.
- (AT&T) "Something went wrong, try again."
- (AT&T) "We can't give you a code because we can't get one from Samsung."
- (Samsung) "We can't give you a code because we don't do that; the code has to come from the carrier." (True, but it turns out that there is actually a code that must come from the manufacturer to the carrier, first.)
- (Samsung) "We can't give you a code because you bought the phone directly from us and all our phones ship unlocked already." (True, though it appears AT&T subsequently locked it, because we paid for it through our AT&T bill.)
- (AT&T) "We can't give you a code because your phone is already unlocked." (That's what their system kept telling them, but it was clearly untrue.)
- (Spectrum) "We can't help you because it was locked by AT&T."
- (AT&T) "Success! Here's your unlock code." That might have been encouraging, except that the code was simply "0." Right. An unconvincing null. With infinitesimal faith that it would work, we used up two of the five allowed attempts (after which the phone would become "permanantly locked") trying both a simple 0 and enough 0's to fill in the requested number of digits. As expected, it didn't work.
My all-time favorite of their excuses I reproduce below:
What on earth was the problem? We had bought the phone new, directly from Samsung, and it's hardly been out of my presence ever since. For a long time, this one had me looking over my shoulder for the FBI. Hey, if they can raid the private residence of a former U.S. president on the flimsiest of excuses, what chance do the rest of us have? Are they still mad about the grainy picture of Osama bin Laden that so annoyed Facebook?
After learning that there was little to no chance of our problem getting out of the trouble ticket graveyard, Porter employed a different tactic, one I would have given no chance at all of making any difference: He filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
Have you ever wondered if governmental agencies actually do anything to earn their tax dollars? In this case, Porter's complaint generated near-immediate action, first by the FCC itself and then by AT&T.
I'm not kidding: in a very short time he received both an e-mail and a phone call from the office of the president. (Of AT&T, that is, not Joe Biden.) A friendly and competent-sounding person promised to see what she could do.
At this point we began seriously debating how we would proceed if AT&T decided they were spending 'way too much money on this problem and offered to give us a new phone instead. It was not an easy decision. The lower-level folks who had no power to do so were, of course all in favor of giving away a phone. The mid-level folks grudgingly acknowledged that it might be a possibility, but only if I turned over my phone to them first. There was absolutely no way that was going to happen; my phone was not going to leave my possession until I had a working replacement with all my settings, apps, and data successfully transferred. Maybe they would be willing to send the new phone to our local AT&T store until we could successfully make the switch.
Then there was the problem of which phone? I didn't expect an upgrade to a more current phone: my Galaxy S9, even though it was the lastest thing in 2018, is now so old it's almost useless as a trade-in. I'd have been happy with a new S9, but do they even have any of those hanging around? Would I be offered a used, reconditioned phone, and would I be okay with that?
As it turned out, all that speculating was unnecessary. In only a few days, Porter received an e-mail with a non-zero unlock code.
Not without some trembling, we carefully, step by step, followed the instructions and entered the code into my mobile phone.
I have a working, Spectrum-serviced, cell phone.
A small part of me is reluctant to admit that. It was surprisingly easy to get along for nearly a month without one. Certainly it helped that I could do almost anything I wanted to with my phone, as long as I had wi-fi, which these days is nearly ubiquitous, even here.
I only missed a couple of things:
- The ability to make non-911 phone calls. (All phones work for emergencies, or so my phone told me.) If I were designing something named "Wi-Fi Calling," it would work using wi-fi when one does not have cell service. I mean, otherwise, what's the point? Especially if carriers are going to charge the same price as for regular cell calls (see above). But I wasn't the designer on that one. Even though I drove for decades without having cell service, I couldn't drive this past month without being aware of the lack.
- The ability to send and receive texts. That, too, should be possible over wi-fi.
Grateful as I am to have a fully-functioning phone, I have to say that a month without phone calls and texts was not all bad, It was rather nice, in fact—especially during political season.
