On Vacation: a home and away update

I was away on vacation, and now I’m home! I don’t always go silent online because I’m away from home. More often I go dark because I have nothing to share. Or I am feeling Big Overwhelm. Even a simple case of Whelm can result in several days of downtime.

This time I was On Vacation. Our first real vacation trip Since Pandemic, in fact. Last summer we did a long weekend getaway to Mammoth Cave, but this one was a full week-plus road trip to visit friends in Atlanta, with a side trip to Savannah, Georgia, a place new to both Spouseman and me.

Fun side note: A trip to visit these friends in Atlanta was our last trip Before Pandemic. Parallels kept cropping up the whole trip. We even had first-day lunch and last-day supper at the same restaurants as on our previous visit.

Back in 2020, I remember mentioning to my boss that I expected things would get MUCH worse before they got better, and both Spouseman and I got news of our work lockdowns while we were gone. Here in 2023, my last work convo with the boss was about the new timeclock and gardening, and our only communications while away involved texts with our house/catsitter about pralines, plant-watering, & Pippin’s adventures.

Yes, someone stays at our house while we’re gone on vacation these days. Pippin does fine for up to 12 hours alone, but Maine Coons do NOT do solitude well. He needs someone with him for overnights.

Things I noticed on vacation (a random selection)

  1. I still enjoy highway trips! Turns out metro expressway are what I loathe, detest, fear and despise, not true highway travel. My problem is that most interstate highways east of the Mississippi never stop being metro expressways for more than a few miles between cities.
    But! I am still a HAPPY rider when the road has 2 lanes either direction, lots of bucolic scenery, rest stops every 2 to 4 hours, and occasional truck stops between. Country travel, yes. City travel, nope.
  2. My road trip preference is to eat nothing, or nosh on packaged snacks while driving. This trip I was reminded that’s a minority view. Faced with McD’s Wendy’s Burger King, or the like, my best/only options are small fries, or a kids meal.
  3. Atlanta’s metropolitan area holds only 2/3 of Chicagoland’s population but has even worse traffic. The routes reminded me of travel in Seattle’s suburbs–there was an awful lot of “you can’t get from A to B, you have to go down to C and back up. (because hills)
  4. Other people truly don’t understand how much I love cemeteries, or how ADHD collides with scheduled events. We passed a really awesome cemetery on a trolley tour, and I gushed about it. …but my statement, “No, I don’t want to go back, I won’t have time to properly enjoy it,” was met with utter bewilderment. Surely two hours would be plenty, it was a small place, less than a city block. Taxi there & back, I might get as much as 2.5 hours and still have time to clean up before supper cruise.
    Except 2 hours wasn’t HALF as much time I as I would want to inspect gravestones & memorials in a 250 year old cemetery, plus I would’ve been worried by the looming 6 PM cruise check-in the whole time, and that would’ve sucked all the fun out of it.
  5. I have to go back to Savannah again someday. Maybe a writing retreat or something. I got some good writing done while we were there, while enjoying low-stress free time before the cruise. It was awesome.

On Vacation: the pictures

(because what road trip update would be complete without too many photos?) Things seen on our travels, bookended by the cat. Presented without explanation, because where would the fun be in that? Besides, I cannot explain the reason our hotel room had a doorknob on the wall, nor the existence of ketchup-flavored sprinkles in general.

And that’s all the all there is for now.

Except, of course, for all the end-of-post stuff.


Unexpected poetry

Well, hello there, little poem-y thing. You are not what I planned to write, but here we are, & that’s all right.

Are you a raw, childish self-indulgence? A mawkish bit of tacky sentimentality? In a million ways no one’s Cup O’Tea, creatively speaking?

Entirely Likely. Don’t care.

What will I do with you? Nothing. Producing Content isn’t always the point.

You exist, & I uncritically love that you exist now when you didn’t yesterday. That’s that matters.

Second time in a week I’ve written something unplanned. Must be something in the air. Or else I’m procrastinating.