Many thanks to all those ordinary people at AT&T and other places who were friendly and cheerful, and truly seemed to be doing what they could to help us. And deep gratitude to the one person at AT&T who somehow cut through the nonsense and got the job done. As Porter said in his thank you note to her, "If everyone at AT&T were as effective as you are, we'd still be customers."
I took a COVID test this week.
I try to avoid those things as much as possible: I hadn't taken one since April, when I needed it to get back into the United States. But I picked up a mild cold in Connecticut, and as sometimes happens I have a cough that is still hanging on. I never seriously thought it might be COVID, especially since our grandson (who was hit harder than the rest of us), had tested negative.
However, I couldn't deny that the symptoms I experienced were exactly the same as when I genuinely had COVID-19, back in April. When I sing with them on Sunday, my fellow choir members will be happier if I can assure them that my cough is not due to the Dread Disease. So I took the test.
No surprises. It was negative.
Apparently, getting random colds is a thing again. I suppose we could go back to dropping all contact with the outside world—which gave us two years totally free of such annoyances. But I'm sure our immune systems are much better for the stimulation.
We have a lot of experience in our little choir, from many churches in many states over many years. What we saw in last Sunday's bulletin is completely unprecedented, anywhere, in our combined experience—at least as far as we all could remember.
We were so excited, we all gathered at the altar after the service to have our picture taken with the flowers and the donors!
(Appreciation is greatly appreciated.)
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Happy Bastille Day to our French and Francophile friends—though frankly, for at least two of you this day is more about your own birthdays. Happy Birthday, then!
The French still celebrate the Storming of the Bastille, despite the fact that—as evidenced by their extremely strict gun regulations—they don't want such a thing ever to happen again. They're no more hypocrites than we are: there are a great many people in this country who work frantically to disarm Americans, yet still indulge in our own Independence Day activities.
Those in power are not fond of sharing that power with anyone who might unseat them. I'm certain that King Louis XVI wasn't keen on the idea of an armed citizenry.
I'm not all that fond of the idea myself. I'm just a lot more frightened of the alternative.
On Saturday, for some reason that I have forgotten, I wrote this story to Facebook instead of here. Usually I cross-post the other way around. Below is the story, followed by an update.
Here's a reminder that when we pray at church for those travelling in the next week, it is no meaningless exercise. Travel is dangerous!
Early this morning, Porter was driving a choir friend to the airport. At about the time he should have been on his way home again, my phone rang. It was Porter, asking if I could find out if something major had happened at the airport. They had been almost there when traffic ground to a halt and Google claimed the road ahead was closed. It sent them on a very long detour to the other side of the airport, where traffic had also ground to a halt.
I tried several sources of news with no success. I looked on Google Maps and saw that indeed the traffic was a total mess all around the airport. But I couldn't help except with moral support, as the clock ticked away the minutes before our friend's flight. Porter saw people getting out of their cars and walking to the airport.
Eventually, however, Porter crept his way to the B side of the airport, where he could drop our friend off. He then drove to the nearest Panera Bread and ordered himself a drink and a breakfast soufflé, figuring there was no point in making the (nominally) 45-minute drive home if he was just going to have to turn around and pick our friend up again.
By that point we knew that whatever the problem was, it wasn't inside the airport, because the security lines were short, and soon our friend let us know that he did make it to the gate on time.
It wasn't till after Porter was home and I could see him, safe and sound, that the news caught up with the story and we learned that the cause of the mess was a fatal car crash immediately ahead of where our guys had been shunted to the alternate route.
Seconds earlier and they might have been in the crash themselves; seconds later they would not have been able to take the detour and been like the drivers who reported sitting in their cars for two hours.
One thing I know for sure: I'm really, really glad that I already knew our guys were fine by the time I read that two people had died in a car crash exactly where and when I expected them to be.
[knees still weak at the thought]
UPDATE: I know now that the guys actually didn't just miss the accident, which occurred at 2:30 a.m. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around how a one-vehicle accident at that hour could have the roads still closed six hours later. Granted, it was nasty—four people in a Land Rover had crashed into a concrete barrier and flipped into a canal. Two passengers were killed, the driver and another passenger had minor injuries. The surprise isn't that two people were killed, but that two people only had minor injuries after smashing into concrete and ending up in a canal.
Despite—probably because of—Google making some bizarre suggestions for the detour, our guys' delay was apparently much less than most people's. And it wasn't just passengers who couldn't make their planes—lots of flights were affected, I assume because flight crews were stuck in the traffic, too. We don't have the whole story yet, but I know the takeoff of our friend's flight was delayed by half an hour, and since his connection was going to be a tight one anyway, he probably missed that. However, we do know that he arrived safely at his destination.
Every year around July 1 I start thinking I've had enough of getting up and out of the house early, driving to Geneva, marching in the Florida sun and heat, wearing myself out crashing cymbals that seem to get heavier every year, and doing as much running the parade route as marching. And every year on July 4 I remember why we do it.
I've written many times that the Geneva Independence Day celebration represents so much of what I love about Florida. It's diverse, even quirky, but without malice, a place where people can disagree and still smile at each other. It's a feel-good city, and this event reminds me quite a bit of similar activities I've seen in little Hillsboro, New Hampshire. Small towns can have their problems, but there's a refreshing innocence as well.
So once again we packed up our equipment and headed east, to march with the Greater Geneva Grande Award Marching Band. The name reflects neither the size of the band nor the length of the parade route, but it suits us. My absolute favorite part of the parade is also the reason it's so exhausting: interacting with the children in the crowd between songs, then having to run to catch up with the band. It's a good thing Gunga Dad (Porter) is always there to provide a shot of water as needed. It's also kind of fun to try to pick out which children will be thrilled to try crashing my cymbals, and which will shrink away. I usually guess well, but not always. In the past, boys have been more likely to respond well than girls, but this year it was pretty much equal.
Geneva's uplifting of my feelings about America was matched by the words of David Freiheit, my favorite Canadian lawyer, whom I've often cited here. Now that he is once again able to travel to and from Canada, he has been spending more time in the United States. Being from Montreal, he says, his impressions of certain parts of America were formed primarily by Hollywood. Now he's angry, having discovered for himself that he has been deceived all this time. I'm quite familiar with the situation, having grown up myself with a deep prejudice against the American South. It took moving here to shake my stereotypes. For Freiheit, a man who loves to talk with anyone and everyone he encounters, the very long car drive from Montreal to South Florida had the same effect. It was delightful to listen to his revelations.
I talk to everybody. ... There is more that unifies us than divides us. ... Of the 50 people that I talked to, driving down here, I've met nothing but the most wonderful people on earth. All of these stupid stereotypes that people have of mid states and southern states ... I've started to think we've been lied to our entire lives. I've met nothing but the most wonderful people.
Let the news media throw in our faces the negative events that make for screaming headlines. Today I celebrate the quiet, ordinary lives that are the true, beating heart of America.
I'm not generally one to splurge when it comes to our kitchen. We still have the same wallpaper that was on the walls when we moved in more than 35 years ago. Same floor, same cabinets, same counters. Porter has made a few minor additions, and we've had to change a few things out (sink, appliances) as they broke. My philosophy has always been, if it still works, why replace it? And when I do buy something, I'll spend money on quality, but not luxury. That's not me.
Until now. Actually, January.
I needed new pots. When we replaced our stove a few years ago, I decided not to get an induction range, as attractive as they were, because I'd have had to replace almost all of our pots and pans, and I didn't want to do that. But we did get a flat-topped stove, which I like a lot, but unlike our previous ranges it turned out not do well with pots are at all warped. I lived with that for quite a while, but it finally reached the point where it just wasn't working. I needed new pots.