Possibly both. Energy and avoidance are a powerful team.

Whimsy Writing again

I click links & read things. It’s what I do.

This episode of me is just three rambly items. That is all. Yes, HUGE things are going on In The Real world. Bad things. Humanity being awful to humanity at home and abroad. But. Not here. ITRW I’ve done what I can for now–I’ve put my money where my principles are, voiced words of support–and I will continue to do what I can. As I have been reminded, so I remind others: dwelling & doomscrolling & working up a knot of stress helps no one. So. This blog post isn’t about anything Real. It’s about the usual: reading & cats & randoming.

Thing the First.

Did you know Lido means beach in Italian, and in British English, it also refers to an outdoor swimming pool + its associated amenities? I did not, until today.

At long last, I have an explanation for why there are “Lido Decks” on cruise ships! The term always puzzled me when I watched Love Boat in the late 70’s. This trivium comes to us courtesy of a Guardian interview with some BBC broadcaster who’s probably a household name in Britain but who was completely unknown to me. Score one for a beautifully designed enticing headline.

Which I’ve already forgotten.

Random thing 2: the latest in Cat adventures.

Pippin’s current Favoritest Toys Ever are the tear-off strips from boxed Trader Joe’s hot chocolate packets. (not the packet w/chocolate! The litle strip you pull on to open the box.)

These bits of paper hold a narrow lead over mylar strips cut from the bottom of pita chip bags. Something about the way those things crunch fascinates him endlessly. There are a dozen or more Stacey’s Pita Chips bag-ends scattered about the house, built up over the last few months.

He is generous with his toys, too. On any given morning I’ll find up several of crunchy mylar strips on the bed. Pips naps with us at night, but he comes and goes–and every time he returns from a ramble he brings us a toy in case we wake up and want to play with it.

Lastly, I have discovered A Best New Game for me, courtesy of Louis Evans, who I follow on Twitter because…yanno, I don’t know if I met him or someone suggested I follow him, or he followed me for inexplicable reasons and I followed back, or what. I try not to let that ignorance bother me, but it still does sometimes. My discomfort over the parasocial nature of online connections is one of my biggest peeves with social media, and I have a LOT of peeves…never mind, this is digressing even more than usual, ANYWAY.

This game is Semantle, and it’s SUPER FUN. Like Wordle it’s a once-daily word puzzle, but that’s about all they have in common. I like Wordle’s simplicity, but that’s about all I do like about it. It’s a pretend word game. it isn’t about language at all, nor really about vocabulary. It’s letters as numbers, essentially. Finding a solution w/in 6 guesses is a process heavy on betting the odds of a given vowel or consonant being used, plus luck and eliminating variables.

I find it fun, don’t get me wrong. But it isn’t…stimulating, I guess? It’s about spelling, not words.

And don’t get me started on people who get hung up on use of wordfinders, dictionaries or other tools. Is it legitimate or does it constitute “cheating?” It’s a SOLITAIRE WORD GAME FFS. What is even the point of getting judgey & snobby about how someone else plays it? Any yet. People gotta feel superior, I guess.

Solving a Semantle occupies a lot more of my wording brain than Wordle. That’s my favorite part. My second favorite aspect is the no-limit guessing. There’s no “genius!” for a lucky break or any competitive triggering at all. Guess until you get it right, for pure solution satisfaction.

And like the name implies, it’s all about semantics. Associations. Connections. Right up my happy neighborhood parkway, in other words.

You’re attempting to guess a secret word based on hot/cold responses to your attempts. The more similar your word is to the secret one, the higher your guess’s rank will be. And once you get within 1000 words of the secret one, you get that clue as well.

Look. It’s kinda hard to explain but super-simple to play. Type words, type more words that seem related, rinse & repeat. My best result so far is solving the puzzle in 33 guesses, my longest game was 87 guesses.

I find Semantle MUCH more satisfying to play. There’s no right or wrong way to think of connections. I’m fond of for inspiration, but also fond of typing a bunch of ideas into Google & skimming the results for a word that just feels right as a guess, and also blindly staring at my list of guesses until the next inspiration strikes.