I can't remember where I first heard of Hexclad. I do remember thinking, "What a cool idea," then looking at the price and going, "Nope." The old pots still worked well enough back then. But I kept hearing about Hexclad, and I really liked the concept: a pan that cooks like cast iron, needs only a one-time, very easy seasoning, can be washed in the dishwasher, and has a non-stick surface on which you can confidently use metal utensils.
So when this set turned up for $299 at Costco, I was primed and ready.
I liked them so much that 13 days later I ordered a small pot and a small frying pan directly from the Hexclad store. They were on sale. One thing I've learned: never buy a Hexclad item for full price, because it's going to be on sale eventually. That means it's only wildly expensive rather than impossibly expensive. Even with the Hexclad direct sale, the Costco prices are better—but they only have a select few offerings.
Until July 3, Costco has this attractive pan set, and this griddle available and on sale, along with the pot set I bought earlier and a couple of other pans. I don't need any of these at this point. But the pans and the griddle are rather tempting, I'll admit.
I have no connection whatsoever to the Hexclad company—other than as customer—or to Costco for that matter. And I can't vouch for more than six-months' experience. But so far, I am finding this cookware to be delightful.
You can find Hexclad products on Amazon as well. One caveat: the company has a lifetime warranty, which, as is common with such things, only applies to the original recipient, and does not cover cookware sold by "unauthorized dealers." I don't know what constitutes an authorized dealer (Costco apparently is), but it's just something to watch out for.
End of commercial. This wasn't intended to be an ad....
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If my memory serves me correctly, I have been to an emergency care facility twice in my life. Unlike my brother, who apparently volunteered at some point to take on the major injuries, up to and including appendicitis, for our family.
The first time was my freshman year in college, when in chem lab I splashed potassium dichromate in my eye. The second was last Saturday.
I keep my kitchen knives sharp. I mean really sharp. They don't get put away without a touch-up honing. This is mostly a great thing, but let me just say that I take issue with the conventional wisdom that you're more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one. Brief encounters with a blade, which would never have broken the skin in my pre-knife-sharpening-obsession days, easily draw blood. They quickly heal and never hurt more than a paper cut, but it's annoying to try to keep the blood out of the vegetables. I mean, there goes any hope of getting approval by the Vegan Authorities.
Back to the story.
As I said, any cuts I get are almost always very minor. Almost. But even great chefs make the occasional mistake. Blame my new glasses, blame my distractable brain that had just received some nasty news on the financial front—but on Saturday when I was cutting up vegetables for a stew, just for a moment I lost the ability to distinguish between a carrot and my thumb.
I knew immediately that it wasn't serious, but neither was it a wrap-it-in-a-paper-towel-and-forget-it affair. I had made a nice, circular slice that very nearly lifted the top off my thumb. It was not deep, but "deep enough." I'm familiar with skin flap wounds, and know they don't tend to heal well on their own; mostly they dry up and fall off. I judged this to be a little too much for that to be desirable.
Wouldn't you know, Porter had moments before detailed to me his agenda for the afternoon. I wrapped up my thumb to staunch the blood, turned off the two stove burners where pans were cheerfully sizzling with the start of dinner, walked into his office and began, "I'm sorry to derail your afternoon plans, but...."
Let me just say this about my husband. He can get bizarrely upset about the littlest things, like a traffic light turning red, or a dice roll going against him in a board game. But give him a real emergency and he suddenly becomes calm, cool, and focussed.
Having had his own encounter with finger wounds, for which a doctor later admonished him, "You should have had stitches for this," he never questioned the need for emergency care. It didn't seem the right thing to go to our primary care doctor for, and there's no way I wanted to spend all day in a hospital emergency room after being subjected to a COVID test. Instead, he phoned our local doc-in-a-box CentraCare facility and (having been placed on hold) started driving. I have no idea where we were in the queue, because we were still on hold when we arrived and walked up to the receptionist.
Other than the phone call, I have to say that from beginning to end our treatment at CentraCare could not have been better. The waiting room was not crowded, and even so I jumped to the head of the line. Apparently blood, even when you've cleaned up and stopped the bleeding with a neatly-wrapped bandage before leaving home, gets people's attention.
The nurse (?) who attended me was great, and knew how to put me at ease. We had a great conversation because she's an EMT and studying to become a paramedic, and of course I had to talk about the EMT's and doctors in our family. Having determined that my wound did, indeed, need stitches, she then went off to inform the doctor.
Thus began the longest wait, which only makes sense because there was no longer an emergency. And I have no complaints, because when the doctor finally arrived, he gave me the (no doubt erroneous) impression that he had all the time in the world to attend to my needs. That's a precious gift, and rare from a doctor.
Turns out I didn't get stitches after all. After soaking my thumb in a "surgeon's soap" solution while he went to check on someone else, he told me that the cut was so neat that trying to stitch it would do more harm than good. (Did I mention that my knife was really sharp?) Instead, he just glued the flap in place with some specialized medical skin glue, and gave me a splint to wear.
That little device is brilliant. For one thing, it makes the wound look so much more impressive, and more worthy of having received medical attention. But mostly, it is great at keeping me from re-injuring the thumb. Without it there to protect against bumps and other stresses on the healing skin, and to remind me pay attendion, I would probably have re-opened the wound dozens of times in the course of daily life. The biggest frustration is not being able to get the thumb wet for seven days, which means I have to miss our water aerobics classes. And have you ever tried to wash just one hand? I have a friend whose neice was born with but one arm, and apparently has always managed beautifully. (When she was a small child, her younger sister was heard to exclaim, "I wish I only had one arm, so I could tie my shoes, too!") Let's just say I'm more impressed than ever. I also have a gut-level appreciation for what we were taught in high school biology class: the value of our opposable thumbs.
On Wednesday I went back to CentraCare to be told that everything is going great. (But I still can't get it wet till Saturday.) I made a point of telling them how impressed I was with their service, from the receptionist to the doctor and everyone in between.
That doesn't change the fact that I'm willing to wait another 50 years for my next visit.
P.S. Our initial stay was short enough that the food left on the stove was still safe when we returned home. Porter took over the cutting of the vegetables, and the stew was great.
We interrupt all the troubles of the world for a feel-good story that occurred just hours after we left Chicago.
Pepper the dog is alive and well, thanks to the efforts of Chicago firefighters—who happened to be nearby, practicing underwater ice dives—when he slipped his leash and fell into icy Lake Michigan.
[Fire Deputy District Chief Jason Lach] said standard dive rescue procedure calls for a truck full of divers, a police squad, a battalion chief, a field officer, a fire truck, a fire engine, two ambulances and a helicopter. Officials in the helicopter spotted Pepper on an ice chunk about 500 feet out. ...
Veteran firefighters Chris Iverson and Emerson Branch dove in to bring back Pepper. The dive team tethered lines and laid out two 15-foot ladders to make a subtle decline above icy rocks so Iverson and Branch could safely slide into the water. Iverson, dressed in a full-body thermal suit, swam to Pepper in less than five minutes. Pepper got nervous and growled, then slipped off the ice chunk and into the cold water. But Pepper got up, and Iverson snapped a snare to capture the dog in a safety sling. Pepper snuggled up to his rescuer.
Branch swam out with a Rapid Deployment Craft.... Branch helped Iverson and Pepper into the craft and guided them back toward shore. The entire rescue took about 15 minutes.
It's a bit more extreme than the standard trope of firemen rescuing a cat from a tree, but it's the same heroic impulse. And no doubt it made their "underwater ice dive" practice considerably more interesting.
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It's time for my annual compilation of books read during the past year.
- Total books: 85
- Fiction: 66
- Non-fiction: 19
- Months with most books: a tie between July and September (12)
- Month with fewest books: April (2)
- Most frequent authors: Randall Garrett (19), Lois Lenski (16), Tony Hillerman (10), Brandon Sanderson (7). Hillerman is the only author to make the top four both last year and this, as his excellent Leaphorn & Chee books spanned the two years. Garrett and Lenski made such a strong showing because they were each the subject of a particular focus, and their books are generally short. Sanderson, on the other hand, though he's only represented by seven books, is the runaway leader in number of pages.