Spouseman still doesn’t understand how I could look at bureaucrat and leap to the secret word (historian) in two guesses. (president and constitution in between)

I can’t explain it either. But that’s the wild thing about inspiration. It’s always a leap into the dark that pays off. It’s an idea arcing across a void of not-knowing.

And that’s that for tonight. Gonna go play wordle as soon as it’s midnight, and then off to bed.

TOmorrow I’ll try to write my Winter Subscriber Newsletter before it’s spring, and also get up some book reviews for all the amazing new speculative fiction I’ve been consuming.

Until later!

The water has disappeared. Pippin is disappointed.
2. Writing Work nuts & bolts Whimsy Writing again

Barns & other distractions

Did I need to research dairy barn restoration and collect architectural drawings of historical barn types yesterday & today?


Checking my barn-related terminology for a single scene sent me skipping through Indian dairy farming advice blogs, across encyclopedia entries on cow breeds, and down a long sideline into the meaning of “Highline electricity” into power line work and voltage issues with server racks.

Fun facts: gawala means cattleman or head dairy worker in Urdu, at least according to two language sites I consulted after being puzzled by the term’s appearance in an otherwise all-English language paper comparing the efficiency of different cow configurations in milking barns. (Surprise, it was an INDIAN dairy industry publication. …which bounced me into a brief investigation of dairy farming in India.) Gawala may also be a kind of milk-based candy?

Highline vs lowline refers to the voltage carried by power lines. Also back in the day your builder needed to know whether your farm had highline or house plant electricity before drawing up plans for your barn.

And barn research totally relates to volcanoes, right? Okay, no, but I saw a news headline while I was closing a tab. Count on a geology/meteorology nerd like me to click on ANY link with a satellite photo of a huge ash cloud.

What happened in the Pacific last week will have global effects for a long time to come. Like every huge eruption, it’ll teach geologists a ton about what’s going on beneath the thin biosphere we inhabit. And like every huge eruption near humans, its toll will be expensie and heartbreaking. The videos and photos of the aftermath are incredible. The cost? Incalculable.

ANYway. Speaking of satellite photos, I’ve been watching US winter storms on assorted weather sites lately. The quality of the images is interesting (in a muttered curses way) because it pretty much indicates how blatant the site is about downgrading the available imagery to engineer subscriptions to the premium subscription strategy. Charging for something that should be a free public resource.

I recall my excitement a zillion years ago when my parents got cable television and a new TV with a remote. Not because we got HBO. Not because the TV picture was suddenly clear instead of getting fuzzy or staticky when it rained. Not because I could flip channels from across the room. Nope.

I was over the moon because I COULD WATCH THE WEATHER RADAR! MInd, this was not the amazing many-layered weather displays of today’s weather apps. It was straight-up regional Doppler precipitation radar on a 30-second loop. It still fascinated me. Weather patterns both local and distant shifted, grew, and passed right in front of my eyes.

I loved mentally connecting those trends to the conditions outside the window. My dad used to make fun of me for checking the television for the weather instead of looking outside (weather rock style) but matching screen to reality taught me tons about reading the sky for future conditions in just a few years. Priceless free education.

But I digress. The free imagery now available from modern satellites is MIND-BLOWING. You won’t find it on easily-accessible, fast-loading commercial weather apps, but it’s out there. Full-color, high-resolution visuals. Temperature gradients. Precipitation. Stills and animation loops for hours. Any time there’s a Big Weather or Big Fire event, I am up online ogling the imagery from space.

There are a lot of sites, but my favorites are for the US GOES-East & GOES-West satellites, and when I want Himawari-8.

That’s all for this episode of Research roundup. For your enjoyment, I am including a Weather Rock Photo.

Until later!

Oh, right. Obligatory “Hey, I Write Books” postscript: if you like my writing, please recommend my books to all your friends & enemies. They are wonderful books full of Good Things.

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