Here's the list, grouped by author; links are to reviews. The different colors only reflect whether or not you've followed a hyperlink. The ratings (★) and warnings (☢) are on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest/mildest. Warnings, like the ratings, are highly subjective and reflect context, perceived intended audience, and my own biases. Nor are they completely consistent. They may be for sexual content, language, violence, worldview, or anything else that I find objectionable. Your mileage may vary.
|Matthew Wolfe 2: The Adventures Begin||Blair Bancroft (Grace Kone)||★★★ ☢|
|Matthew Wolfe 3: Revelations||Blair Bancroft (Grace Kone)||★★★|
|The Art of Evil||Blair Bancroft (Grace Kone)||★★★★ ☢|
|Mistborn 1: The Final Empire||Brandon Sanderson||★★★|
|Mistborn 2: The Well of Ascension||Brandon Sanderson||★★★|
|Mistborn 3: The Hero of Ages||Brandon Sanderson||★★★|
|Stormlight 1: The Way of Kings||Brandon Sanderson||★★★|
|Stormlight 2: Words of Radiance||Brandon Sanderson||★★★★|
|Stormlight 2.5: Edgedancer||Brandon Sanderson||★★★★★|
|Deep Work||Cal Newport||★★★★★|
|So Good They Can't Ignore You||Cal Newport||★★★★★|
|Rosefire||Carolyn Clare Givens||★★★|
|A Child's History of England||Charles Dickens||★★★ ☢|
|The Light in the Forest||Conrad Richter||★★|
|Just David (aka North to Freedom)||Eleanor Porter||★★★★|
|Just David (read a second time to check for differences between the original and the modern editions)||Eleanor Porter||★★★★|
|Brian's Saga 1: Hatchet||Gary Paulsen||★★★ ☢|
|Brian's Saga 2: The River||Gary Paulsen||★★★ ☢|
|Brian's Saga 3: Brian's Winter||Gary Paulsen||★★★ ☢|
|Brian's Saga 4: Brian's Hunt||Gary Paulsen||★★ ☢☢|
|Brian's Saga 4: Brian's Return||Gary Paulsen||★★ ☢|
|Why Good Arguments Often Fail||James W. Sire||★★★★|
|Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual||Jocko Willink||★|
|Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook||Joetta Handrich Schlabach||★★|
|Greenglass House||Kate Milford||★★★|
|Kisses from Katie||Katie Davis with Beth Clark||★★★|
|Bayou Suzette||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Blue Ridge Billy||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Boom Town Boy||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Coal Camp Girl||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Corn Farm Boy||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Deer Valley Girl||Lois Lenski||★★★|
|Flood Friday||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Houseboat Girl||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Indian Captive||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Judy's Journey||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Mama Hattie's Girl||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Prairie School||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|San Francisco Boy||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Shoo-Fly Girl||Lois Lenski||★★★|
|Strawberry Girl||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Texas Tomboy||Lois Lenski||★★★★|
|Out of This World||Lowell Thomas, Jr.||★★★★|
|Talking to Strangers||Malcolm Gladwell||★★★★|
|Humble Pi||Matt Parker||★★★★|
|In the Heart of the Sea||Nathaniel Philbrick||★★★ ☢|
|The Wild Robot||Peter Brown||★★★★|
|The Wild Robot Escapes||Peter Brown||★★★★|
|A Spaceship Named McGuire||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|Anything You Can Do||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|But, I Don't Think||Randall Garrett||★|
|By Proxy||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|Cum Grano Salis||Randall Garrett||★★★★|
|Damned If You Don't||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|Despoilers of the Golden Empire||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|His Master's Voice||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|Nor Iron Bars a Cage||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|Or Your Money Back||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|Pagan Passions||Randall Garrett||★★ ☢☢|
|Psi-Power 1: Brain Twister||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|Psi-Power 2: The Impossibles||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|Psi-Power 3: Supermind||Randall Garrett||★★|
|Quest of the Golden Ape||Randall Garrett||★★|
|The Eyes Have It||Randall Garrett||★★★★|
|The Foreign Hand-Tie||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|The Highest Treason||Randall Garrett||★★★|
|The Penal Cluster||Randall Garrett||★★|
|Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics||Stanley F. Schmidt||★★★★|
|Life of Fred: Australia||Stanley F. Schmidt||★★★★|
|Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics||Stanley F. Schmidt||★★★★|
|Life of Fred: Trigonometry Expanded Edition||Stanley F. Schmidt||★★★★|
|Coyote Waits||Tony Hillerman||★★★|
|Hunting Badger||Tony Hillerman||★★★|
|Sacred Clowns||Tony Hillerman||★★★|
|Skeleton Man||Tony Hillerman||★★★|
|The Dark Wind||Tony Hillerman||★★★|
|The Ghostway||Tony Hillerman||★★★|
|The People of Darkness||Tony Hillerman||★★★|
|The Shape Shifter||Tony Hillerman||★★★|
|The Wailing Wind||Tony Hillerman||★★★|
|The Bible (English Standard Version, canonical)||★★★★★|
|The New Testament (King James Version, canonical)||★★★★★|
It is January 6.
"Chalking the door" is done.
At our crêche, the Wise Men have completed their journey.
Christmas (all 12 days) is officially over, and it's time to put away the decorations.
Alas, we have no Epiphany service at church today, though in true Episcopalian compromise fashion we gave it a nod last Sunday and will do so again in three days. Indeed, the Chalking of the Door wasn't even mentioned this year, but we have long memories and still have our chalk that was blessed years ago—most of the time it lives in the January folder of my Tickler file.
A few days before Christmas, I was returning home in the dusk and saw an incredibly bright object in the sky, directly in front of me. My first thought was that it was an airplane flying directly towards me; I'm accustomed to that sight as I sit on our back porch swing during the early morning or late evening hours. But even though it continued to reappear as my path homeward twisted and turned, it did not move, and remained in the same part of the sky. I later confirmed my hunch that it was the planet Venus, familiar to me in both the evening and the morning skies—but never had I seen it so bright!
There are many theories as to the identity of the "star" that guided the Wise Men to Bethlehem, and I'm not saying it was Venus. But that sight brought home to me in a way few things have done just how impressive an object like Venus at near it's maximum magnitude can be, and how it can look like something that might both lead a traveller and even "come to rest" over a particular place.
It was a wonderful anticipation of the coming Epiphany.
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It's amazing how uplifting a little light and beauty can be when the world has gone mad. Take a few minutes and get 2022 off to a pleasant start with the latest two episodes of Chateau Love.
The December 27 episode (21 minutes) features a private tour of the Christmas decorations at Château Gaillard Amboise (not to be confused with the Château Gaillard built by Richard the Lionheart). This castle is historical as well as beautiful, and I felt as if I were walking through a famous European museum. Unfortunately, YouTube is not allowing me to embed this video, but you can watch it directly on YouTube here.
For New Year's Eve, the show is twice as long (41 minutes) but much more personal, including a flashback visit to Tuscany, with a guest appearance of Vivienne's sister Ashley. Visit a magical European Christmas market and accompany Vivienne and Simon as they shop, create, and decorate in preparation for Christmas at their own château. Best of all, Vivienne's amazing artistry shines in this episode. Christmas decorations from citrus slices. Stunning hand-painted bird plates. Amazing food, artistic table settings, and indescribably beautiful decorations gilding an already beautiful home.
I was swept right back to our own magical Easter visit, nearly 15 years ago, to Simon and Vivienne's previous French château.
I hope you enjoy this delightful break from all the troubles of the world, and head into 2022 with a lighter heart.